When you teach something—especially when you’re teaching a teacher—you never know where that knowledge will land. Or when.
It might be applied the next day, the next week, the next school year. It might travel in a straight line back to the student’s hometown, to her familiar classroom.
Or it might float on the breeze like a tiny seed and come down in another world. A world that could never have been imagined when the teaching first took place.
For could have imagined, before 2020, what the little villages of Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean coast would be like at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic? Who could have imagined the local schools shuttered and silenced, a void in the center of students’ lives? Some kids associate those scary, quiet days with Zoom calls and worksheets. Not so in rural southeastern Costa Rica. Without connectivity, they had radio silence. Learning lost, completely.
Except it wasn’t. Because of Rachel, who thought: I can teach. Because of kids who thought: I can learn. Cautiously, carefully, they found safe ways to gather, to teach and learn in the open air, snacking on fruits from the trees nearby. They even learned something they’d never studied before the pandemic: the English language. Together, they transformed those lost days into progress and connection.
We are blessed with institutions, but we sometimes think nothing can be done outside of them. We forget that all we need to teach and learn are people. We forget that if all our walls were to crumble, our communities still have everything they need. We forget what is possible when each of us is willing to plant the seeds we’ve carried from afar. The seeds we carry within.
Those strange days taught us that. Will we remember?
Inspired by the story Rachel Farahbakhsh, a graduate of the Institute for Collaborative Learning (I4CL) / Centro Espiral Maná in northern Costa Rica. Rachel is the current president of the Society for Education and Ecological Development (SEED) and still volunteers each week teaching English at her local school in Carbon 2, Talamanca, Limón. The I4CL offers training and consulting in communication, teaching, learning, and leadership, and has worked with clients including Google Education Summits, ministries of education, the U.S. Peace Corps, binational centers, and universities across Latin America, North America, the Middle East, and North Africa. I4CL is a sponsor of the July edition of El Colectivo 506, “Bilingual by 2040,” and we are proud to dedicate our weekly Media Naranja column to the stories of I4CL alumni/ae this month.