Where in the world are we?

Where in the World are We?

26 May 2010

My Life as a PTS Mini-Series, Part Two (by Ginnie)

Technical Training – Phase One

A major portion of my role this year has been to serve as the technical trainer for the education project. Since our post changed its intake to March for 2010, we had our August intake for 2009 and then the recent one in March, making for a busy year, which I was excited about in accepting the position.

The first step in technical training is the training of trainers, in which all of we tech trainers and the language and culture facilitators (LCFs) take part in a one-week training that covers all sorts of topics ranging from cultural awareness to adult learning processes to nonformal education techniques (i.e. our primary means of training). It falls about three weeks prior to the arrival of the trainees so that upon completion, we work with our assigned LCFs to plan our COTE (Calendar of Training Events) and travel to our training sites to arrange meetings and connect with community members who may take part in training and who set us up with a training center and introduce us to the host families with whom the trainees and LCFs will stay during the CBT (Community-Based Training) portion of PST (pre-service training). {Enough acronyms for you? I have plenty more!}

During the 2009 PST, I worked with two LCFs who taught Kriol and Maya K’ekchi. I had ten trainees and traveled between the village of Georgeville on the Western Highway (not far from San Ignacio) and the village of Maya Mopan right here in Belmopan city. It was about 30 minutes drive between them (once I was familiar with the road and all its many speed bumps – I should have counted them sometime; that would have been interesting to know). I split my training activities between the two sites so I’d spend a morning in one and an afternoon in the other, alternating which one I went to first. It was nice to be able to see everyone frequently, but became challenging to rush out of one site to get on the road and eat my sandwich (usually peanut butter and banana – my favorite - in case you were wondering) in the vehicle so I would not be late for the afternoon sessions. I quickly decided I’d split my schedule by alternating days for the 2010 intake! My plan turned out to be necessary as this time I am traveling between Armenia Village (my first home in Belize and a ten-minute drive south of Belmopan) and the district town of Dangriga (an hour and 15 minute drive from Belmopan on a steep-hilly, winding road).

For technical training, it is my responsibility to plan activities that provide trainees with the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) required for success as an education volunteer here in PC Belize. These come from our project plan and framework (i.e. a detailed document explaining the purpose of and goals for the project) and are translated into learning objectives. Each trainee is expected to meet the objectives in each session in order to successfully complete training and become sworn-in as a volunteer. The activities I prepare provide trainees with experiential learning opportunities to enable them to become familiar with education in the Belizean context and to put their background knowledge of primary education, particularly in relation to language arts and literacy development among other major concerns as classroom management, differentiated instruction and early childhood education, into practice in this new environment. I admit I myself do not have a background in primary education. In fact, in the spirit of full honesty, I don’t have much interest in it as a profession for myself either; I simply found myself here as a result of my placement in the education project – I am more of an upper level sort of educator (meaning high school and college students! Well, and adults since I love training!). I think it’s helpful to trainees that I share this with them, as well, since there are others who find themselves in this project with little experience beyond a degree in education or previous teaching at the high school level. For those who have strong skills in primary education, I use their knowledge to support the information I share and to be a mentor to the others (that’s what helped me get through some of that phonics stuff – thanks to Anthony and Mica!). The reality is, in 5 weeks we simply cannot train someone to be an expert on phonological awareness and literacy development; nevertheless, we work hard to develop an awareness in trainees for the type of work they will be involved in and the Belizean context for that work so they can then guide themselves to learn what else they may need in their particular site through PC resources and fellow volunteers.

This time around, I work with three LCFs, who are training in Spanish, Kriol, and Garifuna. Kriol and Garifuna are training in Dangriga with the Spanish folks in Armenia. Both times I have worked with strong LCFs and made even more great Belizean friends. In fact, the Kriol LCF I worked with in 2009 was a leader among her peers and we all recommended her for the new Language and Training Coordinator position which was created upon the retirement of our Language and Culture Coordinator, Miss Verolyn, who’d been here for years. I stayed in touch with Sharmaine after training and kept encouraging her to apply and now we work together every day!

The views as I travel on the beautiful Hummingbird Highway (the Oil truck is important, I found myself behind one or more daily and it's not so great on these steep hills since they go so slow and I'm in a standard vehicle hoping and hoping they won't slow to the point where I stall!)

Next in the series: training activities and CBT!

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