English Teacher and Teacher Trainer

Before You Apply

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Project Description

As the second group of English Education Volunteers / TEFL Volunteers to work in Timor-Leste, Volunteers and will play a critical role in modeling Peace Corps’ approach to development with school administrators, teachers, parents, and other community leaders, as well as helping Peace Corps establish a strong English Education project.

Volunteers will co-teach English at the middle and high school levels and / or in vocational schools in small towns and villages in Timor-Leste. Volunteers will partner with local English language teachers in a co-teaching environment and focus on the capacity building of co-teachers in the areas of English language proficiency, teaching student-centered methodologies, lesson planning, classroom management and assessment.

Volunteers will also be expected to conduct / participate in teacher training activities for local teachers, develop youth development activities like clubs and camps, and respond to community interests in formal and non-formal English lessons for community members. While Volunteers should anticipate working full-time in a school setting, their involvement in a wide range of community-led activities is also likely.

Timor-Leste is a young and vibrant democracy. Volunteers will have a rare opportunity to be working among the nation’s heroes and freedom fighters that are still active in leading the nation. Most communities have experience with development projects sponsored by large international donor organizations, yet they are seeking a different kind of partnership with Peace Corps. Community members expect Peace Corps Volunteers to speak the local language, respect and value the Timorese culture, and find ways to transfer skills. They appreciate when Volunteers work to create change through education, role modeling, demonstration, inspiration, and motivation.

The school will operate under distinctly different cultural norms than those with which many Americans are accustomed. Cultural differences include power distance (degree to which a culture accepts unequal distribution of power), direct and indirect communication styles, and pace of events (work-related events appear to lack urgency, and absenteeism may be common). These cultural differences as well as others will require that you learn to observe the behavior of host country nationals at work and change your behavior to conform.

There has been a steady investment in the reconstruction of school facilities since independence, and a new English language curricula has been rolled out. English is a required subject in schools, beginning in the 7th grade. Student access, attendance, teacher training, and material availability are common problems leading to poor outcomes. In addition, teachers’ English language proficiency is a challenge as many have not had the opportunities to use English or have had very little training to teach English. Corporal punishment is still used in schools. Volunteers will be expected to model quality classroom teaching and establish strong relationships with local colleagues in order to help schools address these challenges. The language of instruction in Timor-Leste schools is Portuguese, yet students and teachers are likely more comfortable communicating in Tetun and local languages.

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

• Previous teaching or tutoring experience, and / or working with youth and adult learners
• Demonstration of cross-cultural skills from previous experience related to varying power dynamics, communication styles, and concepts of time
• Leadership and teamwork skills related to identifying school / teacher / student needs and priorities and working closely with groups in developing activities to address these needs / priorities.
• Ability to work in a potentially unstructured environment with limited resources

Required Language Skills

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

Volunteers will learn the country’s official language, Tetun, during Pre-Service Training and must demonstrate intermediate proficiency after 9-10 weeks of training. Many Volunteers will also learn a local language spoken in their district during their service.

Since Portuguese is the National language and many words have been incorporated into Tetun, Portuguese and Spanish speakers will find that helpful in Timor-Leste. Many Timorese also speak Bahasa Indonesian and Volunteers will be taught some of the common words that are used by Timorese.

Living Conditions

- Underdeveloped Infrastructure: Roads are in poor condition and may be washed out and impassable during the rainy season. You may have to walk or cycle as much as one hour over rugged terrain to the main road to catch public transportation (small truck or mini-bus) to a larger city. In addition, there has been a growth in road construction throughout the country so travel can be affected by this.

- Utilities/telecommunications: Amenities such as electricity, running water, and cell phone reception will vary from site to site. There may be periods of time without electricity. Cell phone coverage is improving but there are still some “dead” zones. Internet connectivity is slow and expensive, although most Volunteers can access internet at least once a week. One or two telephone service providers have an office with a mini internet café in some municipalities. Accessing internet through data usage is very common in the districts. Some Volunteers have more than one sim card from different providers to take advantage of different data packages and offerings.

- Housing: Volunteers are required to live with a host family during Pre-Service Training and another host family at their permanent sites during the full two years of service. Building relationships starts from the host family during PST and then at the permanent site. Host families in Timor-Leste are large and multi-generational, including many children. It is common for many members of the host family to smoke cigarettes.

- Unwanted attention: Volunteers report frequent episodes of unwanted attention on public transportation and in the capital city of Dili. This can be uncomfortable and stressful.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Timor-Leste: 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

In Timor-Leste, couples are married by the church or simply by parents mutually agreeing that their adult children are married.

Couples serving in Timor-Leste are likely to be asked about how many kids they have. A couple may experience pressure to have children if they do not have any. Married couples serving get pressure to adhere to more traditional gender roles. However, in general, couples have done well and are happy serving as a couple in Timor-Leste.
In Timor-Leste, couples are married by the church or simply by parents mutually agreeing that their adult children are married.

Couples serving in Timor-Leste are likely to be asked about how many kids they have. A couple may experience pressure to have children if they do not have any. Married couples serving get pressure to adhere to more traditional gender roles. However, in general, couples have done well and are happy serving as a couple in Timor-Leste.

Medical Considerations in Timor-Leste

  • Timor-Leste may not be able to support Volunteers with the following medical conditions: asthma, including mild or childhood; dermatology; insulin-dependent diabetes; gastroenterology; mammography; requiring a psychiatrist for psychotropic medications support; ongoing counseling.
  • The following medication(s) are not permitted for legal or cultural reasons: Adderall, Ritalin and Vyvanse.
  • Volunteers who should avoid the following food(s) may not be able to serve: gluten.
  • After arrival in Timor-Leste, Peace Corps provides and applicants are required to have an annual flu shot, to take daily or weekly medication to prevent malaria, and to receive 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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