I am updating you from the warm, balmy, palm-tree-filled island of Puerto Rico. While I'm definitely not on vacation here in this tropical place, I am having quite an amazing experience.
I have been here for the past month, working as a pre-school and kindergarten teacher's assistant. I work at La Nueva Escuela Juan Ponce de Leon (The New School of Juan Ponce de Leon), located in the city of Guaynabo. I was initially drawn to this school because of its unique circumstances; it is the first public Montessori school on the island (The Montessori method of education is one in which children are allowed and encouraged to work independently and at their own pace, while also following a regimented curriculum). The school was opened in 1990 by a group of teachers, parents and community members who felt that the children of their neighborhood needed a peaceful, safe and positive place to learn and grow.
I feel so lucky to be able to contribute to this environment. The kids I have worked with have taught me more than I have taught them! They come from a wide range of backgrounds, which has made for sobering experiences, as well as uplifting ones. My job is also entirely in Spanish! Very few people at the school (students and teachers included) speak English, so brushing up on my far-from-perfect Spanish skills has been a fun, but challenging task.
The other teachers at the school have been incredibly warm and hospitable, welcoming me into their homes for weeks at a time as host families. On top of that, each weekend, they have taken me to different areas of Puerto Rico to explore the island. I have been to the most southwestern point, where I experienced one of the island's most beautiful beaches, called "Playa Sucia". I have been to the northwest, and hiked around in a mountainous rainforest called "El Yunque". I have even explored other islands just off the coast of Puerto Rico; I spent the day surrounded by the ocean on the tiny island of Ikakos.
I could not have asked for a more authentic Puerto Rican experience, and for that I am so grateful. I have learned more than I ever expected, and made connections that will last me forever. That being said, I miss my team! I can't wait to come back and jump into things in Hanover, then head straight to Australia!!
As always, Go Big Green!