Teachers Teaching Teachers 2014

Teachers Teaching Teachers Bolivia took place this year from August to the middle of October, 2014. Originally, we had planned to be in Rurrenabaque from April until the end of June, but due to devastating floods that occurred in February/March, the project was postponed until later in the year. This time of year is not ideal as the weather extremely hot and it is later in the school year when there are many interruptions, such as Bolivian Independence (August 6), Flag Day, Plurinational Sports week and International Day of Tourism. These are very interesting for the volunteers who come to teach, but they do tend to interrupt the class schedules.

As last year, the teachers were also very busy with Profocom, government mandated professional development, and upgrading courses for the teachers who do not have degrees. Because of the number of courses the teachers were taking, the English project was modified to help the teachers cope with yet another course they wanted to take. This year, the classes were kept very small – between 2-5 students and were held only twice a week. This was more manageable for the teachers, and more successful overall. Although we had fewer students, the students who did attend, attended much more regularly than last year and generally arrived at a more acceptable time for class. In addition to this change, all the students were given quizzes at the end of each unit completed. A mark of 75% was required on all these quizzes and also on the final exam to receive a certificate of achievement at the end of the course. Students who were not happy with their marks were given the opportunity to come to individual classes to receive extra help and to take the tests over again. Even for the final exam this extra support was offered. All the students took the classes very seriously and often came for extra support if they were struggling. Consequently, all the students who continued to take the course until the final class and who took the test from units 2 and up, passed all their quizzes and their final exam to receive certificates. We had only a few students who dropped out – mostly after the first or second class.

In addition to English classes, several workshops were offered. A series of three math workshops focussing on using games to teach mathematics was presented by volunteer Bolivian teachers after practicing the games for several Friday evenings prior to the workshops. Although the attendance at the workshops was quite low, the teachers who attended were very pleased. In all about 30 teachers attended these workshops. To assist the teachers to introduce dominoes to their students, we offered to go into the classrooms to help out. This was extremely successful. We went to work in 4 classrooms at the primary level from kindergarten to grade 3. The teachers were very appreciative and found that it is possible to keep control in their class while using games – something they doubted initially. Each school in Rurre and San Buenaventura were given a bag of materials – dominoes, cards and dice – and a book of game instructions in Spanish that could be shared between the teachers.

Another workshop, Teaching Vocabulary in the Classroom, was also offered. Once again, the attendance at the workshop for all teachers was rather low. However, several principals requested this workshop for the teachers in their schools. These workshops were very well attended – all teachers in the schools were required to attend – and all the teachers seemed to enjoy what they learned and said they would use some of the games and strategies with their students. At one of the schools, the principal also attended the workshop and he was planning to have meetings with his staff to develop materials.

After the vocabulary workshops the teachers who attended were invited to come to mini-workshops to make materials or make examples for their students. Several of the lower level teachers were making examples of materials and asking to have them translated into Spanish as they were planning to use them with their students to help them learn to read in their own language.

At the end of our time in Rurre, there was a celebration of achievement and farewell at which all the students received their certificates and shared food and drinks provided by all the students and the volunteers.

Hopes for 2015

Next year, the project will continue but with a different focus and some changes in the format.

1. Curriculum Development

Cathie will be working with the school district of San Buenaventura to develop an English curriculum for all the schools in the district. This will include the different themes that can be taught- vocabulary and grammar for each level. English learning modules will be developed for the teachers who do not know any English, so they can study the appropriate grammar for what they are going to teach. Cathie will then conduct several workshops on how to teach vocabulary and grammar and brainstorm with the teachers how they can make their English classes more interesting and worthwhile. (Volunteers will require an intermediate level of Spanish.)

2. English Classes for teachers in Rurrenabaque and San Buenaventura

English classes will be offered to those teachers who participated this year in the classes. If there are sufficient volunteers, new classes may be offered. (Spanish is not required, but it is useful to have a little Spanish to get around in Bolivia.)

3. Math workshops – Using Games to Teach Mathematics

Math workshops will be offered to all the schools in the San Buenaventura district. This year, these were offered to the teachers in Rurre and to two schools in San Buenaventura.

(Volunteers will require and intermediate level of Spanish.)

4. Support for Math classes using dominoes, dice and cards

Teachers will go into the classes to help the Bolivian teachers introduce games to teach mathematics.

(Volunteers will require and intermediate level of Spanish.)