Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Final Reflection

Once I had returned to the United States I had found a lot more resources and different things that I had either taken for granted when I was here before the trip or things that I missed about Costa Rica. It is hard to really say what it is that I miss the most either from the United States or from Costa Rica. One of the harder adjustments in both cases was difference in language. Once I had finally settled in with my host family in Heredia I really understood just how hard it was going to be without really knowing a whole lot a Spanish. Then after having to return to the United States I never thought that I would find it difficult to speak English but I really had a difficult time trying to say things in English that I had no problem saying before I left to returning and not being able to remember the word or words to say what I wanted to say but piecing it together like I did when I tried to speak in Spanish to my families. Even now a couple weeks after the fact I am still having trouble trying to type up this paper without unknowingly throwing in some Spanish words here and there just because they have become second nature.
I found that one of the most beneficial things to come from this trip would have to be the fact that I learned a lot about myself. I was pushed to the limit at times and really had some struggles within myself when it came to not being able to communicate with others. I thought that because I had worked with children from a Spanish speaking culture that I would be able to pick up quickly where I had left off. I felt as though I had to swallow some pride and admit that I did not know as much as I thought I had. That within itself was a huge learning experience just because not many people can admit when there is a time that they need to swallow their pride and do what is needed. I have learned that it is more than okay to fail at times and that getting back in there is what really matters. And yes, there were times when I felt frustrated and completely burnt out but once I was able to go home sleep it off or just have time to myself I was able to come back refreshed and ready to begin the new day.
While I was learning Spanish I felt that the classes did help me learn more of the language but what I felt worked the best for me was when I would go home to my families and come back the next day having to figure out a way to say something that I really wanted to get across to my family. I found that having that drive to want to learn is what really helped me as a student. Also there were multiple games throughout the classes that helped to break up the constant sessions of just sitting there wanting nothing more than to stare out the window. I can remember when we would all come back from our nights with our families and share stories on how we said something that we thought was the right word or phrase for something to only find out that, that word or phrase stands for something completely different. This especially helped all of us learn from one another in regards of what not to use if we needed to say the same type of phrase. Especially in our class I felt that if the teacher could not explain something than another classmate would be able to break it down in a way that I could understand. It seemed as though all of our teacher instincts would kick in when we saw that one of our classmates were struggling and we wanted to really make sure that they learned that material as much as the rest of us.
Before this trip I thought I had insight to English as a second language learners but I really had no clue as to what it really meant to be a struggling language learner. I had a really hard time trying to separate Spanish from my English after I had left school or on the weekends while talking to others on the trip. I found that it is really hard to tell your brain to stop thinking in one way or another. I felt really lucky that I was able to go to school as Spanish as a second language and come home and have the support of the Tico parents supporting me in my Spanish learning. I do not know how I would cope had I not been able to have that experience after school. I felt that I was really able to learn more because I had to learn the language in an everyday use where as the students who are learning English may not have that type of a support system at home or anywhere besides at school. Also I found that it was really tough to just let my brain relax on the weekends or when I had free time. It was very difficult to not think in Spanish and at times that was very frustrating not being able to just turn that part of the brain off. If I ever have the chance to teach these types of students I really want to find a way in which they can truly have that time on the weekend or when they are not having to use the English language to be able to not think in Spanish and give their brain a rest.
Some of the ways that I would try to make things easier for my students would be to give them homework in Spanish at times when I can see that they have reached their breaking point. I do not feel that it would do anyone any good to give all of their homework in Spanish but when I could see that they really needed a break that is how they would get it. Also I would try to put some Spanish speaking games into the mix of learning whether that meant that we would do math facts in Spanish as a class so others could see the difficulty in trying to do everyday things in a different language and so that the Spanish speaking child can take pride in his language. Also we could try some games that he/she played in their country that may be different from the ones that we play here. That way everyone else is learning and he is being able to take a break of sorts.
I feel that this experience helped me as a teacher because I was able to be put into a situation where I was really struggling. There were times when I felt that others did not understand me and I felt at times that I just would never get the material because I could not comprehend what everyone else was understanding. I was able to be put in the shoes of not only a second language learner but also as learners with disabilities. There were times when I wanted to jump out of my skin to go some place where I understood everything again. Yet kids with special needs may always feel that way but never have that place that they can go to because they are always stuck in the same place.
As of right this moment if I was given a choice in a type of classroom I would chose that of all lower income children. With the Spanish that I have right now I do no feel as though I could give the children who speak English as a second language the right kind of education. I think that I would also be able to relate better to the students of a lower income because I was there at one point and I would be able to understand what they have been through. Maybe if I was more educated in Spanish then I would feel better about being a teacher for students as English as a second language.
As a teacher I will try with the best of my ability to be able to incorporate the second language learner as much as possible. I will try to get them to contribute in class by any means that they can at the time being. I will want for the student to feel as though he can raise his hand whenever in order to feel as though they are just as part of the class as the next student. I will also try to make sure that my students learn from one another since they will have a valuable resource right within our means. I would also want the student to be able to learn about English through the other students and not just from me in the way that I was able to learn Spanish from my family and from the experiences that I had where I had to use Spanish.
To anyone that would be attending this trip in the future I would tell him or her to embrace the families that they are going to stay with. That the families that they stay with are a very valuable source of information as well as learning from them. Even though the classes may be long and painful at times try to come in with questions about what you want to discuss with your families. Also that to just take everything in as your doing it and learn as much as you can. This is a once in a life time experience and there may never be the opportunity to do it again. I loved the experience and would do it again in a heartbeat. Also the family relationships that I now have with my Tico family is something that I will always have.

Zip Lining

Thursday morning we went zip lining. I have to say that it was by far my most favorite part of the trip. It really did feel like the whole trip could have been explained in just one day. All of the feelings that I felt along with the other students as well as all of the things that we were able to see from so high up. The feelings varied from being scared which was the same way I felt when I first met my host family, to happy and over joyed which was how I felt once I had settled into Costa Rica, and with my families. Then there were all of the places that we were able to see. It all started with the lift taking us all the way to the top of the mountain while traveling through the clouds. Then we were able to see a volcano which we got to see and swim in at Manuel Antonio Park. Last there was just the beautiful peaceful view which for me was any where I went to or visited in Costa Rica. Overall the day was amazing and did not rain and we were able to see all kinds of things that we saw throughout our trip.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Last Week in Costa Rica.....

I cannot believe that this is my last week in Costa Rica. I will admit at times I had the feelings of wanting the trip to be over but that was only when I was struggling in my Spanish classes. Other than that I have been learning a lot about the culture here as well as myself. We visited a school this week that had a very interesting outlook on their way of teaching the children. The school was the Cloud Forest School and that is exactly what it is, a school in the clouds and forest. The children are very involved in keeping their environment healthy and hopefully repopulating the forest to what it use to be. In each classroom there were ways in which the kids were giving back to nature whether that meant that they were using their leftovers from lunch for compost or they were building things to improve their school by using the resources that they had. While we were getting the tour of the school, we learned that they kids are always doing things outside in the forest and every grade level has their own row in the garden. I can remember as a kid that I would always look out the window just hoping that the teacher would either let us go play on the playground or they would take us out to teach the lesson outside. Here the kids are always getting outside and they have a bunch of different trails that they can take hikes on that lead to other classrooms where the teacher can teach along the way and have a reflection at the end of it all. I really want to find a way to put this into my teaching because I feel as though I would have the focus of the students a lot better just because they were able to go out and get some energy out. Then at the same time they would be learning and getting benefits from the hike. I enjoyed the visit and being able to see yet again another way of teaching children and being able to learn from the experience in ways that I can improve my teaching.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

End of the Week.

This week has flown by and I can not believe everything that has happened. I forgot to mention that we had went on a crocodile boat ride on Saturday and this Saturday we went in Hot Springs. Everything on this trip has been so new and exciting that it is hard to comprehend all that we have done. I have heard a lot of the people on the trip saying,"it feels like a dream." Which a lot of the times it does just because we are constantly doing so many new and exciting things. This weekend has been exciting going to the hot springs and really just being able to relax and get caught up on sleep. Everyone seems to be feeling a lot better and being able to talk about all of the events of the past week.
What is really nice about the weekends is that we are all together relaxing and are able to talk about our Tico families. We are able to discuss the differences with one another and talk about how this new family is similar or different from the one in Heredia. I have found that by talking about all of the things that are happening within our homes makes us all aware of the things that are happening around us and that we tend to either pay attention more or talk to our families to discuss new things that others have found out. I have been able to learn a lot about the culture this way and have enjoyed being able to really understand what it means to be a Tico. Here are some pictures since I have not had much time this week to upload many. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Recap of the past week.

Wow has the time gone by fast here. It is hard to believe that we are already more than half way through the trip and that we only have a whole week left. This week we went to a lot of different activities here in Monteverde.
Over the weekend we went to Manuel Antonio which was a beautiful beach. The public beach we went to on Saturday was a lot of fun and I can now say that I have swam in the Pacific Ocean. I can also say that the ocean at this place had a very strong rip current which was something I had thought I experienced but the current here was much stronger than I had ever felt before. Then Sunday we went to the National Park and saw all kinds of different plants and animals. The one animal that stuck out the most was the sloth that we thought might have had a baby with it. Then when we finally got to the beach there were all of these black dots that were moving along the beach. At first we did not know what to think then when we finally got closer we realized that they were hermit crabs. It was very strange to see all of these hermit crabs just crawling along the beaches.
While we were having fun all weekend we all noticed that we were either thinking in Spanish or having different phrases coming out in Spanish. This made me wonder if the students that come to the United States have that same issue. I found it to be frustrating that my brain was still working on Spanish when all I wanted to do was relax. This is only temporary for me, I can’t imagine this frustrating feeling for the ESL students never going away. If I have a student that is ESL I am going to have to come up with ways to let that student relax otherwise they will just get burnt out.
Sunday night I finally arrive in Monteverde and met my new family. My Papa Tico was all excited to tell me about where he works and all of the different activities that there are here. I found it interesting how different this family and the environment was as compared to my first family.
Later in the week we visited a typical farm which was very interesting. They had bananas, coffee, sugar cane and plantains. It was very interesting to see how coffee is made and how they excreted the sugar water from the sugar cane. Then we were able to make our own candy from the boiled sugar water. Finally before we left the mother of the farm made us this huge buffet of food which was delicious.
It is hard to believe that I had done all of these activities within the first half of the week.

Monday, May 16, 2011

May 18th

The time certainly does fly by here. It feels like just yesterday I wrote in my blog when in reality it has been about three days. There is just so much to do it almost feels like there is not time for it or anything else for that matter. I have started taking my Spanish classes and since I have started I find it a lot easier to talk to my family because I am now understanding what they are saying(well at least part of the time) and I have more confidence to respond back. Even though I may not say the verb in the correct tense or say the right type of noun my family seems to understand what I am saying and I am able to show them the things that I want to share with them. I thought that when I first came here that I would not have a lot in common with my family or that I would not be able to relate to them simply because they live in a different country. Yet I am seeing that my family here and the one at home have a lot in common. When I showed my Papa Tico that my family farms he seemed more interested which I came to know that he sells fruits and vegetables in town. There seemed to be a lot more conversation once I had shown my family pictures to my Costa Rican family. I would have never thought that just a few pictures could open up the conversation into so many different avenues.
I had told my Mama Tica that I wanted to learn how to cook some authentic food and she showed me how to make the rice that they have with every meal. This was one of my goals I wanted to complete while I was here because I love to cook and since I have learned in my past that by cooking with others it is a way of bonding without having to use language. Ever since that night my Mama Tica has given me different small jobs here and there in the kitchen which I like. I feel more apart of the family when I am included in tasks like these.
Today we went to a school and we all got to visit the special needs classroom. This has been one of my favorite activities since we have been here. I was able to work with two girls who I believe have down syndrome. Every time they said a word right they received a high five and sometimes put their hands up for high fives if I forgot to give them one. I was also excited that everyone else was able to work with special needs kids. I find that I talk to a lot of other peers in the education program who have never worked with special needs kids. I find that it is very important for everyone to get at least some kind of experience since no one ever really knows what kinds of kids they may have in their class. I always feel that it is better to be over prepared rather than not prepared. I am excited to go back to this class tomorrow.
Tonight after classes we all were able to take the city bus and go to the mall. From what I have seen of the town I would have never expected to see a mall the size or the type in this city. I figured that a lot of the people on the trip with me had been on a city bus before but a lot of them had not. I have come to realize throughout a lot of this trip that I have a lot of assumptions about many things in my life that are not true. I had thought that I was an open minded person but I am quickly learning that I have had a closed mind about a lot of different things. Therefore my goal for the next destination to be more open minded and possibly not have any expectations of any kind and see what that leads to. Enjoy!

Volcano and First Day with Host Family

Today was filled with all kinds of excitement and nerves. First there was the volcano, which was very neat to see since I had never been that close to one before. I kept smelling something that smelled weird and when I had asked by guide he said that it was because of the sulfur in the air from the volcano. Then we hiked to the lagoon that has acid rain in it from the volcano. Since there is acid within the water the only organisms that can live are the bacteria that has been able to survive in the acid water. While our group was enjoying the lagoon a few of us had apples from the previous day with us and we were eating them. Then a little girl came up to us with her eyes so big that she wanted one of our apples. Luckily I had a couple extra that I was able to give her one. I found her to be so brave and she was maybe three years old. She did not speak English but had the courage to come up to me to get what she wanted. I had put the experience in the back of my mind for the day.
Next we went back to the school where we will be learning Spanish for the rest of our time in Heredia. Since we had to take an entrance exam to see where our Spanish skills are was a bit nerve racking to say the least. I had thought I knew some Spanish before I came to Costa Rica and I am quickly learning that I do not have as many skills as I had thought I had.
Then after sitting around catching up on emails and just relaxing for a couple hours, my family came to pick me up to go to their house. Once I got in the car and no one spoke English is when my nerves set in. This was now a real event taking place and I had to try my best to communicate. After getting to the house I felt a little better because it was very relaxed and there was no need to be nervous. Then my Mama Tica made me fish, rice, beans and some kind of tuna salad. I was a little apprehensive since the fish was a whole fish which I had never had before but I have to say it was not bad at all. It was hard to figure out how to socialize with everyone since there were about 10 people here that were all speaking Spanish. It was at this point that I really understood just how brave the little girl was to come up to us and ask for an apple. I was so scared to ask or say anything because I was worried about not saying something right or offending someone when in reality that is what I am here for. I am here to make mistakes and take chances because if I do not then I may miss an opportunity that I will never get again. Luckily my Mama Tica has a son that speaks English and I was able to talk to him about Costa Rica and he was able to communicate with the others and me. He was able to ask my Mama Tica if she could teach me some traditional dishes from Costa Rica which she abruptly replied with tomorrow. For the rest of my stay here I am going to try and have the courage of the little girl at the lagoon today.