Friday, September 21, 2012

IREX Brazil Video Collection!

Hello, everyone! It's been a while since I last posted. The summer has flown by quickly as I spent much of it preparing for a new teaching position. I have moved on up to high school after having spent five glorious years teaching youngsters ages 9-14. I also now teach two courses that I have never instructed before - Digital Photography and Computer Art (Photoshop, really). I hold certifications in both Art and Technology, so this new role has both sides of my brain lighting up constantly. Needless to say, I have been incredibly busy.

With that said, I haven't had much time to address my other great passion, global education. I have been in fairly regular contact with my amazing Brazilian host teacher (mostly via Facebook chats) and I am hoping that once the dust settles at the new job, we can put something substantial together - perhaps a collaborative photo essay project, an ad campaign (PSA) for a social issue our schools may have in common (bullying comes to mind), or ideally, a student exchange program. I will keep you posted as things develop.

Meanwhile, since our second IREX Global Education Symposium is quickly approaching, I thought it would be convenient to showcase all of the videos I shot which document our trip to Brazil here in a single post. I am really proud of how there clips capture what my fellow teachers and I experienced while visiting this beautiful and diverse country. I think I can speak on behalf of the other Brazil IREXers when I say that it was a life-changing journey for us all. Thanks again to IREX for providing us all with Sony Bloggies! It proved to be invaluable, as it is a small, inconspicuous, yet high quality camera.

DAY ONE - Brasilia, D.F.

DAY TWO - Brasilia, D.F.

DAY THREE - Brasilia, D.F.

DAY FOUR - Brasilia, D.F.

DAY FIVE - Brasilia D.F.
A video of my school in the U.S. that I shared with Brazilian students - it was a big hit!

DAY SIX - Japeri, Rio de Janeiro

DAY SEVEN - Nova Iguacu, Rio de Janeiro

DAY EIGHT - Rio de Janeiro (Copacabana, Sugar Loaf)

DAY ELEVEN - Downtown Rio and more.

DAY TWELVE (PART ONE) - Nilopolis, Rio de Janeiro

DAY TWELVE (PART TWO) - Corcovado, Rio de Janeiro

I also shot hundreds of pictures while in Brazil which I will post to Flickr shortly (the link will be provided here if you are interested). Brazilians love getting their pictures taken, as you can see in the videos above. And there is certainly no shortage of beautiful scenery to photograph, too. 

Believe it or not, I still have so much to write about Brazil. I hope to find the time in the upcoming weeks to detail our meetings with the diplomats at the US Embassy in Brasilia, the city of Brasilia itself, and more information concerning the Brazilian school system as it strives to serve as the underpinning of a powerful and globally relevant 21st Century Brazil. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Industrial Strength Hospitality

Now that I have recharged a bit during my much needed summer break, I am ready to hit the ground running with some fresh blog entries. Since I have so much yet to say about my trip to Brazil, I thought a good place to start would be to write a long overdue entry about my host teacher, Eduardo Vasconcellos.

Prior to departing America, Eduardo and I spoke at length via Skype about what to expect once David (my co-teacher) and I arrived in Brazil. During these conversations, he was always courteous and provided answers in great detail to all of my questions and concerns. This proved to be true once we met in the flesh, as well. While some other teachers in our IREX Brazil cohort were often left to their own devices by their host teachers, Eduardo ensured that David and I were always pointed in the right direction and treated like kings.

David, Eduardo and I meeting for the first time at the airport in Rio de Janeiro.

He enlisted a veritable army of friends and relatives to drive, entertain and chaperone us throughout our stay. I titled this post "Industrial Strength Hospitality" for a reason. At any time of the day or night, Eduardo and his entourage, Adriana, Claudio (see my other post entitled, "Driving in Rio"), and Eduarda appeared seemingly out of nowhere to escort us to the next event on our densely-packed itinerary.

A typical day during our visit.

David and I would often sit in the back seat of the car amazed. Not only was Eduardo incredibly kind and thoughtful, he seemed to be a perpetual motion machine, never losing steam, even after spending 16 hours shuttling between four different teaching locations and various social engagements. It would be nearly impossible to reciprocate this kind of hospitality. As an example, after one particularly long outing to downtown Rio, we arrived back in Nova Iguacu to be greeted at the train station by two of Eduardo's dear friends. It was 10 PM by this time and we were completely tired out, but David and I mustered a second wind and spent the next few hours eating, drinking and laughing with more new friends. "We'll sleep when we're dead," David and I would joke.

Out to a late dinner with more new friends.

Then we would be up again bright and early the next day to meet Eduardo in the lobby of our hotel (although, notably, these meetings took place later and later as our visit progressed). Out the door we would head to a car where Adriana would be waiting as our chauffer (after having already spent the early morning baking for her real job). We spent each day visiting students, teachers and administrators at each of Eduardo's schools (did I mention he works at four of them?!?), feasting on amazing spreads of food, enjoying musical performances and sharing details of our respective cultures. Many of these "meetings" seemed very fluid, informal and impromptu and would meander for hours, although Eduardo insisted that we were on a "schedule," which became a running joke. We were on "Brazil Time." As I have mentioned in almost every post so far, Brazilians are very affectionate and physical and after our meetings would end, David and I would be seen off in a flurry of hugs, handshakes and kisses. At one point, I turned to Eduardo and said, "The goodbyes take longer than the actual meeting. I feel like I'm at an Italian wedding!"

We quickly discovered during our stay that Eduardo is an expert on all things Brazil - its education system, culture, customs, history, and food. He is an ambassador, a dignitary, the mayor of both Nilopolis and Nova Iguacu, and the ultimate host. David and I saw and learned more about Brazil in our week in Rio than most people could have in a year and I am eternally grateful for a truly life-changing experience.

Eduarda and Eduardo during lunch in downtown Rio.

Monday, July 9, 2012

My Other Blog

I have another blog, which I will be dedicating to digital photography and computer art moving forward:

I will be posting pics, Photoshop tips and tricks and anything having related to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) on it. It's gonna be an interesting year!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

She's in My Bubble

I'm on a subway in downtown Rio de Janeiro during rush hour. I worked in New York City for two years and have ridden my fair share of packed subway trains, but this is ridiculous. I would take a picture to show you, but I can't put my arm down to get my camera out of my pocket. In fact I can't feel my arms at all at this point. Or my left leg. I keep thinking of Elaine in that episode of Seinfeld when she rides the subway. It's not quite that neurotic, but it is claustrophobic, to the extent that I am nearly resting my chin on the shoulder of the woman in front of me. Awkward. I discreetly check my deo to see if it's still doing its job. Thankfully, it is. Nobody seems to mind this proximity, though. As I mentioned in a previous post, Brazilians seem to have a different attitude about personal space. They definitely do not have a problem getting in your "bubble." This closeness persists for almost an hour, until we are far from the city center and most Cariocas (residents of Rio) have disembarked. Now I can breathe again.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Blogs Within a Blog!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I traveled to Brazil with 10 other American educators as part of the IREX Teachers for Global Classrooms program. We all spent four days together in Brasilia, then ventured out in pairs to different corners of the country into jungles, deserts, mountains, and more. Brazil is a big place (as big as the U.S. in area) and we all had unique encounters. We later reconvened in Brasilia to share our experiences and will be compiling a wed-based tool to capture all of our work in one place.

Meanwhile, below are the links to all of my colleagues' blogs, in case you wanted to learn more about Brazil, or the IREX TGC program. Enjoy!

The IREX TGC Brazil crew in Brasilia.

The Other Rio

Walking into Nilopolis, Rio.

There are two Rios. One is downtown, next to iconic, gorgeous beaches like Ipanema and Copacabana flanked by dramatic geographic features like Sugar Loaf and Corcovado defining its instantly identifiable skyline. This Rio is clean and modern and filled with museums, banks and global commerce. This is the Rio most of us picture when the city's name is mentioned - an exotic and romantic destination reserved for high society.

The other lies on the fringe, two hours by car across a seemingly boundless metropolis. This is where I spent most of my time in Brazil. During the course of my trip, I scrawled the following descriptions in my notebook:

Sprawling. Dirty. Crumbling infrastructure. Favela? Trash burning on the roadside. Mangy dogs everywhere. Some sleeping. Some dead (?). Graffiti. The occasional horse tied up on the median strip of the highway. The smell of wood, charcoal and pork hangs in the air perpetually. Terracotta masonry. Compact cars - Fiats, Renaults, Chevys (models you've never heard of). Graffiti. Ethanol. Buses constantly rumbling past. People/families running across multi-lane highways (directly beneath a pedestrian bridge). The smell of natural gas in taxis. Neglected public spaces. No street signs. No obvious civil planning, no building codes. Dichotomy. Graffiti.

A "favela," or as they are now called, community, up the road from Eduardo's school. The word favela is derived from a plant that commonly grows on hillsides in Brazil. When slavery was finally abolished in Brazil (roughly 30 years after the U.S.), the slaves were forced out of the city centers and up onto the hills. These makeshift shantytowns became known as favelas and have been notoriously dangerous places to live, ruled by a handful of well-armed drug lords. The poorest of the poor live here. Police even refused to go into these communities. Recently, through a program called "pacification," police have established a presence and rid many of these places of violence. Rio is poised to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, so this has influenced the government's increased involvement.

Graffiti outside of a city school in Rio.

I realize some of this may sound unkind. I certainly don't mean it to be. I'm trying to be as objective as possible here. I even think that our host teacher, Eduardo would agree with much of this. In other posts, I sing the praises of just about everything Brazil. There is just good and bad with everything. A lot of this is admittedly bad and I think Brazilians recognize this. Even though the gap between rich and poor is widening, the Brazilian government views education as the key to its country's prosperity in the 21st century. Social programs, such as Bolsa Familia (which I talk more about in another post) have helped to lift millions of people out of poverty and will hopefully continue to do so as Brazil becomes more and more influential on the world stage.

Rio is on the move. I used the word dichotomy in my notes because everywhere you look, luxury high-rises are sprouting up in the midst of decay. See below:

This development is occuring directly next to...

Brazil is now the world's 6th largest economy and growing rapidly.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Brazil Meets Red Bank

In addition to learning about Brazilian culture and its education system, all teachers in our 11 member cohort gave presentations to their host schools regarding their schools and respective towns in the U.S. I presented this video to the students and educators I met while in Brazil to provide a glimpse into an American school. In general, Brazilian students were transfixed by it. They were especially fascinated by my 4th graders, who are building VEX robots in the video (in addition to goofing off). My host teacher, Eduardo also had to explain to his students what a fire drill is (one occurs in the video), as they do not have these in Brazil. According to him, if a fire ever did break out, it would be mass hysteria.

A day in the life at the Red Bank Middle School.

Eduardo's students learning about life in an American school.

I also presented my host, Eduardo and some other educators with gifts from the Jersey Shore - salt water taffy, what else? I gave the students I met bookmarks from the Red Bank Public Library, which were created by Red Bank students from Pre-K through high school. They were a big hit, as you can see in these pics:

Students in Eduardo's private language school in Nova Iguacu.

Public school students at city-based school, Escola Municipal Cyro Monteiro, situated in Anchieta, a neighborhood in the city of Rio. Eduardo also works here. In Brazil, it is not uncommon for teachers to work at multiple schools.

Happy student with a new Red Bank bookmark.

On many occasions, I had the pleasure of presenting a video that my students and I produced to Eduardo's students. A few years ago, as an interdisciplinary project, our school's music, technology and art classes put together a music video called, "2048: A Rock Opera," which placed 3rd in Sony's Technology in Motion contest. The students (and teachers) in Brazil were very impressed with it and had many questions regarding its production. In all of the schools we visited I never saw any technologies or facilities that could be used for high-end media production. The only place that came close was a project-based learning lab in a private school called Marista, in Brasilia. Otherwise, public schools in Brazil seem to face major challenges regarding the implementation of technology, including theft, vandalism, inconsistent IT support, outdated hardware and intermittent internet access.

"2048" makes its premiere in Brazil.

2048: A Rock Opera