Since arriving in Guyana, my days have been filled with training in a variety of fields. I continue to learn about safety and security in the country, medical, and general Peace Corps sessions – but now school visits have been added to my agenda. All of the education volunteers are separated into groups of three and sent to different schools. I was lucky because my school is very close to my Host Family’s house – so I can walk there and save some of my transportation money for a snack or juice when I want them. And sometimes, you just have days when you really need some juice or plantain chips. (Or according to some of my fellow trainees, chocolate or ice cream!)
I was assigned to the first grade class, where I assisted a teacher in math lessons as well as literacy. Since our focus in the country is on literacy, I definitely took an interest in the way they taught their literacy lessons. I also was given the opportunity to test a number of students’ literacy skills like phonemic awareness. I made flashcards with the alphabet on them – the front side was lower case and the back side had capitals. A student would sit down with me and read off the letters in whatever order that they appeared. I didn’t want it to seem like they knew that alphabet when in reality that had the alphabet memorized in order, but did not actually know the letters. If they were able to say them fairly accurately, then I would ask them to say the letter sounds. (ie. “ah” “buh” etc.) If I felt the student knew their letters well enough, I then checked their ability to read simple words. I tried to make it more fun for them by using coloured popsicle sticks. The blue ones were all the pre-primer/pre-k level words, green were pre-k/1, yellow were 1st grade, etc. Then the students knew to pull out a certain colour and try to read it. If they were able to read seven or more of the 10 words, then they moved up to the next grade level of words. I had some students that couldn’t say any of their alphabet sounds or read the words, while others got to grade level 3 words.
This week was also our SOCA Challenge Week – which basically means we had to do something literacy related at the school for two and a half days. We have been working on a reading room in the school for a number of weeks and plan to do a read aloud. The reading room received a fresh coat of mint paint and an entire day’s worth of organization. I’m not entirely sure where they’re going to put all of the stuff that they have in the room – but at least its organized now! The school is removing the desks and benches that are attached to the walls in favour of new bookshelves (which they haven’t acquired yet). The teachers want a number of murals, cartoon characters, and quotes in the room. (And apparently I’m being voted as the artistic one in the group… no pressure or anything.) Yesterday, they decided on at least one element of the room so we were able to chalk it on the wall. They don’t have paint, so we’re not able to actually paint anything yet but at least they’ll have the pictures on the wall. It will make it easier for them to paint once they have the actual supplies. I wish I could see the completed room with murals and bookshelves, unfortunately as a whole there was just neither the time nor the supplies for the venture.
One weekend we traveled to New Amsterdam – and it took almost four hours to get there! Imagine if you had to take public transportation, it might take all day. It was incredibly fun because they taped off squares and let people do what they wanted (within reason) in the area. We split into groups – education and health and painted, then some of us decided that we wanted to do our own squares.
After weeks of training and learning the Guyanese ways from our Host Families… The day is almost upon us. In just one day, all of the trainees and I will find out where we will be spending our next two years in country. No sooner does that happen, but we’re shipped off to Georgetown to meet our counterpart and learn what is expected of us. The Counterpart Conference is two days long and I have no idea what is going to happen at it. After that, we are to spend a week at our future sites. As an education volunteer, this is my opportunity to meet the Headmistress and other teachers at the school while they are still in session. By the time I arrive officially, it will be their summer break and accomplishing anything for the school during that time without guidance will be much more challenging.
I can’t wait to find out the details about my site – where is it, what will I be doing, what does my house look like, who are the closest volunteers to me? Everything has been such a mystery up until now, that the anticipation is getting to be too much. I just want to know. They’ve taken us on education tours in Georgetown where we visited NCERD, shops with school supplies, and a book foundation. There were so many things that I wanted to pick up for school, but just couldn’t. Will I be in a library, my own classroom, doing pull-outs? Working with grade 1, 3, 5? There were so many unknowns that I didn’t want to spend what limited resources I had on supplies that I couldn’t end up using. I wanted to pick up useful stuff that the students would love, or supplies to make things for teachers, maybe books to help teach. But what if I bought a fifth grade level book and end up spending all of my time with first graders?
There was one blissful break in the long, long training schedule – last Thursday. They took us on a field trip, for fun… It was a day that all of the trainees had been looking forward to for a very long time. And do you know where we went? A waterpark. Granted, it’s not like the waterparks you think of but it was still so much fun. Splashmins is more like a lakeside resort, than a waterpark. They had little tiki-style cabanas, a beach volleyball court, bar and food, jetski rentals (which none of us did), ping pong and pool, as well as adjacent housing. As much fun as I had in the water all day, the houses in the “gated community” were absolutely gorgeous. I would seriously consider living there (plus that my favourite house was yellow). Many of them have views of the lake and much of the land is still being developed.
Those are the interesting parts of my last month of training… and I officially have less than one month left before I swear in as an actual Peace Corps Volunteer. The days creep closer and closer, until I’m going to wake up on July 8th and it will be the day. I can’t wait to say that I am a PCV – Peace Corps Volunteer!