As we are gearing towards our last few days, I can’t help but feel reflective of my experience in Costa Rica.
The purpose of the community field experience (CFE) was “to push past my boundaries and comfort zone.” I am pleased to say that I definitely was pushed out of my comfort zone before and during my entire Costa Rican journey.
Here are some snippets of what I learned and where I grew the most:
Teachers are key factors in any students successful life. Even spending one year with them in your class can make a world of a difference. The impact that you have on students will never really fully show, until the very end, when you realize that your relationship with them has put a smile on their face. There was a younger boy who is known to be disruptive in the classroom. I saw that he was fond of my presence in his class and grew to maintain a friendship with him, even in the hallways. It went from “hello’s” to, hiding behind walls to scare each other. I saw him smile, and I thought to myself, maybe this will make a small impact in making his day a little less stressful.Photo: With some teacher friends at our Lunch Spot, where we watch each other’s backs (literally) for iguanas.
Growing is uncomfortable, and that discomfort is where you know that it is working. Most of the teachers in CRIA are from international backgrounds. They are Americans or Canadians that decided to move here for a year or more to experience a new life and setting. These new experiences are opportunities to grow as human beings and as educators. I could tell each person who told their story, felt uncomfortable leaving their home to move somewhere new. Growth is not supposed to be comfortable. Growth is pushing boundaries and being uncomfortable so that you can learn something.
When you forget what it felt like to be nervous, that’s when you know you’ve conquered your fears.Being afraid of using my Spanish language with native speakers has always been a large fear of mine. Practicum was tough because I came into my Spanish classes feeling terrified. I knew on this trip that I needed to conquer it. Not just for myself but for my future students. Somewhere halfway through the second week, I realized, mid-conversation, that I was speaking Spanish fluently with a Tico (Costa Rican) and that I forgot to feel nervous. It is easy to think that a nervous student presenting in front of the class, isn’t a big deal but for a 14-year-old, this is a big fear. It is only when they have practiced enough and learned how to calm themselves down that they will realize, that it’s not so bad after all. Like my speaking Spanish fear, I need to be aware that I need to push past my nerves and past my students’ nerves as well.
Pura Vida. There is an art to “letting go” and “worrying less” that Costa Ricans are experts at. The saying of “Pura Vida” or “pure life” is the idea that everything is going to be okay in the end. There doesn’t need to be any drama or worries about the little things that happen or don’t happen. Having a type-A-teacher personality, I found this the most difficult thing to learn during my trip here. This saying is built everywhere in their actions, social manner, school life, and work life. It is a relaxed approach to life that I know I still have to learn how to do. I think it is important as educators to care about the bigger picture rather than the little details. One teacher said to me the other day “It’s nice to only worry about the things that matter, y’know!” This stuck to me, as coming from my practicum experience, I was too worried and worked up about everything. I came into our Field Day that we’ve been planning since day one, in the morning extremely refreshed. I knew not all the details were in place but I also knew not to worry or fuss about them. It felt good to think “Pura Vida!” Whatever happens, will happen and being flexible is part of the experience. I think everyone needs a little more Pura Vida in their life, especially teachers.
As we say goodbye to our friends, and celebrate our “Despedida” I am extremely satisfied and pleased with the work and growth that I experienced here in Costa Rica. The entire CRIA and Tico community has taught me so much about who I am, as an educator and as a friend.
Last Friday, Ms. Yaworski (teacher candidate) and I had the opportunity to work as a substitute teacher for a grade 3 class. Being both secondary teachers, we jumped at the idea of teaching the younger grades.
Being in someone else’s classroom and seeing the routine that the kids have, was so incredible. The kids knew exactly what to do and when. They were so well behaved and focused on their tests and subject matter.
What surprised me the most, is their quiet nature. Coming from a summer camp background, I am used to elementary kids running around and yelling in a gymnasium. It was easy to get their attention, especially when we used something that they were accustomed to. For example, if you said the word “waterfall” the kids in grade 3B would have responded with a “shhhh” and give all of their attention to the teacher. It was fantastic! My day at with the 3B students showed me how routine and consistency is really important in a classroom, and how helpful it would be for children on the autism spectrum or with learning disabilities.
While we followed their regular routines, we also judged their “tread-a-thon.” The primary grades competed in the pool on which grade could last the longest. At least 2 (or more) from each grade actually lasted treading water for thirty minutes! Amazing! It was hot and sunny but they persevered and even cheered on their swimmers. It was cool to see an event like this. Most schools in Vancouver would not have certain resources like pools available for them, and it was nice to see CRIA using their resources to its full potential.
Yesterday, we finished our first project here at CRIA, teaching substance abuse to middle school students (grades 6, 7 and 8). I was surprised at how each grade was different from the rest. Each grade level gave something completely different to the workshop. Grade 6s were honest about their knowledge and knew way more scientific matters about substances (drugs and alcohol). Grade 7s were more curious and asked a lot of questions on how to say no. Grade 8s were very well behaved and eager to participate in a discussion. It was a good experience to teach something that I had to research myself. We really had to keep in mind the purpose of the workshop/lesson and the importance of backward planning came into play. There so much that you can say about drugs and alcohol but the most significant part was focusing and explaining the “take-a-ways” of the workshop, which was to know and educate themselves, be conscious of their comfort level and safety. I told all the students “our bodies know when things aren’t right. When were uncomfortable in any situation, we have to trust our gut and act appropriately.” I hope this lesson sticks because I value the idea of power and choice in each individual.
I’m learning each day more and more about different styles of teaching. Also, I am learning that we use what we have and we make the most of it. Everything this week seems to be falling into place. It’s going to be very hard to say goodbye to Costa Rica. I’m already anticipating missing it.
PS: Here are some photos from our weekend hike in the rainforest. The little frog is the official animal of Costa Rica!
On Sunday, we arrived in Costa Rica and it was unbelievable. Our view from our accommodations is of Playa Flamingo and the Pacific Ocean. The sun sets in perfect view from our patio door. After an intense ten week practicum, a view like this from an infinity pool was a nice change.
Monday we woke up fairly early to catch our ride to CRIA. I felt myself have the very familiar, “first day of school” jitters. To celebrate Earth Day, it was beach clean-up day. It was exciting to see the kids get so excited about picking up garbage. I couldn’t complain that I was spending the morning at the beach on a Monday school day with enthusiastic primary kids.
The rest of the week, we fell into a nice routine. We got acquainted with as many teachers possible and asked to observe them in their classrooms. Our days were filled with both elementary, middle and secondary students. Here are only some of my highlights:
Grade 8 English, was a discussion day, and I was shocked. I saw every single student put up their hand to speak. They were so engaged with the subject and their novel. They even went “overtime” during silent reading time. I can tell the teacher was extremely passionate and his energy has transferred to his students. His method seemed simple and revolved around being present in their classroom. Their deal is that they have to participate in the discussion, and the class as a whole must know the answers to his questions, or else there would be a quiz! That is a pretty good deal!
Watching the Pre-K students colour and speak in Spanish, their routine and schedules were tight. They do their work and have some play time. I spent my time with a pre-k student who helped me build a tower of magnetic squares. He showed me his cool dance moves while the other kids spoke to me in Spanish during free time. It was adorable!
Algebra 2 class was really exciting. As someone who hates math, it was pretty wonderful to see an energetic math class. Her structure consisted of instruction, practice, and homework. However, she made it so accessible to check everyone’s individual work. Her notes were projected on the board, through a computer program where she can write on a tablet. In this manner, she could show them the process of solving the problem. Then it was practice time! The students solved math problems on whiteboards and it held up for her to check the correct answer. This gave her the opportunity to check everyone’s process and the students could erase and correct their mistakes multiple times. This was brilliant and totally applicable to my future Spanish classroom. Who knew Math could be so exciting!
I hope you enjoy the photos of the first week. I’ve been learning quite a bit and learning how to use different forms of my Spanish in both during and after school hours.
In our group discussion today, we started talking about peculiar cat behaviour and cute baby bunnies. Slowly our random conversation evolved into someone in our group saying, “Kindness is the highest form of wisdom” which raised the question “How do we teach Kindness in our classroom?”
Kindness can be an overarching team for questions that regard to uncomfortable conflict situations within the classroom. If we teach our students what kindness is, what it looks like and its power, then we can teach them what to do in situations of conflict or discomfort, and most importantly how to respect each other.
It would be unrealistic to force all our students to be friends. That’s not what happens in real life. We can’t all be friends. But what is realistic is to teach them that respecting others, and being kind to others even in stressful situations, can help us overcome the conflict.
Kindness can be learnt. It can be fostered and practiced and it comes from the ability to step back and self reflect. When faced with a situation where someone triggers anger in another student, the student can step back, and self reflect on why this makes them so angry. How can I respond in a kind way towards this person. This idea of self reflection also ties in with self evaluation. The ability for a student to evaluate their process in an assignment is teaching them the skills of being able to ask these same questions in their daily life. “How did I reach to my conclusion?” “What did I learn from doing this?” “How did I challenge myself” “What risks did I take?” “How did I deal with this situation with kindness?” etc.
The ability to ask these questions to ourselves and teach students to do so, could be a step forward in teaching them kindness and understanding of other people and also, themselves.
As a group, my colleagues and I were talking about transparency as an educator with our students. Our inquiry questions all relate to safety for all people in the classroom. It was neat to hear thoughts on different ways to be transparent in a classroom. One colleague mentioned that in a drama class, one teacher asked the students “who are we protecting in this classroom?” before they started an interactive activity. The students had very clear answers on how to answer this question.
On a personal experience from my school visit, my favourite classroom was when the SS 10 teacher prepared an activity where the students had to classify people/things in low, medium and high class. The teacher explained how the activity may make people uncomfortable but to make sure that they think about what society thinks, rather than what they personally think. She proceeded with walking around the classroom, asking them how they felt, addressing their discomfort and validating their opinion. She created a safe space for everyone to feel uncomfortable and to understand that it is part of the point of the activity.
I really enjoyed the conversation and very happy that my school visit applied to my inquiry question.