Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A pleasant surprise

I haven't been blogging much, but really not much has been going on.  I mean I suppose I could inform you of every day I have at work, but geeze-- borrrrr-ring!  So here's a general update.

Work is going well.  In fact, it's gotten easier as the year has gone on.  First of all, I finally have all the kids names memorized.  You might think it took too long, but I only see the kids twice a week and I have 6 classes of kids.  That's a lot of names!  We finally have internet at work (where I am currently writing this) and I'm not just excited because I can play around on Facebook during the day like the good inventor of the internet intended.  But I can finally do virtual labs with the kids.  We don't have any labs nor lab equipment, so I think virtual labs are a great alternative.  I can also have them do research and all sorts of stuff.

I realize a little more every day how I must be the strictest teacher in the whole school.  I had a teacher with first graders in my room the other day.  They screamed so loud that after 20 minutes I had to leave because of a headache.  Then today another teacher told me that last year one class used to make her cry.  Cry?  CRY? These kids?  Really...?

This week has been exam week and next week is Semana Santa (Holy Week, the week of Easter).  We have the whole week off, as most people in Costa Rica do.  Of course Oscar has to work extra- the entire week (Mon-Sun) before Semana Santa and up until Thursday the week of..  But anyways, just got an email saying the kids don't start back until the Thursday AFTER Semana Santa!  Nice little surprise!  Teachers do have to come in Monday and Tuesday, but they'll be short days I'm sure of it.  Full of god-awful meetings, but short.

For the last four days of Semana Santa (the only days Oscar has off) we're going to go to some fancy pants resort/hotel/condo/thingy.  We got a pretty good deal, considering how fancy pants this place is.  It'll be nice to get away from San Jose for a bit.

About a week ago my friend from study abroad came to Costa Rica.  He's an accountant from Minnesota who was about to "settle down" when he decided to sell everything and travel.  He started in Mexico and made it down to Costa Rica after spending way too much time in Honduras.  We met up for a few beers and reminisced on old times.

I guess that's all for now.  Like I said, not a whole lot has been going on.  Here's a few pictures from around the neighborhood.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Two bad accidents

Somewhat fitting to go after my "driving in CR" post.

Today while driving to work on the highway I hit some serious traffic.  I knew it must have been a car accident.  I passed the first one.  It didn't seem too bad, but I also didn't look very hard.  I don't much fancy looking at car wrecks.  As I came up to the next accident, the cops had put cones in the road to close one lane.  I couldn't help but notice bodies, covered in white sheets, spread across the road.

Just. awful.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Reasons why driving in Costa Rica is exciting!

1.  Giant potholes.  I'm talking half a lane wide and at least a foot deep.
2.  Unmarked speed bumps
3.  Mango trees growing halfway into the road
4.  Stumps where stop signs used to be, and you just have to know that you still need to stop
5.  Speed limits.  What speed limits?
6.  Pick-up trucks carrying random shit, like living cows or dead cows in "pile of meat" form
7.  Stop lights in awful positions so that you can't see them unless you duck down
...Not that #7 matters because...
8.  Stop lights so dim the only way you can tell if it's your turn is if traffic in the opposite direction has stopped
9.  A blinking green light before yellow.  I actually think that is a sweet idea.
10.  One lane roads that mysteriously turn into two lanes without any indication as to which lane goes which way
11.  Roads that may or may not be two lanes or two ways.  The basic rule is however many cars almost fit on the road is how many lanes there are.
12.  Driving in the middle of the street.  Just cause.
13.  Motos doing whatever the fuck they want.  Just cause.
14.  Roads with absolutely no markings
15.  Roads with giant curves right next to a steep cliff.
16.  Railings that seem to have been added as an after thought on bridges
17.  People running across the highway like frogger
18.  People riding bikes on the highway
19.  People huddled up against the guardrail of the highway.  Because it's a bus stop.
20.  The fruit sellers who try to sell you fruit at the stop light
21.  The beggars who are always at the same spot
22.  Hearing the Costa Rican national anthem every day on the radio at 7:00am
23.  Lots of decals, mostly Jesus heads and Playboy bunnies
24.  Going into the other lane to get around a stopped bus, because the cars coming the opposite direction will probably move over for you.
25.  Railroad crossing which is you having to stop to look both ways before crossing.  Or just scooting in fast enough before the train crashes into you.  It's not going that fast anyways.

Basically there is only one traffic law: Do whatever you want, just do it carefully.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Today in School

First and foremost-  WE WON NOCHE BOHEMIA!!!  Wooo!  I was telling the kids congratulations and how they should be proud, while in my mind I was thinking "I did it! Yes!" jaja, anyways

Just had some thoughts today in school that would be too big for a facebook status update, so here's a blog update instead.

First, in the middle of a recess today I hear what sounds like an entire tree collapsing onto the roof of the school.  I quickly learned it wasn't, when all of the kids yelled "MANGOES!" and ran outside to collect the bounty.  I instructed one minion, ahem child, to get me one too.  The ground was littered with mangoes that had just fallen out of the giant tree.  It was funny and new for me.

The *fruits* of my labor. ja.ja.ja.

Next, today one of my 5th graders left to go to Germany for 6 months.  Her grandfather has gotten sick and her family needs to help.  So I made her a very fine pop-out bee card that said "Anna, you will... BEE MISSED"  Then I got the entire class to sign it.  Today I presented it to her in front of everyone.  I don't know if she got my extremely clever pun, but she did start crying and came and gave me a big hug.  She also carried it around with her the rest of the day.  When I saw her this afternoon as I was walking to the car, she was bawling and came to give me a hug goodbye.  I told her she shouldn't be sad, she should be excited.  She wasn't leaving her friends, she was going on an adventure.  I think it was maybe the best consoling I've ever done in my life.  *high fives self*  She was a good kid though, I'll miss her.

And finally, today and yesterday were the first two days I actually was teaching physics.  I've never taught physics before, I don't have a curriculum, I don't have a book, I don't have an outline, I don't have a lab, I don't have internet to do labs online, I don't have a goddam thing.  So I'm basically just guessing where to start and how to do it.  It's been difficult for me to figure out how to teach physics without getting too hard.  Like, I don't think vectors are important enough to teach to them, but if they don't know vectors, how will they know the difference between speed and acceleration?  I also found out today that my 7th graders don't have nearly enough math skills to be able to do the physics.  Today I taught algebra.  Today I taught that 4x means 4 times x.  Today I taught that x/2 means x divided by 2.  Today I taught how to solve for x.  These are things kids should know before they get into physics.  But they don't, because they're only in 7th and 8th grade.  Maybe my 8th grade kids are a little further, I don't even know because I didn't think to ask them.  This will certainly be a learning year for all of us.

Well it's about time for the puppy to go to the park.  Ready for the weekend!  Woo!

Friday, March 2, 2012

I'm no freaking art teacher

Alright I caved.  I cleaned all morning (okay more like 1.5 hours, our cleaning lady has yet to show up.. grr) and I now have blisters on my hands from mopping/scrubbing the floor.  I was looking forward to a cool beer on my sunny porch, BUT WE RAN OUT OF BEER!  How did this happen???  So I opened a bottle of wine.  Yum yum.

Anyways, this week at school has been, well, up and down.  Tonight is the "noche bohemia" which is where parents, families, friends, etc come to the school to see the decorated rooms.  Evidently there will be performances, dances, a dinner and even German beer for sale!  All classes were assigned Asian countries and had to decorate their rooms accordingly.  Although the word "Asian" was used awful liberally since some of the countries given were Kuwait, Israel, Russia and Turkey, which is what I received along with China.  So this entire week I was with my clase guia decorating the room to represent China and Turkey.

Now, these two countries have plenty of culture and history to stand on their own, but all the same I found it difficult to come up with things the kids could make.  My clase guia is 5th grade which means they're old enough to do things on their own, but they still need help.  So every day they would come in and say "Frau, what are we doing today?", "Frau, I'm done with the sign, what should I do now?", "Frau, I'm bored.  I don't have anything to do".  It was exhausting.  I had to not only come up with ideas, but coordinate them, supervise them, and guide them from 7:30am to 3:00pm NO BREAKS for FOUR DAYS.  Not to mention dealing with "Frau, Jose is calling Julia fat!", "Frau, Alonso won't let me help!", "Frau, Rafael isn't doing anything!", "Frau, Javier is throwing things!"... etc etc.  By Wednesday I started telling the children "I'm not solving your problems today."  Which worked to an extent, until I found out three of my girls had broken a bathroom door, and some of my boys had thrown rocks on a 4th grader's head.  *deep breath*

So Wednesday I had a stern talking with them.  And by "stern talking" I really mean I threatened them with suspension and dared them to try me.  One of the problems I have with the school is there really are no consequences.  I think I'm going to start implementing silent lunch (yes, that stupid, stupid punishment) on my own because there's nothing that is ever done!  When I told the director my girls had broken the door, she replied that the families would have to pay for it.  Yeah?  And what about the girls who BROKE the door.  They aren't learning a damn thing by having their parents pay for a door.  I'm going to suggest they do some sort of service in the school, like helping serve lunch, cleaning bathrooms, or picking up trash.  I mean... really... no punishment at all is a disservice to these kids.  They need to learn they can't destroy things and just get away with it because daddy's going to fork over the money.

The teachers always say 5th grade is the worst of all the grades, but I can't agree.  They always act fine for me and I actually really enjoy them as a class.  Not to make excuses for their actions, but this week was entirely too long with entirely too little structure.  I'm perfectly fine coming up with engaging learning activities for 90 min a day, but for four full days is extreme.  They shouldn't have been so crazy, but I also think things could have been organized better.

Wow.  Rant over.

So yeah, that was the "down" side.  The up-side is that I think we did a banging job on the room.  I've peeked into the other rooms acting interested, but really I was spying.  Because when it comes down to it I have at least one thing in common with my mother- I'm a competitive ass hole.  I want to win.  I think our class looks great, but I'm not 100% certain we'll win.  I peeked into the 2nd grade classroom who had Japan, and they have this huge canopy, a real cherry blossom tree, and a table with a real tea set.  It's certainly a lot nicer than our room, but goddamit my kids made everything that is in my room!  There were plenty of teachers that had some guy build them stuff for their room, but I will not be the mother that does the science fair project for their kid.  This is what I told my kids, too.  I told them that they should be proud of our room because they created everything in the room.  Sure, I came up with most of the ideas, but my room looks like 5th graders did it, because they actually did.  And I'm happy with that.

What I'm a little pissed about is evidently on Monday, we have to take down everything and throw it away.  Seriously?  As nice as my room looks, I see it as a huge freaking waste of paper, paint, money, resources, time; to just throw it all away three days later.  I'll try to keep some stuff up, but there's lots I'll have to take down just to be able to have class on Monday.  I'm going to keep and reuse as much as possible, but I know a lot of stuff is going to be thrown away (no recycling!!!!) and it makes me feel bad.  Unfortunately there's really nothing I can do about it.  And that's how the cookie crumbles.

Take a look at the pictures of my room!!

Kids working on day 2

Turkish flag for the door

How Turkish women dress, and tulips

Terracotta warriors and fireworks

My sweet doors!

Chinese food

Blue Mosque (in Istanbul) complete with stained glass windows and 2 rugs

Statue heads of Mt. Nemrut, Turkey

Finished China side

Finished Turkey side

A fifth grade interpretation of the Silk Road

The Great Wall of China

Noche Bohemia starts at 6pm tonight.  I hope we find out who (5th grade) wins!!!