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.
Muchísimas gracias por todos mis amigos.