Monday, May 30, 2011

Life as a kept woman

It's not all about lounging on the sofa and eating bonbons.  Within the first few weeks of landing on planet Portugal, I found myself craving some structure and purpose for being.  Granted, I love the role of Weekend Event Planner and am thrilled to have time to cook lots of new and interesting things, read like a maniac, work out semi-regularly, take delicious afternoon naps, and even do a few little crafty projects, but it isn't enough.

Before we even left home, I started looking for a school or program to learn Portuguese here in Braga.  My Googling led me to an English immersion school for preschool through 12th grade students.  Although this school wouldn't help me to master Portuguese, I saved the information anyway.  After settling in, I pulled out the contact information and emailed the school, offering my services as a volunteer.  I was giddy when an assistant principal contacted me immediately and asked me to come in and visit the school.

Although the assistant principal encouraged me to lend my services to the older students, I asked if I could work with the younger ones.  Within a week, I was assigned to work with the 3rd and 4th grade classes during math time.  Both teachers are young, energetic Brits named Katie and Clare.

Joana and Maria Teresa both love math!

After working with older kids for so many years, being around 8 & 9 year-olds opened up a whole new world to me!  I had no idea that I would be so charmed by these little munchkins.  Beyond the cuteness of hearing British accents coming out of their little Portuguese mouths and the fact that they cry pretty easily, they are enthusiastic about learning, super affectionate and grateful for help.  Every day they hold my hands, give me hugs (almost bruising my ribs sometimes), and thank me profusely for helping them.

Catarina & Maria are great huggers

Beatriz is the toughest gangsta 4th grader in Braga

I've had more than a few memorable moments at the school, and the kids' names and faces are permanently etched in my memory.  One day I was working one-on-one with Diogo and he needed to use the bathroom.  When I told him he could go "quick like a bunny", he jumped up, kissed me on the cheek and said, "Oh, thank you!"

Ana Maria is a hoot.  When I gave her the Barbie bracelets from my Happy Meal, she got excited and said I was her best friend.   She later amended it to '3rd best friend', but hey, I'll take what I can get!!  A few days later,  when she found out that I had been a math teacher for over 20 years, her eyes got big and she said, "WOW!  Then you must know your 12 times tables!!"  I guess it doesn't take much to impress a 3rd grader. 

One of my favorite days at the school was right after Eric and I returned from our trip to Morocco.  After having been gone for a week, I got to school just as the 3rd graders were heading into the building after recess.  They were all lined up outside the school and as soon as they saw me they started chanting and clapping:  "Peggy!" (clap, clap, clap)  "Peggy!" (clap, clap, clap)...  I almost cried!

That same day, when I went to work with the 4th graders, I entered the classroom and the kids broke into spontaneous applause.  I can't describe the depth of warm fuzziness I felt that day.

Helena chats with Laura and Maria Beatriz during recess
Bruno preps for his role as The Scarecrow in
The Wizard of Oz

Over the past 8 months I've helped with lessons, worked one-on-one with kids, subbed for Katie, gone on a field trip, enjoyed assemblies, and supervised 70 1st-4th graders on the playground ALONE.  It has been an amazing experience to work with these wonderful kids and teachers.  I leave the school each day with a huge smile on my face (and no papers to grade!).

~ Peggy

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful experience for you, the kids sound adorable! I taught Head Start for years and subbed in the Elementary and older schools. I must admit I enjoyed the younger kids the best!

    Finally catching up,