Friday, June 7, 2013

Comfort Zones

June 6, 2013

I have mentioned that leaving with my host family was the scariest thing I have ever done in my life. However, I think leaving one’s comfort zone is such a rewarding endeavor. It opens your eyes. It shows you have an inner strength to conquer your fears, to leave behind what is comfortable. Sunday, I will be repeating the effort of meeting a strange family that I will be living with for the remainder of my time in Costa Rica (minus a weekend trip to the Caribbean coast).  I expect it will be a little bit easier this time, but nonetheless will be stressful. The same questions and worries—will I be able to communicate effectively? Will they like me? Will I like them? How do I know when it is OK to take a shower? What if the food my Tico mama cooks is awful? Those are just some of the questions that have gone through my head as I have embarked on this experience of living with a strange family in a country where I am no where near fluent in the language. Hopefully the next stage will go just as well as this first, maybe even better since I do know a little more Spanish now, and I will again gain a Tico family. 

Speaking of comfort zones, I was a colossal failure at getting out of another one today. We visited the primary school in Santa Elena. We had made many activities to share with the students in various grades. My Spanish class made quite a few of these activities. When we arrived, we were to break into groups of 2-3 and take some activities into a classroom and share. Well. Anyone who knows me well knows about the panic/anxiety attacks I can have when it comes to public speaking—they are mostly likely to happen when facing large groups and/or being in a situation where I am not comfortable or confident in what I am presenting. I now know these are anxiety attacks and I do take beta-blockers when I know I will be in a situation that will cause one to happen, and then I have no problems--I can focus on what I want to say vs. trying to slow my heart down, stop my watery eyes, cool myself off, etc. Of course, I did not bring them here with me. And wouldn’t you know, I am not comfortable with the idea of going in front of any class and teaching a lesson which I do not know myself due to a lack of comprehension because it is in another language. I know, I know, I am a teacher and this shouldn’t be something I worry about when being in front of school kids. First of all, there is a reason I am a special education teacher: Small classes and 1-1 instruction with students with moderate-severe disabilities is my forte. Needless to say, when the principal tried to put me into a 5th or 6th grade class ALONE with a packet of materials I had not yet looked at, I said no. I felt that familiar feeling in my chest when my heart rate speeds up. There was no way I was about to continue in that situation where a panic attack may happen. So instead, I went into a 2nd grade class where three of my classmates had already started teaching. Ever to be one to make myself useful, I took pictures until my heart rate slowed down, and then wandered around telling students “muy bien” after they did the activity assigned. Yeah, I am a helper that way. We have another 3 school visits planned on this trip, so maybe that will get better. I might be up for reading a kindergarten or first grade book by then.

As a footnote to the above, I also learned toay that “muy bien” means “it’s OK.” Not only have I been telling my host mom her food is “muy bien” most days (sometimes I say “muy rico” to change it up), I also told 2nd graders there work was just OK. 

Entry to the special education classrooms. There were 3 or 4 rooms. Each special education teacher works with a group of 2-3 students--no more--for 2 hours at a time. Sounds heavenly! The rest of the time, the students are in their regular classes. However, students with more severe disabilities are not served at the public schools. They have regional schools that they can attend, but a family has to  live nearby to access it. More on the school visit later. 

We toured the school gardens, which included a compost bin, tomato, cabbage, cilantro, and a corn field. Very nice! 

Smile! You are with nature. 

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