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!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

More things in CR

School Bus

Toilet! haha

Pay phone

Post Office


McDonald´s on a street corner in San Jose

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs cardboard display that we got in trouble for taking a picture of at the Movie Theatre in a mall.

Speed Limit Sign

2nd entry for International Blog


The second week has practically flown by compared to the first! This past weekend we went to Playa Samara with Karla and stayed at her friend´s house. It was nice to get away and lay out on the beach for a couple of days! Our first morning, though, we woke up to a bat on the floor of our room. Kayla and I think it probably creeped in through the window during the night. One of its wings was injured so it couldn´t fly away, but Karla so graciously scooped it up with a broom and dustpan and took it outside.


We headed back to Nicoya later Sunday evening for another week at San Ambrosio. Monday went well and I think the kids are becoming more adjusted to us being in the classroom and teaching them. They still don´t always listen, but I have learned that stickers are a fairly decent bribe to have a quiet room.

On Tuesday Kayla and I had the opportunity to travel with the 4th graders to the capital city of San Jose to visit the Natural History Museum, Gold Mueseum, the Post Office, and the INBioparque. We had to catch the bus at 3am, had rice and beans for breakfast at 5 and started our day of muesums around 8. It was fascinating to see the city, but still very exhausting since we did not return home until after 9pm. The INBioparque was my favorite stop of the day. It was a beautiful place with many different kinds of vegetation, flowers, bugs and animals. My favorite was the butterfly garden. The mariposas, as they are called here, were so beautiful! The Blue Morpho butterfly was my favorite, which is in the picture below.

When I returned on Wednesday to school I found out that Susanna, the teacher I am working with, wouldn´t be here the rest of the week because she is sick. I went to my first and second classes of pre-k and kinder, who told me there wouldn´t be English that day because she was not there. Kinder also told me not to come the rest of the week. Later in the day when I went to teach 2nd grade, we got through about 5 minutes of class when the other elementary english teacher, Andrea, came in and said the kids had to go out to the basketball court for a game against one of the other private Catholic schools in the area called Espiritu Santo. Needless to say, Wednesday felt like a waste for me. Today went really well though and I was able to meet with 2nd, pre-k and 1st grades. I have enjoyed having the class all to myself because they are forced to depend solely on me and the little Spanish I know.


(Here are my 2nd graders!)

I have been enjoying being in the classroom more this week, however I am still a little frustrated that the teachers live by ¨the book¨as Kayla and I so lovingly refer to it. Some of content in it isn´t so bad, but we are trying to work together to make it more interesting and enjoyable for the students by including more hands on and interactive activities. An activity I have implemented with my first graders is keeping a journal. They´re able to pick what they write about and illustrate it as well. Today I had them to write about Pica de Leña, which is this Saturday. After I asked them to write about it and illustrate it I was surprised to find out that a few of my students had no clue as to what it was. Its a festival of woodcutting that is celebrated every year. People load wood in painted ox carts which are pulled through town and dropped off at a designated place. They also have lots of music and dancing. Click here to see a short video from a past year´s festivities of dropping off the wood.

Around 12:30-1:00 this morning, Kayla and I were woken up by a band of 11th grade students from San Ambrosio and their teacher, Armando. They were singing and playing drums while Armando played his guitar. The homes here have a gate you must first open before coming to the front door, so it was odd to have the students singing right outside our window (our room is at the front of the house) while we were trying to sleep! Karla explained to us this morning on our way to school that it is a tradition for the 11th grade students to serenade their ´profe´s´as they call them before graduation. She said she remembers doing this when she was an 11th grader herself.

That is all for this week! Tenga un buen dia!


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Everyday Things in Costa Rica

Here are some photos that I promised you, Kim!

These are some of the everyday things I found in Nicoya, Samara, and in between. We have the same in the US.. just varied a little!

Big ceiling fan in the airport.. stretched all the way across!

Coke Sign

Children's playground in the park

No left turns!

Garbage Can

Stop sign

Fire Station

(Cristy - this would be good to show 2nd grade! I bet Jacob would really like it!)

No Passing!

These are just a handful.. I will be sure to post some more later! (The internet here is a little slower!)

1st Week in Nicoya (post fr. Int'l Teaching Blog)

So we arrived in Nicoya and the heat & humidity hit us hard! The first thing I noticed and wasn't really expecting was how green everything was. Costa Rica is such a beautiful place and you get accustomed to the heat after a while. Karla picked us up at the airport & told us it'd be a 30 minute ride to Nicoya... 2 hours later we arrived at her house!

We got to relax on Sunday and started our first day at San Ambrosio on Monday. I am working with pre-k to 2nd graders. They are all sweet children, but don't always listen very well to their teachers. I don't feel like the teachers here have had any training in classroom management, so hopefully we will be able to implement that somewhat by the time we leave. My first day with the 2nd graders was rather challenging as they kept talking over one another and ignoring directions from myself and Susanna. On Tuesday there was an 'open house' with the pre-k and kinders where all the parents came for the whole school day to see what the classes were like. This went really well and throughout the rest of the week the students have listened much better.

Kayla and I got to walk around town with Karla Tuesday afternoon after school got out. Below is a picture of the oldest church in all of Costa Rica. On the front of this catholic church it reads 'Viva Blas' which was the saint for which the church was built. It is now a historical monument which is open during the week for people to come see and to pray in.

On Wednesday, Kayla, Jerry and I took a day trip to Playa Samara which is about an hour bus ride away. We had the day off of school because the power in Nicoya was going to be off most of the day. When we first got there and went out on the beach there was hardly anyone there. We saw a lot of horses running around on the beach, iguanas on the rocks and a lot of little red crabs on the sand.

Overall, this week has been a great learning experience. I am looking forward to trying to break through the language barrier and help my students to learn more English. I'll try and do this through creative activities and better classroom managment strategies. I am very grateful for this experience!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

First Days...

Monday was our first day at San Ambrosio. It is a private Catholic school of a little over 300 students from pre-k through high school. I´m working with pre-k to second graders... and they are some challenging kids. As with any class there are some students who are really trying their best to pay attention and learn and understand the english we are teaching. Others... not so much. On Monday the second graders were awful and I felt like I was yelling at them the whole period, telling them to stop that and be quiet and taking toys away from them. They don´t show as much respect for their teachers as students in the U.S. do.

We are basically in charge of teaching the English curriculum while we are here which consists of reading from the teacher´s book word-for-word. Hopefully we´ll be able to manage the classes a little better so we can try different activities with the kids to keep them engaged. Today, the second day, was much better with the second graders. They showed more respect and were more attentive when I was teaching. With the pre-k and kinders today, we had an open house where all the parents came in for the school day to see what the lessons were like. For English class with them we just sang songs and I read a book.

Tuesdays through Thursdays I am done teaching at lunch time. Today I was able to relax and reflect on the day, but I think later on I will be helping some students one-on-one with their English. One of the things I have really noticed about the classes here is the lack of classroom management. It is like the students do not care and I think it had a lot to do with how the teachers interact with them. They seem to just let the students get away with some of their behavior. They have not had much training in that area though, so it is somewhat understandable. I hope to have respectful students by the time I leave!

Tomorrow (11/4) the power is supposed to be out from about 7 am to 2 pm here in Nicoya. That being said, we do not have classes tomorrow!! Instead of hanging out in a power-less town tomorrow, Kayla, Jerry and I have decided to take a day trip to the beach at Samara. I am very much looking forward to a day to be a tourist and then relax on the beach!

I will try to get pictures up as soon as I can.. the computer we´re using at Karla´s house doesn´t recognize my camera so I will have to wait for the internet cafe or until we get a wireless system set up in the house!

I hope all is well back home!

Cristy - please tell the kids that I miss them and will do my best to get my 2nd graders here to write back! Right now it is not looking very promising, but we will see!

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Kayla and I made it here safe and sound! We´ve been trying to adjust to this hot weather! It´s been great so far, yesterday we were turned loose in downtown Nicoya for a little while to explore. We saw the oldest church in Costa Rica, went to a supermercado, panderia, and one of Karla´s favorite coffee shops. It was fun to see the town, but when we got back we took a nap and slept through the rest of the night... from about 5pm-7am. Ridiculous! We were supposed to go to a party with Karla but she didn´t want to wake us and let us sleep. I guess that was good for us, but I hate that we missed it. She said we missed some good Argentine bbq! Hopefully we´ll get to experience that some other time.

Today was a pretty lazy day for us (Sunday 11/1). We had breakfast with Karla when we got up, including some amazing Costa Rican coffee!! We pretty much rested all afternoon and I helped Karla to make lunch.. zucchini cooked with garlic butter, salt & pepper and some steaks. It was delicious! Kayla and I went into town later to the supermercado and got some ice cream at an heladeria in town. On our way back we saw a gorgeous rainbow and got all muddy. :) Gotta love the rainy season! This evening we went to mass at Karla´s Catholic church and went out to eat with a family she is friends with afterward. When we got home Kayla and I decided to paint our nails just to relax and I broke my OPI bottle.. ugh haha So my nails better last! Anyway, today has been wonderful also. Tomorrow is our first day of school!

Hope everyone is having a great day!