In Service Training and Teaching

Last week was spent at a very nice beach resort on the Pacific Ocean west of Managua. No complaints about the location, and the workshops were very helpful in talking specifically about what it is we’ll be doing with our counterpart teachers. All of the TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) volunteers from my groups invited their counterparts to the event and we spent two days talking about what our goals were, how we wanted to structure our co-planning and co-teaching, and just getting to know each other better. Only one of my three counterparts was able to make it, but we had a very nice time. Essentially we will be focusing on reflective teaching practices, development of communicative teaching methods, materials development and improvement of general English fluency. Besides what we as volunteers are doing with our counterparts, there is a committee of volunteers that is working on a companion text to the national English curriculum that will serve as a source of information, ideas and strategies for all English teachers in the country. We will be working to find funding for these TEFL manuals and then organizing workshops to teach teachers how to use them. They are not intended as a complete lesson plan, but as a reference and guide to be used especially after we volunteers have gone.

We also had a chance to catch up with other volunteers and we had a day’s overlap with the current TEFL volunteers, who have been in country a bit more than a year now. It’s exciting to hear what everyone is doing and what great ideas and projects are being put into action. During the current school vacation period many volunteers run summer camps for students or teachers, work on secondary projects like bringing computers into the schools, or focusing on non-English life skills like health education or business administration. I’m only just getting started with the English language side of things in Balgue, but it’s great to see the breadth of what can be accomplished.

Two groups of TEFL Volunteers in Nicaragua

In addition to the temporary, hour-long morning English classes that I’ve been teaching to small groups at the local community center, I’ve begun my permanent community classes twice a week in the evenings. These have been very successful, even though I’m still learning a great deal about how to plan lessons, how to manage a group, and how to design activities. My first class saw about 12 people attend, my second had 15 and my most recent, third class, had 20 students! The median age is probably about 25, but there are many older adults. We began with basic conversations and I just did a class on giving directions. Having so much interest and motivation makes my job surprisingly easy. All I have to do is show up and not make a mess of things and their energy will carry us through my beginner’s mistakes. It’s a very forgiving environment for learning how to be a teacher. I’m sure that when I walk into a classroom I won’t have quite the same automatic enthusiasm, so I’m trying to make the best of it now.

I was able to stop by and visit my training host family on the way back from the workshop last week, which was great. They are so welcoming and fun, and I had a great time chatting with my sisters and mom. Mom insisted on packing me a lunch for the road, which was much appreciated as I took my hour ferry ride back to the island. Back in my town, I’m buzzing with ideas and energy from the workshop and happened to have a couple of messages for me while I was away! (This is a first here) Two ex-Peace Corps Volunteers had been looking for me and another person with a project idea for me had stopped by. I caught up with the ex-volunteers (they served in El Salvador about 8 years ago) and they turned out to be fun, interesting, musicians of retirement age. They took me to lunch and invited me to go hiking with them Saturday morning, which I happily did. We climbed up to a mirador (lookout) on the side of the volcano and had a great view of the other one on my island.

View from the mirador on Maderas Volcano

This week will be full of class preparation, taking care of details pertaining to a leadership camp that I will be working at in early February, meeting up with my counterparts to begin discussing the coming year and exercising, cooking, reading and relaxing in the time remaining. I read ‘The Chalice and the Blade’ last week and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in archeology, history, religious studies, feminism, political science or environmentalism. 🙂 Currently reading: Nostromo, by Joseph Conrad

Hope all is well for all of you!


Fun Nica vocab:

carro- car (NOT coche)

chimbomba – balloon

chinelas – sandals

chonas – lightningbugs

tomar una foto- take a picture (NOT sacar una foto)

pajilla – straw (used to drink)

pana – bowl

balde – bucket

chavalo/a – boy/girl

toani – cool

fachento/a – stuck up

bandido – sneak/troublemaker

vagos – bums (usually in a familiar sense)


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Cindy Salo on January 16, 2011 at 11:17 pm


    Nice post! And thanks for the Spanish lessons. Most excellent.



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