One of the tenets of Peace Corps is that change takes time. It’s why Volunteers are placed for two years instead of two months. Without doubt, lots of good can be done in two months absent a language barrier and community integration. But, such is the framework of Peace Corps service. So, I’ve roughly a year and a half in which to make a difference, leave my mark, create sustainable programs, and other trite expressions, which, for me, mean motivate further English learning. Otherwise known as getting things done!
Below are some ideas that were cultivated during IST. My CP seemed pleased that I’d already been working on it when she asked me to come up with something during our Project Design and Planning session. They are all still thoughts at this point—listed loosely in the order of feasibility—but they get me excited and hopeful. And, I’ll point out that none of these ideas requires money, only the currency of time… as much as this does not surprise me, it still pleases me immensely.
Music Night(s): One English song. First learn what the song means through pictures or acting it out. Then learn the lyrics. Then sing the song as a group. (After my inspiration, I launched this on October 31, 2012, and had six classes before leaving for IST/vacation. It’s been well received and the students have requested an additional song on Saturdays.)
Pen-pal between grades or schools: students write to each other in English. (My intent was to get the Mongolian students to use English with one another. My CP understood “pen-pal program between Mongolian and American students”—she thinks on a big scale. But since I have been matched with a school in Minnesota, through the World Wise Schools program, this is possible. On to logistics…)
Mentoring program: experienced teachers are mentors for other teachers. Mentors share skills, tips, ideas; gain leadership experience. Mentees continue learning; don’t have to reinvent the wheel. (Mongolia is a competitive culture to the extent—so I’m told—that teachers do not collaborate or share lesson plans. This is partly because, as I understand it, each teacher is evaluated on their performance relative to other teachers; being “the best” comes at the cost of other teachers. If we can frame this in the way that the mentor is a prestigious position, to which the mentee can aspire, we might be able to use that competitive spirit to their advantage. I acknowledge that it may involve prizes, e.g., Mentor of the Year.)
Future English Teachers Club: high-school students who plan to be English teachers meet to practice speaking English, learn games, experience being in charge, etc. (A few times I’ve been a “judge” for English competitions, and more than once I’ve heard students answer the question “what do you want to be?” with “I am English teacher.” At first, I hung my head (metaphorically speaking, of course) at all that was wrong with that sentence. Then, I had this idea to get them all together, speaking English with one another. Let those kinks work themselves out.)
English Story Hour: native English speaker (that’s me!) reads children’s stories (at English library, kindergarten, my home). Teach others (English teachers, future English teachers, community members) to read English with emphasis, intonation, character voices, pauses, etc. (This is a natural precursor to the theater class I have wanted to implement since the application process.)
The English of Other Subjects: Math and science, in particular. (In one afternoon, yesterday, in fact, I’ve created the beginnings of a card–based Game of Life—Mongolian Edition (where else is “Winterize ger” a life event?). It provides lots of practice with the structure of big numbers (necessary when counting in togrogs), along with the mathy terms of plus, minus, percent. Some kinks to be worked out, but I see promise here! Why is this so far down on the list, Love?!)
Anki to Staff: free, internet-based, electronic flashcard system. To reinforce vocabulary and basic sentence structures. (This program has been my main method of Mongolian language study, rather than the supplement it is intended to be. That said, it is a helpful way to build vocab. There are already several decks of Mongolian-English cards, but since my early days in Altai, I’ve been working on incorporating pictures, colors, size, etc., to make it require more than just translation.)
Word / PowerPoint / Excel training: formatting basics, formulas, etc. (Pretty straightforward. They use these programs and I have had formal training in them; I might be able to pass along some knowledge.)
Government Workers and Non-English Teachers: conversational English. (And anyone else who wants it!) Speaking practice: focus on pronunciation, common phrases for fluency, tricky words.
Creative Writing: take control of the language, have fun, think outside the box of sentence diagrams. There are no limits.
USA College Prep: Everything you ever wanted to know about what it is like to study in America. The college experience, life in the dorms, classroom differences, choosing a college, choosing a major.
The Elevator Pitch: who are you, in two minutes. Learn the skill of highlighting your strengths, targeting your audience, and summarizing your life experience. Useful for job interview, Visa interview, email introductions.
The Resume: Your work, education and life experience summarized in a page or two, following a standard format.
Feedback and suggestions welcomed and appreciated.