After officially joining the Teach For All network in February, Teach For Portugal recently completed its first Summer Institute, and will be placing its first cohort of participants in classrooms across the north of Portugal next week. The following is a reflection from Co-founders Pedro Almeida, CEO, and Maria Azevedo, Head of Program, on the experience:
Have you ever woken up from a beautiful dream wishing you could fall back asleep and prolong it? Teach For Portugal’s first Summer Institute was that dream for us. After four years of planning for this moment—dreaming and redreaming it in our sleep and in daydreams—this desire became a reality, an authentic experience embracing all of the feelings of real life: strength, courage, and creativity.
At first, the Teach For Portugal team was nervous and anxious. We kept asking ourselves, “Will we create the culture we need? Will this be the start of a movement?” Together with our colleagues at Teach For All we envisioned what the ideal Institute would look like. We discussed, openly among ourselves, what our expectations and fears for the Summer Institute were, and wrote down our goals and the challenges we anticipated. At the end of the Summer Institute, we realized that our lived experience exceeded all of our expectations.
Our participants and staff experienced a lot of emotions and intensity during those five weeks: dedication, compromise, a sense of community and belonging, very tight schedules, encounters with numerous curious people, back-and-forth journeys, late dinners, long program meetings. With the generous support of our tutors from our fellow network partners Teach For Bulgaria, Teach First, and Empieza por Educar, our participants were able to witness their own growth on a daily basis. The devoted tutors helped our participants by providing invaluable feedback and inspiring words after every class they taught and during planning sessions. We all knew that our Summer Institute was going in the right direction when the participants started voluntarily asking for feedback from their tutors—genuinely wanting to improve their skills. This feedback did not stop between tutors and participants, and it spread to students as well. “I have no words,” one student shared with us. “I loved being here, and it was very important for me because I ended up learning more English, Portuguese, and mathematics. I am taking with me a great friendship with all of you for the rest of my life.”
What is all of this for, some might ask? All of this is for the change we believe is possible: that in our country, one day, all children will have the same life opportunities. You cannot feel it, touch it, sense it, nor smell it, but we know that this change we are working towards is there waiting for us. We know it exists—hidden behind the heavy curtains of bureaucracy, traditions, norms, rules, and legislation, that are complex and discourage us from questioning, revisiting, and reimagining them. This is why, during our Summer Institute, we gathered 18 young, diverse, and committed individuals who are willing to take this step forward with us, and shake off these heavy curtains.