Primary English Literacy Resource Volunteer
"There are a lot of beautiful places in the Caribbean," the poet Derrick Walcott said. "What makes our islands special are their complexity. Part of it is the diverse landscape - the mountains, valleys and culture of the sea. Part of it is in its bilingualism; people intertwine Creole with English in a magical, remarkable way. And then there are the customs and the African mythology that one finds here." And you as a Volunteer in Peace Corps have the privilege to serve here.
Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent & the Grenadines have requested the support of Peace Corps to improve their students’ literacy skills, focusing on Grades K-3. Our goal is to improve our students’ ability to read and write in English. While English is widely spoken in the Eastern Caribbean, Creole is very often spoken in the home and community; in turn our young students are learning “standard” English as a second language. Significant progress has been made in the last five years, yet still only about 15% of the student population reads and writes at a third-grade level by Grade 3. And as literacy is the foundation of educational success, and needed in their daily and professional lives, Peace Corps has committed its resources to this great need.
As a literacy resource in the school, Volunteers first coordinate with one or two counterpart teachers, in addition to the principal, to assess their students’ literacy skills, and identify each student’s strengths and needs. With that data, the Volunteer and counterparts design and implement lessons and activities tailored for the students one-on-one and in small group work, team-teaching, or after-school activities.
At the same time, Volunteers assess the school’s resources and, in consultation with the Principal, determine where they might be of greatest service. They may direct their time to the library, after-school activities, service-learning activities, instructional technology resources, community outreach, or a bit of all of these.
After school programs include literacy-focused activities such as book clubs and readers’ theater, teacher-student workshops on technology in the classroom, running a student-managed library system, or family literacy activities where parents join children for late afternoon or evening events. Engaging families, and the community, is of great benefit to the students and the school, and we anticipate that these opportunities will come to the Volunteer after much effort integrating themselves in the school and community.
We encourage each Volunteer to generate interest in and support for a variety of clubs and camps, addressing sports, environment, computers, science, or leadership. The opportunities are as diverse as our communities, students, and Volunteers. These secondary projects are often where our Volunteers’ passions lie and are as important as literacy instruction to the students and schools.
If you are an experienced teacher, Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean may invite you to participate in broader professional development activities—school-based workshops, Peace Corps trainings, observation, and feedback at other schools—but this will be after you have established yourself in your host school and community.
You will also partner with Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean staff to monitor and document your progress and to collect data to assess the impact of the project on your host community. We share this information with all our stakeholders and Peace Corps staff in country use the information to better manage the project.
To prepare you for the assignment, all Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean Volunteers live in St. Lucia for an initial seven (7) weeks of Pre-Service Training (PST). You then go to your island of assignment, and train for another four (4) weeks to develop skills and knowledge specific to the island, such as Ministry initiatives, language, and safety strategies. You also set up the essentials to live, including banking, utilities, and housing.
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 and both of the following:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline
• 3 months, 10 hours/month, or 30 hours of English, foreign language, or literacy tutoring experience with primary, middle, or high school students
Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following degrees:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in Pre-School, Early Childhood, Middle School, or Elementary Education
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline with Elementary Education state certification
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline with one or more years classroom teaching experience at the Early Childhood, Middle School, or Elementary level. Full time Montessori teaching experience is also acceptable
The following qualifications will also make candidates more competitive:
• Commitment to working with elementary school students and their teachers to improve learning and literacy skills in classrooms and after-school programs
• Experience engaging parents in their children's education and/or experience developing partnerships in a community or organization
• Experience with a Learning Management System
• Lesson planning and/or curriculum design experience; designing distance learning strategies is a plus
• Experience facilitating in a workshop or after-school programs
• Leadership experience (e.g., co-facilitation, administrative support, visioning role) in establishing clubs or learning opportunities such as music, theater, academics, sports, and life-skills development
• Respect for and support of diversity and social equity among fellow Volunteers and Host Country Nationals
• Readiness to develop intercultural competencies
• Willingness to learn a creole language
Required Language Skills
There are no pre-requisite language requirements for this position.
English is the official language in all of the Eastern Caribbean countries. Volunteers will find, however, that Caribbean English significantly differs from American English, and must learn the pronunciation and semantic differences between the two.
Creole has only recently been recognized and valued as a language in the Eastern Caribbean. What was viewed as a dialect, or a broken version of a “proper language”, is now valued as an important aspect of the nation’s heritage and culture. Each of our islands has a unique creole. St Vincent & the Grenadines and Grenada speak English-based creoles, each with its unique rhythm and idioms. Dominica and Saint Lucia share a French-based Creole or Kweyol, in addition to an English-based Creole.
A person can manage daily life comfortably enough speaking standard American and British English, but you will experience greater integration and acceptance if you speak the indigenous language. To speak Creole is more than just a sign of respect and it is more than an ability to navigate the marketplace cost-effectively. To speak Creole is to support the preservation and elevation of a once undervalued culture. Moreover, as Grade K-3 students primarily speak a creole, you will be a far more effective teacher being able to communicate in their mother-tongue.
Volunteers are required to learn Saint Lucian Kweyol in the first weeks of Pre-Service Training to better integrate with the community. Once assigned to their island of service, Volunteers receive language training specific to that country. There are also self-directed learning modules online. Volunteers are required to demonstrate a strategy to continue language learning for the first six months of service.
On one hand, the islands of the Eastern Caribbean are paradise. They are lushly forested with dramatic terrain surrounded by a turquoise sea. On the other hand, they are hot and humid, with large insects and reptiles, steep climbs to reach home and work, and narrow roads. Moreover, communities with little economic stability, where our Volunteers live and work, are in the shadow of international wealth. The contrasts can be stressful. Working in these underserved communities, however, is at the heart of our mission and the role of a Volunteer.
The Eastern Caribbean requires a commitment to education and social equity in cross-cultural context. Our beaches will not sustain you for two years of service, and the challenges of intercultural communication and poverty may overwhelm you. However, the people of the Caribbean are warm, thoughtful people. They will support you in long hot walks uphill, the crowded minibuses, and fitting into your new community.
Trainees live with host families during Pre-Service Training. Host families are diverse—large and small, older and younger, religious and some less so. Housing is simple but comfortable. Trainees have private rooms, most share a bathroom, and of course, share common space and meals with the family. Hot water is rare. There may be a fan. After training, most Volunteers live in small apartments supplied with essential appliances, furniture and kitchen utensils.
Mobile phone service is generally accessible, but reception is not reliable. Electricity is available, though storms readily interrupt service. Internet is not guaranteed and connectivity may be like “dial-up”.
Travel between islands is by air and expensive. In contrast, travel on the islands is by minibus and priced for the average worker.
Peace Corps is committed to creating a supportive, inclusive environment for Volunteers of all backgrounds. Our Inter-Cultural, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion committee, made up of Volunteers and staff, was created to train, guide and support our Volunteers as they navigate the Eastern Caribbean culture.
Volunteers may find they experience a high degree of curiosity or unwanted attention. Black/African-Americans may blend in or may be confused with “returned residents”. Their communities may have higher expectations for them than for other Volunteers who are clearly not Eastern Caribbean. White and Asian Americans may be taken for rich tourists.
American concepts of personal space, politeness, and appropriate behavior are not universal. Many Volunteers have been able to turn these encounters into learning experiences that deepen local community members’ understanding of Americans, while also deepening the Volunteer’s understanding of their own identity.
Christian religion plays a prominent role. Prayers are offered daily in school assemblies and at all official events. Laws related to sexual orientation, gender identity, and sexual and reproductive health rights are influenced by conservative perspectives of the church. Volunteers may experience pressure to engage in religious discourse. The Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean simply expects its Volunteers to respect our host country’s religious beliefs and practices.
Gender and Sexuality
Eastern Caribbean countries are generally tolerant and laws addressing homosexuality are not enforced. However, homosexuality is not culturally accepted and anti-sodomy laws remain. Gay, lesbian and gender-fluid Volunteers must exercise discretion when it comes to revealing their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Women often experience unwanted attention, including cat-calling and sexual comments that one might find unsettling or insulting. Your safety is important to us. In Pre-Service Training, staff and currently serving Volunteers will explore strategies for you to live safely and identify support mechanisms throughout your service. Your host family will offer invaluable insight in how to manage unwanted attention.
Serving in Eastern Caribbean
Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Eastern Caribbean: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and safety — including crime statistics [PDF] — in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.
Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean can accommodate couples serving together. Therefore, your partner must apply and qualify for the following position:
Primary School English Literacy Resource Volunteer
During Pre-Service Training and the two years of Peace Corps service, the living conditions of couples will be similar to single Volunteers. Couples will live together with their host family during Pre-Service Training. During service, couples will work in different schools. One partner may have to travel by bus to a nearby school to teach. The school is generally located no more than 30 minutes away from their home community.
Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the medical clearance process.
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