This is why I´m here...

Trip Start Jan 10, 2007
1
13
34
Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Tuesday, May 1, 2007

I found out the other day that Ivan and Johnny are now working on the fincas with their fathers.  They are fourteen and thirteen respectively, the oldest students in my sixth grade, and they break my heart.  Ivan is taller than most of the boys and is not a good student.  I was excited when he passed his first quiz.  I handed back his paper with a smile.  But at the end of class he asked if he could do a re-take.  Taken a little aback, I said that of course he could.  In two days he took his quiz grade up from a low C to a high B.  Thatīs when I started to pay more attention to him.  And now Iīve come to realize that he doesnīt do well in school, not because heīs stupid, but because heīs given up.  He knows his future.  He is going to finish the sixth grade and go work in his fatherīs finca.  He doesnīt see the use of school, especially not English.  When my other kids are in awe of the pictures I show them of the distant countries we travel to as a class, his eyes glaze over.  It kills me that at the age of fourteen Ivan has lost the ability to dream, has surrendered to this vision of himself as the type of person not cut out for school.  His last quiz grade was in the single digits, and when I talked to him, he just sort of shrugged and said he didnīt have time to study anymore.  I went against my own policy of only one make up quiz a trimester and allowed him to take it over again.  He barely improved his score this time. 

And then thereīs Johnny, so shy and uncertain.  Yet behind his little mustache and lowered eyes is a very intelligent person.  I see his yearning and frustrations sometimes taken out on the more academically successful (and smaller) students.  His grades may not be the best in the class, but they are solid, and he could definitely go on to colegio.  But his brother, Justin, is one of those amazing students with that wonderful combination of drive, intelligence, and perfectionism.  Justin is also very small for his age and does not make as good a laborer as Johnny.  Their family can only afford or only wants to afford to have one son in school, so the natural choice is to allow Justin to further his studies while Johnny works in the field.  And I canīt say that I donīt see the reasoning behind this, but when I look at Johnny I just canīt support it.  Heīs sold himself short his entire life, probably told since he was too young to remember that school just isnīt for him, but he was succeeding in my class.  Was  succeeding.  Now his attendence is sporadic, he never turns in his homework, and his test scores have dropped dramatically.  Heīs giving up hope, just like Ivan.  And what can I do with these boys?  Talk to the parents?  Who am I to impose my beliefs on these people?  They work hard and honestly to provide for their families the way their mothers and fathers did before them.  There is no shame in this.  There is nothing wrong with their way of life.  But the world around them is changing and I donīt know how long it will be before La Estrella is discovered by rich gringos eager to invest in property where the weather isnīt as brutal and the prices not as high (well, not yet).  How will Ivan and Johnny ever be prepared to deal with the rising price of land, dealings with foreign investors, and a country being swallowed up by tourism?  But what can I do?  For Johnny and Ivan itīs really too late.  Their fates were mapped out for them long before I ever even thought about coming to Costa Rica.  But when I look at the others, I feel that Iīm racing against time.  If they know English well enough maybe their parents will let them stay in school past sixth grade.  Maybe the girls will be able to convince them that they will be more worth to the family when they are educated and can find lucrative jobs requiring English.  Maybe the boys can find a way out of factory work or defend their fincas from those who are trying to buy them up.  I am here not just to teach English, but to give these kids a valuable tool.  Whether they want to leave La Estrella or stay, work in a farm or an office, I am giving them the ability to choose.  Maybe in a couple of years, just maybe, what has happened to Ivan and Johnny wonīt be so commonplace.  I donīt really know...but even if they canīt hope, I will.
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Comments

bootsmom
bootsmom on

very moving!
This is a wonderful piece! You have such insight into and compassion for the situation these kids are in. You are making a difference in their lives. I'm so proud of you....and your students. Love you!

dadofdivaboots
dadofdivaboots on

Teacher...
...you are indeed! I hope we can meet those two dudes while we are there...
love
dad

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