Kari Franklin - General Teaching Projects in Bolivia
I was the first volunteer teacher at the Summer School for the University students in Cochabamba and would like to tell you a little about it...
In Bolivia, the major holiday stretches from December to the end of February, so if you are considering teaching at this time you will be involved with the Summer school programme. This is a special opportunity for several reasons. Firstly, the classes are optional and thus the students are the keen ones; they get up at 7am every other day in their summer holiday to come to your classes to learn English. When the students are keen and eager to learn they contribute more in class and the classes are therefore more engaging for all concerned, including yourself. When the students are enthusiastic, the teacher is more enthusiastic. You really want to help these students and make the classes as fun as possible.
The classes are held in the Projects Abroad office, which is a really good environment because there are little or no distractions and more personal than in the big university classrooms. The students, I think, also appreciate the new environment and don't associate it with the normal slog of learning at the university. With a mixture of different speaking abilities in one class, the students help each other and contribute different things - this can be invaluable.
Because the classes are small and the students come several times a week, you really get to know a good group of people who you will never forget. The classes are personal and you really see your pupils develop and progress in such a short time. Also, having only these classes to worry about and no other subjects they really spend a lot of time on their homework and dedicate their time and energy to your classes.
One day, I asked the students what their dream was or what they would most like to do after university. Almost half the class replied that they are studying languages so that they will be able to travel and visit other countries that they have seen in the films. And I realized that I am doing exactly what it is that they most desire to do, being here in another country experiencing a different culture and different people, it reminded me how lucky I am and that I should appreciate every part of this experience.
I spent half my teaching time in the Summer school programme and half at the university. This I would recommend as a good combination because you are able to experience the university life as well as the summer classes. But either way, you can learn a lot from your students as well as them learning from you.
If you do decide to do teaching in Cochabamba, I hope that you get the most out of it. I did and I'm sure you will too.