English Teacher and Teacher Trainer

Project Description

Timor-Leste is a young and vibrant democracy. After over 400 years of colonization by Portugal and 25 years of occupation by Indonesia, it was recognized as an independent state in 2002. Unsurprisingly, Timorese peoples speak a variety of languages, including Tetun (the most commonly spoken of the 30+ local languages), Portuguese, and Bahasa Indonesian. English is another strategic priority.

English Education (ED) Volunteers play a critical role in improving English education in Timor-Leste. Volunteers will be placed at rural middle and high schools to work alongside teachers and school directors to improve English education in the classrooms. Volunteers will be partnered with up to four English teachers in their classrooms, co-teaching English. Through this side-by-side approach, Volunteers and Counterparts will build capacity in English language proficiency, student-centered teaching methodologies, lesson planning, classroom management, and student assessment.

Volunteers will also be expected to conduct and/or participate in teacher training activities for local teachers, spearhead youth development activities such as clubs and camps, and respond to community requests for formal and non-formal English lessons. While Volunteers should anticipate working full-time in a school setting, their involvement in a range of community-based activities is also likely. One of the most frequent requests Volunteers receive from their counterparts, teacher colleagues, and communities is to help them expand their English language proficiency, so many Volunteers look for both organized and informal avenues to respond to these requests. Previous Volunteers have organized cooking classes, Zumba sessions, translated children’s books into Tetun, and collected libraries for their schools.
Timorese schools operate under distinctly different cultural norms than those with which many Volunteers 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 may appear to lack urgency and absenteeism may be common). These cultural differences require Volunteers to observe the work culture and adapt accordingly. Volunteers may observe challenges they did not expect, such as limitations in student access, poor attendance, and lack of material resources. Corporal punishment may also still be used in schools. Volunteers will be expected to model quality classroom teaching and establish strong relationships with local colleagues to help schools address these challenges.

Volunteers will need to exhibit flexibility and tolerance of ambiguity as the Peace Corps Timor-Leste program re-establishes itself post COVID-19 evacuation and strives to address the Government of Timor-Leste’s dynamic needs.

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.

Required Skills

Qualified 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 one or more of the following criteria:
• Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) in English, Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), English as a Second Language (ESL), Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), foreign language, or Applied Linguistics.
• Master of Education (M.Ed.) with graduate or undergraduate concentration in English, TEFL, TESOL, ESL, TESL, or foreign language.
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education with concentration in English, TEFL, TESOL, ESL, TESL, or foreign language.
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline with secondary education state certification in English, TEFL, TESOL, ESL, TESL, or foreign language.
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in English, TEFL, TESOL, ESL and TESL, or foreign language with 6 months classroom teaching experience at the secondary level in English, TEFL, TESOL, ESL, TESL, or foreign language.
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline with 1 academic year classroom teaching experience at the secondary level in English, TEFL, TESOL, ESL and TESL, or foreign language.
• 3 months or 30 hours of English, foreign language, or literacy tutoring experience with primary, middle, or high school students or adults.
• Demonstrated experience and motivation in planning and organizing activities for youth.

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 nine to ten weeks of training. Tetun is not grammatically complex and uses the Latin alphabet. Volunteers find it relatively easy to achieve the required Intermediate-Mid proficiency and many go on to an Advanced level after serving at site for some time. Many Volunteers will also learn a local language or dialect spoken in their district. Since Portuguese is the national language and many words have been incorporated into Tetun, Portuguese and Spanish speakers will find their knowledge of those languages helpful in their Tetun studies. Many Timorese also speak Bahasa Indonesian and Volunteers will be taught some common words that are used by Timorese.

Living Conditions

Volunteers are required to live with a host family during Pre-Service Training and another host family at their permanent site during their full two years of service. This connection to a respected family in the community creates opportunities for Volunteers to build relationships with other community members, which forms the foundation for an effective service. The experience of living with a Timorese family is often one of the most rewarding aspects of service. Homestays enrich the intercultural goals of the Peace Corps, and support Volunteers to establish collaborative social positions within their communities, and generously provide them with contextually secure and supportive living environments, including continued opportunities for language practice, learning, and intercultural exchange. Volunteers regularly cite their relationships with their host families, both at PST and their permanent site, as a highlight of their service. Host families in Timor-Leste are large and multi-generational. It is common to have 4 or more children. Ninety-seven percent of Timorese are Catholic and attending church is an important community activity. Smoking cigarettes is common, and family elders might chew betelnut. While alcohol is often provided at weddings and some community events, drinking is frowned upon, especially for women, and being intoxicated is detrimental to a person’s reputation and credibility.

Timor-Leste has 13 municipalities, each ranging in population from 50,000 to 120,000. Most Volunteers will be placed in rural areas—at the village (suco) or sub-village (aldeia) level—often with populations of under 2,000 people. A few may be placed in a district capital (vila), but Volunteers are not placed in the capital city, Dili, and it can take Volunteers between four to eight hours by public transportation to get to the capital.
Roads are in poor condition and may be washed out and impassable during the rainy season, December-April. Volunteers 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. Road re-construction efforts are frequent, and travel time can be affected by this.

Amenities such as electricity, running water, and cell phone reception 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. 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 coverage.

While crime is not a serious problem in rural areas, there have been instances of theft from houses occupied by foreigners. In addition, Volunteers report frequent episodes of unwanted attention when outside of their host communities, on public transportation, and in Dili. This can be uncomfortable and stressful. Post provides training and mitigation strategies to prepare Volunteers for these situations and to understand how to manage them.

Serving in Timor-Leste

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

Post can accept mixed program couples only, i.e. one spouse in CED and one spouse in ED.
Peace Corps Timor-Leste can accommodate couples serving together in different sectors. Therefore, their partner must apply and qualify for the following position:
Community Development Facilitator
Couples should consist of a male and a female. Couples should be prepared to live apart during Pre-Service Training. Once couples moves to their sites, they will live with a host family for their full two years of service. While couples will have their own room in the household, they will share living spaces with their host family. This means they may not have as much privacy to which they are accustomed.
Couples serving in Timor-Leste may receive pressure to adhere to more traditional gender roles. They will likely be asked how many kids they have, and may receive encouragement to have children if they do not have any. Couples who have served in Timor-Leste have found that they can politely navigate this situation, and that, while Timorese people will comment on their situation, that they are generally afforded more respect than their unmarried colleagues. Overall, couples have done well and are happy serving in Timor-Leste.

Most Timorese couples are married in the church, though some are considered fully married after an engagement ceremony between the bride and grooms families, especially if a Church wedding is impractical or the related celebrations unaffordable at the time of engagement.

Medical Considerations

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

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