English Language Refresher Camp

After working at the camp in Uman, I had two days to relax in Sokyriany before catching a bus to Chernivtsi to work at my next camp. This camp, also known as the English Language Refresher Camp (ELRC), was organized by my friend Michelle for secondary Ukrainian English teachers in our region. Michelle works in Chernivtsi at a university and one of her colleagues is in charge of the Institute of Teacher Training. All of the teachers must come to this institute every few years to get re-certified, and this year, if the teachers attend the week long ELRC with the Peace Corps Volunteers, it counted as part of their recertification. None of the teachers from my school attended, but I agreed to teach anyways because all of my favorite PCVs were working at the camp : )


So from Monday to Friday, we spent our days at the Institute and conducted various lessons, entirely in English, to refresh the teachers’ knowledge of English and to give them an opportunity to practice their own speaking. Every day started out with a Methodology lesson, where we discussed different teaching methods and their effectiveness. It was mostly a discussion/brainstorming session based on loose topics, but I was really struck by how it seems like we all have similar problems with the students. I feel like I learned a lot from these teachers, as they explained their methods for handling classroom discipline, poor resources, and under-motivated students. It was affirming to know that many teachers have the same problems I do in lessons, and it’s not that I’m a bad teacher : )


The best part about the daily Methodology classes was that I team-taught with Erin, a Volunteer who lives in a neighboring village to Sokyriany. Erin is hilarious, and she also does an incredible job of communicating with non-native speakers. She is one of the few volunteers I know who joined Peace Corps after having a career, instead of joining fresh out of college. Her life experience gives her a unique perspective, and also makes her more of an authority figure with the teachers we were training. To be honest, I felt way under-qualified and way underage to be teaching teachers, some of which had 20+ years in the classroom. So teaching with Erin bolstered my credentials and made it a lot more enjoyable for me ; )


Besides methodology, I taught lessons on Education in America, Common Errors, Fiction Writing, Degrees of Comparison, Storytelling, and Close Reading. Teaching lessons for teachers is much more grueling than teaching students, because you have to be incredibly prepared and engaging the whole time. I enjoyed all of my lessons, and at the end of the week I felt really encouraged by how interested the teachers had been and how willing they were to work with the Peace Corps Volunteers. One of my favorite participants even invited me back to her village school so her pupils could have the opportunity of speaking with a native English speaker, and so we could have the opportunity to continue our friendship!


Here’s a picture of myself, Dan (a volunteer from Vyzhnitsya), and our two favorite teachers, Olia and Nastia:


And here is a picture of all of the Volunteers who took part in the English Language Refresher Camp: (from left to right ) Back row; Dan, Erin, Andy, and Sarah; front row: me, Lily, Kristin, Michelle, and Kate (Michelle’s colleague from the university who helped us run the camp).


And last, but not least, we have a picture of all the participants from the ELRC with their certificates of completion. What a wonderful group of teachers!

I’m really glad I got to work at Michelle’s camp. I was very encouraged by the teachers’ motivation and participation, and I made a lot of new friends! I also got to spend the week doing something useful and related to my Peace Corps service; the rest of my summer was spent traveling and doing things for my own enjoyment, so I’m glad I spent the first two weeks of summer working, and having such a good time doing it! : ) 


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