Every year, thousands of adventurous teachers take their skills as educators to some of the poorest parts of the world. Sharing a love for education, supporting disadvantaged children and inspiring future generations are just some of the factors that truly make teaching one of the most rewarding jobs out there!
British Primary Teacher Emma Brackenridge (now working as a consultant for Smart Teachers in Sydney) shares her amazing story of volunteering as a teacher and how it changed her life.
At the age of 18, with no teaching experience or even a qualification, I moved to Sao Paulo in Brazil to teach children English. Working through a charitable organisation, I was placed in the favelas (slums) and at an orphanage which gave me the chance to experience first hand what Brazilian culture is really like.
At the start, I was terrified! However, I had learnt a lot about Sao Paulo in high school geography, plus the support we received from the charity, and the community was phenomenal. In the first few months we were taught Portuguese and were able to use these language lessons to double up as lesson planning. Whatever I learnt in one week, was then what the kids would learn the following week.
Because English was barely spoken, my language skills began to rapidly improve and soon I found myself starting to speak nearly fluent Portuguese! During school holidays and on the weekends, I got the chance to travel extensively around Brazil, visiting places such as Rio de Janeiro, the Iguazu Falls, Sao Paulo costal regions and Florianópolis. Through my new Brazilian family, I learnt about places most tourists wouldn’t ever hear of and even got the pleasure of borrowing a friend’s beach house for a weekend!
My 6 months living in Sao Paulo is something I will never forget, I was able to experience the city in a way not many people are able to. I was also so influenced by my time teaching in Brazil, that following my undergraduate degree I retrained as a Primary Teacher and went on to teach at an all girls’ independent school for many years. I still have many friends in Sao Paulo whom I catch up with over social media, and can’t wait for the day I am able to return!