Exchanging knowledge

teaching the students

Volunteering is a fun, exiting and uplifting experience. But it has one flaw - it only has an impact as long as volunteers are present. We do not want to promote this dependent relationship. Exchanging knowledge with the local teachers is the way Voluntechers wants to improve education long term.

But how?

Instead of theoretical teacher trainings Volunteachers encourages practical exchange of knowledge. Exchange with the local teacher takes place when lessons are planned, held and reflected together with the volunteer. Therefore, a tandem of volunteer and local teacher should work together for the entire volunteering period. While both, teacher and volunteer, are present in every lesson, this does not mean they teach each lesson together. Observing each other’s lessons is an essential part of knowledge exchange and key to giving valuable feedback, which makes learning from one another possible. Talking about didactical approaches, methods and lesson structure ensures that teaching strategies are understood and reconsidered. Following through with this approach enhances the quality of English lessons and improves the students‘ learning environment.

Situation and Vision

In many English lessons, teachers read a text out loud and let their students repeat each sentence. Therefore, students are oftentimes not able to pronounce or understand the words they are saying properly. Instead of experiencing English as a tool for communication they are stuck with learning everything by heart without knowing the meaning of the words.

A main goal of Volunteachers is to ensure the students understand the words they are saying and experience the language as a useful tool to communicate with people from all over the globe. By improving the students‘ English skills new professional perspectives open up. Volunteers can help to achieve this goal by incorporating communicative methods in their lessons and discuss them with the local teachers.

Here are a few tips

Get an Overview

Every school, every class and every teacher is different. Therefore, it is important to learn about the way English lessons are taught at your host school. Before teaching lessons yourself observe your tandem partner’s lessons. This way, you can identify problems and get an idea about what can be improved. Proceeding this way makes sure that you have a clear picture of the school's situation. This knowledge is essentail to work with the teacher(s) in a truthful and respectful way.

Encourage exchange

Even if you have visited several lessons and you are certain to have identified any problems, make sure to strive for an exchange culture rather than trying to force and dictate change. Ask the teachers about their difficulties and offer your support.

If, for example, a teacher is planning to read a story from the textbook, discuss different methods that make an interesting and comprehensible lesson. While sharing ideas with your tandem teacher(s), keep in mind to focus on methods aiming for communicative skills and comprehension.

For a continuous and sustainable exchange of knowledge both parties, volunteers and teachers, have to strive for it. Keep in mind that the local teachers have to teach multiple lessons and might be caught in their daily routine. Engaging in the Volunteachers program offers them valuable learning opportunities but also comes at the cost of extra time and effort. As the person with the looser schedule, offer your help without being asked and show your motivation.

Be patient

Oftentimes it takes students and teachers (as well as yourself) time to get used to the new situation. Your pronunciation, teaching methods and the structure of the overall lesson might vary significantly from the groups previous experience, which results in a long adapting period. In the beginning some students might not be able to understand very much. Prepare the teachers for this scenario and explain that the class needs time to adapt. However, apart from being patient, you should keep in mind to tailor your teaching approaches to the needs of your learner group.

Use existing materials

While teaching materials are often a rare resource, it is not our focus to provide these materials. Volunteachers rather wants to use the existing materials and come up with ideas how to use them creatively and efficiently. If the school is working with a specific text book, help the teachers to plan their lessons based on this book.

Most schools will not have the resources to buy other materials or the book available is compulsory. The teachers might also be more comfortable to work with something they are already familiar with. Focus on supporting them in putting the book to the best possible use by providing knowledge about different methods and approaches. Introducing and practicing new teaching techniques while using existing materials ensures a sustainable way of enhancing the quality of English lessons. However, if extra material is available, which supports the English lessons, implement it and encourage the teachers to do so.

If you experience that materials are missing, which would be really beneficial for the school please contact us the Volunteachers team and refer to this passage about donating materials first.

Stick to a schedule

As your tandem teacher has to teach many lessons each day, it is a good idea to come up with a schedule to plan and revise lessons. If time allows, give short feedback after each lesson. Otherwise the lunch break offers an opportunity for a short review. If there is no time for daily feedback or you feel too rushed, arrange a time slot each week for your exchange with the teacher(s). This way experiences from passed lessons can be used to improve the following lessons. It also enables the teacher(s) to get to know you better, build trust and get used to your maybe a little unusual ideas.

Give constructive feedback

Giving constructive feedback is key to knowledge exchange. We have compiled eleven tips to ensure that your feedback finds its way to the recipient. Feel free to ask for them.

Even if feedback is very important for the exchange of knowledge be aware of cultural differences. In Nepalese culture teachers are highly respected and are expected to be role models. Make sure you are acting sensitively and your feedback partner maintains face. As a volunteer and teacher you will be treated with great respect be sure to pay the same respect to you opposite. To get an insight into Nepali culture and avoid the main faux pas ask for our „Cultural Guide“.