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Peace Corps Volunteer

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Teacher

Project description

What words will categorize your Peace Corps service as an English teacher in Benin? Education. Collaboration. Learning. Community. Growth. Adaptation. Leadership. Belonging.

Imagine walking to school through the village where you live, greeting your neighbors, colleagues, and students in either the local Fon language or French. At school, you and your Beninese co-teacher collaborate in the classroom to teach the English lesson that the two of you planned yesterday. Together you teach English to several large classes of middle and high school students. Your classroom has a chalkboard, a tin roof, cement floors, and open windows. After school, you play Simon Says with your English club, before you and your co-teacher meet for lesson planning. It is market day, and you stop on the way home to shop for tissu (local fabric), to surprise your neighbors with matching outfits for a friend’s wedding. You leave feeling proud that you were able to successfully negotiate in Fon. At home, your neighbor brings over some starchy corn pate with a sauce of leafy greens to share. You make plans with another family to get together on Sunday to grill fresh-caught fish, already looking forward to savoring your weekly Sunday meal together. After dinner you sit under the stars outside your house with the neighbor kids, talking about the latest soccer game, and sending messages to your family back home.

English language skills open the door to additional educational and professional opportunities for Beninese people, and Benin’s government has invited Peace Corps Volunteers to serve as English teachers at schools in rural communities to help meet this national priority. As an English teacher in Benin, you will work on English skills with teachers, students, and community members. Your main responsibilities will be co-teaching English classes with Beninese counterpart teachers at the middle or high school in the rural community where you live. You and your colleagues will work together to develop teaching skills, create an inclusive learning environment, and implement student-centered, gender-equitable teaching practices. You will also build connections in the community and organize clubs and events like spelling bees where students and community members can practice English.

Peace Corps Benin promotes gender awareness, girls’ education and empowerment, and efforts to end gender-based violence. You will be trained on the cultural context of gender in Benin and will have the opportunity to implement appropriate gender activities such as clubs, camps, and sports teams for girls or boys. Other secondary activities might include gardening, painting educational murals, mentoring youth peer health educators, or facilitating anti-malaria programs.
Your job will not end at the end of the school day. As a Volunteer your 24/7 job will also include improving your language skills, getting to know the community, learning about Benin’s culture, sharing U.S. culture, and maintaining your physical and mental health.
You do not need to be an experienced teacher to succeed in this role. You will be enrolled for free in the Peace Corps TEFL Certificate Program, which provides 120 hours of training and practice teaching plus two years of supervised teaching experience with periodic classroom observation and feedback. The program will start with online training modules three months before you leave for Benin, and your first three months of training in Benin will include practice teaching with Beninese co-teachers and students. After successfully completing training, you will start two years of teaching. Upon completion of the requirements, you will earn a Peace Corps TEFL Certificate, which is validated by SupportEd in the US, and is a recognized TEFL credential for teaching in the US and abroad. This is a great program if you want to teach overseas or in the US in the future, or to get teaching experience before going into another field.

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

You will be most competitive for this position if you have experience teaching, tutoring, or mentoring middle school or high school aged students, or have general youth programming experience.

Required language skills

There is no language requirement except a strong commitment to learning spoken French and a local language. However, the strongest candidates will have some proficiency in French or a Romance language, as described below:
• Satisfactorily completed 4 years of high school coursework within the past 8 years in French (preferred) or another Romance language.
• Satisfactorily completed a minimum of 2 semesters of college level coursework (or equivalent classes at Alliance Française or other language school) in French (preferred) or another Romance language within the past 6 years
• Native/Fluent French (preferred) or Romance language speaker
• A score of 50 on the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exam or a score of Novice‐High on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL OPI) in French (preferred) or another Romance language. Benin is a fascinating country for language lovers. You will leave Benin with proficiency in French as well as skills in one of Benin’s local languages. French is the official language of the Beninese educational and governmental system, and most Beninese people who speak French also speak one or more of Benin’s 50+ local languages, such as Fon, Mina, Adja, Bariba, Yoruba, Idaatcha, Tchabe, Fulani, Mahi, Nagot, or Dendi.

Learning French is essential for successful Volunteer service in this linguistically diverse country. You will likely also need to reach a certain proficiency level in a local language, as local languages are used more than French in many rural communities where not everyone speaks French. You will use French in school, and learning a local language will help you connect more directly with other community members, particularly with women, who may not have finished school and may not speak French.
If you have little or no background in French, you are strongly encouraged to take a French course or make a commitment to self‐study prior to arrival in Benin in order to prepare for living and working there.

You will need to start using French for basic communications within days of arriving in Benin, so the more you know in advance, the better. You will live with a host family for most of your initial twelve weeks of training in Benin, an experience which will immerse you in an authentic language and culture learning environment, however it is important to recognize that most families in Benin mainly speak a local language within their family, and French is not likely to be their first language. Peace Corps Benin has dedicated Language and Cross-Culture Facilitators (LCFs) who will teach you French and start introducing you to local languages during your training program. In addition, you will be supported throughout your service by a full-time Language & Culture Coordinator who will support your progress in French and local language. Peace Corps Benin will provide you with resources for your continued language learning throughout your first year of service, including identifying and training a language tutor in the community where you will live and work during your service.

Living conditions

You will arrive in Benin with your cohort of education, health, and agriculture Volunteers to start three months of intensive Pre-Service Training. You will live with a host family in a rural community and attend training sessions each day focused on teacher training, French language, navigating the cultures of Benin, taking care of your physical and mental health, maintaining your safety and security, and other topics. You will find out which community in Benin you will live and work in for the next two years, where you will likely be the only Peace Corps Volunteer. You will meet your supervisor – the director of the school where you will teach – and will spend a week visiting the community where you will be living for the next two years, meeting your future neighbors and colleagues. The second half of training will focus on practice teaching with Beninese students. After successfully meeting all the requirements of training, you will be sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and you will move to your house in your new community to start teaching a few weeks later at the beginning of the school year.

Living Conditions:
Please see the Benin Living Conditions section of the website for information about:
• Communications
• Languages
• Housing and Site Location
• Food and Diet
• Transportation
• Social Activities
• Professionalism, Dress, Behavior

Dress & Appearance
Beninese people love fashionable clothes, in conservative styles that cover shoulders, knees, cleavage, and everything between. As a community member, your appearance and behavior will be judged by Benin’s cultural norms, and you will be expected to follow them. Many Volunteers love buying fabric in the market and having clothes made in local styles. It is hard to overdress or be overly neat in Benin, as your appearance reflects your respect for the people around you. Long hair, braids, cornrows, locs, and long beards on men are unusual. All men are encouraged to adjust to the local style for hair and facial hair (low cut/short/well-trimmed). Many female Volunteers wear their hair short, pulled back, or in braids or locs. Regardless of gender, Volunteers should keep their hair clean, neat, and well- groomed. Volunteers with visible body piercings or tattoos may need to conceal them, as they may be seen as unprofessional. Please refer to Living Conditions and Packing Guidance online for more details.

Diversity & Inclusion
The Peace Corps seeks to reflect the rich diversity of the US and bring diverse perspectives and solutions to development issues. Training sessions will address diversity and inclusion and how you can transcend differences, find common ground, and serve as an ally for your peers. Your social identities will play a role in the way you are perceived and how you experience life and work in Benin. For example, people in Benin’s LGBTQI + community continue to face persecution and are rarely open about their sexuality. Volunteers will need to be mindful of cultural norms and laws and use their judgment about the best way to approach sexual orientation and gender identity in Benin. Staff and current Volunteers will address this topic during training and will identify support mechanisms for Volunteers.

Additional information is available in the diversity and inclusion section of our website about serving in Benin as a:
• Volunteer of color
• LGBTQI+ Volunteer
• Volunteer with a disability
• Couple
• Volunteer with different religious beliefs than their community
• 50+ year old
• Volunteer seeking to be an ally

Ready to learn more about Benin?
The documentary High on the Hog features beautiful footage of Benin and discusses links between Beninese and African-American food and history in episode 1. The Woman King is a fictional depiction of the historic female Agodie warriors of the Dahomey Kingdom, which is part of present-day Benin. You will also find many other articles, books, and media online about Benin.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Benin: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and health/crime statistics in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Medical considerations

Before you apply, please review medical clearance and legal clearance to learn about the process.

Couples information

The Peace Corps works to foster safe and productive assignments for same-sex couples, and same-sex couples are not placed in countries where homosexual acts are criminalized or where the laws are ambiguous, like Benin. Because of this, same-sex couples’ placements are more limited than heterosexual couple placements. During the application process, recruiters and placement officers work closely with same-sex couple applicants to understand current placement opportunities. For more information please visit:

Benin is happy to accommodate heterosexual couples, as long as each person is in a different sector program. If you are applying as a couple, your partner must qualify and apply for either:
Sustainable Agricultural Systems Volunteer
Rural Community Health Volunteer

During the 12-week Pre-Service Training, couples will live and train in separate villages. Couples will see each other once a week during core curriculum days (joint sector training days) where all trainees will participate in full group training sessions. Once at their permanent site, couples will live in the same house and will work in the same community.

Going through the Peace Corps experience as a couple poses unique opportunities and challenges, and success will require trust, confidence, and communication. There will be times when you will both need each other’s support. Understand that you will need to put in an extra effort to be an ally to your partner. Although you will not be able to eliminate many of these challenges for each other, they can be coped with and overcome with time, patience, and a most importantly a good sense of humor.

Does this sound like the opportunity for you?
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