Pre-Departure Tasks for Service

This post is not just to remind myself of my personal planning goals since I am so busy with medial appointments lately (yay for vaccines and blood work), but for those who are wondering what exactly I will be doing in Ethiopia. This will eventually be followed up by an article for my goals and expectations during service soon, but today’s post is dedicated to talking about my job description and the expectations I have for myself during pre-departure to prepare.


From the Peace Corps website on the description of my role: 

“Volunteers are assigned to work at a high school and are responsible for a maximum of three English classes daily. Volunteers teach English and engage in teacher support programs that help local teachers develop professionally by focusing on English proficiency and instructional skills. All Volunteers plan and lead extracurricular activities such as student and teacher English clubs, computer trainings to support English language learning, library development and reading programs, and gender empowerment clubs.



Teaching Preparation Tasks

First reaction: I am going to be a busy man!   The amount of professional development I will be involved in is interesting, given how much experience I actually have with teaching English.  The Peace Corps provides training that is extensive enough that it will allow me to be certified afterward, but how much of the total information is provided before I actually start teaching?  I value preparation a lot, and the thought of having so much time that I can be planning and cannot because I do not know a lot about my classroom, such as what technology is available to me and how much time is in a class period, makes me nervous.  The need to be prepared became more apparent to me after I read this line in an article about teacher volunteers in Ethiopia:

“These Peace Corps teachers start on thin ice and through sheer stubbornness, dedication and good old-fashioned hard work slowly build their skills, integration and trust in the schools and towns of rural Ethiopia.”

Engaging and enjoyable lessons and activities will be vital to being successful and starting strong. The step I think I need to take so that I am not afraid of falling behind is to start learning about and training myself on proper instructional skills and the learning philosophies involved in teaching English as a second language.  Once I receive more information about how the classroom functions, I can dedicate more time to actually planning lessons and how to be an asset to teachers, rather than focusing on the material I am learning in training (If I already know the concepts being taught).   I think this will be the most efficient use of my time before I leave, rather than planning lessons that might not even happen.  I have so far bought two inexpensive e-books (TEFL: The Complete Guide to Teaching English Abroad and TEFL Lesson Plans: Samples, Strategies, Tools and Activities) and am currently researching for more, especially those that are textbook quality.


Extracurricular Activity Goals

Next part of the job is facilitating extracurricular activities.  From what I have seen online, there is a lot I can do with this.  When I first saw English clubs, I figured it would basically just be like extra class time, but this awesome video actually showed me how much freedom I can have with this club.  I essentially just need to find fun ways for them to talk and write to each other in English.  My current ideas are:

  1. Connect with more teachers that may be interested in a pen pal activity (Looking at you, Marisa).  Elementary school classes could also be interesting; we can correct their letters!
  2. Find ways to incorporate physical activity with learning English.  As mentioned before, I do not just want to do activities that are similar to what I do in a classroom. The equipment available should be fine for certain sports. Others can be an issue, especially if I can’t attain grant funding. Peace Corps Volunteers have a discount for Frisbees, so maybe  I can buy a couple for an Ultimate Frisbee league if necessary.
  3. Research ways to incorporate learning about gender equality and gender roles. The Let Girls Learn initiative, an Obama administration initiative in educating girls to reach their full potential, is an important aspect of my service.  Not only making them feel included and safe, but teaching the value of women in society and empowering them to make control of life decisions will be primary focuses.  Engaging activities that encourage dialogue between students will probably be the best method as it will encourage English speaking about this topic, as opposed to having a foreigner lecture them on how they should treat each other. Finding books that touch upon this theme  for a book club can work as well.



  1. Obviously, learn basic Amharic phrases.  No point in learning much more since I can be placed where people don’t speak too much of it and will have to learn another one of the over eighty languages spoken in Ethiopia.  Plenty of apps on my phone that can help me with learning phrases.  The alphabet is a totally different beast that might be not worth the trouble until I after I learn a decent number of phrases.
  2. Attempt to fit my existing packing list to see if it will all fit or possibly have space for more.  Just thinking about how I am going to fit everything I want to bring gives me nightmares.
  3. Trying to go to the gym regularly and eat better.  There is a lot I want to be able to do while I am away, and I need to be a lot healthier than I am now. Trying to do short term goals with this.  If I can hit 190 lbs. by the end of February, I will be happy.
  4. Figure out the situation with my technology.  Need to look into insurance for my laptop and my new GoPro 5 (Thanks, friends!). Also need to start downloading movies and TV shows onto my external hard drive. Only two things I know I want are It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Fight Club. Need my American entertainment!



Any advice or suggestions for me? Contact me if you do!


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