It’s 17:45 and the sun is about to go down. Rebeka and Daan are preparing the EduMais room, located within the school of Solar Meninos de Luz. Most of Solar’s 400+ students are leaving to go home but a few aren’t; they are staying to join EduMais’s extracurricular English class!
These determined students asked for extra classes to further improve their English, aware that their parents would be unable to pay for a course. When looking into the possibilities of meeting their request, Diana, the founder, was delighted to receive a volunteer application from Rebeka, a professional English Language Teacher at Rio International School in Barra de Tijuca. Keen to put her skills and experience to use within the community, Rebeka was worried that her work schedule might prove limiting, as she could only volunteer in the evenings. But by a stroke of luck, it was a perfect fit!
Since then, a committed group of students stay for an extra hour of English class. Twice a week, from six until seven in the evening, they gather in the EduMais room. Half a circle of chairs is created, the board is filled, and these young people put their last energy of the day into learning English.
Rebeka realizes just how amazing this effort is on the students’ behalf. Their school day starts at eight in the morning, they finish at six in the evening, yet their determination is so great that they still want to stay another hour! Rebeka therefore ensures that the classes are as fun as they are educational. There is a lot of interaction and laughter and she gives the class a true personal touch: “Hello, my love, how are you doing?” “Love your glasses, are they new?”
In one such class, for example, the students played out a game of gerund charades. They were divided into three teams, which they were then invited to name with their favourite music stars – Drake, Rihanna, Michael Jackson. Each team then performed various actions for the other teams to guess. While the performers stuck to the no talking rule, the guessing teams created a raucous atmosphere, with everyone eager to be on the winning side!
Rebeka also encourages the students to work on their vocabulary throughout the week. Generously providing all students with a pocket notebook from her native Canada, she tells them to note down any new words they come across and practice them, before they are gone over again in class. Learning support between lessons is supplemented by the mobile app, Duolingo, with the promise of a group excursion once all students have reached a certain level acting as further motivation for them to use it.
The extracurricular English class has taken on an extra glow since Rebeka has been joined by Daan. Using the fact he is a non-native speaker to his advantage, Daan has plenty of tricks up his sleeve that he used to overcome his own difficulties with the English language. With little raps and songs, for example, the difference between sheep and ship, or Tuesday and Thursday, becomes clear and throughout the day I hear students practicing them. What was once a struggle for them begins to appear easy and fun.
The hour flies by and at seven all of the students walk out of the classroom with a smile, the joy still visible on their faces. They leave behind two happy teachers who keep on talking about the progression and dedication of these impressive young people. Together with their teachers, the committed students of EduMais’s extracurricular English class are building the skills to open up more opportunities for themselves in the future.