Monday, June 15, 2015

Guest Post: "But Why? A Future Ag Educator Goes to Costa Rica"

But why.....

This is a Cajuela...used to collect coffee beans.  It is
one of the most difficult words I have learned.
I repeated is about 28 times to learn it. 
If you have been following my personal blog or our Spanish for Ag blog, you have realized I don’t always write about the experience I have had touring a Costa Rican farm or the new word I learned.  These things are interesting, but they are not me- they are not what I am really learning.  So why, why would a small town Wisconsin girl studying agriculture education, one of the teaching professions desperately in need of teachers spend time in Costa Rica.  I mean I could take summer classes to speed up my education or work full time, or over time to keep paying my student loans…. there are a lot of options…but why learn a foreign language in a foreign country?  Because it’s worth it.  It is worth it because growth is worth it, my future students are worth it, my future job is worth it, and even my future family is worth it.

Agricultural Education is a profession dedicated to preparing students for future careers and a lifetime of informed choices for a global agriculture industry and world.  Agricultural education has been changing, and in my opinion will continue to and needs to.  Diversity is a topic talked about in most education classes, we’ve all been there, you know when everyone seems to be walking on egg shells.  The list of the differences and unique quirks, qualities and needs my students will have academically, emotionally, physically, spiritually  and mentally could go on for pages, so I will only focus on two.  Language and Culture.  According to the United States 2011 Census 20.8% of the population five and over speak a language other than English at home, 61% of which reported to speaking English “very well”.  From 1980 to 2010, this is over a 150% increase, and this was five years ago. So now what?

Easy answer: Just. Learn. English.  Or just sit in an English speaking class and you will be fine. I beg to differ.  For the past month I have taken Spanish classes four days a week and attended 13 tours all in Spanish, and it is exhausting, but again it is worth it.  Through this process I have realized a few things:

Class may be difficult, but at least I can hear all the birds
through the open classroom set up while drinking Costa Rican coffee!
1.  Feelings Matter. The feeling of failure, confusion and disappointment is common and frustrating, but yet I don’t want to ask for help.  Feeling alone in my need for assistance is a terrible feeling.  The thing is, my classmates are in the same boat, we are all learning Spanish as a second language and about agricultural practices we don’t know in English, let alone in Spanish.  In my future classroom it will not be the whole class that feels like this, more like 1-5 students that feel alone, frustrated and confused…I hope I don’t forget what this feels like.  

2. Be a Guide. I have come to a hypothesis that the tour guides that have learned a language other than there native language seemed to speak a little slower, clearer and ask for clarification.  I hope to be that tour guide for my students. 

3. More than WordsLearning a language is not simply learning words, and traveling is not about seeing new places.  It is about learning about a culture, yourself and our world.  Our agriculture industry is global- shouldn’t our students and teachers be too? 

4. Grow Baby Grow. Experiences where growth happens are the best experiences. These are the ones that change us, the ones that make us better- I want to provide these experiences and reflect on them with my students.

Why go?  Why take on the feelings of failure, smell like deet bug spray, mix up words like soap and soup and get stuck in my own thoughts? Because it’s worth it, because my future students are worth it, because the future of agriculture education is worth it. 

Written by Guest Blogger:
Ms. Kayla Hack, 
2017 Student Teacher Candidate

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