English Language Teacher and Facilitator
The Kingdom of Tonga – located in Polynesia in the South Pacific – consisting of 169 islands stretches 500 miles north to south with a land mass of 290 square miles over 270,000 square miles of ocean. A strongly Christian nation, religion plays a large part in Tongan society and intersects with custom beliefs and the four golden values of Tonga: mutual respect, sharing, cooperating and fulfilment of mutual obligations, humility and generosity, and loyalty and commitment.
Tonga 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 the Peace Corps have built a strong partnership focused on improving education outcomes. English is a national priority and, as a close development partner, the Peace Corps works to increase student achievement.
The focus of our development approach is long-term and sustained shared learning, understanding, and growth. Relationship building, collaboration, and locally prioritized projects are measures for success. For Volunteers, the quiet pace and hands-off approach of the Peace Corps’ development model can take adjustment. Rather than managing much themselves, Volunteers support the growth of foundational knowledge and skills that, when understood deeply, can be transformational. Along the way, there are vibrant opportunities for Volunteers to leverage their skills and passions, catalyzing educational advancement in the school and community.
Volunteers play multiple roles during their service. Volunteers and their partners are trained to utilize participatory tools in a phased, asset-based approach to uncover existing strengths, advantages, and opportunities:
1) Collaborative Capacity Building with Teachers
Volunteers collaborate closely with teachers to support mutual learning in general and English-teaching skills. Volunteers co-facilitate discussions on strategies and tips. Volunteers also collaborate to identify best practices in student-centered teaching methods, lesson planning, assessments, and inclusive education. Volunteers engage in model teaching, peer observations, co-developing learning materials, and bridging the English language capacity of teachers.
2) Improving Student Achievement in English
Volunteers teach oral and written English primarily in elementary schools. They co-organize and co-facilitate extracurricular activities and events to improve language skills and proficiency (direct teaching, pull-out groups, tutoring, and extracurricular 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 support continual learning.
Volunteers also collaborate to support locally prioritized community activities:
1) Facilitating youth camps or clubs on life skills development and leadership.
2) Co-organizing and co-facilitating library/learning center development and management.
3) Co-organizing and co-facilitating environmental education, climate change, and disaster risk reduction projects.
Volunteer assignments evolve over time. In their first year, Volunteers go through early adaptation and experiential learning cycles. This will be the time to build on competencies critical during the second year. To strengthen effectiveness, sustainability, and equity for remote communities, Peace Corps Tonga considers strategic community transitions between the first and second year of service. This does not mean all Volunteers will experience a transition from their first year to second year. The approach is just one tool among many that is available for better supporting communities, partners, and Volunteers.
COVID-19 Volunteer Activities
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 Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline and a strong desire to teach English and 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 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.
While not mandatory, the ability to swim and being 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 prove challenging to continued Tongan language learning when in the community. Volunteers are strongly encouraged to use Tongan even in situations where they could use English. Efforts to use Tongan go a long way with developing relationships in the community. Volunteers are expected to engage in continual language learning throughout their service utilizing e-learning, community tutors, and immersion in their communities. A good control of the Tongan language is necessary to effectively work in the school and community. 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.
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 in their community. 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 host families or other community members. Volunteers may be expected to live in a homestay with a host family for up to six months of their service. Host families provide several 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 to no access to these amenities at any given time during their service. Depending on the community, 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’ phone plans include free calls and texts to all staff and Volunteers and a 7GB monthly data plan. Volunteers can either use their own personal device with a Peace Corps-provided SIM card or be provided a local generic smartphone upon arrival to Tonga. Outer Island Volunteers may also be issued a satellite phone and/or personal locator beacon for emergency communication. Internet services are generally available throughout Tonga, including the outer islands, via mobile data providers. Post will be supporting continual online learning throughout service and will support Volunteers in accessing needed services and devices.
Transportation while in the community 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 require patience and flexibility.
Cyclone season can impact transportation, communication, and amenities. Access to running water and electricity can be intermittent or completely cut. 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 assess the situation daily 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 (yams, taro, cassava, etc.) and meat (beef, pork, chicken, etc.) 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. In most communities 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 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, a healthy sense of humor, consistent 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), 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 to learn the language, and an equitable training environment for both partners. Community placements for dual education sector couples usually include schools that are in close proximity in the same community or close communities but can also be placed at a single school as a Volunteer team. Community placements for mixed education and environment couples will be placed near schools which might serve multiple communities. In service, couples will live together in a house provided by one of their respective communities. Depending on the situation, couples might be separated in case of medical or emergency related travel. While in the community, 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 in 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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