Primary English Literacy Volunteer

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Project Description

The Ministry of Education of Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Vincent, and the Grenadines have requested Peace Corps Volunteers be assigned to Grades 1-3 to improve learning and literacy skills in classrooms and after-school programs. Primary English Literacy Volunteers teach with and support their teachers and guide their students’ learning in and out of the classroom. They also create teaching aids, develop libraries and improve access to books, and guide parents on language learning at home.

The project addresses teachers, students, parents, and academic resources. Your role as a counterpart literacy teacher is to brainstorm and share perspectives in classroom management, behavior management, and teaching strategies, which will positively impact the professional development of your counterpart teachers. Your work with the students in the classroom, in the library, and after school, through formal and informal learning strategies, will improve the literacy and life skills of the children. Coordinating with the school administration and donor organizations, you will establish or develop the school’s library. Through outreach into the community, you will develop partnerships among parents and community members to better support the school and their children's acquisition of literacy skills.

Pre-Service Training concludes at the start of the school year. Coordinating with one or two teachers as counterparts, in addition to the principal, you will assess your students’ reading proficiency to establish baseline data and identify each student’s strengths and needs. With that data, you and your counterpart teachers will design and implement lessons and activities tailored to the students. Lessons and activities may entail co-teaching, small group work, pull-out groups, or observation and intervention when needed. At the same time, you will assess the school’s resources and in time determine where your efforts are best directed. You may direct your time on 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 using technology in the classroom, running a student-managed library system, and even family literacy activities where parents join their children for late afternoon or evening events. Engaging the family, and the community, is of incredible benefit to the students and the school, and we anticipate that these opportunities will come to you after much effort integrating yourself in the school and community.

We encourage you to generate interest in and to support a diverse array of clubs and camps including sports clubs, leadership camps, environmental clubs, and computer clubs. The opportunities are as diverse and interesting as our communities, students and Volunteers. These secondary projects are often where our Volunteers’ passions lie, and are as important to the students and the communities as are the primary tasks of academic instruction.

Finally, you will 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 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 join us in St. Lucia for an initial 5 weeks of Pre-Service Training (PST). You then go to your assignment on Dominica, Grenada or St. Vincent or St. Lucia, and train for another month on skills and knowledge specific to your island, such as Ministry initiatives, language, and safety strategies. You also set up the essentials to live, including banking, utilities, and housing. There is a third phase of training, a 6-week practicum, where you settle into your school, carry out action-learning tasks, and then debrief every Friday with literacy experts and the Program Manager. The practicum offers real-world experience while lending technical support, cultural insight and moral support as you manage the unique environment.

Required Skills

Qualified candidates will have both of the following:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline
• 3 months, 10 hours/month, or 30 hours of tutoring experience in literacy, English or foreign language with elementary school, middle school, high school students or adults

Desired Skills

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
• Lesson planning and/or curriculum design experience
• Experience facilitating in a workshop, classroom, or after-school setting
• Leadership experience (e.g., co-facilitation, administrative support, visioning role) in establishing clubs or extra-curricular activities such as music, theater, academic, sports, and life-skills development
• Respect for and support of diversity and social equity among fellow Volunteers and Host Country Nationals
• Willingness to learn a creole language
• Readiness to develop intercultural competencies

Required Language Skills

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

English is the official language in all of the Eastern Caribbean countries. Volunteers will find that Caribbean English differs from American English, and must learn the nuances between the two. The mother tongue, or unofficial languages, of the Eastern Caribbean is Creole. Each country has a unique Creole (Kweyol, Patwa, or Pidgin) that Volunteers must learn to some extent to be successful in their service.

Volunteers are required to learn St. Lucian Kweyol (Creole) during Pre-Service Training out of respect of the culture and to better integrate into the community. Once assigned to your island of service, Volunteers receive specific language training in the Creole of that country over the course of 10 weeks. After language training, Volunteers are required to demonstrate motivation for self-directed language learning with a language tutor for at least the first six months of service.

Living Conditions

On one hand, the islands of the Caribbean are paradise. They are lushly forested with dramatic terrain surrounded by a warm sea. On the other hand, they are hot and humid, with large exotic insects and reptiles, steep climbs to reach home and work, and narrow roads. Moreover, communities with little economic stability, where our Volunteers tend to live and work, are in the shadow of international wealth. The contrasts can be stressful. Working in these underserved communities is also at the heart of our mission and your role as a Volunteer.

The Eastern Caribbean requires a commitment to the mission of peace and world friendship. Our beaches will not sustain you for two years of service, and the challenges of intercultural communication and poverty will overwhelm you. However, the people of the Caribbean are warm, thoughtful, intelligent people. They will support you in long hot walks uphill, the crowded minibuses and how to fit in to your new community.

Trainees live with host families during Pre-Service Training. Host families are diverse—large families 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 in a Volunteer’s home and connectivity may be like “dial-up”.

Travel between islands is by air and is expensive. In contrast, travel on the islands is by minibus, priced for the average worker, and reasonably safe (albeit crowded and fast).

Peace Corps is committed to creating a supportive, inclusive environment for Volunteers of all backgrounds.

Volunteers of an American racial, ethnic, or national minority 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”. They may experience higher expectations from their communities than other Volunteers who are clearly not Eastern Caribbean. White and Asian Americans may be taken for rich tourists.

American concepts of 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. A Volunteer may experience proselytizing or general 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 on the books. Gay, lesbian and gender-fluid Volunteers must exercise discretion when it comes to revealing their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Women, no matter their gender identity, often experience unwanted attention, including cat-calling and inappropriate sexual comments.

Your safety is very 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 and intrusion on your privacy.

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.

Couples Information

Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean can accommodate couples serving together in the Primary Education Literacy program. Your partner must apply and qualify for the following position:

Primary English Literacy Volunteer

During Pre-Service Training and the two years of Peace Corps service, couples will have similar living conditions as single Volunteers. Couples will live with together with their host family during Pre-Service Training. During service, because couples do not work at the same school, one partner will 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.

Medical Considerations

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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