What they don’t tell you about Peace Corps service, or at least I wasn’t paying attention, is how much you need to rely on other people to be successful. I’ve got a solid group of over 70 individuals who are killing it on the daily in their schools, with their clubs and in their towns, villages and cities. This post has some examples.
My favorite part about this job are my clubs. Don’t get me wrong, I am learning to love my time in the classroom, but the area where I have had the most fun as a PCV would hands down be my clubs.
I’ve written about my clubs before, I have one for teachers and I have one for students. My teachers club has surprised me. I didn’t know if I would enjoy it, but the teachers and parents that attend are quick learners and they work hard.
My students club has a focus on speaking and on American culture. We don’t have homework, we play lots of games, generally, it’s just a fun time for them to hear more about America, play some games and practice speaking English in an environment that’s not as pressurized as a classroom.
We talk about all kinds of things. So far we’ve had topics on travelling, Peace Corps, American music and Valentine’s Day. I like to follow my students lead and take their suggestions, but sometimes I’ve just got something I’d love to share.
PEANUT BUTTER JELLY TIME
One of those was food. I stole this idea from a fellow volunteer (*cough cough* Alex Polk) but it was a hit. If you know me, you know I. LOVE. FOOD. Having the chance to share some of my favorites with my students was a no-brainer.
I started with a game and then had a presentation about different American foods. I got the chance to explain that America is really lucky to have food from all over the world that is considered ‘American,’ because America is a place where people have come from all over the world that are, in fact, American. I love getting to work in a life lesson when I’m discussing hot dogs and pizza.
I explained what burritos and tacos were and that, besides my family, the thing that I missed the most about America were the aforementioned burritos and tacos.
We watched a couple of cooking videos with Ukrainian subtitles. I introduced them to Guy Fieri, then we moved on to the main event. EATING.
I recently made my way to the city to the Ukrainian equivalent of Wal-Mart (it’s called вел-март, which is pronounced vel-mart, and it is glorious), and purchased peanut butter and jelly. I showed my students the right way to make PB&J, peanut butter on one piece of bread, jelly on the other, but I had no idea what they would think.
Peanut butter is one of those things that has largely stayed in America, its popularity hasn’t spread to a lot of placed in the world. If I can have an impact on that, I think my work here is done. My kids loved it. We finished up club by watching another cooking video and talking about what they wanted to learn about next week.
THE WORLD’S LONGEST GAME OF UNO
In another idea borrowed from a fellow PCV, my topic this week for my teachers’ club was numbers and colors. I knew I wanted to teach numbers, but I had no idea where to start. One of my fellow volunteers posted the curriculum she created for an adult English club with learners at a beginner’s level.
Guess what my club was? If you guessed ‘an adult English club with learners at a beginner’s level,’ you would be correct!
She had the genius idea of presenting both the numbers and colors, like normal, but then following it up with a game of UNO. Instead of just playing like normal, every time someone played a card they had to say what number and color they were playing, in order to reinforce the topic. For example, if I played a blue 7, I had to say “I have a blue seven.” Pretty simple stuff.
They game worked well, but it also took forever. I had five teachers and parents, which was the perfect number of people. I do have to say, the UNO cards came from my grandma and the packages that I’ve received from her and my parents have given me a chance to feel a little bit of home and, more importantly in my opinion, share some of my home with my students and friends here.
These club examples are a small example of the ways that PCVs support each other to succeed. Whether or not it relates to our work, I’m surrounded by people who are rooting for me, who understand what I’m going through, have great suggestions for me to be better and are open to hearing my suggestions. When it comes to Peace Corps service, teamwork definitely makes the dream work.