In Costa Rica, English language instruction is part of the curriculum for all students in both elementary and high school and in June, schools hold special events to celebrate and acknowledge the students’ English language learning and activities.
The English Fest at La Union was a whole day event with delightful and fun English-language performance/entertainment presentations by each class in the morning and then in the afternoon, a recitation competition for the younger students and finally, the spelling bee competition for the oldest students. On every level, the students were excited and engaged and did a great job. The school’s English language teacher, the principal, and staff did an outstanding job of organizing the day’s events including providing fabulous “bee-themed” decorations throughout the school and at the event to add to the festivities.
It was an interesting experience to step into the familiar though somewhat distant-in-memory world of elementary school but in a foreign country where I only speak the language “un poco.” Regardless of the language differences, however, from my observations and interactions of the day, it seemed to me that this was quite the special little neighborhood school. The students seemed to really enjoy being with each other and appreciated each other’s special talents as they enthusiastically and genuinely applauded the success of individual performances as well as the spelling bee contest winners.
The tremendous amount of energy and hard work that was required to plan and execute the day’s events by the staff was evident and impressive. In addition to the winners of each competition receiving a trophy, every student who participated in the day’s events was personally acknowledged and presented with a memento of the day—an Olympic-style medallion for the younger students and a certificate and a book for the older ones. That effort, plus the support and encouragement the teachers provided to the kids throughout their performances and competitions, told me that they care a great deal about their students and creating a positive environment for them to learn and grow in. It was a lovely day and experience and I was honored to be part of it!
If you have the opportunity to interact with your tico neighbors in their everyday lives at their school, their work, their church, or their family get-togethers, don’t hesitate to take advantage of it. It will undoubtedly broaden your horizons and add a valuable dimension to your time here in Costa Rica. Pura Vida!
~Mary Lou Hofmann