As this post was written a while ago, to see an updated version of our Assignment and Projects, click here.
Through the wonders of the internet, we’ve had the privilege to talk with some friends and family back home during our time living abroad. If we’re talking with a friend for the first time since our departure date in August 2014, we might hear something like, “so what are you actually doing in Nicaragua?” Peace Corps itself is a widely recognized organization, but beyond the umbrella of cultural exchange it can be tough to know what volunteers really do at their posts. It can be a little difficult to try to explain it all, too.
Assignments and project focuses vary from post to post. In Nicaragua, we currently have PCVs working in four sectors: health, small business, environmental education, and TEFL. While we could talk (or write) about our service and experiences for days, below we’ve tried to sum up the job parts of our job into bite sized chunks:
Primary Assignment: TEFL Teacher Trainers
We are in the Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Program in Nicaragua group number 64. (That’s right, N64 is the greatest shorthand ever in the history of Peace Corps!) Specifically we are TEFL Teacher Trainers.
Together we co-plan and co-teach with 7 counterpart Nicaraguan English teachers in two schools in the department of Estelí. We strive to increase our counterparts use of English in the classroom, increase the use of student-centered and communicative activities (read make class more fun while helping students learn more), as well as improve their overall teaching methodologies and techniques. We’re learning a lot from our counterparts, too, as Peace Corps is all about the interchanging of ideas and experiences.
We often reflect and write about our work as TEFL Teacher Trainers and will continue to do so throughout our service as we grow and learn. Here are a few highlights:
- May We Set Healthy Expectations for Ourselves – Andrew’s thoughts on how our expectations guide our progress, successes, and struggles.
- May Our Hearts Remain Open and Our Minds Curious, Even in the Midst of Confusion and Struggle – A look into what co-planning and co-teaching looks like.
- Teaching Thoughts – Emily reflections on the challenges faced in the education world (both in Nicaragua and in the States) and her enduring passion for the work.
- First Weeks of School – Andrew’s summary of our initial dive into the teaching world of Nicaragua in February 2015.
- ACCESS Camp – In January of 2015, we were invited to be teachers at the English camp run by the US Embassy.
- Unsure of what TEFL really means, check out TEFL Defined or watch this short video about the TEFL Project in Nicaragua.
In addition to our to our main assignment, each volunteer is responsible for secondary projects in their area or other areas of interest.
- Our current main secondary project involves facilitating teacher training workshops and starting a Community of Practice for the 30+ English teachers in the municipality of Estelí. We meet monthly to share teaching practices and foster the passion for teaching and working with youth we share.
- We run a weekly English Conversation Group that meets to do just what the name suggests, practice talking in English. It may sound silly, but it’s often a highlight of our week. English nerds and wanna be speakers, unite!
- Emily is an editor on the Volunteer Newsletter, VaPue. As you may have noticed from this website, she rather likes designing and writing.
- Andrew puts his data and computer skills to work on the TEFL Drive – a digital collection of materials for Nicaragua TEFL volunteers to use throughout their service.
- Emily is also a member of the Gender and Development (GAD) committee. The committee is dedicated to the dissemination of gender and development theory and practice to strengthen the impact of PCV work and sustainability in their communities.
We have a few other secondary projects in the works: starting a department-wide program to teach English to the English teachers (STEP), hosting an opportunities fair for the high school students in the department, working on a website to make more TEFL resources available to English teachers in Nicaragua, and a running a few camps through the GAD committee.