My cohort has now been working at site for three months. Observation time is over; it’s time to get to work! To help us kickstart work with our counterparts (the teachers we are working with), Peace Corps staff brought us all together, counterparts included, for 2 days of workshops called In-Service Training. During this time we had sessions to train us on methodology and strategies for the classroom. It was great having our counterparts (teachers we are actually working with in the schools) there to hear the message directly – sometimes my translation just doesn’t cut it.
One of the workshops was about turning your students into writers and creating class books. This reminded me how much I loved creative writing classes – I don’t think I’m actually very creative, but fortunately my classes always gave us prompts and samples to model. While I’m not sure if/when/how we might put these prompts into practice in our English classes, I think this exercise had two really great outcomes:
1. It showed our teachers how capable they are of writing in English. My group has talked about this in the past, that if our teacher’s write a reading for class, it is super helpful. It first helps them understand what the expectations that they are setting for students are. It also helps to attain a sample that is at a language level more appropriate for their students.
2. It made me think that maybe this could be something I could do at site. I don’t think it would be at school, but I’d love to talk to our local foundation, who is really involved in arts in the community, about putting together writing workshops or a writing camp or something. More to come on this someday, hopefully.
To close out IST, each group shared their current best practices/strategies for success. This was great opportunity for everyone to highlight what they’re already doing and give them some confidence – even if the current wins are small, they’re better than nothing! Plus, they gave everyone attending some great ideas to take back to their own classrooms. After spending some time creating posters to share the information, we took turns with our counterparts visiting the other groups and presenting our own information.
The rest of the week was called Reconnect – literally a time to reconnect with Peace Corps and our cohort and feel good going back to site. We had sessions updating us on the peace process in Colombia with FARC and what it means for us. We learned about changes in the host family policy. We were reminded of safety and security policies. We were provided more information about the Volunteer Advisory Committee (like our Student Council) and the Peer Support Network (our helpline). We shared our personal successes and strategies. We even had a counselor from headquarters in Washington DC come and talk to us about counseling services and options, as well as guide us through a meditation.
The best part, though, was just having time back with the old gang after being apart for three months. At the end of each day we had a chance to go to the beach and take in the sunset, play some basketball, hang out at the pool, color, share some beers, and literally reconnect. I am back at site feeling more optimistic and positive than ever (despite battling some food poisoning) and taking advantage of every opportunity to keep that positivity going.
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