We Had Ourselves a Day

As a teacher, as a student, as a learner, as a college graduate, as a human being, there are days where you just have days.

There’s no other way to describe it except just by saying that Monday was one of those incredible, unreal, wow-I-can’t-believe-I’m-here, kind of days. We went on a field trip to Eco Park Diamante to see up-close and personal the animals the second graders had been studying for their last big project of the year.

(Side note: one of our earlier posts was talking about field trips and how both Mom/I kind of dread them, but this one really changed my view of them to be completely honest.)

I’m not sure how else to describe the experience except through pictures, to see what I saw.
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We started with an hour and a half bus ride, playing iSpy, Cheesey Touch, and eating snacks.

Once we got to the Eco Park, we had to take another bus to the visitors’ center, and another to the actual animal sanctuary. IMG_6408 (1).JPG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we are waiting at the welcome center, looking at a map and organizing our plan of attack for seeing all the animals. IMG_6414 (1).JPG

I also couldn’t resist getting a picture of these awesome kiddos waiting zip-liners and “The White House” (which is actually just a popular resort).

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Can you tell we were excited??

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The first animal we saw was the chestnut-chested toucan. The best part about the big birds were that we actually got to hold them!IMG_6432.JPG

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Then it was off to the snakes, then big cats! (Here we are peering into the margay cage.)IMG_6442 (1).JPG

The jaguars were playing around when we got there. When we went back later in the day, Nico (one of the jaguars) was sleeping.

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Monkeys!! They actually climbed on over to us too. This one had a baby on its back that I didn’t even notice until one of my kiddos pointed and shouted with awe, “look, a baby!”

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Then we said “hello” to a crocodile, which was amusing since we know a song “Never Smile at a Crocodile!” You can’t see him in this picture, but he was basically right below where the kids are standing. IMG_6460.JPG

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Found the iguana doppleganger of this little nugget and just had to take a picture. (He’s in the middle right. They both have red tops and the iguana was basically the size of this guy.)

 

 

 

In the butterfly exhibit we got to hold butterflies on our hands. I’m holding a blue morpho, which is one of the biggest butterflies in the whole world!IMG_6515.JPG

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The worker in the butterfly area also let us set a newly emerged butterfly into the sanctuary! However, the butterfly didn’t want to leave us, so we thought blowing on it would be a good idea (update: it didn’t work).

 

 

My favorite animal was the sloth!! We got to see it during feeding time. Not only are they too lazy to eat, they’re also so lazy and slow that they don’t even need cages. IMG_6493.JPG

We rejoined as a whole class and explored the butterfly exhibit again. Everyone wanted their picture with the butterfly they were holding. And I, of course, obliged (happily).

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Finally, on our way out, I snuck away with this little nug to say goodbye to his favorite animal, the jaguar. IMG_6514.JPG

Best field trip I’ve ever been on that’s for sure. It was amazing to see all of these animals in rehabilitation homes and then to see the pure joy on my students’ faces when they saw the animals they had been studying.

Times like these make me never want to leave and make me incredibly happy and confident of the profession I chose.

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~

 

 

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.

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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).

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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.

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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.)

 

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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

Mystery Skype

After three years of begging asking, I was finally granted Skype capability in my classroom.  I could finally talk to classrooms around the world. I was allowed entry into the club of teachers who have their classrooms talk to each oxSWMapTAyR_1408329962664ther.  How cool is that?!  A Skype is one thing, but a Mystery Skype takes it to a whole new level.  In a Mystery Skype, you take turns with another class asking yes/no questions as you try to figure out where they are.  There was a whole lot of preparation on our end. Students had to learn geography.  They had to understand states, oceans, time zones and regions to name a few.  Then, my students had to learn to listen, really listen.  They had to use what the other class was saying; mark their maps and think about the most logical question to ask. That took hard work on both of our parts.

Here is an example of how a Skype will go:

Us: Are you East of the Mississippi River? Yes (They, they would cross out all of the states to the west of the Mississippi)

Then it would be the next class turn.

Us: Are you in the Northeast Region of the US? No (they would then cross out all of the states in the Northeast)

Questions would continue until only a few states were left.  Then normally one of the questions was do you border ________?  That would help narrow it down even more.  Then a student would ask if they are from the state of _________.

I think you get the hang of it.  We have done over a dozen of these and we have been able to see classes all across the United States, including Hawaii and Alaska (where the internet kept cutting in and out and class size was 9).  We have also Skyped a classroom in Quebec and my daughter on her trip to Spain.  We followed a Mystery Skype by the website GoNoodle in Germany.

My students have grown in so many ways through this.  They now have a better understanding of the state of Connecticut (where we live).  They know the oceans, Mississippi River, Great Lakes, Canada, Mexico and time zones.  They are getting an understanding of what state is where.  They have learned that kids are just kids no matter where they are in the United States.  We have marveled at some classes and their questioning and listening skills.  What I am most proud of is that they are learning to listen.  Really listen.  They are able to take what they hear, record that information and ask an intelligent question to obtain the answer.  That has been just priceless.

Out of My Mind

I remember when I first read Out of My Mind.  It stole my heart and I was in love. I had just begun using twitter and I heard of this project called the Global Read Aloud.  I wanted to participate in the worse way.  I wanted to expand my students knowledge past the four walls of our classroom and tiny New England town.  I wanted to give this book a chance.  However, I was scared. I was nervous.  Was this book too sophisticated for my students. It was mainly about a girl with cerebral palsy. Could they handle that? I had just transferred to grade 4 after 10 years of teaching grade two.  I was not used to this new crop of middle grade books that challenged students and teachers to think about read alouds in a different light.

I thought and I thought and I thought.  Finally, I decided to jump in; to both the Global Read Aloud and into Out Of My Mind.  It was beyond amazing.  It was the first time I had ever seen a book truly come to life in the classroom.  Students rushed in after lunch to hear the latest installment.  They cheered for Melody and booed Claire and Molly.  Some cried. I cried.  I will never forget when a student said, “We are going to find out about  (spoiler) today” and it took me a minute to realize she was talking about the book.  It had truly taken up space in my classroom.

Since that year, I have read it every year.  Last year, I was moved to grade three.  Again I debated the appropriateness.  I knew that I couldn’t live without those characters. I knew that my third graders needed them as much as I did. So, again, I jumped in.  Again, the characters became real to us. Flash forward to this year and I am at the end of reading it for the 4th time.  Yesterday, while reading one important part, students were completely memorized.  Tears forming in eyes.  One student saying, “I am getting chills.”

I am so glad I took a chance on this book.  It has taught me that students crave sophistication in their read alouds.  They want to be hooked by a good story.  They want to talk about it.  They are ready.

I have recommended Out of My Mind to everyone, adults included!  Be sure to read it if you haven’t. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Magic

Teaching is hard.  Teaching is really hard.  Sometimes, at the end of the day, I cannot move, my body too exhausted.  At these times when I look in the mirror, I wonder who that old lady is.  When did those bags appear under my eyes? Why am I going to bed at 8:00 PM ? It is when I have nothing left to give, when I am completely spent, that the magic happens.  The magic is what keeps us coming back.  The magic confirms why the hard work is all worth it.  It can be big moments or small; like a simple thank you from a student.

The magic that happened on Friday was everything.  My students had completed country projects.  They worked on them for a month.  The projects were amazing, if I do say so myself.  But, that wasn’t the magic.  We invited parents in.  Students were spread around the room and parents and friends were to go and ask questions of the students.  My 8 and 9 year olds were nervous.  Some were literally shaking.  Parents and grandparents began to file in.  The room began to fill up.  I was able to step back and observe.  That was when I saw the magic.

My students, who were nervous 15 minutes ago, were confidently teaching about their country. Our visitors were the sole reason for that.  Each one that entered my room made every child feel special.  Our guests went from student to student to learn about their country.  They did not limit their trip to just their own child.  They did not limit their visit to just their friends.  These incredible guests went from child to child.  They listened and asked questions. They took time with each of my students.  No one was in a rush to go anywhere.  Each and every students felt important and knowledgable.  As I stood back and watched, my heart was full.  This is magic.