Friday, February 20, 2009

oh, public school.

Since I am an education major, while in Costa Rica I am expected to complete a practicum in a local school. Each Friday I must observe/help a teacher during the school day. I have been placed at Escuela Betania which is a public school about a 5 minute walk from MesoAmerica. It is known as one of the poorest schools in the area and its student population is declining rapidly as more families are moving away from San Jose. I am working with the English teacher which is perfect as back in the States I want to teach English as a second language. Throughout the day, I see each grade(1-6) for 45 minutes.

Because public school is so over crowded here all of the classes are on a different schedule. For example, the fourth graders go to school on Monday from 7 am - 3:30pm, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am - 5:40pm, and on Wednesdays & Fridays from 7am - 11:30am. It's really hard for parents and students to keep up with.

Today was my first day of my practicum. Even if I descrcibe in full detail about what I experienced, there is no way I could capture or recreate it all. This school is nothing like I have ever experienced before and I don't dare compare it to anything in the States.

To begin on simple observations - the building, classrooms, and supplies are vastly different. One must wait outside the locked front gate for the guard to walk by and let you inside. All of the paint is peeling off the walls, there are a lot of cracks in the tile floor, some windows are broken, and all of the walls are very thin. When I walked inside the classroom, I found 25 student desks, a teacher's desk and chair, one cabinent, and a chalkboard. One or two rooms had a poster hanging on the walls. There was minimal teacher supplies and I couldn't find any textbooks. My teacher had a country manual from which she copied all activities (that would normally be made into worksheets) on the chalkboard.

Although a lack of supplies may seem to be the biggest problem facing this school, it isn't. A lack of classroom management far exceeds a lack of supplies on the issues scale with this school. Today I have seen students physically beat each other during a lesson, students yell at me/each other/the teacher, students run around the classroom during a lesson, and an entire class not finish what should be a 5 minute activity during the 45 minute class due to disrespect and lack of effort. The amount of patience my cooperating teacher has, and is expected to have, is astounding.

My practicum today has made me seriously rethink my plans to return to Costa Rica for my student teaching...

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