To sum up my experience here in Costa Rica, I think I have definitely learned more than I have taught. I’ve always wanted to learn Spanish, and I’ve certainly had a crash course where I’ve absorbed more than I could possibly have hoped for. I have observed and participated in assessments and evaluations that have been creative and multi-purpose (giving an accurate picture of students’ abilities, while also constructing additional knowledge within the group and offering a meaningful use of the target language). I have learned about Costa Rican culture, and have been lucky enough to see some of the most beautiful places I could imagine. I am hopeful that the practice with English, and discussions comparing and contrasting Costa Rica and Canada, and additional vocabulary have been helpful to my colleagues and students here in Costa Rica, because they have offered me much more than I could ever hope to repay.
~Kendra, 2013 BEd Graduate
I think the most important realization I’ve had during my international teaching experience has been that education is constantly evolving. In many ways, teaching in Costa Rica felt like teaching in the past; the classroom and teaching methods were very traditional in many ways. I had to continuously remind myself that I could not judge the education system here, because it was not very different from our own in recent years. Being in this situation made me realize how important it is as an educator to remind myself that the practices and pedagogy I have learned in the education program are not the best possible practices… they are simply the best in our part of the world at this time. I cannot allow myself to settle into teaching a certain way. I need to remain current, try new things, and read the latest research if I want to be the most effective educator I can be. I also cannot assume that the practices that are common in Canada right now are the best the world has to offer. There are different strategies and approaches to education happening all over the world, and there is lots to be learned from those different models.
I have also learned to appreciate education as a privilege as I never have before. In Costa Rica, I have really seen the difference education can make in a child’s life. In Costa Rica, learning English can be the difference between being able to make a comfortable life for yourself and having to struggle. It is important that young people realize what an amazing opportunity they have to build the future they want by educating themselves, and that they also realize that the opportunity to do so is a privilege that many others do not have.
~Catherine MacKinnon, 2013 BEd Graduate
I knew that I had to do this experience for myself as a teacher and as a person. I have always loved teaching but this experience has shown me how important teachers are to children no matter where in the world. I believe that this experience has changed how I feel about being put in uncomfortable situations. I now understand that is necessary in life to be put in those situations so you can learn who you and grow as an individual. I have learned so much about different cultures, language barriers, and communication with students throughout this experience that I will take with me in my career that I would have not known otherwise. I also know that I still do not know everything I need to know to make the best global educator but this experience alone will allow me to be more patient with students who may be having trouble with the language, and it has shown me to be more understand and open-minded about different believes and customs.
This trip has changed my life for the better and I am so blessed that I got the opportunity to do it. I truly believe that I made the best decision to do an international placement and it has been one of the most life changing experiences I have had.
~Ashley MacDonald, 2013 BEd Graduate
I had an amazing experience in Costa Rica and one that I will always remember. It has changed me as a person and the way that I see things and also as a teacher. I now see how valuable the resources are that we do have access to. I now see that Canadian children have the opportunity to learn and go to school all day, where some children here can only go for half a day. I do not take things for granted anymore and know the struggles that one person can have when they do not know the language.
My global perspective has definitely changed because before I was not sure about different cultures and ways of life. It was only from what I saw in the media. Now though, I feel as though I have a better understanding of the challenges that a student may have. Costa Rica is always going to have a place in my heart and I know that I will be coming back here in the near future.
~Abbey Hendricken, 2013 BEd Graduate
One piece of advice that I would give to any pre-service teacher travelling in the future is that attitude makes all the difference in the world. It was with a positive attitude that I was able to enjoy every minute here and to always remember the purpose of my travels. One of the most important reasons for embarking on this journey was to develop as an educator and to broaden my global perspective. I believe that I have accomplished what I had wanted to accomplish in such the short time that I was here. Not only did I get to see new things but I got to experience them as well. After witnessing both public and private education here in Costa Rica, as well as elementary and senior levels, I feel that I will be taking home with me a great deal of insight and information that I am eager to share. I’ve said before how much I now appreciate and respect the direction Canadian education systems are going and I would like nothing more than to see some of our methods transfer into the schools here in Costa Rica.
What makes me happiest when I think of this international teaching experience is that I have no regrets at all. I knew before this experience that I loved teaching and I loved helping others. After this experience I’ve discovered that kids and teenagers are kids and teenagers no matter where they are in the world. If I can teach and if I can make a difference to someone’s day, then no matter where I am in the world, I’ll be happy.
~Amanda Dunsford, 2013 BEd Graduate