A friend of mine had been teaching for about two weeks at the school so she warned me about what to expect at Meninos Solar de Luz, the school BridgeBrazil partnered with. There was little to no organization, certainly no lesson plan, and in general we had no idea what level of English the kids were at. Meninos Solar de Luz is in a favela near Ipanema and is considered one of the 'nicer' favelas. The local police, as opposed to drug traffickers, control the favela although it looks just like the other favelas that dot the hills in Rio. In general we taught 3 classes per afternoon, generally in English, once in Spanish, and once we tutored two girls in English. My first day teaching I was introduced to about 30 elementary school-aged children and then left alone with instructions to "teach English." The only book I had on me was my Portuguese textbook so I repeated the lesson we had learned in class except instead of teaching the lesson in Portuguese I taught it in English. Getting and holding the students' attention was a challenge, but was a lot easier when Rita and I taught as a team. There were about 5 students who were interested in what we had to say and asked questions and offered answers. Otherwise the rest of the class was deaf to our calls for silence and we soon found out that the concept of raising one's hand to ask a question was pretty much unknown. To be fair to the students neither Rita nor I had ever taught in a classroom setting or been given instruction on how to hold the attention of a group of energetic students, so there were probably things we were doing wrong too. Nevertheless, we taught the kids who were eager to learn the names of clothing items to how to describe the weather and various animals.
I had another friend at BridgeBrazil who was in the Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) program and she also taught English to native Portuguese speakers. Except in her case her audience was adults who paid for classes, obviously more attentive than the rambunctious kids who would rather be playing outside that we had. Still, the school's willingness to let us teach (and gratefulness after we did) reminded me that knowing English is a powerful tool and for some of the kids at Meninos Solar de Luz could be their ticket out of a life of poverty.