Off to See Some Sloths and Teach Some Kiddos!

Greetings fellow travelers! My name is Delaney Mutchler and I have the privilege of getting to study and teach abroad with USF’s College of Education thanks to the generous Genshaft/Greenbaum Passport Scholarship I received. I am a Junior undergraduate pursuing concurrent-degrees in Creative Writing and Secondary English Education. On May 19th, I’ll be embarking on a 2-week-long trip to San Pedro, Costa Rica. I’m absolutely stoked to have the opportunity to possibly see my favorite animal in the wild: the sloth! Okay, so there’s a more monumental reason as to why I’m making this journey to Central America, and it’s not just to traipse around like the Crocodile Hunter exploring for cute animals. While in Costa Rica, I will have the opportunity to help teach kids of a variety of ages with several of my peers. We’ll be doing everything from planning lessons and fun games for our students, to bringing them a plethora of school supplies (I went a little overboard with colorful pencils and sloth stickers at Dollar Tree). As an aspiring high school English and creative writing teacher who also is about to start a job teaching a math enrichment program to preschoolers, I know this program will be invaluable to me. It will help me to become a more versatile, more well-rounded, more resourceful, better-prepared future educator. Having to lesson-plan “on the fly” for children who speak little-to-no English (as we’ll have to do for public elementary school students) is both a nerve-wracking and thrilling thought and doing so will certainly improve my problem-solving skills. Also, I’ll be working on my online class, “School’s and Society,” while in Costa Rica. This class focuses on preparing students to mature into well-rounded members of society and of a democracy. This class will offer me with unique insight I can apply to teaching not only my Costa Rican students, but my future high schoolers, as well. Additionally, this experience will allow me to refine and gain more confidence in my Spanish-speaking. I plan to teach in Florida for a while after graduation and seeing as Tampa is home to many Spanish speakers, I want to be able to speak Spanish with my ESOL students who will need an advocate they can rely on having strong communication with as they transition into learning in an English-immersed environment. Taking my turn as the “minority” in Costa Rica will allow me to view the world from the perspective of ESOL students and other non-English speakers who have just immigrated to the United States, and that is a humbling experience that I believe everyone should have. Diving headfirst into a new culture teaches us to appreciate diversity and check the privilege we have as Americans. I’m ecstatic to connect with the students I’ll be teaching and with my host mother, and while I’m scared I’ll embarrass myself with my limited Spanish-speaking skills, I know they’ll be patient and understanding with me, as this will be an enriching, cross-cultural experience for us all.

Well, I must endure the anticipation until Sunday! Hopefully I’ll have seen a sloth by the time I write my next post, but more importantly, hopefully my fellow pre-service educators and I will have already been able to make some kind of positive impact on the students we’ll have the privilege to teach! Additionally, I cannot wait to absorb Costa Rica’s rich sights and go on various excursions throughout the country! I’ll miss my family, my friends, my partner, and my Sphynx cat, Ruby (pictured) dearly, but I know that venturing to Costa Rica to study and teach will be a one-in-a-million experience that will change my perspective on education, forever.

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