Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Costa Rica: Mountain Escape 5/29

!Hola¡ Amigos. 

It's been a very long time since I've talked to you. But first a little story. 

It's been two weeks since that faithful day. Contact with the outside world has been severely limited. We have started to become frustrated with each other and differences in culture, others even resorting to talking to rocks. The worst is that an illness has affected some of the group. Communication with the natives is still hard and seem to even have taken a step back from the first few days of arrival. Our bodies just too exhausted to even give energy to our listening and speaking abilities. The natives say this place is beautiful and that we just have to open our eyes. Tomorrow, we hope to regroup and search out this beauty. We have hope. 

This is an exaggeration of our situation. However, the feelings portrayed are very real and are experienced by English Language Learners. This is part of the super wonderful immersion cycle (insert sarcasm)! Our group has hit the frustration stage of that. At this stage it's make or break for some people. Teachers and family need to be aware when a student hits this stage because the student may shut off completely. Instead they need to be encourage that this stage will pass. Our group has the outlook of being able to leave in a week. For ELLs this isn't the case. And frustrations can come from a variety of factors, but mainly just from wanting things to be the same in their host country as in their home country. 

Now that you know how our emotions are at this point I'll move on to telling you about what we've done the first few days in Monteverde! 


I love my old family, but I have now been blessed with a super awesome second family. I live with my papa tico, mama tica, hermana tica, and hermano tico. My tica sister is 15 and goes to the local public school. My tico brother is 6 and goes to the private Monteverde Cloud Forest School. My papa tico is a farmer, which the farm is located right next to the house. The mom works and volunteers within the community at various places. Here my family speaks a little more English than the last mainly due to Monteverde being more of a Eco-tourism spot. Right away the family took me right in and I felt at home. Honestly, if they didn't speak Spanish you would think they were the typical American family. Again the dual language dictionary came in handy haha. 

My new tico family! 

Every morning he feeds the little chicks. The rooster has been waking me up each morning at 5 am (no bueno). 

Takeaway: throughout the country the families have been very welcoming and friendly. Wanting to treat you as the guest of honor. Plus they want you to learn about the culture, which they are more than happy to share. It cannot be stressed enough that family is key and that future teachers should strive to make those connections. 

Spanish Class

We received a new teacher at the Monteverde CPI this week. This one was vastly different from our previous teacher. Her teaching style was more traditional for language acquisition. This means more exercises in the form of worksheets and memorizing grammar forms. Though these things have their place its tough to do that for four hours each day. Also she wanted us to not use English at all in the classroom and didn't promote using our dictionaries to look up new words. I understand she was trying to get us to be more confident in our speech, but our group is very beginner. So her explanations in Spanish or when we tried to explain in Spanish the vocabulary was lacking in both production and comprehension. However; I have learned the first few days some irregular verbs. And I discovered that I can take what she's talking about and re-word it into my own understanding. 

Our only non-worksheet activity. We had to describe a trip we were going on using pictures from magazines. 

Takeaway: teachers will always different in style. Some will cater to your style of learning better than others. From a student perspective we need to learn how to adapt to the situation and use personal strategies to help acquire learning. Also it's up to us to bring the engagement instead of shutting off because we don't like them. For future teachers we need to help our students develop those learning strategies in case this situation happens. Also we need to watch our own language and sentence structure so that it matches our students abilities. Another stress to be made is that giving off a good vibe as teacher is key to reducing a student's anxiety in the classroom. Don't want to hit a student with a double negative of bad teacher behavior and not catering to learning style. 

St. Elana Primary School

For this week we are visiting the St. Elana Primary School, which is public. On this day the English teacher was not there so we just toured the school and observed. Compared to American schools the school would be considered Title 1 due to its lack of resources, but compared to the first school we visited it was in better shaped. The school had more students (they came in two shifts during the day) and the building itself was in better shape. The students didn't have textbooks and the teaching styles differed between classes. Hopefully on our next visit we will be able to do some teaching. 

Some teachers live at the school during the week if they have homes in far off places. 

At the school they have a garden which they grow vegetables and herbs. These are used in the cafeteria or given to the students. 

Takeaway: public schools in Costa Rica tend to lack a lot of resources. However, they are very resourceful in creating what they need to teach. For teachers who may receive ELLs from Costa Rica should know that students may not have had access to textbooks or other resources Americans take for granted. Also these students are very much into the environment and nature. This knowledge can be used to get the student to open up in class or guide learning. 

Other observations
- Environment has been a common theme throughout the country not just the schools
- Students really feed off the teacher and notice when a teacher is disengaged
- No matter the community in Costa Rica they have community pride
- The frustration stage is very real when it comes to immersion, but having hope that it gets better makes all the difference 

Got to go do some more Spanish homework and hang with my tica family. 

Talk to you later! 

"Hope. That is the key to making it through the tough times." 

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