STEP

I’ve been semi-busy for the last month, but I thought now might be a good time to sit down and tell you a little bit of what I’ve been up to.

As TEFL volunteers, one of our responsibilities is to serve as English teachers in a program called STEP (Striving Towards English Proficiency). This program givesNicaraguan English teachers in different departments the opportunity to study English on the weekends so they can improve their English proficiency. Peace Corps Volunteers teach 2-12 classes per semester, depending on how close they live to the STEP site. Because I live in the department of Matagalpa, I was assigned to teach 3 classes in August and will teach 5 or 6 more between now and December.

The Nicaraguan English teachers took a proficiency test to determine what level they’ll start at, and STEP Matagalpa is currently teaching 3 of the 5 levels. Students who start in the first level will take classes for 2.5 years before they finish the program, so it’s quite the commitment. Many of these teachers already teach 5 or 6 days a week and give up their only free day to attend STEP classes. Many of them have to travel long distances (4+ hours on the bus) to get to class. It takes me 2.5 hours to get to the department capital where we have STEP, and I’m exhausted every time I make the trip! I feel incredibly lucky that these students are so committed and that they show up full of energy, excited to practice their English (from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Sunday!)

I teach the third level, so my class already has an intermediate high English proficiency. I’ve had so much fun, because we can have discussions completely in English, but it can also be a little challenging because I have to teach more complex grammar (some of which I’ve never had to think about because I’m a native speaker and it comes naturally for me). We are encouraged to use a lot of din├ímicas, games, and different methods to teach the content. It’s more fun for all of us, and the students get ideas for activities they can implement in their own classrooms.

It typically takes me a good 10 hours to plan for one day of STEP class, but I feel incredibly accomplished when the day is over and when my class does well on their tests. 

Here are a couple photos from my class last week. We have a lot of fun!

First class

Y’ALL. I just taught my first class with almost no preparation (because between Spanish homework, sleeping, and reading for various Peace Corps training, there’s hardly any time for lesson plans. 

I was so nervous, and I’d barely done any planning with my co-teacher (the band was playing right outside the door the whole time, and the profe spoke 95% in Spanish.)

One of the Peace Corps Spanish language staff attended my class, and afterward she asked me if I had teaching experience, and she was shocked when I said I didn’t. I told her I was nervous, but she said she couldn’t tell.

I think all of my male students have crushes on me. At the end of class, they asked if I’m married, how old I am, if I have a boyfriend, and if I am on Facebook.

The girls were obsessed with my eyes (and hair, once I took it out of the bun.) They also gave me a paper fan and thank God because I was sweating through my shirt in front of that class.

It’s 9th grade, so their English is far from fluent, but they were a good and attentive class. I taught mostly in English but explained some sentences and concepts in Spanish. I’m so glad the first class is over with, because now I know roughly what to expect for the next few months. In November, I’ll be placed at my official site with new teachers, but for training I’m feeling decent (thank god, because last night I was feeling hella overwhelmed.)

Tonight, my training group is starting a community English class, so the day is far from over. I’ll keep you posted!