André Lara Ramos

As a deputy director at Agrupamento de Escolas Pinheiro e Rosa, André is constantly trying to destroy the “wall” between the school and the city and challenge the kids for the life ahead. He wanted to be a professional coach, but life offered him a new path as a teacher.

Who is André?

I am deputy director at Agrupamento de Escolas Pinheiro e Rosa. I’m André. I’m a guy from Faro. I was born here and until I was 18 years old I lived all my life in Faro. Then, when I was 18, I went out of Faro and went to study in Lisbon.

I still remember that when I crossed the border in Barreiro, I was thinking that I might never come back. Usually, when you go to the big city, you want to stay there. I was out of Faro for 5 years. During this time, I did an Erasmus. When I was 23, I was sure I wanted to come back to Faro and use all the things I learned in Lisbon. Also, I had the idea that Faro could be a city with high potential for changing things. Because we are the south. We are 2 hours and a bit away from Lisbon, but also 2 hours from Sevilla. Also, 2 hours and a half away by plane from Paris. The connections are very good. Especially since a few years ago, because of so many low-cost flights, now everything is so close.

Also, the weather is nice. It’s December and we’re outside. We have the Ria Formosa and a quality of life that I didn’t have in Lisbon, for example. So, this is why I wanted to come back and change things. I was still in Lisbon when a group of people started a youth association, called ARCA and this association grew a lot in different kinds of groups. Most of the people who are working now in social work and youth work actually worked before in ARCA. For example, people from ECOS started working with Erasmus. At that time it was not Erasmus. It was Youth for Europe. But it was still focusing on European projects.

I’ve been a teacher since I was 23 years old. So, almost half of my life. I’m 45 now. Until I was 30, I was very involved in the youth association movement. I tried to build my professional work as a teacher, as well as giving time to the volunteering work. I wanted to have a balance between them and bring the things I learned in the youth association into the school. 6 years ago, I was invited to take part in the board of the school. We are a big school. We are 9 schools, from preschool to 12th grade, and I’m responsible for the secondary school, from 10th to 12th. So, what I started to do is to finally have the opportunity to mix both of the lives that I have: the professional teacher one and the youth association one.

And we started to open the school to these associations and have projects with them. We created a connection. A bridge between the curriculum and the voluntary work. I used to say that the best thing I did was to go out of Faro. The second best thing was coming back when I was 23. And maybe the third best thing is living in Faro, but continuing to go out, for example with Erasmus projects. So, I can use both the things I learn living in Faro and the things I learn when I go out. Basically, to mix the things I learn from school life with the ones from the volunteering life. Actually, some of the projects we have in school started outside of the school.

What would you like to do when you grow up?

I’m still growing up, haha! I’m still in that child phase of trying things. Now I’m thinking more about the things I want to do before actually doing them, but still my focus is always on doing something. When I was little, I wanted to be an astronaut. I read a lot of science books about cosmos and because of that, when I was in my 4th year, I was actually explaining to my teacher all the new facts I was learning about cosmos.

I think our life is similar to agriculture. There is a time to plant the seeds, then the time to wait and finally, a time to harvest what you planted. So when I grow up, I would like to be a farmer waiting for the harvest. And still working for the harvest too, haha! But making less things, and waiting more. I want to enjoy the results of the things I already accomplished. I come from a family of teachers, and worse than that, physical education teachers.

I’m a physical education teacher myself. My father was more a coach than a teacher, and my mother was more a teacher than a coach. My brother did design, and after he finished his course in design, he started to coach. But at 30 years old he became a physical education coach, so there’s no escape from that, haha! Because my father was a national coach I met Rosa Mota. In 1987, when I was 12, I went to the World Championship in Rome and there I saw the hard life and cool life of sports. I didn’t really like that side of things, so that was the moment when I realised that I don’t actually want to be a coach and I prefer to be a teacher.

So, when I was 16 or 17, I really thought of pursuing teaching as a career path. Not only a physical education teacher, as I currently am, but more than that, an overall teacher. First, I am in management and most of my time is on the board. But I have one class that is physical education and before that I was doing project management. So, first I am a teacher and then I am a physical education teacher. To conclude everything, teaching was something that I wanted to do from the beginning.

What is the first thing on your mind when you think about Faro?

I think about Ria Formosa and the sea. I was in Lisbon, for example, and I was living near the Tejo river, but still, it wasn’t the same. You go in December, have lunch on Praia do Faro, then cross the Ria Formosa.

For example, I love cities like Cordoba, but the problem is there’s not enough water. Even in Sevilla, it’s not the same thing. For that, I prefer Cadiz. Something else I like here is this gray sky of winter. Yes, I like it even more than the blue sky. Because the blue sky is normal since it is usually sunny here. But we don’t get to see the gray sky that often, so, that makes it special. It’s something different. For example, until I was 9 year old, I spent the last 3 summers holidays at the camping park in Praia do Faro.

However, now, I love to go there with my friends when we have school breaks for the winter holidays. Because we love it there even in December. And you can see such a beautiful palette of lights. You have a combination of the blue sky and the gray sky. I also love when it rains. For example, in the last few weeks, for me it was amazing. Again, I like it because it is not something we have a lot. And because of that, it makes me appreciate these things more.

What would be the soundtrack of your life story?

When I was between the ages of 18 and 30, I lived in Lisbon, Faro, Huelva, Sevilla, Cordoba and Cadiz doing some courses. And in Spain, there was music from the late ‘90 played by a group of Alentejo singers and a group of flamenco singers.

The style of music was different, but at the same time, the same. Radio Tarifa was also a Spanish group that played local music from the South West of the mediterranean. Even though we don’t have the Mediterranean Sea, we’re still mediterranean. So, I felt more at home there because of this kind of music. If I go to the South of Italy, North of Morocco, Istanbul or even to Egypt, it’s not the same. So, this kind of music can be my soundtrack. Maybe, more than a soundtrack.

If I can change the soundtrack for a poem, I would really think that Constantin Cavafy’s poem, called “Ithaka” would best represent my life. It’s a very very nice piece of writing. It’s called Ithaka because it is the story of Ulysses, his journey which is actually everyone’s journey through life. The main idea is that it’s not about the destination, but the journey. Also, each person is looking for his own Ithaca, his personal supreme goal. And I think it I could choose something more than music, this poem could be like a motto for my life story. Because with music, I would have to pick different styles for different stages of my life, but this poem just contains the whole life journey.

What is the place in Faro you are most connected to? Why?

In the last 6 years, the place that I’ve been most connected to is this school. Because here I have the opportunity to work with a group of different people that are usually not working together. On one hand, the teachers, and on the other, the people from the cultural sector or association sector. And we all unite our forces to build something in common.

In the same time, building something for Faro. Because, at the end of the day, the kids are the city’s future. What we do, we do for them. Here I feel like I can change something for them. What we try to do is to destroy this “wall” between the school and the city. These kids are 16-17-18 years old, they are able to do a lot of things, but, sometimes, no one tells them to do those things. So, if you challenge them, they can answer to the challenge.

Sadly, in our society, the only challenges kids receive at school is that they have to study in order to get good grades and then attend a good university and then to work. We need to change this a little bit and give them more challenges. Because they are more than that. More than just students. More than someone that is only prepared to go to work or to university. They have a life outside of the school’s walls. I don’t know what I’ll do or where I’ll be in the future. But, currently, this is the place I spend most of my time in and also, the place I feel most connected towards.

© Photos by Alba Vallés.