Today I started teaching entrepreneurship again to the trainees at the vocational training centre where I work. Although we had planned to start with the course much earlier in the year, nothing ever goes according to plan (welcome to Peace Corps). A few volunteers who also work at COSDECs in different areas of Namibia and I banned together after last year’s attempt at teaching to create a standardized curriculum for all of the centres. And then, of course, that took much longer than expected.
Last year when I first got to site, teaching entrepreneurship was one of the first tasks I was assigned. And boy, was I a mess. At the time, I had a counterpart who at least helped me understand what we would be teaching and was able to put things in a Namibian context. But as Community Economic Development volunteers we don’t spend much time on teaching techniques because it is only a primary project for some (side note: I think they’ve integrated more teaching methodology into pre-service training since then). There was no standardized curriculum at the time, so I searched the web and my Peace Corps resource drive for material. I remember going in with a piece of paper with all my notes frantically written, and getting through the lesson in half of the allotted time. No course introduction, no expectations, no activity, no syllabus, no attendance sheet. Too afraid to tell kids to be quiet because I was new and it felt apparent that I had no clue what I was doing.
Today was worlds different. And even though I can say I didn’t learn much about effective teaching during PST, I’ve learned so much from other volunteers since then. And they are all such small things but the difference they’ve made is huge.
I started preparing for the course a few weeks back by setting up registration in my office and announcing the start date at our morning devotion. I collected more than just their names (rookie mistake last time) so that I have their details for certificates and contact info.
Earlier this week, I took a note out of my friend Angel’s page and contacted those who signed up via SMS to confirm registration. Almost everyone responded – awesome. Not only did this help remind trainees about the class, but it helped me prepare my materials.
Yesterday I created a lesson plan based on our new COSDEC curriculum… like a real lesson plan! Not just chicken scratches on a piece of paper. This is something I learned more about from our PCVLeads while I was a resource volunteer for Group 47.
Next, I created an entry procedure, which was handing out pieces of papers with an icon on it and having them sit and the corresponding table. This idea also came from resource volunteering and our general training of trainers.
I had a syllabus prepared. We reviewed expectations from their side and mine. I asserted myself about my two biggest pet peeves: phones and tardiness.
I had a group activity ready. After a someone presented, we thanked them by doing “claps on three”. This is something I saw another volunteer, Liam, doing while we filmed him in Kavango for Media Committee.
At the end of the class, I told them to review their notes because each class will open with a short quiz – a suggestion Sarah and Alex shared with me last week.
Why hadn’t I thought of any of these things before?
I wrote all of this not to share how great I am because honestly, I still have so much to learn when it comes to teaching (so much respect to the education volunteers). But I was amazed at how much I’ve improved since last year. A year ago I was dreading standing up in front of the class. Today I felt so much more confident, I got to respect from the trainees, and 17 people showed up for the (optional) class – that’s 11 more than last year! Small wins.
All of this is to say things take time. Improvement is incremental. Observe whenever you can. Always be learning. Knowledge transfer doesn’t have to happen in a classroom. And most importantly, we are all a work in progress.
What a difference a year makes, huh?