Teaching is an exhausting profession that offers immense rewards. I have watched in awe of my mother for years as she has tirelessly changed the lives of so many of her students. Volunteering as a teacher is no different. You will inevitably be tired at the end of every school day (and reminisce on the days when you could run for hours around the playground without getting tired). However, everyday will be more rewarding than the last as you get to know the kids and develop a relationship with each student.
At the Corcovado School in Puerto Jimenez, the elementary students all learn in a bilingual setting. Prior knowledge of Spanish will definitely enhance your time volunteering at the school, but numerous students have a great understanding of English so you will have no problem communicating during the school day. In fact, your Spanish will most likely improve during your time working at the school. I have found that talking with younger kids in a different language is a lot easier than trying to understand every word of a conversation with an adult. Children have a more basic vocabulary and therefore tend to repeat certain phrases, so you can pick up a lot of useful sentences after only a couple of days (Insider tip: “Mira!” means “look!” and if you’re in the kindergarten classroom, you will hear that word a lot).
Recess is one of the most entertaining parts of the school day. The majority of the time it consists of a soccer match or giving piggyback rides around the playground. You will always find at least one student swinging across the monkey bars at any time of the day. However, as much as they like to play around, the students really enjoy learning and being in the classroom. Science class last week for the first grade students covered the solar system, and was a massive hit.
Along with teaching at the primary school, we work with adults in the community teaching English night classes in Puerto Jimenez. The adults who attend the English classes three times a week have already seen impressive improvements in their English. The other day we translated song lyrics from Spanish to English, and ended up breaking out into a dance party at the end of class.
Volunteering as a teacher is a unique opportunity to get a closer look into the lifestyle and culture of Costa Rica. It also allows for a realistic understanding of the type of work that teaching requires as a profession. The work itself will get tiring (and you might end up having a little breakdown at the end of the day), but then you’ll walk into the classroom the next day, get bombarded with hugs from all of the kids, and remember why you wanted to teach in the first place.
By Brooke Bierhaus - Field Communications Officer
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