Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Teacher

Project Description

Strong English language skills increase educational and professional opportunities for citizens of Benin. Primary and secondary schools in Benin navigate a number of challenges in effectively teaching English language. Beninese teachers often do not have access to training in current practices and techniques for teaching English. Many schools have limited teaching and learning materials and resources to support teachers to provide quality English instruction. Finally, while parents and communities can play an important role in supporting acquisition of English language skills, this support may be lacking in communities where the value of English language skills is not recognized. Being a teacher in Benin will require personal motivation, dedication, and resilience to collaborate with your school and community and to assist in accomplishing your project goals.

As an English teacher, you will support your school and community needs through achieving the following goals:

1. Building counterpart teacher capacity by facilitating teaching Communities of Practice and co-teaching classes.
2. Improving student achievement in English.
3. Encouraging community engagement in school improvement and student learning.

You will be enrolled in the Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Certificate Program. This program provides 120 hours of standardized training and practice teaching along with two years of supervised teaching experience. Upon successful completion of program requirements, you will earn a Peace Corps TEFL Certificate. The Certificate program is validated by the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, D.C., and is a recognized TEFL credential for teaching both in the U.S. and abroad.

Primary Duties:

• Writing lesson plans, quizzes, and exams.
• Teaching 4-5 middle school English classes per year, with class sizes ranging from 40-70 students, using student-centered teaching methods to encourage critical thinking and prepare students for national examinations. This amounts to approximately 25 – 30 hours of work each week, including some secondary activities.
• Collaborating with local teachers by co-planning lessons and co-teaching.
• Motivating students to learn English by integrating themes such as malaria prevention, food security, hygiene & sanitation, and gender equity.
• Attending weekly faculty meetings, grading, and proctoring exams.
• Participating in six online discussion sessions for TEFL certification.
• Working with Parent/Teacher Association members to increase their awareness of education and their connection to the school.
• Creating and facilitating an English club.

Secondary Activities
Initiating secondary projects in addition to your primary assignment can greatly enhance your Volunteer experience. Some examples are awareness raising sessions about malaria, hygiene, and nutrition.

Gender Activities
Peace Corps Benin promotes gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment. You will receive training throughout your service on gender challenges in Benin, and you will have the opportunity to collaboratively implement gender-related activities that are contextually appropriate. This may include leadership programs, clubs and sports teams.

You will start your TEFL Certificate online courses approximately three months before departure to Benin. Upon arrival in Benin you and the other teachers in your cohort will participate in a 12-week in-country Pre-Service Training (PST) to prepare you to teach effectively. You will receive technical training and complete a practice teaching practicum, as well as intensive French language, culture, health, and safety and security training. TEFL Certificate courses and other in-service training will continue throughout your two years of teaching.

COVID-19 Volunteer Activities

In the past year, the world has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a Volunteer, you will be trained in how to best protect yourself from COVID-19 exposure and understand the impact of and steps to reduce stigma related to COVID-19. You may also have the opportunity to engage with your community on implementing or enhancing COVID-19 mitigation activities, such as COVID-19 prevention and risk reduction strategies including social distancing, hand washing, mask wearing, addressing myths and misconceptions related to these practices, and vaccine hesitancy. Activities will be tailored to address the COVID-19 circumstances in the communities where you will serve.

Required Skills

Competitive candidates will have a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline and a strong desire to teach English.

Desired Skills

Competitive candidates will have:
• Teaching, tutoring, or mentoring experience with middle school or high school aged students in rural or inner-city school communities, or general youth development.

Required Language Skills

Candidates must meet one or more of the language requirements below in order to be considered for this position.

A. Completed 4 years of high school coursework within the past 8 years in a Romance language
B. Completed a minimum of 2 semesters of college level coursework within the past 6 years in a Romance language
C. Native/Fluent Romance language speaker

Candidates who do not meet the language proficiency levels above can take a language placement exam to demonstrate their level of proficiency. Competitive applicants typically attain a score of 50 on the French College Level Examination Program CLEP exam or a score of Novice‐High on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL OPI).

French language skills are not required pre-arrival, but are highly recommended to facilitate language training and cultural integration. Candidates with no or low-level French language skills are strongly encouraged to take a French course or commit to self‐study prior to departure in order to prepare for living and working in Benin. There are numerous free online French language resources available. Upon arrival, you will be tested on your ability in spoken French for language class placement. If you are an experienced French speaker and test at a higher level from the beginning of PST, you will begin learning a local language. Trainees are expected to achieve an intermediate-high level in French by the conclusion of Pre-Service Training.

French is the official language of the Beninese educational and governmental system. There are also many local languages, including Fon, Mina, Adja, Bariba, Yoruba, and Dendi. Teachers are trained and assigned centrally by the Ministry of Education, and therefore, many teachers are not from the community in which they teach. As a result, they do not speak the local language and French is the common language for all professional interactions. Teachers in rural communities are usually among the most educated members of the community, and thus, teachers in Benin place a high emphasis on proper French grammar and usage. In order for Volunteers to integrate into the school community and garner the respect of colleagues within the educational system, proficiency in oral and written French prior to arrival in country is strongly preferred.

Benin has dedicated Language and Cross Culture Facilitators (LCFs) to teach French and local languages during Pre-Service Training (PST). In addition, you will be supported throughout your service by a full-time Language Coordinator who monitors each Volunteer’s progress in French and local language.

Living Conditions

Volunteers in Benin live in semi-urban centers, rural towns, and villages. Housing is provided by the host organization and may vary in size and amenities. Volunteers live in their own private houses, which are often located in a compound shared with families. A typical Volunteer house has a main room, a bedroom, a kitchen area, and a private bathing area and latrine. In more rural areas, you may not have running water or electricity.

Access to Western foods may be limited and Volunteers have to adapt their diet to local foods such as rice and corn "pâte," with various leaf and peanut sauces, local vegetables like okra, eggplant, and tomatoes, and various kinds of meat. Other protein sources are local cheese, beans, and soy products. Peanuts and tree nuts are part of the staple diet. Couscous, pasta, and bread are available in towns. Access to fruits, vegetables, and proteins varies by region and season.

Many of Benin’s roads and means of public transportation are in poor condition, and car taxis or motorcycle taxis are the main transportation for many people. You will be advised about the recommended options during training and throughout your service. Many Volunteers use a bicycle for local transportation, which requires a certain level of fitness and ability to ride in hot weather.

Internet is generally through pre-paid phone data, and connection quality varies in rural areas. Data is more expensive than in the U.S. Most Volunteers bring an unlocked cellphone, and communicate via WhatsApp and other apps. Bringing a laptop or tablet is strongly encouraged for your certificate program work and work reports. There are two regional workstations with computers and Wi-Fi access for Volunteers, but they may be several hours travel from a site.

Your dress and behavior will be judged according to Benin’s conservative cultural norms. Long pants, short or long sleeve shirts, skirts and dresses (below the knee), and nice sandals or shoes are appropriate for work. Dressing inappropriately (shorts, halter tops, short skirts, tight or low-cut blouses, spaghetti straps, dirty or torn clothing), will make it difficult to be accepted in your community, while appropriate dress will earn you respect, facilitate integration, increase professional effectiveness, and decrease unwanted attention.

In Benin, beards, braids (corn row type), locs, and long hair on men are unusual. All men are encouraged to adjust to the local hairstyle (low cut/short). Many male Volunteers have chosen to shave their facial hair or cut their hair to facilitate integration. Many female Volunteers wear their hair back in a ponytail or bun, short, or in braids or locs. Regardless of gender, Volunteers should keep their hair clean, neat and well groomed.

Religious tolerance is respected in Benin. There are three main religions in Benin: Islam is primarily in the north, Christianity is primarily in the south, and the religious and cultural practice of Animism (Voodoo) traditional religion is common throughout the country. Many Beninese maintain a strong belief in both Voodoo and another major religion. Real Voodoo in Benin is very different from how it is represented by Hollywood.

While people in Benin may be generally tolerant, values and norms concerning sexual orientation and gender identity may be more conservative from those in some parts of the U.S. There are laws in Benin that target certain acts with individuals of the same sex. People in the LGBTQI+ community in Benin continue to face widespread persecution and are rarely open about their sexuality. Volunteers will need to be mindful of cultural norms and laws, and use their judgment to determine the best way to approach sexual orientation and gender identity in their communities. Staff and current Volunteers will address this topic during pre-service training, and identify support mechanisms for Volunteers .

Serving in Benin

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Benin: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, health, and safety -- including health and crime statistics -- in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Couples Information

Benin is happy to accommodate couples serving in different sectors. Your partner must qualify and apply for one of the following positions:

-Rural Community Health Volunteer
-Sustainable Agricultural Systems Volunteer

During the 12-week Pre-Service Training, couples will live and train in separate villages along with their program cohorts. Couples will see each other once a week during core curriculum days when trainees from all three sectors will participate in full group training sessions. We recognize that this may be a challenge, but it will allow each person to learn the technical skills needed for their work, and it will facilitate language learning. After training, each couples will live in the same house and will work in the same community.

Going through the Peace Corps experience as a couple poses unique opportunities and challenges, and success will require trust, confidence, and communication. There will be times when you will both need each other’s support. Understand that you will need to put in an extra effort to be an ally to your partner. Although you will not be able to eliminate all of the challenges for each other, they can be coped with and overcome with time, patience, and most importantly a good sense of humor.

Medical Considerations

Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the medical clearance process.

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