English Language Teacher and Facilitator
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact Peace Corps domestically and internationally.
The information provided for each assignment is subject to change, including the tentative departure date.
The Kingdom of Tonga – an island nation located in Polynesia in the South Pacific – consists of 169 islands in an archipelago stretching 500 miles north to south. With a total land mass of 290 square miles spread out over 270,000 square miles of ocean, Tonga epitomizes the South Pacific experience and Volunteers can see that theme in the close relationships in Tonga. A strongly Christian nation, church plays a large part in Tongan society and intersects with Tongan customs, beliefs and the four golden values of Tonga: mutual respect; sharing, cooperating and fulfilling mutual obligations; humility and generosity; and loyalty and commitment.
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 and the impacts of the pandemic. The Ministry of Education and Training and Peace Corps have built a strong partnership focused on improving education outcomes. English is a national priority and Peace Corps a necessary development partner in increasing student achievement.
The English Language Development Project focuses on improving student achievement in English to help students gain access to academic and professional opportunities. Moreover, the project promotes inclusive and equitable education and, through enhancing interactive teaching practices, aims to address the need to develop students into lifelong learners.
As English Language Teachers and Facilitators, Volunteers play multiple roles during their service to increase student achievement in English:
1) Collaborative Capacity Building with Teachers
Volunteers work with local teachers to increase their general capacities and their English-teaching skills. Volunteers facilitate discussions and sessions on strategies and tips. They identify best practices and areas for improvements in student-centered teaching methods, lesson planning, assessments, and inclusive education. Supporting these foundations, Volunteers engage in model teaching, mutual peer observations, developing learning materials, and bridging the English language capacity of teachers in the classroom.
2) Improving Student Achievement in English
Volunteers teach oral and written English primarily to elementary-level students in a classroom setting. They 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, clubs and camps such as drama, art, sports, reading, and other recreational activities.
3) Learning Environment and Community
Volunteers co-plan and co-facilitate activities that increase the ability of community members to support students’ access to learning. Activities include school fundraisers, contests, event planning, and home visits to involve parents in their children’s education and encourage parents to make time for continual learning.
Volunteers also engage in community development work to mobilize local leaders in the community and address community needs through local resources. Volunteers are trained to utilize participatory tools in a phased approach to cooperative and collective community action.
Community activities may include:
1) Facilitating youth camps or clubs on life skills development and leadership
2) Organizing and facilitating school-led improvement projects related to library/learning center development and management
3) Organizing and facilitating community-led projects related to environmental awareness and resilience and disaster risk reduction
Moreover, Volunteers take part in Tongan and American cultural exchange. Cultural understanding and intercultural engagement are key competencies to a successful Peace Corps service and not only enrich the collaboration between the Volunteer and partners, but ensure a more sustainable impact.
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.
Qualified candidates will have a strong desire to teach English as a second language and have both of the following:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline
• At least 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
Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline with 1 or more school years 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, and patience
While not mandatory, the ability to swim and comfort 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 into the communities in which they live and work. Volunteers' school counterparts and many community members will speak English, which can pose a challenge to continued Tongan language learning when at site. Volunteers are strongly encouraged to use Tongan even in situations where they could use English. Efforts to use Tongan go a long way with community integration. Volunteers are expected to engage in continual language learning throughout their service utilizing e-learning, community tutors, and immersion in their communities. A good command of the Tongan language is necessary to effectively work at site both in the school and community and continual practice in Tongan language will increase the impact of Volunteer activities. Additionally, consistent practice in the community is important to pick up the colloquial or casual communication most often used. Mastering the language allows for deeper integration and stronger fulfilment from making local friends.
When trainees first arrive in Tonga they will live with a host family during Pre-Service Training (PST). Following PST, Volunteers will be assigned host families at site. Some Volunteers will live with their host family in a homestay while others will live in a separate house close to their host family or in the community. Any independent housing will be close to either host families or other community members. Volunteers should expect to live in a homestay with a host family for most of their service. Host families provide a number of advantages to Volunteer service including support in integration, language, identifying resources, and safety and security.
Most Volunteers are assigned to small rural communities with between 100 and 1000 people. Housing will be within walking distance to the school. Most Volunteers have electricity, running water, flush toilets, and basic amenities, though Volunteers should be prepared to live with limited access or without any access to these amenities at any one time during their service. Depending on the site, water can come in the form of a pumped water supply or rain catchment. Electricity and water can be affected by breakdowns in machinery used to provide electricity or pump water to the community. In some cases, remote communities have schedules when electricity will be turned on or off.
Volunteers will be provided a phone with a plan for free calls and texts to all Peace Corps staff and Volunteers. Outer island Volunteers may also be issued a satellite phone or personal locator beacon for emergency communication. Internet and data services are generally available throughout Tonga – most often via mobile data providers. Volunteers will be provided with personal, portable Wi-Fi devices and a tablet. These devices will allow Volunteers to access online training and other learning resources throughout service.
Transportation while at site primarily consists of walking and local community transport. Reliable and efficient bus and taxi service are only available on the main island of Tongatapu. Travel to and from the outer island groups is most often via small commercial ferries/cargo ships. Small boats are used for travel within island groups to the outer islands. Plane service is also available to the outer island groups. Delays due to weather or maintenance are common and patience and flexibility are required.
Cyclone season can impact transportation, communication, and amenities. Access to running water and electricity can frequently be intermittent or completely cut. Volunteers should be prepared for long stretches of time without electricity and limited access to water. Inclement weather can also impact phone and internet service. Cyclone season typically lasts from November to June every year with the highest intensity between January and April. Weather patterns can be extremely variable in both timing, trajectory, and intensity so staff regularly assess the situation on a daily basis during cyclone season and communicate alerts to Volunteers.
Food is often the center of any event and a core component of Tongan cultural values. Food in Tonga consists primarily of root crops (e.g., yams, taro, cassava) and meat (e.g., beef, pork, chicken) or fish/seafood. Vegetables are not common to most meals. While vegetables are available they can be challenging to come by regularly. Many community members are farmers – whether farming to provide food or to sell their crops. At most sites Volunteers will need to be prepared to navigate a diet that is primarily root crop and meat-based with vegetables being less common.
Volunteers are encouraged to be self-reliant as adjusting to life on a remote, isolated island can be difficult. Integration is an important cornerstone for a successful service and can be driven by use of Tongan language. Successful integration requires flexibility, humility, curiosity, perseverance, and a healthy sense of humor, repeated efforts, and an unabashed approach.
Serving in Tonga
Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Tonga: 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.
During Pre-Service Training (PST) and the ten weeks of community-based training, couples should expect to live in separate households. They will be hosted by different host families and might be in different communities during PST. Placing each partner in a different household during PST allows for increased interaction with host families in order to learn the language, and an equitable training environment for both individuals. Site placements for couples usually include schools that are in close proximity in the same community or close communities, but couples can also be placed at a single school as a Volunteer team. After PST, couples will live together in a house provided by one of their respective communities. While at site, couples often face challenges not faced by single Volunteers. Integration and immersion can prove more difficult as communities tend to give couples more space and allow them to spend more time with each other. This requires couples to be more proactive about engaging with their community. Additionally, with the gender norms in-country, couples may experience different expectations along gender lines, based on the traditional distribution of roles in the Tongan household.
Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the medical clearance process.
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