What I’ve Been Working On

The goal of this post is twofold. I will explain what I’ve been up to in the past five months for those who want to get a sense of what I have been doing in the Peace Corps, but I’m also going to create a separate page on my blog dedicated to providing resources and links for other TEFL workers and Peace Corps volunteers. I have spent the last two years learning valuable things and developing useful materials and if Peace Corps fails at one thing it is helping volunteers share their resources with other volunteers. I constantly feel like all Peace Corps volunteers are re-inventing the wheel every time we plan a community class or develop a training workshop. It’s time we had more sharing and collaboration.

End-of-service reports and evaluations

I’ve been working on two main documents that Peace Corps needed from me. One was my description of service, which details the accomplishments that I’ve had. It also will serve as proof of a successful service if I choose to use my non-competitive status for government positions or take advantage of a Peace Corps fellows program to pursue post-graduate education. The other major document was a site report in which I described my site for the benefit of future volunteers that come here to work.

Co-planning and co-teaching

I’ve continued to work with my four counterpart teachers even as I’ve been more and more focused on the things I need to do to finish my time here. This work has been fairly challenging due to the lack of time that we’ve had to build personal relationships and the various responsibilities that come with my end-of-service time, like traveling to Managua. Still, I really do enjoy the time that I do spend working with them and my time in the classroom with the students.

I also traveled to the Solentiname archipelago to help with a week-long university prep course that an NGO offers, which was a great experience.

The students and counterpart teacher with whom I worked on Solentiname

Supporting volunteers and schools with discipline issues

I spent a good deal of time developing materials in Spanish for other volunteers to work with all the teachers in their school to improve classroom management techniques and coordinate a school-wide discipline policy. I’ll include that work in the page I’m creating of materials on this blog. I also traveled up north to help give a talk on discipline and help another school work through the process of reflecting on and developing a response to their discipline challenges.

Supporting university students and professors with curriculum development and co-teaching

I have been involved with three speaking courses that were carried out through one of the private universities here in my site. I designed two detailed curriculum maps for these speaking courses and helped teach and co-teach the classes. I’ll include the materials that I developed on the TEFL page in case other people are interested in looking at some lesson plans, activities, and materials for teaching English speaking.

Giving tour guides English and customer service trainings

I worked with a business volunteer and friend in my site to design a 12-hour workshop that we gave over a period of four days to tour guides and one hotel worker. It focused on English and marketing skills designed specifically for their professional context. We had a very good turnout and I will be posting that document as well.

This is the group of tour guides that received our workshop on English and marketing concepts

Miscellaneous teacher trainings and support

TEFL manual training: A big project that some fellow TEFL volunteers worked on this year was a redesign of the materials to help teachers plan their classes and I gave a training on how to use the new version. I’ll upload a PDF of the manual on the TEFL page.

English teachers with their new TEFL manuals

Webinar support: The U.S. embassy offers free online ‘webinars’ for English teachers in Nicaragua and I traveled a few times to help a couple of teachers set up and follow along with the class.

September English teacher workshop: I gave a talk to a few groups at a teacher workshop about four hours away about finding and integrating digital resources in English classes that was a lot of fun. I’ll include those materials on the TEFL page.

Personal interests

Reading: July was my big reading month, when Amanda and I were on vacation, but overall since I’ve changed sites I’ve read 19 books. I’ve slowed down a lot these last couple of months, mostly because I’ve been busy and distracted, but I’m getting close to the goal of 100 books in Peace Corps!

Podcasts and the news: I listen to a lot of podcasts as I cook, eat, and travel. Favorites include On the Media, Love and Radio, 99% invisible, Planet Money, This American Life, and Radiolab.

Blog writing: Not much lately, but I have a number of posts written and not yet uploaded.

Exercise: Since coming to my new site I’ve been going regularly to the gym with my sitemate Matt and have been running three mornings per week. I had not felt so fit since coming to Nicaragua, but then I got dengue and am working to recover lost ground. More on that later.

Studying for FSOT: I took the Foreign Service Officer Test at the embassy on October 1st and just found out that I passed! I’ll be writing my personal narrative essays and if they like those then I’ll be invited to Washington D.C. for a panel interview. Intriguing career option…

Visiting friends in previous site: I’ve now visited Ometepe twice since I had to leave and both times it was wonderful to see my friends, counterpart teachers, and host family.

At a waterfall on Ometepe in September

Preparing for the end of my service: It has been a challenge to make sense of the changes that I’ve experienced in the last five months, but I’m working on creating a coherent narrative for what my Peace Corps service means for me personally as the end is approaching. More posts to come about that.

Va Pue committee

I have been an editor of a volunteer-produced magazine for Peace Corps Nicaragua for the past year and have really enjoyed the experience. I’ve gotten to write articles, design layout, and edit others’ writing. It’s been fun and great experience for working in the journalism field in the future. If you’d like to see a copy I can send them to individuals, but not post it publicly.

Fighting dengue fever

Unfortunately I contracted dengue fever during the second week of October and suffered fevers of 104 for several days before I started to feel better. Other symptoms were a low platelet count, which put me at risk for internal bleeding, a whole-body rash, eye and body pain, a loss of appetite, exhaustion, and weakness. There is no treatment for it and my body does not build up an immunity. Without wanting to dip too much into hyperbole, it was probably the worst experience of my life, but I’m grateful to be on the other side of it and, as my fellow volunteers remind me, able to wear the dengue survivor’s badge — I’m thinking of making a t-shirt. It also disrupted my last few weeks here because I spent two and a half weeks in Managua instead of in my site, but I’ve still got three weeks left to tie up loose ends and say my goodbyes.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Oh you know, a little of this, a little of that, fighting dengue fever…!!! Andrew, I have no doubt that you of all people will tie up things beautifully. CAN NOT WAIT TO HAVE YOU HOME!!!!!

    Reply

  2. If you make survivor of dengue shirts, I am buying one for sure. Keep making the world a better place. Thanks

    Reply

  3. Posted by Allie on October 31, 2012 at 12:53 am

    I finally got a few minutes to read this in full, and I have 3 main comments:

    1. I’m pretty sure you have been doing 3 or 4 different jobs…I can’t believe all the projects you’ve worked on and the contributions you’ve made during your time there!

    2. Dengue fever sounds horrendous, I’m so glad you’re over it, and you must make a t-shirt.

    3. I cannot wait to see you soon.

    Have a wonderful last few weeks! Hugs –

    Reply

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