Learning about Education in Costa Rica

Global Volunteer Sharon in conversational English classes with students in Costa Rica

Team Journal Entry for Tuesday, March 15 

We are now three volunteers – Sharon of California, Barb, and I – having said “goodbye” to Vicki and Roberto last Friday. Today was not a typical day. We did start off with breakfast by Tatiana at 7 a.m., morning meeting, and off to school at 7:50. But there was only a half-day of school today for the students because they went home after lunch so that there could be parent/teacher meetings in the afternoon.  This coming after only three weeks of school and following the first bout of testing for the new school year.

We met first with one of Jorge’s classes. This was a class we had met with before so no new introductions. We divided in three groups, with Barb working with a group painting more ice cream buckets, Sharon with a group foraging in the forest for plant cuttings and planting them, and I with a group watering plants.

Global Volunteer Sharon painting buckets with students in Costa Rica

Sharon painting buckets with students

After student breakfast break at 9 a.m., Barb went to work with Sergio in conversational English. Sharon, Maggie, and I joined Luz’s class for introductions. Luz is a hospitality teacher and her students were juniors. Marisela, the technical director and project manager, joined us. The students divided into two groups. One group sanded a bench made from plastic crates in preparation for painting. The other group placed buckets in the second garden, a hillside garden that we had prepared last week. Sharon and I worked with the bucket placement group. The girls in our group were very good workers.

The lunch alarm rang at 11:20 a.m. and the four of us – Sharon, Maggie, Barb, and I – headed downtown. Lunch was casados at Tico y Rico. After lunch Barb, Sharon, and I visited the Orchid Garden located behind the Morphus Restaurant. There are some 400 species of orchids in Costa Rica, many of which were in the garden and many of which are incredibly small. Orchids are epiphytes which means they only grow on the bark of trees! Very interesting tour. Andreus was an excellent guide.

Teacher Jorge Camacho and Global Volunteer Bill Chase in Costa Rica

Teacher Jorge and Bill

Global Volunteer Bill Chase with students at high school in Costa Rica

Bill with students

We stopped at the Orchid Restaurant for iced tea and lemonade. The drinks were unique because they were sufficiently infused with finely ground ice. And my lemonade also had ginger and spearmint flavors added – very unique and delicious.

At our second classroom meeting today with Luz, the hospitality teacher, I asked her where her home was in Costa Rica. She said that it was about an hour’s ride beyond San José, making it about a four-hour trip. She goes home every weekend making the four-hour trip after school on Fridays and four-hour return on Sundays. Her travels are complicated because she does not have a car. This requires that she find ways to travel, sometimes bumming rides with friends who are going in her direction, sometimes taking a bus. The Costa Rican term for combining various methods of travel, sometimes on the fly, is the Spanish word for a female pig’s back.

Global Volunteer Barb Chase with students in conversational English classes in Costa Rica

Barb with students in conversational English classes

Luz’s teaching situation brings up the issue of teacher assignments in Costa Rica. The Ministry of Education decides where to assign teachers. This is basically a good thing in that it is able to assign good teachers to remote rural schools that might otherwise not be able to attract good teachers. However, at times, this central government decision-making may not be a welcome decision for the local school. A well-qualified, well-liked teacher may be moved from her role where the students love her to a position in the school where there is a special need that only she can fill. A less-qualified new teacher may then fill her original teaching position. The result can make for a very unhappy and frustrating situation for the students, parents, and teachers.

Entry submitted by: Bill

Message of the Day – Bill: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

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