They are the school

Rebeca. Ariel. Ingrid. Gabriela. Silvia. 

Rebeca surrounds herself in flashcards and pens and laminated charts, even if she is the only one who can touch them as she smiles into a screen. Ariel coaches and problem-solves, helps his grown students stick with adult ed when such faith in the future is strained at every seam. Ingrid pours every resource she could into staying afloat, her own materials, computer, internet: they all do that. Silvia lets her students into her own house, lets her screen display her furniture, her kids: they all do that. Gabriela forges ahead, missing, every day, the easy interaction with her peers that used to recharge her batteries between classes. 

They talked to us one afternoon from around the country. Behind their voices, a chorus of others: “It’s a week into the year, and I don’t have my schedule.” “It’s three weeks into the year and I don’t know if I have a job.” “Dual education, hybrid classes: what on earth is that supposed to mean?”

“I wish parents knew that, just as they are, we’re lost, too.”

In every Costa Rican town, a school. In every Costa Rican school, this human infrastructure. When school doors closed, these teachers opened their living rooms, their WhatsApp feeds. In the year 2020, no timesheets applied. Those who wanted to hide behind excuses had no shortage of them. Those who stepped up, did so out of love for their profession and students. 

Parents, suddenly drowning in their own offspring, poured out appreciation at the start. But will we just move on? Will we stand with our teachers, honestly stand with them, recognize the human infrastructure of our children’s future? Will we let ourselves forget their worth? Will we remember their humanity, those tired glances we exchanged through screens or closed school gates, our glimpses of their homes, their glimpses of our struggles? 

Will we change, now that we’ve seen that, really and truly, they are the school?

Text by Katherine Stanley Obando, inspired by Rebeca Ramos, Ariel Rodríguez, Silvia Quesada, Gabriela Arguedas, Ingrid Flores, and all the classroom teachers who participated in our interviews for “Lessons Learned,” our March edition. Photo of Rebeca Ramos by Mónica Quesada Cordero. Our weekly Media Naranja series captures stories of love and affection with a Costa Rican twist. Read our full “Lessons Learned” edition here.

Read more Media Naranja love letters here.