So arriving at the NGO with no teaching experience and none of the language was interesting but i was very eager to learn and pick up new skills from the people whom i was working with and around. I knew that I had signed up to learn and take everything on, so I was prepared to be thrown in at the deep end and develop as fast as i could. It was difficult at first, with the language barrier and with no experience but it was also the best way to learn. I had no choice to take my time and doss around not learning the language. And teaching along side many different people and seeing how they all worked differently but how they worked as teams and working alongside each other with different approaches to teaching worked well and sitting in on classes helped a lot. Especially in my group at SKIP, I was put with a Spanish woman who had worked in nurseries back in Spain, and her methods were spot on, the children respected her so much, she had time fillers sorted, songs she sang with the children and although she had only been teaching at skip for a few weeks she knew all the children so well, and really thought about them while preparing the work and preparing different levels of work for each group of abilities. She really did teach me a lot, and although we hardly have a conversation together due to the language barrier, watching how she was with the children and how she gained their respect was amazing to watch. At the same time I was being introduced to the economical development side of the organisation. After arriving and learning about that side of the NGO I had mentioned that I would like to work on that branch too, and if it was possible to put me in for a shift with that. But there was a change around of workers at the time and it was all a bit up in the air, with an ex-volunteer having to come over to keep it going as they searched for a new coordinator. So for my first few weeks I wasn’t able to get involved as it was at a bit of a stand still.
As well as watching and trying to help out with the skip group, Myself and Fin, the other EVS volunteer who came over with me, overlooked english teaching at skip to get an idea of what the classes were like and what the teaching style was like, full of games and relaxed with as much verbal involvement of the kids. And we were at first very overwhelmed how the kids acted, running around, climbing on the tables or under them, but you have to take into account their home life and many of them live in single rooms with many people, some don’t even have electricity and most of them don’t have running water…all of this plus the amount of violence that is always around – either if it is in the home or in the neighbourhood. Plus SKIP is also in addition to going to school so they can get a bit restless and i guess the hot weather doesn’t help either. And there are so many things to take into account, and endless list! But after they get to know you they are so eager to learn and really respect you and seem less crazy! Anyway back to the point, I don’t really think the training we were given was very useful, it was very basic and just scraping the surface, and after a while I needed to have quite a lot of additional meetings to help with the problems we were having, which were so much more useful than the training. It took me a while to ask for help as I couldn’t work out why things weren’t working out for me, but then I realised I could speak to the coordinators and they really helped and gave me loads of ideas and were constantly asking if everything was working and going okay, and that was great. Y w as were starting term this week, I have improved and advanced so much with my teaching skills and behaviour management, as well as now being able to speak fluent spanish, I have been promoted to be the main teacher of a group of 18!Which I was kind of doing for the holiday club and it went fine so I am very happy about that!
Ate being at skip for a month, the amazing teacher who was teaching our class left, and was replaced by a number of people with now, less experience than me! So as they were the teachers they would prepare the work, but i could see where the problems were and i had many meetings with them as the time went on , to suggest different methods and also to tell them about which child and where they were up to with the work. And as the teachers kept changing with the fast turn over of volunteers I was soon the one to know most about the children and what suited them, and also as there aren’t enough volunteers at skip at the moment I have been given a class! But i am very happy about it and feel confident.
After the new eco dev coordinator came I quickly got a shift assisting someone in the workshops, giving ideas to the mothers and helping them, paying them, taking in new products and tagging them. And I really enjoyed it, plus it helped to improve my spanish talking to the mothers. And then in January I was made a head of a workshop, of jewellery. I now have the responsibility of buying the products each week that the mothers ask for, and I run the workshop on my own without an assistant. I have also now been trained in sales force where i have to put up all the information of new products each evening after the workshop, so we have statistics of what sells and also all the information is in one place. On sales force I also have to change the settings if things are sold and go to inventory in the shops where we sell the products of the mothers. Along with this I have worked in the office a little, I have sat in when we have had meetings with mothers who want to get a loan out and seen the questioning procedure and how they sort that out. I have also been on home visits to see mothers who maybe haven’t been to a skip workshop for a while or haven’t been paying their loan back. And I have learnt how to take loan payments. I feel I have learnt a lot in eco dev department!
And public school teaching is tiring, waking up at 6 can be hard! and teaching 5 classes of 30 children of 40 minutes each is a non stop morning! But it is very different to teaching at Skip and very fun, and once you get to know the children (I still don’t know any names!) it gets a lot easier. There were a few problems the last term i taught, but just with the schools participation, but it is the worst school we work with and very disorganised and there is always a surprise! But you get used to that, and SKIP are constantly talking to them to try and change how they work but it never seems to make much of a difference! But things have changed and we’ll see how they go this term, but now they have their very own english room which is progress!
Katalina Balcomb, long-term EVS (European Voluntary Service) volunteer
Visit Katalina’s blog: http://katgoestoperu.wordpress.com/
Project supported by the EACEA and the Youth In Action programme of the European Commission.