I have so far been to two days of school, the first one being only my second full day in Joao Pessoa. So far, there are few similarities between school here and in the U.S. School starts at 7 here, so I have to wake up at 6. Last night, we went out to a late movie and I didn’t fall asleep until after midnight, so I was really groggy during the first few hours of school. I rarely wake up much before 7 to go to school in the states, so 6 is pushing it. My school is called Motiva, and it is this large, funny-shaped building painted in red, yellow and blue. Students who go there range from elementary aged to the U.S equivalent of Juniors in high school. I am with the Juniors, which here is called the 2nd grade. Students here wear uniforms as well, just a polo that says ‘Motiva’ and jeans. The teachers, however, dress extremely casually. Usually in a T-shirt and jeans or shorts from what I have observed. Also, all of my teachers are male except one. A good number of them are also very young, like in their early-mid 20’s. Here, there are way more classes than in the states, which also means way more teachers to keep track of! I don’t know any of their names…Cecila had to write them down for me. Heres a list of all the subjects:
Chemistry 1, 2 and 3 (lab): There are two different chemistry teachers at Motiva that I’ve had so far. One of them teaches more mathematical stuff, like equations for molarity and gas laws and what not. The other drew a lot of pictures of molecules on the board. I don’t know what he was saying. This was definitely one of the more boring subjects. However, the students seem to really like the second chemistry teacher…they were all hugging him and he kissed them on the cheeks and joked around with them, which apparently is totally normal.
Physics 1, 2, and 3 (lab): The subject speaks for itself. I’ve had enough physics to last me a lifetime. This was probably the most boring class, mostly because the teacher just talked the whole time about wavelengths/frequencies in Portuguese without using any sort of visual. This teacher also came into the classroom and started kissing the girls on the hand and forehead and giving the boys bear hugs.
Biology 1,2, and 3 (lab): I actually enjoyed biology quite a bit. They were learning stuff about genetics, which I like, and I realized that it’s not that hard to learn in a different language as long as the teacher uses lots of visuals and most of the words are cognates. For example, in Portuguese, genotype is ‘genótipo’ and probability is ‘probablidade’…so its not that difficult to follow along.
Math (Geometry, Algebra, and Trigonometry): Today in Geometry we learned the Pythagorean Theorem and how to find the volume of a cube. Enough said.
Composition: This teacher is the only female and seems to have the best control of the class. She’d snap her fingers and shout at anyone who started talking during class. However, this class was also extremely dull.
Liturature: I’ve had two sections of literature thus far, and in both we watched this ridiculous movie about a guy from Rio who had all of these weird dreams about goddesses and elephants…I don’t know, it was weird but one of the more entertaining classes.
Geography: From what I remember, this was pretty boring. It was at the end of the day and I was zoning out. I think we learned about the amazon??
Grammar and possibly either English or Spanish are the classes I haven’t had yet but I’ll have eventually.
We don’t take all of these classes in one day; we rotate through them day by day instead. For example, today I had composition, chemistry, literature, chemistry, literature, geometry. Also, it’s not the students who switch rooms, it’s the teacher, which is kind of a bummer because we don’t really get to get up and move around a lot. We also have a break after the first 4 classes. School runs from about 7 until 12:40, so the break is just for a snack, and we eat lunch at home.
One of the reasons so many of the classes are so boring is because all the teachers ever do is lecture the class and sometimes draw things on the board. There is basically zero class participation, mostly because the teachers never ask the class any questions. We just sit there like stumps. Luckily, there is no reason why I have to pay attention, so I basically just read.
One thing I noticed during school is that Brazilians are extremely loud people. The decibel level in the classrooms escalates to something un-heard of in American schools. It’s usually when the teachers are out of the room, because the students do generally quiet down for the teachers, but still! I think its because they all want to talk at once, and then they end up shouting over each other.
Another thing: I have been terrible with names so far at school! I can’t remember the names of classmates because so many of them have introduced themselves to me, and lots of them have the same name. There are Isabellas, Isadoras, Gabriellas, Lais’s, Marianas, Paulos, Gustavos, Rafaels, etc. Some names I haven’t even heard of and I ask them to repeat it like four times and still don’t get it. That actually happens in reverse all the time as well. Typical conversation:
-Que é seu nome? (What is your name?)
-Voce o pode escrever? (Can you write it down?)
Although school itself is extremely boring, many of my classmates have been making a kind effort to make me feel comfortable. I got to know quite a few of them today, and they are very nice people. Overall, I think it’s a good thing I’m going to school, at least at first, although academically its quite pointless. It’s definitely a good way to meet people. Oh, and another interesting thing: Apparently there is no school on Thursday because there is some sort of ‘Holiday’. When I asked people what the holiday was, no one seemed to know. Ahhhh Brasil!