SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA
You know those days that leave you exhausted to the point where, at the end of the day, you wonder ‘how did I get through that’? Today felt like one of those days. Where I wondered if I was getting myself in over my head but also knew I could handle it. At the same time I knew that this is what I’m signing myself up to do for the rest of my life and, even on a day where I feel like I’m being pulled in a thousand directions, I love it and I couldn’t ask for anything else I would rather wake up and do every single day. I could never NOT work with kids. That being said, it was an eat-dessert-first-because-I-deserve-it kind of day.
Upon arriving at my internship, I was informed that Teacher Gaby is sick so she’s not here today. To put this in perspective, Gaby is the preschool teacher who cares for a handful of little ones including a a four year old with autism and a two year old. The kindergarten teacher basically took over, bringing her students with her. I immediately realized that all hell was about to break loose if she didn’t have another set of hands so I ended up being the little boy’s 1 to 1 for a few hours. I am no expert on children with special needs and am in no way certified or prepared to work with an autistic student whose primary language is Spanish. Sometimes you’ve just got to make the best of what you’ve got and I consider myself to be patient and resilient enough to figure something out.
Let me tell you, I don’t know how the preschool teacher does this all on her own every day. This one particular student needs constant attention or he will end up hurting himself/someone else/you as his tendency is to be a bit destructive. Turn away for a second and he’s about to flip and crack his head open off of the mini playscape, stand on the table, kick his peers in the stomach, headbutt you, or knock over multiple shelves (all of which happened today at some point, by the way). However, I spent a lot of time with him during which he was calm and, though he’s non-verbal at this point, very responsive. We read a book his family made about his life, played with shapes, and made animal noises. I could tell by the end of the day that he’d warmed up to me a lot and it felt like a tiny victory.
I did get a chance to work with (and play with) with the other students as well; I played animal bingo and learned the Spanish names for about 50 new animals, supervised snack time, helped a 2 year old sit on the potty, played some futbol, changed a diaper, helped out with a French lesson (I don’t speak French), and read stories. Altogether I probably spoke all of 3 words in English today. It was a wonderful and tiring and challenging day all wrapped up together but I feel so blessed to be having all of these experiences that are shaping me into a better teacher, and well rounded person.
Something I frequently struggle with, which actually may come as a surprise because I try very hard, is living in the moment. I’m constantly thinking about tomorrow, next week, next month, next year so sometimes I have trouble slowing down and enjoying where I’m at. But here in Costa Rica I am spending every day in a school becoming part of these students’ lives, seeing their smiles, learning about their lives, and helping them with their second language while I’m working on mine… and I know that, even though this is not the kind of day I thought I was going to have when I woke up this morning, I am exactly where I need to be. (And I did eat dessert first, just for good measure.)