Monday, April 26, 2010


My Mom suggested I talk about the weather, since I have been falling down on the blogging lately.  This will be a short post, I should have time to make a longer one tomorrow, but I need to finish this one and post it before the internet goes down.

The weather is supposed to be in the rainy season at this point.  I say supposed to because it has been hot the last week or so.  We had one day last Friday when it rained and was cloudy for a fair amount of the day.  Then Saturday it was hot again, though in the early evening there was some impressive lightning and thunder and rain, but it only lasted for a little bit.

We'll see if the weather starts to turn rainy over the next few days. While this heat is tiring, at the same time I'm not really excited for days of rain so hard I have to yell in the classroom to be heard.  Well, I did get to avoid most of the winter and will be avoiding the beginning of this coming winter, so I really can't complain.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Still teaching

This past week was a microcosm of why teaching in La Fortuna has been so difficult yet also rewarding.    On Thursday, my lesson for 3rd grade science did not go at all as I had planned.  I had trouble conveying the point about the digestive system that I wanted to get across.   The students eventually understood my points, but I struggled to figure out how to keep my explanations simple while still being correct.  I had planned it out beforehand, but its so hard to predict how the students will react.  I certainly never learned science in a foreign language.

That struggle paid off on Friday though, when I taught my other group of 3rd graders.  I had already figured out how I wanted to teach it and thus my lesson yesterday went much better.  I still need to work on filling the full 80 minutes better, but at least the students understood what I was attempting to teach them about the digestive system.

I understand why the classes are 80 minutes long because it allows us to get a lot done.  My difficulty is that after about 50 minutes the students lose steam and start to act up more and more.  I managed to work in a little game yesterday which helped the students work on English, but gave them a short break from the science.  This worked well, since I then returned to the science for the final 20 minutes and was able to finish everything I had planned on covering.

The idea behind my teaching is that I teach the same material which the students have already seen in Spanish.  The first couple of months this only happened infrequently because of miscommunications and other issues.  However, now for most of my classes I am on the same pace as the regular classes and this is really helping me.  For instance, my students immediately understood what salivary glands are, because it is close to the Spanish, glandulas salivales.  That meant I could spend more time making sure they knew that in English hígado was liver.

Today I hope to be able to watch at least some of the NBA playoffs, though I have no idea if they will be on anywhere in town.  If not, there's almost always soccer on somewhere.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Back to Teaching

I am back teaching now after a week and half break.  The break was much needed and appreciated.   Since this is my job which is most in the "real" world, saying that this is the hardest thing I have ever done is not that impressive.  Still, this is the hardest thing I have ever done.

Much of the difficulty comes from having to teach science in English.  I sometimes wonder whether it would be noticeably easier to teach just English, but who knows.

The curriculum which the MEP wants me to teach is ambitious and not as clear as I wish. The curriculum is not bad, I just wish there was some blueprint on how to teach science as a foreign language.  I am especially struggling with the younger grades. I need to do a better job of having diagrams and games to play to illustrate the concepts.  I generally do bring some diagrams, but I need to do more of this.

I have made an effort today at being more proactive in getting the lesson plans the homeroom teachers will be using to teach science in Spanish.  This should make it easier to teach, since I will be teaching exactly what the students have learned in Spanish, not simply the same general topic as I have been.

Well, I have the weekend to plan and next week is a new week to continue to improve my teaching.  Thanks to everyone who wished me happy birthday.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Birthday in Monteverde

Started today well with a tour of a coffee farm about 10 km from where I am staying.  The farmer who showed us around his farm is one of 42 farmers who joined together in the late 1970s to form a co-op to sell their coffee.  They are a fair trade organization which emphasizes organic processes for growing coffee.

The farmer led the tour with another guide translating for the other tourists who do not speak Spanish.  The tour was really interesting, hearing about how methods have changed over the years.  The farmer also grows lemons, mangos, bananas, plantains, and more fruits and vegetables along with his coffee plants.

I also tried a few different types of coffee, all of which were very good.  The co-op sells coffee in Costa Rica as well as in Texas and Montana.  The farmer explained the method his grandparents used with mortar and pestle and how that differed from the hand cranked machine he used to prepare the beans to be sold.

In a few minutes I am going to go out for lunch.  The weather is absolutely perfect here right now. I hope it continues.  Tonight I plan on going on a night hike to hopefully see somer animals.  I saw a sloth at the coffee farm, so I hope to see more animals.