conversational English instructionJudy and I met Joe in the lobby at 8:45 to walk to our school, Santiago Major. In the teacher’s lounge we met Irene, the head of the English language department, to complete our schedules, and met two other teachers, Jose and Consecao.

As we approached our first classroom with Irene, the 6th graders were milling around, saying hello, hello, hello. It was a warm welcome to our first class and our first day.

Judy spoke first telling about her family in Michigan and California, her children, grandchildren, their schools, their interests, soccer, Michigan and the shape of the state, snow and cold. I continued with my family and San Francisco, which led to a discussion about the Golden Gate Bridge and their suspension bridge, the 25th of April. I shared a snapshot of my house, with a comparison painted many colors and the closeness of the houses. We had questions about Alcatraz and Mt. Rushmore. We used visual aids of postcards and snapshots. During our presentations, Irene would stop us to interrupt if she thought they weren’t understanding. Judy and I found it easy for us to interact because of our common interests, i.e. my growing up in Michigan, soccer, etc. Our second class with Irene was canceled because she had to fill in for an absent teacher.

Our next class with Consecao was with teenagers who are in a vocational track for learning skills for jobs in restaurants, etc. They were a bit noisy and were not as eager and interested as our first class. We changed our presentations to subjects we thought would interest them, such as music and football (soccer). We were told that girls didn’t play football because it was considered a “violent” sport. Judy shared that her husband was orthodontist, which led to a discussion about straightening teeth. My mitten became a visual aid for describing the shape of the state of Michigan because “mitten” was a new word to them. Judy was asked why she would volunteer if she had a job, which led to a discussion about understanding different cultures. I was asked why would a hospital have (or need) a library?

In talking to other members of the team, and at our after-work meeting, everyone had experienced a good first teaching day.  Joaquin Masco gave us our first lesson in Portuguese and an insight into some Portuguese history. I think learning the language is a real challenge.  Again we dined sumptuously (eating far too much) and enjoyed an evening with good conversation and many laughs.

Thought for the day: “Children are like wet cement. Whatever falls on them makes an impression.”

– Dr. HaimGinott

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