(I can still write English very well.)
9 July 2013, Tuesday
“Being brilliant is not enough, young man. You have to work hard. Intelligence is not a privilege, it’s a gift, and you use it for the good of mankind.” – Spiderman 2
As some of you may recall, about this time last year I was on my way to GTOT (General Training of Trainers) to prepare for the new group of trainees to arrive in Namibia. Well, another year has come and gone and again I was selected to be a resource volunteer at the training for the newest group. Group 38 will be in Namibia about three weeks from now to start their two months of training. Because I managed to successfully plan and run a Model School last year, I was invited to come back and make that happen again, hopefully with a member of group 36 under my wing so I can pass on my “wisdom”. However I will not be attending GTOT this year because in order for Peace Corps to save money, those of us who also helped with training for Group 36 and experienced GTOT last year were not invited to participate in GTOT this year. I was a bit disappointed not to be included in the planning, but it does give me an extra week of teaching this term. The part I was most excited about for GTOT was seeing which members of group 36 were selected to be resource volunteers. It’s fun for me because I got to help train them and here they are, “all grown up” and ready to train another group of newbies. I can’t believe it’s been a year already.
With this new group of volunteers arriving at the end of the month comes more excitement. Many members of the new group will be replacing people in my group, including myself. I actually know quite about about how I’m being replaced, but the members of group 38 are not suppose to have any idea where they are going until several weeks into their training, so I cannot publish that information yet. But this post isn’t really about the new group or GTOT. This post is about something I accomplished lately, who’s idea steamed from a discussion during last year’s GTOT.
One of the biggest problems facing teaching volunteers in Namibia and across the globe really is classroom management. Most of us are not trained teachers. For those who don’t know, my degrees are in Physics and Civil Engineering. The way I run my classroom comes soley from discussions I had with my mom (because she is a middle school math teacher) over the years and any tid bits of advice I picked up from resource volunteers while I was in training. I feel I have been fairly successful in creating a good learning environment in the classroom and running my classroom with appropriate classroom management, but I know most volunteers struggle a lot in their first year. During GTOT last year, we attempted to gather ideas on a few good classroom management stragegies from different volunteers and compile them into a document that could be shared with the incoming trainees. We came up with about a 2 page document with a few different ideas, but in the back of my mind I felt like we should have given them more. One of the biggest complaints I have heard about Peace Corps training is that we are not given enough technical training to complete our jobs here. We get lots of information about how to stay safe and mentally and physically healthy, but as far as teaching, we all felt quite unprepared.
Sometime shortly after the new year, I decided that I wanted to compile more ideas about teaching and about classroom management from as many volunteers as I could reach. The original goal was to just gather different ideas. I wanted to put together a document that volunteers could turn to when they ran out of their own ideas and wanted to see what other people were doing. I started by sending out emails to all the education volunteers in Namibia with a bunch of questions about teaching. I got maybe 10 responses from the 50 or so volunteers. From there I added everyone to the facebook group for Peace Corps teacher in Namibia and used that a a forum to pose quesions. I got much better response that way. Between text messages and additional emails, I managed to gather quite a bit of information. And what began to take shape was a booklet on how to teach in Namibia. Everything from how to prepare your classroom to setting up a classroom management plan to writing class rules and more. I figured, why does each volunteer need to reinvent the wheel when they start because so many other volunteers have great ideas. I wanted this booklet to provide concrete examples of what actual volunteers are doing. We are all provided with The First Days of School book by Harry and Rosemary Wong when we get to the country and it does give a good outline of what to do in a classroom if you want to sit down and read the whole thing. However, it was written for teachers in American and it doesn’t give many real examples.
Anyway, to make a long story short, I came up with a booklet that a lot of other volunteers were anxious to get their hands on because we all still need new ideas for our classrooms. Thankfully I found some awesome people to edit it for me and just last week I sent the finished product to my bosses at Peace Corps with the suggestion that it be printed and distributed to all the incoming trainees. The group meeting for GTOT this week is going to decide how the information will be distributed to the trainees, but two of my bosses wrote back to say that it was an excellent idea and well written. One of them even posted it in a Peace Corps Dropbox and informed me that it has already been downloaded by Peace Corps staff in South Africa, Ethiopia, Panama, and Cameroon. Hopefully this is just the beginning and over the years other volunteers can add their ideas to it so new volunteers will have an easier transition into teaching.
Here is a link to the Bright Ideas booklet that I put together if you care to take a look.
In other news, my mom arrives in Namibia one week from tomorrow!! I am so excited to have her here. This weekend I will be traveling to the capital for the Close of Service (COS) conference for my group. At that end this conference, I will have a fairly firm date of return to the good old US of A!! Look for some upcoming blog post here, written hopefully by my mom!