English Teacher - from Mar 1, 2014 - 1 job for 12 months in NPH Nicaragua.
Most NPH homes operate a preschool, primary school (grades 1-6) and middle school (3 years of junior secondary school) on or near the orphanage property. English is offered at many, if not all of these levels. It is likely that a teacher will be responsible for 5 or 6 classes of various ages. Most classes range from 15 to 24 students. Classes average between 30 and 45 minutes long and the schools usually operate from 7:30 in the morning to about 1:00 in the afternoon. In this time you will have, on average, four short classes to teach as well as time to prepare.
While textbooks may not be available, many resources have been collected and donated over the years: flashcards, songbooks and tapes, some CDs and hundreds of books. There should also be notebooks with plans for lesson preparation. Some of the homes have defined goals for each grade. It is hoped that new teachers will be able to take the goals that have been developed and adapt or create a series of units to meet them.
Do not feel concerned if you have not had a lot of teaching experience before coming here. While occasionally we get professional teachers, most of our volunteers have had only limited teaching experiences.
While the work load, four short classes a day, may not appear strenuous, the job is one of the harder volunteer positions. What it lacks in time it makes up for in intensity. Due to the difficult lives that many of our children have had, their school success has been limited and as a result many of them have developed negative attitudes about school. Also, because many of them have not had English before coming to NPH, and the English teachers usually have higher standards for students’ behavior and learning, students frequently feel particularly agitated about English. It pays to be very well prepared with a variety of engaging activities everyday, to be energetic, and to be sensitive and alert to the kids. You will find success at this, but please don’t be discouraged if your first month is difficult.
There are a number of things you can do now to help prepare for your teaching experience. Think about your experiences learning foreign languages. What activities worked for you? If possible, you might want to visit some language classes and think about what the teacher is doing and why. Most teachers should be willing to talk to you briefly about their philosophy and pedagogy. It would be helpful to enroll in a class for teachers of English as a Second Language (ESL). In a library, teachers’ bookstore, or college bookstore you might want to look for books on ESL or teaching foreign languages. You might also want to look for books related to Total Physical Response (TPR) as this is a teaching method which has been used successfully in our homes.
If you have a favorite foreign language textbook you might want to bring it for ideas, but bringing lots of workbooks or worksheets probably is not worthwhile as we have only limited access to copy machines and we really want to emphasize speaking and comprehension over grammar, spelling or drill and practice activities. We always welcome more songbooks, simple storybooks, English/Spanish dictionaries and other resource items.
Our students are not motivated well by long term consequences. While many of them want good grades, they frequently don’t make the connection between consistent work and good grades. As a result many teachers use small prizes like stickers through the week to keep them going.