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Reasons 11 – 38.5: Enlightening students by enlightened teachers

Some might say, what’s the point of travelling over 5000 miles to go and see schools? They’re all the same everywhere aren’t they? Well, yes, in as much they are populated by people and invariably are housed in something resembling a building: so yes, they’re all the same. Much like the flora and fauna across the planet are all the same in the way they have thing in common: they’re alive.

But what the reductionist misses is the fact that schools and those who inhabit them – teachers, young people, parents, school rabbits – make complex ecologies in their own rights, complete with their own characteristics, flavours and behaviours. Whilst their commonalities are gratifying – the vast majority of them want the best for their young people – their differences and diversity are reasons to celebrate the spirit of the endeavour to prepare for their – for our – futures.

So far this week, our visit to Escola Nova in the suburb of Gavea, has shown a school with huge spirit of internationalism; walls, doors and school furniture remind the pupil and the teacher of their ongoing connection to their neighbours across South America as well as further afield. A classroom named Israel sits next door to a classroom called Palestine. The UK classroom sits upstairs above the theatre-gym space and promises pupils insights to Manchester, Cornwall and Norfolk. The Science lab has an ingenious way of connecting pupils to the physical world we inhabit by using the natural rock of the hillside the school is built on as the fourth wall of the classroom. When it rains, the rain streams down the rock into a channel which takes the water away: possibly the only classroom in the world where rain inside in the school is embraced. More at http://www.escolanova.com.br/

Equally intriguing is the Instituto de Aplicacao Fernando Rodrigues da Silveira CAP-UERJ, a school we visit later that day. Occupying some very unprepossessing building space, we hear that this is one of only two schools where research is a fundamental aspect of the teachers role: so much so that over 38% of teaching staff have PhDs. And this isn’t a result of unemployed doctoral students looking for work but a conscious policy by the school to keep offering their staff high quality on the job development. As a result, staff are infused with the importance of research and connecting this research to the work of the classroom. And given they teach both at the university and the school, they see themselves as both school teachers and university lecturers simultaneously: with the consequence that their pupils become both school pupils and university students – albeit from the age of 6 upwards. And the results of this enlightened policy of staff development is that the school is one of the highest achieving schools in Brazil – in an area which has huge levels of poverty and social exclusions to boot. More at http://www.cap.uerj.br/site/

So yes, all schools are the same in one way: but their differences are something to inspire and to teach us all, wherever we work.

More here too: http://www.aspirecreativeenterprises.com/ACE/aof_rio.html

More on our travel partners here: http://www.govie.co.uk/events/