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Hot Spot Interview — Report From Brazil

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Two years ago, I began a new regular interview series. There are always lots of “hot spots” around the world — places where there are natural disasters, political upheavals, etc. And English teachers can be found in most of those places. If you are an EFL/ESL teacher in one of those areas, please let me know.

Today, I’m lucky enough to interview Carla Arena (you can follow her on Twitter, too) from Brazil. As most readers know, huge protests have been happening there.

What led you to become an English teacher, and where and to whom do you teach?

I became an English teacher due to an irresistible call when I was taking a Teacher Development Course at the Binational Center in Brasilia that I work for nowadays, Casa Thomas Jefferson. At that time, I was taking this teacher course at that time just to keep up with English and because I loved the language. I was a public servant then and had no idea my life would be turned upside down on the day I taught my first English class for beginner adults as part of my course practicum. It was simply love at first sight. Adrenaline rushed through my body, and I realized at that point what I was meant for, what my drive was. From there, I did everything within my reach to become a teacher at Casa Thomas Jefferson, quit my job, became an English teacher and actively engaged in professional development opportunities to be qualified for the teaching position at the renowned English language institute in my hometown. Nowadays, I train teachers, teach a group of teens, teach online.

How and why did the protests begin in Brazil? To many of us outside of the country, they appeared to come out of nowhere.

I am not sure what the media around the world is reporting about Brazilians protesting on the streets, but, in fact, it all started with some protests in Rio, Goiânia and São Paulo because of the raise of public transportation rates in those capital cities. On the same week, we had the Confederation Cup opening in Brasilia and the soccer games all around Brazil, which are the preparation for the World Cup in 2014.

What happens is that the rebuilding or remodeling of the stadiums in preparation for this world soccer event was more than 30 BILLION reais, around 15 BILLION dollars. The population has been questioning all along if we needed stadiums or more investments in education or in our health system. I guess this latent movement pro-Brazil and our society just took off and was amplified by the social media. Dilma Roussef, our president, was booed in the opening ceremony of the Confederation Cup, and from there, things just got bigger and bigger to the point that the protests were organized all over the country in a moment it is in evidence with lots of media coverage. Of course, the protests were legitimate with mottos like #wakeupbrazil (#acordabrasil), or #thegianthaswokenup (#ogiganteacordou) or #cometothestreets (#vemprarua) with the optimistic Brazilians fighting against corruption, for a better, decent life for all. However, there are always those who use such moments for their own benefit or even to promote hatred campaigns and vandalism for the sake of it, but this is just the minority of the population. Tons of Brazilians were unison on the streets in a peaceful parade pro-Brazil.

I just want to highlight that I’m not against the World Cup. In fact, I love watching the Brazilian soccer games with friends and family. The point is that there is too much investment taking place that could be much more beneficial to our population. I’d exchange the World Cup in Brazil for more schools, qualified teachers and decent hospitals in the country. That’s what we’re desperately in need of.

To have a better understanding of the World Cup issues, watch this video:

How are the causes behind the protests affecting you and your students, and how are the protests themselves affecting you and them?

The moment is of reflection, one that should be taken to the classrooms for broader debate and awareness, for understanding how this movement is rooted in the many social and economic issues we face and it is much deeper than its apparent reasons. In fact, it is showing everybody that we have a voice, we have the power to change as a collectivity, we can’t just be mere spectators of decisions and attitudes from the State that directly affect us. Many of the students were on the streets, were part of the movement. In my case, I was traveling in a remote area of the country which hasn’t had any protest, but we were glued to the TV and social media to follow the crowds even at a distance. I was sad not to be in Brasilia for the pacific protest of huge proportions in my hometown, to show my kids that we should fight for what we believe in and we should be against all that is done against the public good.

What do you see happening with the protests in the coming days, weeks and months? What do you think their end result will be?

I have no idea what will happen from there. Today is one more day that everyone is on the streets to be heard loud and clear. What I know is that the government will think twice in their decision-making process. On the other hand, some bad-intentioned guys will use the moment for political gains, and I hope to see the population more aware and alert of their own citizen rights. I just wish this Brazilian awakening isn’t in vain and will result in concrete public policies, in the willingness of doing things differently, Am I being optimistic? As always, YES! But you know what? The last two times we had such a strong mass mobilization, our country went from a dictatorship to a democracy and in the other time one of our presidents has been through an impeachment process.

Is there anything else I haven’t asked you about that you’d like to share?

I just wonder what the world perception about our manifest is around the globe… I wonder how the media is covering the events here, for they have a very important social and economic component that might not be visible in a foreign’s eyes…

Thanks, Carla!

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

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