Image Menu
This day has been sponsored by : Paul & Natasha with Breffini O'Riordan

Untitled Document

Week 2 Day 2 - "Escuela Puente Casa"

After yesterday's dentist saga, the catastrophy of today is just as painful: Outlook went on complete strike, and I failed to bring the installation CD, so I am not sure how to solve this. My entire setup for punctual updates to my sponsors is in ruins! I'll come up with a "workaround", but there probably will be delays until I do. My apologies for that.

Moving on to today's topic... my placement was very exciting and I could write a mini book about the few hours I spent there. I'll save the wicked crime chapter for a future topic, and will just generally describe the school, students, and teachers... and tell the story of the lost national prize.

Like Escuela San Martín, Escuela Puente Casa has students from grades 1 through 6, but only one group per grade, i.e. it is much smaller. It has a very large number children from Nicaraguan immigrants who live in utterly poor housing, the Costa Rican equivalent of favelas. Staff and students were very welcoming and shared a lot of insights regarding the Costa Rican school system and how it compares to the education in other Central American countries, the "rules" for the upcoming year end exams, the annual Costa Rican Día del Niño on 9 September and the upcoming Día del Maestro on 22 November, as well as the annual instructor competition.

Costa Rican teachers are very proud to say that each child has the opportunity to go to school. This is not the case in some other Central American countries and there are children from Nicaraguan immigrants who recently arrived in Costa Rica with no schooling at all at age 15. Many immigrant children are behind in their schooling when they arrive, and will generally be placed with other children of their age group but will receive separate exercises until their reading and writing is stable. In 6th grade, I was working with Eyner on his exercises while the rest of the class followed the teacher at Science and Social Studies. In 2nd grade, I was working with Jeffriends.

During the next two weeks, year end exams are coming up, and on 20th December all schools close for summer vacation. The Costa Rican school year is divided in three trimesters (1st = Feb-May; 2nd = June-Aug; 3rd = Sep-Dec), and at the end of each trimester, there are final exams for each subject. If a student has 90 (out of 100) or more points for each of the exams of the 1st and 2nd trimester for a particular subject, the teacher may allow this student to be exempt from the finals of this subject for the third trimester. This is a treat for the students and everybody hopes they have to take as few exams as possible, but the teachers have not yet released the information as to who will be exempt and who not. Weaker students have the opportunity to retake a failed exam twice before they are blocked from moving on to the next grade.

On the Día del Niño (Children's Day) children and teachers come to school in fancy costumes. This year, teachers came dressed up as a nurse, a clown, as "bunnies". And the children came as princesses, zorros or the national heroes: peasants. On the Día del Maestro (Teacher's Day) this week, all schools will be off, children stay at home, and the teachers have organized sports competitions and art events.

Here comes the scandal of the day...
All day I had the honor of working with Doña Ruth, a teacher who impressed me immensly. And for good reason! Every year in Costa Rica each of the 13 regions get to nominate their best teacher to go on to a national competition for teacher of the year. Each of the 13 regional winners gets to go to San José for a ceremony and receives a silver medal. The prize for the national winner is a sabatical year at full pay to give the teacher the opportunity to pursue other interests. Without having seen any of the other contestants, in my brief encounter, Doña Ruth fully deserved to win. For some mysterious reason, the papers were delayed and arrived in San José passed the deadline. Hence no candidacy for this region was admitted to this year's contest; Doña Ruth was not invited to San José, did not receive a silver medal, and missed her chance to win a sabbatical year at full pay. Some upset woman today with apparently many connections everywhere wanted to investigate the cause of the delay and take matters in her hands. I keep my fingers crossed that she'll achieve something.


For today's sponsor

This goes to the O'Riordan family in Ireland... Happy Wedding Anniversary, Natasha & Paul!!!

Breffini, some of the children in the pictures are about your age, I think. Children here wear uniforms to school. I don't know, if they do that in Ireland, too? Since for the local children it feels very cold these days, they are mostly wearing warm sweaters over their uniforms. However, in the third picture you can get a glimpse of it... under Mayra's jeans jacket or under her friend's hair. In the fourth picture, you can see that chidren dress up for elementary school graduation similarly to US students do for their college graduation. The girl sitting in front to the left is Mayra's sister.