I Am A Teacher!

Posters in Curitiba, Brazil in response to teacher protests

My name is Stephen Greene.  I am a teacher.  I live in Curitiba.*

I am not a public sector teacher.  Compared to them, I have a pretty cushy life.  I teach private students and so keep all of the income for myself.  I teach in people’s houses, at their place of work, at my house or online.  I also do teacher training, and give workshops to teachers.  I provide cultural and communication workshops that have very little to do with English.  I write materials for publishers and a blog about life bringing up a bilingual family in Brazil.  I help to run an online community on Facebook for people interested in their linguistic landscapes and write a blog about the subject.

All of this is not to brag.  It is to provide context and to show that I am not ‘only’ a teacher.

Yet I identify myself as a teacher.  I have been teaching, in various contexts, for almost 20 years.  I have taught in the public system in the past, although not in Brazil.  And this means that whenever anyone asks me ‘What do you do?’ I tell them I am a teacher.  Just that.  I don’t tell them what I teach.  I don’t mention the fact that I am a private teacher, or that I also write books or run a successful blog.

I just tell them I am a teacher with a smile on my face and, more often than not, a drink in my hand.  In my mind, though, I am also thinking ‘And what do you think about that?’

The street is a class as well. Support the teachers!

The street is a class as well! Support the teachers!

The response I get goes a long way to telling me all I need to know about the person asking me.

Sometimes it is genuine interest.  They want to know more about my job and how I got into it.

Sometimes there is fear.  The person obviously had a bad experience at school and hates or is afraid of every teacher even into adulthood.

A lot of the time there is total disinterest.   You can see the blank look that comes over the other person’s face as if to say ‘Why did I even bother asking the question?’

And some of the time, too often, there is a look of total condescension.  As if I am not even worth the time talking to, that there is nothing to be gained from being in my presence, an assumption that I have made some bad life decisions because being a teacher is such a complete waste of time.

As I live in Curitiba, there has been a lot of talk recently about the attitudes that have been shown towards teachers by the Governor.  I think these negative reactions I encounter from ordinary people are linked to the police and state government’s action.  Despite being elected on a promise of making education a priority, the only actions have been to show the utter contempt the government has for them.  I realise that police intimidation is not just reserved for teachers, nor is this something that is only found in Brazil, but it would stand less of a chance from happening if there was just a modicum of respect shown towards the country’s educators.

Fewer bullets. More chalk. We are all teachers.

Fewer bullets. More chalk. We are all teachers.

*Some background if you haven’t been following events in Curitiba

If you have been following the news over the last few weeks you will undoubtedly have seen the goings on here in Curitiba.  For those of you who maybe live in a different country so don’t know what has been happening I have included a quick context at the end of this article. Basically the public sector teachers have been on strike for almost the whole year.  They started their action at the beginning of the school year to protest at a number of teachers not getting paid at the end of 2014, and holiday pay being delayed.

They went back to work, only to be told that their pensions would be restructured, so that the state would no longer be responsible for paying the whole amount.  Instead, the pension contributions will now be shared by the state and the individual.  And so another strike has been organised.

In the last week of April, the state government held a vote to ratify the new terms.  A protest was organised by teachers outside the state parliament with feelings running high.  No matter how high the feelings, though, nothing can forgive the actions of the police as they shot at the crowd, fired tear gas and stun grenadesand left over 200 people in hospital.  All of this in an atempt to intimidate the protestors.

As well as various resignations, sackings and virtual endings of political careers, one of the outcomes of this demonstration has been for people to ask, once again, what value teachers have in society.

This first video shows some of the scenes of mayhem, with protestors, journalists and even the police trying to get away from the tear gas.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OriMaBBJLno

And if the journalists get too close?  Set the pit bulls on them.

 

Stephen Greene

Stephen is a freelance teacher, trainer and editor. He has been teaching for over 20 years all around the world, but has been living and working in Curitiba, Brazil for the last 6 years. He writes self-indulging articles about all things associated with languages at greenelanguages.com

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