I still can't believe that I am back home in Buffalo. The last couple days in the Dominican Republic were so amazing and so filled with emotion. It was hard for me to have to say goodbye to all of the children at Tres Mariposas Montessori School. I felt like I was just getting comfortable and settling in when it was already time to go home. As a group we sang many songs and finger plays for the children on our last day. The teachers of the school were able to record us doing this so that they are able to show the parents of the children what they had learned from us. They also wanted to be able to continue singing our songs with the children. I could tell that the children didn't really understand that we were leaving. They kept saying "see you tomorrow". It was heartbreaking and there were even tears. At the very end of our last day at the Montessori school, we sang a so long song for the children and the teachers. It was really hard to say goodbye but it was also comforting knowing that I personally did make an impact on that school and the children that attend that school. It was nice to know that I made a difference in someone's life. I left the school that day feeling comfortable and happy with my experience and what I had done for the school. As a group we tied together many projects for the school such as a yoga area, a mud pit, many songs and finger plays and even a sound tree. I was able to conduct my own research project as well about how preschools in the US differ from preschools in the DR. I specifically wanted to look at how teachers use materials to teach their students. I had many great findings. For one, I wasn't aware how different Montessori materials are than regular preschool materials. I was able to document many of my findings through pictures and by taking notes. I will present my research at the student research and creativity night in the spring.
Yesterday we had an opportunity to visit a public school in La Cinenega. I was very eager to get into the classrooms and observe. I got to observe a preschool classroom and also a third grade classroom. The preschool classroom was pretty typical of something you would see in the United States. They started off with a circle time where they sang songs, did attendance, and talked about what they did on the weekends. I noticed that even though the children were in the preschool classroom, they looked to be much older than four or five. I later asked someone about the public eduction here in the Dominican Republic and they told me that children don't usually start school until they are six. Even though they are six, they still start their education in the preschool classroom. I thought this was unique and different. Children can start school at all different ages and still start in the same class. This also means that the children are older in every single grade than they would typically be in the US. I found this very interesting. When I observed in the third grade class, the students looked much older than your typical third grade class in the US. The students were learning an English lesson. They were learning how to differentiate questions from statements. I was very impressed with how well the students understood the lesson and also how well they were able to print on the chalkboard in English! I really enjoyed observing in the public school but I feel like there was many noise distractions. The school was all open (windows) and the students were easily distracted (and so was I).
Tonight, we went to dinner at a place called Blue Moon. It was a restaurants with fusion foods from both Indian and Caribbean cultures. It was actually really good! We sat on the floor with pillows and ate with our hands on the floor! It was a great experience and I'm glad that we all got to do it together! My favorite part of the dinner was the appetizer. It was almost like deep fried corn kernels but in a patty form. It was delicious! The atmosphere was also amazing and it felt like all of us were able to bond and come together over this dinner.
I have not posted in awhile but so much has happened! On Friday, we got to go to the Mariposa Dominican Republic Foundation. This is a school that is entirely for girls from ages 7-18. Our tour leader explained to us that this school is for girls that have a desire to learn and carry out their education in the future. The Mariposa DR foundation strives to keep girls off of the streets and keep them inspired to learn and obtain jobs in their futures. I felt really connected to this foundation and school and I was inspired to find out that all of the workers at the school are volunteers. It really was amazing that so many people are willing to work for absolutely nothing. These teachers were truly inspiring and it was eye opening that so many people are willing to work for the children and do what they really love for absolutely nothing in return. The school was really beautiful and even had a pool! We learned that many of the girls in the Dominican Republic don't know how to swim. This can be dangerous because of how strong the waves are. The Mariposas Foundation takes it upon themselves to teach their students how to swim. I found it touching that the school takes the time to teach these girls valuable life lessons and not only from a textbook.
Today was our first day being able to interact with the children at Tres Mariposas Montessori School. I wasn't sure what to expect because I have zero experience in a Montessori setting. At first when the children got to the school they all went about their own activities. I just observed at first and then this little boy names Oscar asked me to join him with one of his lessons. I was frustrated at first because I didn't know how any of the lessons were suppose to be done and completed. Oscar wasn't doing one of his lessons right and his teacher came over and sat with us to reteach him this lesson. I was amazed how quickly Oscar was able to grasp this concept (he was working with cylinders). He was able to match the cylinders by size and height. I'm not sure how old he is (maybe 4 or 5) but I would say he is pretty advanced for his age. One thing that I wish I would've learned before this experience was more about the lessons in a Montessori classroom. I felt very helpless with the children and their lessons. I didn't know how to assist them or how to aid them in the learning process. Today I learned that when children make a mistake during one of their lessons you shouldn't necessarily correct a minor mistake. You as the teacher should keep a mental note of what that specific child may need more help with in the future. After school today we went back into the city to have lunch with our family. Today we ate fried eggplant, rice, beans, and lettuce. I thought the eggplant was yummy and different. I felt much more comfortable with the family today and was able to communicate pretty well. After lunch we went to our Spanish course once again. Today we worked on two different verbs. It was pretty difficult but my teacher really helps us to feel comfortable and not overwhelmed. I am really enjoying everything so far on this trip and I feel like I am really growing as a teacher and a person in general. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and am shocked by how different the culture is here in the Dominican Republic. It really opens your eyes to what you have at home and how truly blessed you are.
Today was our day of observation at Tres Mariposas Montessori School. We got to observe both in the infant room ("the nest") and the primary classroom. "The Nest" is for ages birth to two years old and the primary classroom is ages three to six. I really enjoyed all of the children however, "the nest" was my favorite! I loved watching how independent the toddlers could be. They were able to clean, prepare snack, and obey their teachers. I was truly impressed. Today was my first time setting foot into a Montessori classroom and I honestly didn't know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It is a tiny bit overwhelming but in a good way! After our observations we got to go back into the town and eat lunch with a family. My family was so wonderful. I am looking forward to learning more about them! They have NINE children! They were all very friendly and super welcoming. After lunch we went back to Spanish class. My group learn many vocabulary words today that we may us with the families that we share lunch with. I found it extremely useful. After Spanish we all decided we wanted to go out to dinner tonight. One of the girls found out that there was karaoke at a local place called voyvoy. The food was so delicious and we had such a wonderful time all together. We shared many laughs and smiles!
Today we got to tour a cocoa farm. The skies were blue when we left the villas so we figured we wouldn't need umbrellas or rainboots. Of course the minute we arrive at the cocoa field the skies started to get really really dark. All of the sudden the rain started pouring down. We didn't let the rain get us down and we still had a BLAST!!!! We all got pretty muddy and one of us even fell in the mud! We took many gorgeous pictures and created many many new memories. We all had a lunch together and then we actually got to make chocolate from scratch! We peeled the seeds, grinders the beans, then rolled them into small balls. We got to taste some of the chocolate that was made into hot cocoa! It was DELICIOUS! I am really looking forward to tomorrow we get to go kayaking!
Today was our first full day in Cabarete! We were super super busy!!!! We woke up very early and got ready and went to the school (tres mariposas). After our meeting we got to tour the city where we will be eating lunch with some families. It was amazing to see how differently people can live. We observed a small school and a few different churches and houses. I was amazed how different people can live compared to how we live in the USA. I learned to not take anything for granted and to be so grateful and thankful for all that we have. We ate lunch at a small local spot. I have to say that I was extremely nervous about trying new foods. I tried plantains, chicken, and rice and it was actually delicious! We then went to our second language course to learn more Spanish. It was three hours long. I was placed in the more advanced Spanish speaking group and I was shocked. I actually know a lot of Spanish and I was really proud of myself after the three hours was over. I am looking forward to how much more Spanish I can learn and acquire during this journey! Last on the agenda today was dinner. We ate at "casa mami's". The menu was entirely in Spanish. I saw "pollo" on the menu and knew that meant chicken. I ordered it and I actually really liked it! After dinner we had a short meeting and we were all EXHAUSTED! Off to bed I go...we have a big excursion tomorrow :)
Soooo our flights got canceled for tomorrow morning which is a HUGE bummer and my room still looks like this...