Annelies – Teaching English Project, Puerto Jimenez, August 2012
My compliments to Green Life Volunteers! From the moment I contacted Green Life Volunteers I’ve always felt well informed and take care off. I always got quick reactions to my emails and to my questions. I also received documents with extra information about the project and that in combination with the e-mails I received, made me feel well prepared when I went to Costa Rica. I also think this is genuinely a good volunteer organization, that doesn’t exist to be able to earn a lot of money, but actually sends you to projects that can really use your help and they actually care!
How was your experience when you arrived in Costa Rica – How did the airport pick up and your first stay in San Jose go?
Before going to the project I stayed in San Jose and then traveled down south to Puerto Jiménez for the project. Of course it was quite an experience, but I didn’t feel lost, so that was a really nice trip.
I was picked up by Janina and we went to the host family together. She explained me a bit more about the project and about Puerto Jimenez and the next day we went to the school. There I was introduced to the headmaster and the English teacher. It felt like a good introduction, but I think the ‘situation’ at the school should have been explained a bit more.
How was your experience on the project? How was a the work schedule and a typical day like?
The first day at school was sort of an introduction day. I was introduced to the teacher and just sat in the back of the class and observed. I think that was good, because it wasn’t exactly the way I expected it to be. It was chaotic and of course the entire school was quite different from the way it is in my country. That was to be expected, but I didn’t expect to have so many classes off, because teachers (not the English teacher, but the classes’ regular teachers) didn’t show up. And although I was expecting a few national holidays, I didn’t expect to have a few days of, because of one special day. But I don’t blame that on glvolunteers. With respect to the classes… the kids didn’t have books, just notebooks, so they always had to copy. They had to draw a lot. To me it seemed that more attention was paid to the colouring (colours, neatness) than to the actual exercise. Also, the level didn’t seem to go up that much from 2nd to 6th grade and the kids didn’t practice reading, speaking or writing that lot. It was mainly copying and repeating.
When you’ll go there as a volunteer, you will mainly be helping the English teacher to teach, but you can also help with activities, introduce new ones and make suggestions about the exercises and the way of teaching. You may need to correct the teacher or help him with pronunciation and with the correction of exercises. Of course you can also help the kids understand the exercises, correct their mistakes and just ‘be an extra pair of eyes and ears’.
The teacher was always happy if I came, but of course it wasn’t an obligation. There are five school days, but sometimes there may be some sort of special activity or a national day, so you’ll need to be flexible. You will either need to go to the morning classes (7-12) or to the afternoon classes (12.30-5.30), but you can also go to both, they’ll be happy to receive your help.
I know these kids are still very small, but if they start so early, they can get a way English higher level and that’s something that will really help them in their career. Although you may get some resistance (the teacher who wants to stick to the prescribed way – even though that contains errors or isn’t – according to me – the most effective way), the English teacher in general is quite open to suggestions and will ask your for your help. I think that if you introduce new ways of doing things, assist the teacher and evaluate afterwards, you can really make a difference for these people.
How did you like the host family experience?
My host family was super friendly! I’m actually jealous of the people who get to stay there (instead of me :P)!! They always wanted me to feel at home. I got a really nice room, great food and they were always very nice to me! Of course it was a superb opportunity for me to practice my Spanish! I think it wouldn’t have been a problem if I’d just spoken English, but they were patient and my Spanish was already quite okay, so that was really nice!
Is there anything you’d like to add/ any thoughts or improvements you may want to share?
I think it would be better to explain the volunteers a bit more about the school system and way of teaching over there, and of course to have the introduction day. After that day, you and the volunteer can come up with a plan (and activities) for the next couple of weeks. I think it’s a good idea to ask the volunteer for an evaluation of the teaching experience over there and ask him/her if he/she has tips about how to improve the English teaching at that specific school. I’ve also done this and have some more tips for you, but I’ll send you them separately.
I can tell so much more about this project, so if you have a question about this project or anything related to it, don’t hesitate to contact me (just click here to fill in the contact us form, and we’ll redirect your email to Annelies).