WorldTeach Ecuador End-of-Service Recommendations

WorldTeach Ecuador End-of-Service Recommendations

(c) 1997 Ivan Gevirtz

Ivan Gevirtz
1284 Beacon St. #409
Brookline, MA 02446-3731
(617) 713-3831
Steve Kirk
Executive Director
c/o Harvard Institute for International Development
1 Eliot Street
Cambridge, MA 02138-5705
(617) 495-5527

June 21, 1997

Dear Mr. Kirk,

The September 1996 WorldTeach Ecuador group met on Friday May 30, 1997 to discuss the WorldTeach organization, and especially the program in Ecuador. As a group, we were very pleased with our experiences this year, and agree that WorldTeach is a valuable program with enormous potential. We felt that while WorldTeach, like any young program, was doing a lot of good things, there were a lot of things that could be improved upon. We broke up into groups to discuss various aspects of the program: The WorldTeach Mission, Orientation, The In Service and End of Service Conferences, Host Families and Site Selection, and Money. We later met with Sharon and Janet to present our thoughts. The following document is a more revised and complete discussion of our observations and suggestions.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to call me. I will be back in the Boston area starting in mid August, and will give WorldTeach Boston my address and number once I am settled.


Ivan Gevirtz
and 30 other WorldTeach Ecuador September '96 volunteers.

PS I would like to thank Tushar Shah and Nicole Patterson for their help in editing this document.

CC: WorldTeach Ecuador



When we looked at the experiences of the volunteers, we realized that there were several different kinds of sites. There were sites chosen for their ability to pay for the volunteer. There were "charity" sites that could not pay for their volunteer. There were sites where the English taught would be used for the good of Ecuador. There were sites where the students would never use English. There were city sites and rural sites. There were sites without schools.
Because of the variety of sites, we were confused about WorldTeach's mission. Was WorldTeach merely an expensive employment agency? Or was it serving some other purpose? Was the WorldTeach teacher a "volunteer" -- giving her time and energy to help underprivileged people? Was the WorldTeach volunteer placed to have the maximum utility, with people who would use English in their lives? Or was WorldTeach a cultural exchange program, where the students and volunteers are exposed to another culture, and the volunteer has an opportunity for personal growth?
We were confused. As Sharon indicated, part of the problem lies in the fact that WorldTeach does not have a clearly stated, well thought out Mission Statement. Such a Mission Statement could be used to guide all of what WorldTeach does.
Based on the literature that the volunteers receive, and the literature in the public domain, WorldTeach sounds like a Public Service organization. However, the reality is that many sites are chosen for their ability to pay and not for their need for volunteers. In fact, some sites use WorldTeach to save money, paying volunteers less than regular teachers, even though they can afford to pay more. And finally, there is no access to volunteer sites that really need access to English, such as factories, and Public High Schools. With a clear Mission Statement, WorldTeach could develop criteria for making decisions on issues such as site choices. In addition, a clear Mission Statement would allow WorldTeach to evaluate new program possibilities and pilot programs, and see if new ideas fall within the scope of WorldTeach. For example, if WorldTeach is to be a Public Service organization, we could start teacher training programs where the teachers then would be able to effectively teach large numbers of students. This would be a sustainable solution -- WorldTeach would go into a country, spend a few years training teachers in English and in methodology, and then leave, leaving behind capable teachers who could reach many more students.

People had a lot of ideas on how orientation could be improved. Orientation is supposed to get us ready for a year of teaching English in a foreign country. We felt that orientation should be structured to accomplish this, with 90% of orientation focused on teacher training and 10% focused on cultural material. In fact, we think that orientation should be goal driven: At the end of orientation, every volunteer should have everything she needs to teach English for a year in a foreign country. The easiest way to accomplish this would be to have Orientation structured toward the earning of a TEFL certificate. To accomplish this, WorldTeach could hire a knowledgeable EFL instructor. This would greatly benefit both the volunteer, and the host country.
The teaching sessions should cover topics such as grammar (reviewing grammar rules), managing classroom problems (such as cheating), class planning (without supplies), and fun activities (to reinforce boring grammar lessons). In addition, many different activities could be presented to us in brief. We spent several fun hours drawing with crayons for the City lesson, which was a waste of time.
The cultural part of orientation should be much more concise, with much fewer speakers. The many different speakers spent a lot of time covering the same things. We liked the history lesson, and the talk with the Peace Corps nurse. The cultural lady and the Sierra/Coastal difference talk was useless.
We felt that time could be used more efficiently, with fewer "how did it make you feel" activities, and fewer breaks. In addition, the volunteers could receive short homework assignments to reinforce what they learned. Finally, at the end of Orientation, the volunteers should give suggestions for improvement.
We also wanted more preparation before site visits. Site visits were chaotic, with many people going to the sites without an appointment with the director, and people didn't know what to do.
A map of volunteer placements during orientation would be very helpful. We were told that this will be done for the incoming volunteers.
A final suggestion to improve Orientation would to improve the pre-orientation mailings. They should be mailed much earlier, and should be reviewed for accuracy and redundancy.

In service should be focused on teaching, talking about problems encountered and solutions, as well as new ideas. The time we spent on talking about individual experiences as a group was minimal. This was good. We all get to talk personally about our experiences, and when we are in a group it is good to talk about general things and ideas. We really liked the inservice dinner, but we hate the SECAP/SERFIN location.
End of Service (EOS) was generally very good. However, scheduled as part of end of service should be an evaluation of the year and the program, with the goal of generating suggestions for improvement. Time should be better managed, with activities covering the same material eliminated. Also, there should be more time for general WorldTeach business, such as insurance money, etc... Also, perhaps the volunteers could have input on what we want to talk about for EOS. Because it is the end, it is more of a time to share and less of a time for WorldTeach to run the show. We really liked having EOS in Banos. It gave us a chance to be all together in a nice place, without having all the distractions of Quito. In addition, it was nice for the Quito people to stay with the rest of the group. We really liked the T-shirts.

There is a lot that can be improved here. We realize that there is no perfect system to ensure things to be completely smooth, but there is also a lot of room for change. Families, indeed sites change from year to year, and this needs to be accounted for. There is no excuse for placing volunteers in bad sites year after terrible year. The easiest way to accomplish this would be to have the WorldTeach administrators maintain close relations with the sites. Maintaining relationships is difficult when the administrators change frequently. To aid transitions, new administrators could be introduced to the site coordinators as part of the changing of the guard.
There should be a file of sites and families which describe the situations. To get this, at the end of the year, the volunteer should write about their sites and their families, the good and bad, and the strategies that worked. These should be saved, and should be available to the future volunteers. Additionally, this could be helpful to match the volunteer with sites, if there were brief descriptions of each site.
We felt that all sites should be visited by one of the Directors, before Christmas. Site visits are extremely important. They accomplish two things: They help the volunteer. And, they strengthen the relationships with the site and WorldTeach. They should thus have two parts: one classroom observation, and the other, a talk with the administrator. This year, 13/34 people present at end of service had not been visited. And some were in Quito in the same building as the WorldTeach office. This is unacceptable.
A potential solution would be to have an Ecuadorian Liaison who could travel to the sites and evaluate sites and be on call for any problems that may arise. This liaison, or the Director should always support the volunteer, particularly with a site problem. The volunteer is more important than any site.
One final question was raised about the relationship WorldTeach has with SECAP. SECAP provides some of the best sites. However, they seem to provide some of the worst problems, as well. What is the relationship between WorldTeach and SECAP? Is WorldTeach helpless with SECAP? What power does WorldTeach have over SECAP, and what does SECAP have over WorldTeach?

WorldTeach is a very expensive program. In Ecuador, volunteers pay over $4000 USD to enroll. And then they get paid virtually nothing. Many people come to Ecuador, get the same jobs, don't pay the program fee, and even make more at the same sites. To justify this, WorldTeach must provide the volunteer with something, or the "volunteer" is really a "sucker". Where does the money go? The answer to this question must be related to the issues raised in the Mission section.
Many people thought that we were paying money to subsidize themselves. Because of this, we thought we would be going to poor sites that could not afford to pay us. We did not expect to be used as cheap labor. We paid to do service oriented work, and many people did not feel that WorldTeach provided this. Some people felt that WorldTeach was an expensive employment agency, which failed when some sites didn't have work!
One potential solution is to limit the number of applicants. We feel that 54 volunteers were accepted to the Ecuador program to help subsidize other programs. If this is so, then there should be a fixed fee for all programs. And, we should not be placed in sites that can afford to pay regular teachers. Some felt that sites were chosen on ability to pay. Field Coordinators should be encouraged to find more needy sites, and take responsibility for the sites chosen. Inappropriate sites should be eliminated. We agree that there should be a variety of sites, and that the costs of each site are different, and the disparities created could be justified with a strong Mission Statement.
The Boston office should clearly show us how they spend the money they get from us. When has Boston come to Ecuador?
Finally, people should not get paid late. People have to pay their families on time, and don't have money to do this. One solution is to have the WorldTeach organization float the monthly cost, until the individual institutions pay.

Most of us were happy to have come to Ecuador and to have chosen to join WorldTeach. However, we felt that the program could certainly be improved upon in many ways. We hope that this letter will help facilitate such improvements.

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