Saturday, December 5, 2009

International Blog - Week 5 Post!

This past week has been exciting and full of traveling and experiencing new things! Since our students finished school last week, Kayla and I have been seeing different parts of Costa Rica with only one of them including Jerry since he decided to go surfing and head to Nicaragua.

Last Thursday we celebrated Thanksgiving with dinner at Karla´s house (which is where Kayla and I have been staying). We had over the neighbors and some friends we have met here in Nicoya. For dinner we had a turkey (cooked Paula Deen style by Karla), gravy, sweet potatoes, broccoli and cheese casserole, corn, macaroni and cheese, a salad and veggie tray, and (of course) some good ´ol southern sweet tea! Before we ate, everyone went around and said what they were thankful for this year since thats something we do back home in the States.

That next Friday Jerry, Kayla and I headed to Ostional to hang out. We took a bus that dropped us off in Nosara (after breaking down on the way there and moving to a different bus) and then the three of us walked the way to Ostional... with a couple of rides along the way. While at Ostional, we got to see some turtles coming up on the beach to lay their eggs and some who just made a u-turn after deciding it was probably too much of a struggle to go any further. Ostional is a small town and one of their main sources of income comes from the turtle eggs. Many nests are protected, but the locals are allowed a certain amount of time in which they are allowed to dig up eggs from the nests and collect the eggs to sell for food. It was definitely interesting to see the beach covered with people digging up the eggs and to see the turtles up close.


Kayla and I came back to Nicoya on Saturday and helped our neighbor´s daughter, Adriana, celebrate her 18th birthday! She had a lot of friends over and her mom cooked some amazing tipical food. There was also birthday cake, of course!


On Sunday Kayla and I were dropped off at Tamarindo which is a very popular beach, especially for surfing. There were a lot of English-speaking people there so it was easy for us to get around. The beach was beautiful and the water was cool and clear. Boats were scattered right off of the coast all day and surfers were out on the opposite end. It wasn´t too crowded when Kayla and I were there, though when it gets closer to the Holidays I´m sure it will be.


After Tamarindo we headed to La Fortuna which was about a 5 hour drive on the Interbus. In La Fortuna we stayed at a Hostel called Gringo Petes´ for $4 a night and got some super deals on activities we wanted to do. We visited Baldi Hot Springs one afternoon and caught a volcano tour that same night with another hot springs that was right off the side of the road and free to visit. The volcano tour was a bit of a disappointment because it was cloudy and we weren´t able to see any lava.. but we met some interesting people that were in our group! The next day we went canyoning/rappeling in the morning. This was by far my favorite part of our trip to La Fortuna! We had great tour guides and slid down waterfalls, jumped into small pools of water and rappelled down a 220 foot waterfall! That afternoon we went zip lining through the canopy and saw some toucans right above us in the trees! We spent the rest of that afternoon relaxing in some more hot springs at a place called Los Lagos.




I have loved being able to travel around and experience more of Costa Rica. It has been a fun challenge to be getting around on our own without Karla´s help. The people here are so friendly, especially the other travelers we have met from the States, Germany, Australia, Switzerland and Canada! I really enjoy the culture and am sad that we´ll be leaving this warm weather in less than a week... but I am very much looking forward to returning home and graduating!

Adios from Nicoya!


Thursday, November 26, 2009

International Blog - Post 4

Yesterday was actually our last day with the students at San Ambrosio. I only went to one class period, with my first graders, where we did a final journal entry for them to talk about vacation. After the first class period the whole school walked over to the Catholic church for mass. After mass everyone went back to the school and there were groups of students who did dances and skits for the teachers, the madres, and their peers. I think I speak for all three of us here when I say that it was distasteful and that there isn´t really any pictures I would feel comfortable to post from it. The dancing was done by 4th & 6th grade girls along with a group that had come from Santa Cruz. It was something you would usually see out in a club and it was very inappropriate for their age and given the setting... I mean, we´d just come from mass! Anyway, this was our last week with our students at San Ambrosio, and tomorrow Kayla, Jerry and I are leaving in the morning to go to Ostional since the last day at school is just a big party for all of the kids. Today is Thanksgiving, so of course we´re having a Thanksgiving Dinner over at Karla´s with as much American food as we can eat!

Overall I have enjoyed the cultural experience and working with the students at San Ambrosio. One of the most important things I think I will take away from this is the importance of classroom management. We talk about it in our classes at App, but aren´t necessarily showed how to implement it. Some people may get good experience wtih it in one of the internships we have, depending on their cooperating teacher. I knew that it was important before ever coming to Costa Rica, but my appreciation for it has definitely sky-rocketed.

It is absolutely imperative for teachers to set the standard on the very first day of school and post the (short) list of rules in their room as a visible reminder all year long. It is just as important to be consistent in disciplining students for their behavior or they won´t take the rules or you seriously. Then the rest of the year will be one giant headache. Students need to realize that there are consequences for their behavior, which can be rewards or punishments, and they will receive what is appropriate and necessary in order for the class to go smoothly.

We came at the end of their school year, so it is near impossible to implement new rules and have them adhere to them when you only see a class for one period a day. I dont feel as though our being here has had that much of an impact on the students´ behavior in class or on their respect for their (English) teachers or each other, but I can only hope that it will improve in the future. The kids here are happy, sweet and fun to be around, but they have some room to improve in the classroom.

Monday, November 23, 2009

English Day

Monday of this week started out with English Day at San Ambrosio. It is a day which highlights the English program and gives students the opportunity to present their English skills to their classmates and teachers. At the beginning of the assembly, there was an opening speech explaining the benefits of students at San Ambrosio learning English. After that they presented the Guanacaste and Costa Rican Flags and sang the anthems for Guanacaste and Costa Rica. Each grade level then had the opportunity to present a song, poem or scripted play to the school. This assembly for the school was great overall, and gave evidence for the work that students put into it.

Opening speech that Kayla and I put together.

Presenting the Guanacaste Flag (left) and Costa Rican Flag (right)

My preschool group sang a song called ¨At The Zoo¨ which talks about different animals they see at the zoo and the types of things those animals do. For example, seals swim and monkeys swing.

Pre-K singing ¨At The Zoo¨

The kindergarteners sang a song called ¨On This Farm¨ about different animals and things you see on a farm, like a field and a horse. Both of these songs are pretty basic, but it helps students to build up English vocabulary that is easier for them to remember since it is in the form of a song.

Kinders singing ¨On This Farm¨

First grade read a poem about a duck. The class was divided into 4 groups and each group had a line to read. They were all able to line up and read their part, but once the first row read theirs, they just turned around to look at the rest of the rows instead of moving to the back so their classmates could be seen when they read. Not exactly ideal, but its not always going to be when you´re working with kids!

1st grade reading the duck poem.

Second grade read a poem called ¨Little Frog¨. We divided this group similarly, with each group reading a different line in the poem. This class had forgotten which lines they were supposed to read though, so everyone read the whole poem all together.

2nd Grade reading ¨Little Frog¨

Some of the students watching the presentations.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Testing 101

So here I am in my third week of school at San Ambrosio with one more week to go after this before the kids are out for break. Yep, last day of school is our Thanksgiving Day. Since we´re at the end of the school year, what else would be going on but testing! I wish I could say something different, but testing here is no more exciting than testing in the states. Today my 2nd graders took their English test.

The test was based off of the three readings they have done from ´the book´ that the teachers at San Ambrosio use to teach English. The test is pretty typical.. multiple choice, matching, fill in the blank and short answer. There are about 10 questions, give or take, for each story they read. Once we passed out the tests I was under the assumption that the students would be working by themselves to answer the questions.. but maybe that is just customary in the states??

I was told after we handed all the students a test that we needed to go around and help them with the test. I was a little confused at first.. so I thought maybe we were just supposed to re-read the questions in English for them if they did not understand or couldn´t pronounce the words. This was pretty much the case for most of the students. I went around and asked them the questions again if they needed it and tried to help them understand without translating it for them into Spanish. Some of the children knew the answer in Spanish but couldn´t remember the word for it in English. I wouldn´t give them the answer, but I´m sort of under the impression that the teacher I work with did. Needless to say my first period today was very frustrating.

After 2nd grade, the teacher I work with needed to grade the tests during the next two periods, so I taught Pre-k and Kinder today without her. No big deal.

Well in our next class, 1st grade, she brings the graded tests in to show me the results. She told me that one of our students scored a 100 on the exam. I just kind of sat there for a second with a look of disbelief on my face because the student who scored a 100 is a student who never listens to instruction, fails to do classwork and just does whatever they want to in class. This student also had one of the lowest scores in the class on a previous English test. Well, after my shocked look she proceeds to tell me, ¨Well, I helped [this student] on the test so they could finish.¨


So after 1st grade is lunch and after lunch Kayla tells me that the teacher she is working with explained it to her a little bit. Apparently if their students do not pass the English exam they have to come back in December for another test. So in an effort to keep themselves from having to come back in December to test these students again, the teachers just help them with the test and give them the answers so they can pass.

I´m sorry, but I like to call that major cheating and I am fired up today! I don´t see how they are able to do this and get away with it. This is why the students´ English is so poor... they´re not pushed to their potential and they know they don´t have to push themselves because if they don´t they´ll still get the answers anyway. It disgusts me. The student who got a 100 today scored higher than my highest students who actually try and put forth an effort to learn English.

We may as well let them work together as a class to complete the test, right? Whats the point, really?!

Thats all for my venting today, and other than that it is a beautiful, sunny, hot and dusty day in Nicoya!

Hasta Luego,

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pica de Leña

This past Saturday, November 14, 2009 was the annual fiesta of Pica de Leña. It is a festival of woodcutting where people of Nicoya get together to chop wood, load up ox carts (some of them painted) with the wood, dance, sing, and have a parade of the oxcarts and dancing horses through town. We got to go out and be part of the festivities this weekend so I wanted to share some pictures from the day!

Welcome to Pica de Leña 2009!

Coconut milk straight from the coconut with a straw!! ...not the best tasting drink ever, but I figured I´d try it!

Chopping the wood!

When you have large crowds of people who start to consume certain beverages at 8:00am there will, of course, be some fights.

Two oxen were caught together and fell down. This was before freeing them.

some spectators lined up on a carreta!

Shaved Ice... freshly shaven from a huge block of ice!

First ox cart in the parade, with a banner of the virgin.

One of the many dancing horses!

Kayla, Jerry, Dianara and myself after the Pica de Leña parade!