English Language Teacher and Facilitator

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Project Description

Right now is a pivotal moment to serve in Tonga and Peace Corps Volunteers will have the opportunity to make a lasting impact on students, teachers, and their communities. The country is going through immense educational transformations amongst a renewed global focus on the Pacific. The Ministry of Education and Training and Peace Corps have built a strong partnership focused on improving education outcomes. The Ministry has identified English as a national priority and Peace Corps as a necessary development partner in increased student achievement.

The English Language Development Project focuses on improving student achievement in English to help them gain access to academic and professional opportunities. Moreover, the project promotes inclusive and equitable education and, through changes in teaching practices, aims to address the need to develop students into lifelong learners. It is also a great professional and personal development opportunity for those interested in education, language, and culture in the Pacific.

As English Language Teachers and Facilitators, Volunteers will play multiple roles during their service to increase student achievement in English:

1) Teaching Students
Volunteers will teach oral and written English to primarily elementary-level students in a classroom setting. While most Volunteers are assigned to primary schools, some will be assigned to middle schools or high schools. Volunteers will organize and facilitate extracurricular activities and events to improve language skills and proficiency via: direct teaching, pull-out groups, tutoring, and extra-curricular classes, events, and clubs such as drama, art, sports, and other recreational activities.

2) Supporting Teachers
Volunteers will work with local teachers to increase their English language capacity in general and their English teaching skills in particular. They will help teachers increase their proficiency in English and teaching via: model teaching, peer observations, learning materials development, and facilitating communities of practice. Communities of practice are informal or formal meetings to facilitate sharing and learning of best practices and areas for improvement in student-centered teaching methods, lesson planning, student assessments, and inclusive education.

3) Engaging the Community
Volunteers will organize and facilitate activities that increase community involvement in student learning in and out of the school. Activities include school fundraisers, contests, event planning, and tutoring home visits to involve parents in their children’s education and encourage parents to make time for learning at home.

Peace Corps Tonga’s English Language Development Project leverages activities that Volunteers and teachers have successfully implemented. Volunteers will engage in these activities using both formal and informal methods to best reach students, teachers, and community members in a complex cross-cultural context. While counterparts are an important part of Volunteers’ projects, Volunteers should also be aware that there are many times where they may be working alone in the classroom or community.

In addition to the main education-focused project, Volunteers often work in multiple secondary project areas. These areas include:
1) Library development and management
2) Youth leadership and life skills training
3) Environmental and disaster risk reduction-related infrastructure development
4) Community development activities.

Required Skills

Candidates will have a strong desire to teach English and both of the following:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline
AND
• 3 months, 10 hours/month, or 30 hours of English, foreign language, or literacy tutoring experience with primary, middle, or high school students or adults

Desired Skills

Competitive candidates will also have one or more of the following criteria:

• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline with 1 or more school year classroom teaching experience at the Early Childhood, Middle School, or Elementary level. Full time Montessori teaching experience is also acceptable
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline with Elementary Education state certification
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in Pre-School, Early Childhood, Middle School, or Elementary Education
• Experience teaching English in an elementary-level classroom setting
• Experience using participatory, student-centered teaching methods
• Creativity, flexibility, humility, patience, and a healthy sense of humor

While not mandatory, the ability to swim and be comfortable with travel over the ocean in either small commercial ferries or small fishing boats is desirable as Tonga is a small island nation consisting of many small islands requiring ferry or boat travel.

Required Language Skills

There are no pre-requisite language requirements for this position.

Volunteers will be given initial and ongoing training in the Tongan language. Basic Tongan is very helpful to enable Volunteers to understand and integrate with the communities in which they live and work. Volunteers' school counterparts and many community members will speak English, which can make continued use of the local language at site a challenge. Volunteers are strongly encouraged to use Tongan even in situations where they could use English. Efforts to use the local language go a long way for encouraging integration. Volunteers are expected to complete tutoring hours during the first three months of service and are responsible for continuing their language learning after the first three months either through self-study, tutors, or immersion in their communities.

Living Conditions

Trainees will live with a host family in a rural community for approximately ten weeks during Pre-Service Training (PST) when they first arrive in Tonga. Following PST, most Volunteers will live on school compounds in their own houses provided by the school to which they are assigned. Most Volunteers are assigned to smaller, rural communities with between 300 and 700 people though some communities range between 1,000 and 3,000+ people. Housing will be within walking distance to Volunteer’s place of work. Houses for individuals are usually small and simple with one or two rooms. Most Volunteers have electricity, running water, flush toilets and some basic amenities, though you should be prepared to live periodically without any of these and many other comforts to which you are accustomed. Depending on the site, water can come in the form of a municipal water supply or a rain catchment tank outside the house. Electricity and water can be affected by breakdowns in machinery used to provide electricity or pump water to the community. In some cases, small, rural communities have schedules when water and electricity will be turned on.

Transportation and communication options vary widely across the islands. All Volunteers will have mechanisms (including a mobile phone) for contacting Peace Corps in the event of an emergency. You will be able to call Peace Corps staff and other Volunteers at no charge with Peace Corps Tonga’s special mobile phone plan. Outer island Volunteers may also be issued a satellite phone or personal locator beacon with texting capabilities for emergency communication.

Internet and data services are generally available throughout Tonga – most often provided from mobile data providers – however service can be slow and sporadic depending on factors such as weather, bandwidth issues, and submarine cable integrity. During cyclone season, access to running water and electricity can be more frequently intermittent or completely cut. Volunteers should be prepared for long stretches of time without electricity and with limited access to water.

Local transportation usually consists of walking or using bicycles, buses, and/or taxis. Reliable and efficient bus service is only available on the main island of Tongatapu. Travel to and from the outer islands is possible using small commercial ferries for travel between the larger island groups and even smaller fishing boats for travel within those island groups to small, nearby islands. Domestic plane service is also available to the capital cities of the major island groups. Delays due to weather or maintenance are common and patience and flexibility are required.

Volunteers are encouraged to be self-reliant, as many aspects of the work in a rural (and in some cases, isolated) school on a Pacific island can be difficult. Integration is an important factor for a successful service and this can be primarily driven by use of the local language. Integration has proven to be a significant challenge for Volunteers in Tonga and requires flexibility, humility, curiosity, perseverance, and – in many cases – repeated efforts and an unabashed approach. Tonga is a collective society and Volunteers should be prepared to spend time in their communities and with community members in order to effectively integrate.

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

Couples Information

Tonga is happy to accept couples within the Education sector. Your partner must also qualify for and apply to the English Language Teacher and Facilitator position.

During Pre-Service Training couples are not separated. They will live together with the same host family and may go together on any field visits. Site placements for couples include schools that are in close proximity. Couples will share one house provided by one of their respective schools. Couples should know that they will most likely not work at the same school to avoid the challenges of working and living together around-the-clock. During service, couples will also travel together for any in-service trainings. Depending on the situation, couples might be separated in case of medical or emergency related travel.

Medical Considerations in Tonga

  • Tonga may not be able to support Volunteers with the following medical conditions: asthma, including mild or childhood; cardiology; dermatology; insulin-dependent diabetes; gastroenterology; some types of gynecologic support; requiring a psychiatrist for psychotropic medications support; ophthalmology; seizure disorder; urology; ongoing counseling.
  • The following medication(s) are not permitted for legal or cultural reasons: none identified. 
  • Volunteers who should avoid the following food(s) may not be able to serve: gluten and shellfish.
  • After arrival in Tonga, Peace Corps provides and applicants are required to have an annual flu shot and mandatory immunizations.

Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the clearance process and other health conditions that are difficult to accommodate in Peace Corps service.


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