Learning English

The unfamiliar can so quickly become familiar, a stranger becomes a friend. How soon a change becomes a life. Is there a compulsion to create stability for ourselves, to settle in to routine? I think I have become addicted to change and challenge. I dragged myself out of my familiar world, 12 years of teaching and living in the UK. I have been energised by the move to Brazil, I have found new interests, been more proactive, made changes which would have been harder to make in my Brighton life. But I am a selfish being and it’s not enough. I can feel the creeping hand of boredom starting to descend. I’m ready for something else. I crave that delight I had in the absolute newness of my arrival. Like the first hit of a junkie, constantly trying to get back that first time feeling, looking again for that celebration I felt in the first few months. I’m here, I made it, I can do this.

Now I just, live in Brazil, I don’t feel the same excited gurgle in the back of my throat as I say it out loud. I plan travels and talk as though it is normal to discuss Patagonia versus Guatemala. Twelve months ago I struggled to travel from Hove to Brighton for a night out.  I want to appreciate the moment, I want to stand still and look around me at the privilege of this existence. But I still find myself wanting to peek around the corner, what’s next, what else?

I travel with the students from school once a week to Parasiopolis, a favela in Sao Paulo. When I am there supporting our students I am focused on them and what they are doing, they teach English to the children. It is difficult and they do an amazing job. One day as I walked around the school, I managed to take a second to think. I am here, in a school, in a favela in Brazil, and it feels normal, how the hell did I get here! I want to fight complacence, keeping stopping to see where I am. I want those new eyes that I took back to Brighton in July to stay with me here too. I made a photo album for my Brazilian friends ‘ Brighton for Estrangerios’ (Brighton for Strangers). I wanted to see my beloved city as they would see it, though fresh eyes.

I try to take on new challenges, this year I am teaching History and I can see how it is improving my teaching. It’s like going back to the start of my career. I have to think about each lesson, plan carefully but take risks. Some lessons work better than others, but I’m enjoying it. I am addicted to challenge and change, but I am also rooted in the familiar. As I look around this home I have created in Brazil from nothing, I wonder is it just the same as the homes I had in Brighton? As I cook familiar dishes, watch TV from England. I wonder how much challenge have I really taken on?

And so to the classroom and the students we teach. They too need a mixture of challenge and comfort. They need to be encouraged to take another look, a risk, to step outside of the familiar. We have a responsibility to keep our classroom safe, familiar but also challenging. I need to be bored; it stops me from spending my life under a duvet watching reality TV shows. Boredom is good, I don’t want to stop getting bored.