Case of the Homesickness

I have 12 days left. 13, technically, if you’re including traveling. 10 more school days. 4 more weekend days, 5 if you include traveling.

I have a calendar with days that are slowly dwindling down with plans that are yet to be completed. Two more reflections, one essay, one project. Done.

The closer the day is for me to leave, the more homesick I feel.

This is not to say my experience here has been bad. In fact, it has been the opposite. Speaking Spanish everyday has pushed me. Immersing myself in a new school culture forced me to be uncomfortable. Being abroad in a new country taught me to look for the small things among the big things.

I have fallen in love with Costa Rica. I have fallen in love with the way of life, mi familia, my 21 little nuggets, the faculty and staff of La Paz, La Paz itself, this experience.

This experience is exhausting though. Being uncomfortable is exhausting. It draws from you mentally, physically, and emotionally. I have had to be the most independent I have ever been but also dependent on many people day-to-day. I have become comfortable with my routine but uncomfortable when I least expect it. I have adapted but must continue to be flexible. I have learned something new everyday but continue to have an open-mind. I am attached but am also homesick.

With these 12 days looming in front of me, I am taking a breath. I have already learned so much, grown so much, felt so much, in these 39 days, who says I can’t do 12 more? (Besides the fact that airline company won’t let me leave early.) In these 12 days, I can feel the support of my strong family and my incredible friends pushing me forward.

I bend, so I do not break.

~Pura Vida~



Iwanicki Book Awards

In going with the theme of making the last day of school as good as first, I did this Dave Burgess inspired activity of the Iwanicki Book Awards.  This was several weeks in the making and revealed today. Just a quick recap. Students used Kidblog to write their nominee and convince others of their choice. Then I created a google form which they answered (using google forms for the first time).

During the week, small groups of students had created trivia questions for many of the categories. Another group also made a word search. During the Award’s ceremony, we built up suspense by playing Oscar Music and then announcing each category and the nominees. I would then say, “Here is a word from our sponsor.”  While the students waited, they worked on their trivia.   Students were cheering and yelling and there were even a few disappointed students.  I had to sit back and remember that this was all about books!  Students in my class were yelling about books! How great is that?!  The books listed below affected my students.  It made them passionate readers. They all made my students think just a little differently.

It was a wonderful activity that I hope will become a tradition.  I am glad that I pushed myself just a little harder.  The students reactions were priceless.

PS I would recommend any book on this list for anyone to read. They are all fabulous!


Best Setting
Winner: Echo
Runner Up: The War That Saved My Life


Best Supporting Character:
Winner:  Frankie in Echo
Runner Up:  Rose in Out of My Mind

Best Illustrations
Winner: The Night Gardner
Runner Up:  Journey

Favorite Character in a Graphic Novel
Winner: Snappsy
Runner Up: El Deafo

Favorite Character in a Chapter/Middle Grade Novel
Winner: Tie: Gerta in Night Divided and Charlie in Wish
Runner Up:  Frankie and Mike in Echo

war that saved my lifeBest Picture Book:
Winner: Snappsy
Runner Up: The Night Gardener

Best Graphic Novel
Winner: El Deafo
Runner Up:  The Bad Guys

Best Middle Grade Novel
Winner:  Echo
Runner Up: Tie The Night Divided and The War That Saved My Life

Favorite Read Aloud
Winner: Rump
Runner Up:  Out of My Mind
the night divided


Weekend Getaway

So I meant to write this post …3 days ago… but as time has had a tendency of doing, it went by quickly and escaped me and now it’s Wednesday night.

Anyway, this past weekend I spent as a full tourist. We went to Hacienda Guachipelin, a hotel and adventure center near the base of a national park, Ríncon de la Vieja (a volcano!!!).

Friday night: right after school, the three of us (the other two girls that I’m studying abroad with) took the school bus to Tamarindo.


I didn’t take many pictures of the hostel we stayed at (only $16 a night what a steal!) but here’s an artistic picture of the surfboards they had in the main courtyard along with a bar, restaurant, pool tables, and a pool!



We then went to sunset yoga on the beach and it was absolutely incredible. I always forget how much I love to do yoga and experiencing it like that was surreal. The teacher taught in Spanish, there were only 6 of us, the sunset was breathtaking. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.


Then we went out to dinner with one of the teachers – Asian Fusion! I picked it because I wanted to have something a little different than rice and beans. (I ended up ordering a wok bowl with brown rice … guess I really am a tika!)


6:30 AM: Picked up & on our way to the hotel!

8:15 AM: Arrival

9:00-6:00: Horseback riding (my horse’s name was Lady Gaga and I practiced my Spanish off on one of the horse guides. This wasn’t my favorite part as Lady Gaga and I liked to take things slow but we were sometimes forced to a trot); tubing (this was super fun. I had the unfortunate luck of getting stuck on almost every rapid/ nearly drowning a nine-year-old but overall it was fun); buffet lunch (much needed); zip-lining (my favorite part! there was one part where we repelled down, tarzan swung across a canyon, & rock-climbed up. I was the first to go and fell in love with rock climbing all over again); mud bath and hot springs (even though it was raining at this point, by the time we got there we basically got the hot springs to ourselves and it was super relaxing).


We didn’t bring our phones anywhere during the day so I only have this picture I mooched off of Emily. (She’s the one with the red raincoat and Chelsea is to the left.) This picture was taken after the repelling part of the zip lining course.


Emily & I woke up early to milk some cows. Even after living in a cow town since I was five and going to school that produces its own milk / ice cream, I have never milked a cow. So thanks for letting me check that one off the bucket list, Costa Rica!



Featured in this picture: bucket of milk (I am responsible for 0.5 inches), farmer’s hat (had to fit over my super-high ponytail), and cow’s butt!!! IMG_6293.JPG

Action shot of me getting more milk on my arms/hands than in the actual bucket and the farmer getting ready to take over and actually get some serious milking done!!!

The rest of the day we spent hiking around Ríncon de la Vieja. The volcano had actually erupted that morning at 5. Due to its activity, the path to the peak has been closed for the next five years. The loop we went on was about 5K and we were able to see an abundance of wildlife and geothermal activity. It was ~hot~ !! (literally – the pools were over 125 degrees F)


*Shot with my iPhone 7* Mariposa tigre. I fell in love with the butterflies here! My favorites were the transparent winged and the angel butterflies, but unfortunately they were too quick and I missed them.


So I just happened to look down and to my left as we were walking on the path and I saw this snake casually eating a frog (note: frog’s legs were twitching). The guide assumed it was a silent rattlesnake, poisonous, and we slowly took pictures, and walked away, keeping our eyes on the snake and hoping it didn’t find us more appetizing than the frog….


The mountain way in the distance is the peak of the volcano. Pictures can’t do these views justice.


The view from the peak of our hike. The steam in the right is from one of the stops we took on our trip, one of the many examples of geothermal activity that are in this area.

As I settle back into my routine at school and at the house, this past weekend helps me remember to appreciate everything, the little things, the big things, and most of all, the experiences.

Blackout Poetry

I hoard books.  I have a problem.  I know I do.  Getting rid of books is very difficult for me.  You just never know if you will have a reader who needs THAT book!  So for me, it is always a struggle.  This year, I have been very lucky.  I have  received many brand spanking new books for my classroom library. I finally felt better getting rid of some of the old, worn out books and/or the books that were never read.  I set up an area in my classroom called retired books and my students could just take as many as they wanted.  I got rid of many of my books, but there were still many left.  What should I do?

Going with my theme of trying to make the end of the year as good as the beginning, I decided to give them to the students to do Blackout Poetry.  In blackout poetry, a reader skims any page.  Students are looking for words that stick out for them.  They then try to find words that go with that word to form a poem.  The rest of the words are then blacked out.

I gave a brief explanation from and showed them a few examples on google. Then set them off!

The pictures below were created in no more than 15 minutes (all the time we had).  If students create more tomorrow, I will post another blog.

In this example, the student highlighted the words and then made a base and part of a diamond to go with his poem.



This child was not completed yet, but you can see how her poem is turning out!


Students loved this activity and actually asked to take it out to it at recess!  Success!

Digging Deep; really deep


Summer-vacation-messageIt is the end of the school year.  As of today, I have 7 days left.  Like most teachers in America, I am tired, worn out and overwhelmed. I feel I have given all that I have to give and I am not sure there is anything left.  However, this year I noticed that there is a theme in the blogs I read, the twitter chats I am in and the podcasts I listen to.  The theme is that the end of the year should be as strong as the beginning of the year.  There should be no end of the year count down and we should finish strong. WTH?!  Finish strong?! I am barely hanging on.  Then I process..I begin to let the idea of finishing strong mull over in my brain.  Do I have just a little left inside of me?  Can I squeeze out just a little more?  I dig deep and this is what I have come up with.


On a podcast I listened to (I cannot remember which one) Dave Burgess talked about having Book Awards; kind of like the Academy Awards.  Okay, I can do that.  So I had my students use KidBlog (a blogging app, like this one, but meant for kids).  They all voted in several categories: Best Graphic Novel, Best Character in a Chapter Book, Favorite Read Aloud, Favorite Chapter Book, Best Picture Book, Favorite Character in A Graphic Novel or Picture Book, Favorite Supporting Character, Best Illustrations and Best Setting.  Students had to defend their position.  Then I created a google form for each and the students voted.


Now came the harder part.  How to present?!  What do I do?  How can we make it special? I decided upon a book party.  I searched the internet high and low for some book type scavenger hunts and couldn’t find any to my liking.  So, I gave them to the students.  I have several groups making trivia questions; one group for picture books, one for graphic novels and one for middle grade novels.  I also have a group create a poster to have students dress up as their favorite character or book from the nominees. The pieces are all working…stay tuned to see how it comes together.

Another project that I am working on is a summer book club.  I have never done this before so it will be a learning experience.  The book we are doing is Fenway and Hattie. Student will use Kidblog to write responses on certain days in July.  We have worked very hard to build reading lives and this will help it to continue over the summer in a manageable (I hope) way.


So..these are two ways that I am trying to end the school year as good as I started.  Wish us luck as I try not to count down the days.  Besides, sleep is completely overrated!





The Grand Tour

I am very rapidly approaching the halfway mark of studying abroad! I only have four more weeks here. How this happened I have no idea. But before I go, I wanted to share a “tour” of my school.

Welcome to La Paz Community School, Brasilito, Guancaste Province, Costa Rica. This is the sign that greets us as we pull in every morning and says goodbye as we leave every afternoon.


This is the lobby of the school. To the right is the main office. The first buildings surrounding this garden are “el coleigo” (high school).


To the left is the Guanacaste tree, a symbol of this area and also of our school. It was one of the first things pointed out to us by the 6th graders who gave us our first ever tour of La Paz.


If you continue walking you’ll reach Arenal, the middle campus which is 3-6. Through the gate and to the right is Miravilles, home to maternal – second grade. The red door is my classroom! (And yes, that is a chicken coop – it’s the project for the sixth graders, taking care of the chickens and selling their eggs.)



Here’s another view of our campus, from the second grade cubbies. Those little mounds are call mountains and kids are free to play on them during recess.


This is my actual classroom with the actual kiddos and teacher! There are 21 little nuggets, about split equally between native English and native Spanish speakers.


Here’s a picture of the cuties on one of the mountains after we spoke to a representative from the renewable power company!


We also had a museum (a showcase of their big homework project from the end of the theme). Here are some projects by my super smart kinkajous! (That’s their classroom name.) IMG_6152.jpg

On Fridays we get to write in journals outside.


We also have community meetings at the castle. (There’s a mural next to us that is painted as a castle.) This is just for maternal – 2nd grade. But … IMG_6080.JPG

On Fridays everyone preK – 6th grade meets with their big / little buddies. Second grade are with fourth graders … IMG_6179.JPG.jpeg

And then we have a big community meeting with all of those students. As you can see, this is a super incredible community and I am extremely fortunate to be here with everyone, especially my 21 kinkajous.IMG_6180.JPG