Friday, June 3, 2011

I think this second week in Monteverde has been favorite of the three weeks. I have gotten used to family and their schedule, and I have even gotten used to Monteverde. We have done and experienced so many amazing things here. First of all, the Cloud Forest School was unbelievable. I was so impressed with the amount of freedom the students had there. Our guide told us that the students make their own paths and trails through the forest, and I cannot imagine that being okay in most of the schools at home. I was also shocked at the amount of time that the students are able to spend outdoors. I was shocked when we were told that teachers take their students on hikes for one or two hours. When I was in high school, our field day got eliminated because we were losing too much “instructional time.” That’s why I was so amazed that so much of their learning takes place on hikes or with plants. I think it is very beneficial for students to spend time outside and learn from nature. It is definitely something I want to incorporate in my classroom.

Going to the coffee farm this week brought out the inner child in me. I used to love doing things like that when I was little, and I loved to spend time on the farm. Walking through the cow pasture reminded me of when my sister and I used to do that at home. We would go to the fence and pet the cows, and of course we named them all. I found a lot of cross cultural similarities in the coffee farm and the farms at home. Just like you can’t plant peanuts or cotton in the same field every year, they cannot plant coffee in the same fields ever year. Crop rotation was just one of similarities that I saw. Not only did planting the trees make me feel like a child again, but climbing the tree was so much fun for me.

Knowing that I have to tell my family goodbye in the morning is already making me sad. I wish I could do more to tell them thank you. They have taken care of me, and they have made me feel so comfortable in their home. I feel extremely lucky to have been placed with them, and I hate to say goodbye; but my Mama Tica told me to remember that I always had a family in Costa Rica, and she wanted me to come visit. So maybe it won't be goodbye forever!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

We went to La Carpio during our first week in Costa Rica, and it has taken me a while to write about our visit because I felt as though I needed to reflect on the things I saw and experienced. I have never been to a place quite like La Carpio, and the people and places that I saw while I was there will stick with me forever.

I am glad that we got to go the Montessori school first. Some of the children there had clothes that were torn or dirty, but that did not keep them from learning. The children were smart. They took the few toys and learning games that they had, and they used them to their advantage. We each had a partner that we shadowed and played with while we were there. The boy I was with was just two years old, and I was very impressed with his knowledge. He had a game that required circles to go in the circular hole, squares in the square hole, triangles in the triangular hole etc. He put nearly every shape in its correct place with no help from me. I work in a nursery at home, and I usually work in the two year old room. I found that the little boy in La Carpio was more advanced than the children at home. The two-year-olds in the nursery are not able to place shapes the way that he could, so I was very impressed with him! I know that every child learns at different paces, but that is a good example of how a lower economic status does not prevent a child from learning. They have just as much potential as children from wealthy families. As a future teacher, I need to remember this. I need to have just as high or higher expectations for my students who are of a lower economic status. They are the children who do not receive the support and expectations at home, so it will be up to me to provide these things for them. I want all of my students to know that I expect their best work at all times. I also want them to understand that I will be there to help them when they need it. They need to know that I want to help them because I want them to succeed in my class and in their lives.

One of the things that stood out the most to me was the excessive heat in the Montessori school. There were a couple of fans in the room, but unfortunately they didn’t really help. I don’t understand how they were able to spend all day in there, and I know it had to be bad for their health. After just a couple of hours, I was not only extremely uncomfortable, I didn’t feel well. I wish there was more that I could have done to help them.

After spending a night in my house in Heredia, all I could think about was how small my bathroom was and how uncomfortable my bed was. After seeing La Carpio, I was embarrassed to have had those thoughts. I had my own room and my own bed, whereas many people in La Carpio do not even have those simple things. We saw the place where volunteers come to build beds for the people, and they told us how excited the people were to get them. It was an eye-opening experience for me, and I realized just how fortunate I am.

I think the story of La Carpio that Gail shared with us touched every heart in the room. We were all shocked with the extreme pain these people have gone through, and I was so impressed with the hope they had. I was also extremely impressed with Gail. She showed us that one person really can make a difference.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I honestly cannot believe I have already spent a week in this beautiful place, and I am so glad that I have one more week here. I have really gotten used to my family, and I am excited to spend more time with them. We learned how to salsa dance at school on Thursday, and I think we all had a blast. I love learning cultural things like dancing and cooking. I think the total immersion is what has made this trip so incredible.

I am very impressed with both teachers I have had so far at CPI. They know how to make learning fun and exciting, and everyone stays interested. Honestly, I was not at all excited when I first heard that we would be taking four hours of Spanish every day. Four hours is a long time to be in one classroom learning one subject, but somehow the professors make it fun. It never seems like four hours to me. I have to admit, I do look at my watch from time to time, but I am never bored! Sometimes I think I won’t make it through my fifty minute classes at UNCW, but with the teachers at CPI, four hours is nothing. I want to take a lot of their techniques into my classroom. We usually begin our classes in general conversation, which is really good practice for us with our Spanish. I am always amazed at how easy it is for us to have a conversation with our teachers when they speak hardly any English at all. Sometimes we have to do some acting or some drawing, but we always seem to end up understanding each other. Then we usually move on to go over our homework, and we always go over it aloud together. This is something that I definitely want to do in my classroom. I think it is important that everyone understands their homework and gets a chance to ask questions. After going over our homework, we usually start our main grammar lesson of the day (and I have to say, somehow our teachers have even made grammar interesting!). We always end the day with a game, and I really like doing that. It gives us something to look forward to, and it is a good learning tool. Learning games are something that I want to use in my classroom as well. It keeps everyone interested, and games really are helpful in learning.

We went to the primary school again yesterday. This time we observed two English classes, and then we taught our lesson on letter writing. The classes were very short, and they did not have time to learn very much information. I feel like there was some miscommunication in the things that the she taught. I know that I was confused about the family tree she drew on the board, and I think some of the children were too.

As much as I admire the teaching methods used by both of my Spanish professors here, they cannot keep us from struggling with our Spanish. I began to understand this more yesterday during our education class. Struggling comes naturally during the learning process, and I have definitely experienced that. Yesterday during Spanish class I felt like I hit my max, and it seemed as though I could learn no more. All I wanted to do was speak in English. I was tired of having to think so hard before everything I said. Moreover, after class was over I knew I would have to go home and continue to use my Spanish. This was a terrible feeling for me, and I cannot imagine living in a world like this all the time. I am here for only three weeks, and I have friends that I can talk to in English. Our English language learning students do not get to go home in three weeks, and many times they have no friends to talk to in their first language. As teachers, we have to be there for these students. I think that yesterday was the first time I truly understood what this trip is all about. We have talked about it as a group, but I didn’t really get it until I experienced that feeling myself. I now understand firsthand how this trip will help us have empathy for English language learners in our classrooms.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

This week has gone by so fast, and I can’t believe it’s already Thursday. Monteverde is beautiful, and we have experienced so much. I absolutely love my family here. Originally, I thought the child in my family was twelve years old, but when I got here, I found out he is actually five months old. It was quite a surprise, but the baby has been so much fun! . Someone is always holding him, and I don’t think they ever put him down. I was kind of nervous to hold him the first two days, but now I feel like I am really bonding with my hermano Tico. Last night, my Tico parents had a dance teacher come over to their house. Evidently they take lessons at their house once every week. They asked if I wanted to join in, and I told them I would wanted to watch first; but before I knew it, I was dancing around the living room with my Papa Tico and then the instructor. I had so much fun! I learned the basic steps, and then the men just led me around, and all I had to do was follow. That was probably one of my favorite nights with my family so far. I was really missing being able to talk to my real family, and I am so glad that my Tico family was so warm and welcoming. It really helps having a “mama” here to take care of me!

We went to the primary school here on Tuesday, and the children were so sweet. I worked with three little boys, and we taught our lesson about leaves. They seemed to really like having the leaves to touch and look at. I thought they would jump out of their seats when I told they could write on the leaves. They thought that was pretty exciting! I thought it went well, and the language barrier wasn’t too much of an issue. I knew all the words I wanted them to use when describing the leaves, and I had my dictionary for any words I didn’t know!

I feel like I have learned more Spanish while I have been here than all of my time in school. Now I just feel like I need to practice, practice, practice! I really like going home and talking with my family. My biggest problem is that sometimes I say things to my family, and they don’t understand me because of my poor pronunciation. That is definitely what I need to work on the most.

Friday, May 20, 2011

We have been to an elementary school the last two days, and I have enjoyed every minute of it. On Wednesday, I read books and played games with two students in the special needs classroom. They were very friendly and very eager to help me with my Spanish! After we finished our books, I taught them some colors in English. It was hard for them to remember the words, but they really wanted to learn more. By the end of the class, they were able to remember green, blue, and yellow. I think yellow was the easiest for them to say, so that also made it easier to remember. They wanted to give me a tour of the school, so we walked around for a while, and they told me what every room was. They seemed very proud of their school and eager to show it to me. Today (Thursday) when I was at their school, I saw one of the girls that I worked with yesterday. She ran up and gave me a hug, and she wanted to tell me the colors she remembered from yesterday. It was exciting to see the waterfall and the volcano, and I am sure that I will enjoy all of the sightseeing; but it is moments like that mean the most.

Today I worked with sixth grade and third grade. Even though it was hard to communicate with them, I felt like our lessons were successful, and I they seemed to really enjoy them. I found that I liked working with the students in small groups more than teaching in front of the entire class. I definitely see how challenging it would be to have an English language learner in my classroom. They really need extra help in order to understand a lesson. I think it went well because we had five people in each class, and we were able to give each student the individual attention they needed.

I have really enjoyed my Spanish classes this week, and I hate that I have to leave my teacher! She makes our learning so much fun, and I feel like I have learned so much from her in this one week! Having Spanish class with her makes me think that I would really like to teach English as a second language. I am excited to take more ESL classes next semester, and I am excited about my field experience for those classes. I find that learning a language can be more fun than many other classes. I like it because a lot of the learning takes place through talking and listening. I enjoy talking with my teacher, and I like to hear her stories as well! Profesora Lucy has made me much more excited about teaching ESL in the future.

We went to the mall last night, so I did not get a chance to tell my Mama Tica that we had a change in the schedule and I would have to leave earlier than planned this morning. I told her as soon as I woke up this morning, and she was very worried that I wouldn’t have time to eat my breakfast. She started cracking eggs as soon as I told her about our schedule change, and then she insisted that I take some bread with me on my walk to school. She is so sweet and motherly, and I know that I will miss her when it is time for me to leave.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I cannot believe how much I have experienced during these five days in Costa Rica. I have seen a volcano and a beautiful waterfall, and now I am living with a woman that speaks no English at all. It’s a little crazy to think that all of this has happened in less than five days. Over the weekend, I felt like I was on vacation. Now I feel like I am back on schedule and back in school. My Mama Tica is very nice, and I try to talk to her. When I can't understand what she is saying, she just gets closer and closer to my face. It really puts the pressure on me to come up with something to say! Her son in-laws have talked to me much more than she and her daughters do. They also speak slower for me. Her daughters have their own homes, but they are within talking distance from my Mama Tica’s house. It seems like one big very close family. I’m glad I am getting to experience the togetherness of the family because I have heard a lot about it. It is like they all live together because their doors are always open, and they are constantly going from one house to the other.
I can honestly say that I have enjoyed all of my time here in Costa Rica. It has not all been easy, but it has been very enjoyable. The one thing that I would say has been the most difficult for me has been communication. I did not realize it would be this hard on me before I left home. I spend time away from my family all the time when I am at school, and I thought this would be no different. I now know that it is extremely different. The first few days have been very hard because I haven’t been able to directly communicate with anyone. I am so used to picking up my phone and calling whoever I want to talk to, but I can’t do that here. I am grateful for email, but it’s just not the same as a phone call. I got to chat with my sister online this morning, and I felt so much relief. It was the first time I had gotten to really talk with ayone in my family, other than emails. It just felt so good to be able to ask her a question or tell her something and get a response right back. I really miss talking to my family and my friends as well. I was so excited when I got to use the phone at CPI to call my mom. It was just so nice to hear a familiar voice. It was definitely the best fifteen minutes of my day, and I feel so much better after talking to her. Emails are good, but that phone call was amazing!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I’ve just finished packing my things. I had no idea everything would fit in my little suitcase! It’s all so real now (and even a little scary). I’ll be on a plane to another country, where I know no one, in less than two days. I’ve never been on a plane before, so that is the first thing I’m nervous about. I am also nervous about talking to my host family. What will I say to them? Will I be able to say anything at all? Will I understand anything they say? Although I am extremely nervous, I am also very excited. I’m going to Costa Rica! How could I not be excited? I get to be a part of the Costa Rican culture and “attempt” to learn their language. I feel like I will have a much larger appreciation for my students who are struggling to learn English after the trip.