Work on the Project
Volunteers’ goal for the project is to bring as many students as possible up to grade level so that they can attend high school. The Village Education Project provides full funding to cover the almost $200 it takes to attend high school in Ecuador; however, we don’t want to send students to high school who are unprepared and would be unable to succeed there. Volunteers therefore spend the summer teaching a curriculum designed to teach the basic skills needed to pass high school courses, and to address students’ common weaknesses as identified by local educators. At the end of the summer, the students in the program will take a test to assess their preparedness for high school. Those who pass will receive a full scholarship.
Volunteers often find the challenges of teaching to be daunting. The students served by the project have spent the past seven years in one or two-room classes with only a few teachers catering to students seven different grade-levels. Many of the students live in small huts and have nowhere to store their homework, and nowhere to complete homework after dark. Most also have enormous responsibilities at home, taking care of siblings, extended family, and working to earn money. As a result, many of the students are quite far behind when the program begins, and have not developed the study skills needed to advance quickly in a short period of time.
Teaching for the first time is also quite difficult. As past volunteers will tell you, a good plan on paper may fail in the classroom–volunteer teachers must be prepared to improvise. Teaching can be at times intimidating and discouraging.
Despite these challenges, our volunteers describe teaching as incredibly fulfilling. Like all teachers, we find that our volunteers learn as much as their students do.
Because of the challenges of teaching, we suggest you prepare as much as possible. If there are education courses at your college or university, you may want to consider enrolling in or auditing one. You should also visit our sections on Teaching Responsibilities, Curriculum, and Teaching Resources and read them thoroughly.