Volunteer teaching – tips and ideas

Volunteer teaching – tips and ideas

There are many people among teachers who not only enjoy their work but are also eager to help others with learning English just for the sake of equal rights in education. Despite plenty of chances that most of us are given as citizens of this or that country, there are still places, cities and societies where education is unavailable for common people. Among them are orphanages, poor and war-torn countries, many Muslim countries, where the privilege of education is given to boys rather than girls. Unfortunately, more than 72 million children around the world remain unschooled. The necessity of volunteer teachers is gradually arising more and more often in different places. But how to start volunteering, where to go? Here we will introduce several tips on how to become a volunteer teacher, and where to find volunteer jobs. 

My own experience

In my early twenties, I made up my mind to go to the orphanages with my trustworthy friends and to help them in their studies. We volunteered at the orphanage after Marie Izmirlian in Armenia. We were young, full of emotions and we really thought we could change something in the kids’ life. However, working with orphans can be really challenging, as you face many obstacles in this way. There are several things you should bear in your mind if you want to volunteer in the orphanages:

  • Don’t look down on them.
  • Don’t show that you are very sorry about their living conditions. Many of them get offended when they see you don’t treat them as equal citizens. 
  • Show your sympathy towards them, but not sorrow. 
  • Motivate them to learn by showing your example (If I hadn’t studied well, I wouldn’t have been able to help you with English. After you study the language, you will be able to help your siblings/friends with English, you will watch your favorite cartoons and films in English, you will listen to the interviews of your favorite actor/actress/singer/footballer, etc.).
  • Try to avoid asking personal questions about their own families. But don’t exclude the topic of family in your classes thoroughly. 
  • Instead of giving marks, encourage them to do the tasks by giving something material, e.g. chocolate, cupcakes, pens, colourful pencils. This kind of competition will make them feel confident,  work effectively and with great enthusiasm to win the prize.

And then hopefully, one day you will get surprised as much as I was when I found out that the boy whom I had taught English at the orphanage, has become my colleague at the airport. 

Apart from orphanages, I also volunteered for the children who come from poor families and don’t have any chance to go to school. Even though secondary education in Armenia is free, these children don’t attend school, since they don’t have suitable clothes, stationery and sometimes a wish. Working with these children was sometimes even more complicated. The only thing they longed for was food, nothing else. At first, I couldn’t settle them down, make listen to me. None of them was interested in the learning procedure. But let’s try to imagine what would we do if we were they? Can we work, when we are hungry or thirsty? Definitely no. Hence I created my strategy to work with them. I would make some sandwiches and give them to the children before the lesson. Full stomachs would make their brains work, and they would start to learn. During the breaks, I would give them some sweets so that they don’t starve. 

That’s all about my own experience, now let’s check where else teachers can volunteer.

International Organizations for equal education

There are numerous charity funds, organizations that deal with the problem of education. They need more and more volunteer teachers to help them.

Volunteer jobs in Africa

VSO (Volunteer service overseas)  volunteers support education programmes to ensure that every child has access to education. You can teach English, design learning resources, develop the next generation of teachers, or create new school management policies.  The company provides you with a financial package that includes a local living allowance, return flights, accommodation, insurance, etc. 

Teach English as a volunteer in Thailand and Southeast Asia

OpenMind Projects is a developmental aid organisation focused on helping communities in Thailand and Asia. If you are interested in this project, request more information here. 

Volunteer teaching abroad

Through this project, children get a chance to have an education. You can volunteer in elementary schools, high schools, or colleges in a country with limited resources. Among the project destinations, you will find countries from Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. 

After you apply for a volunteer job abroad, keep in your mind the following tips:

  • Understand the culture. Before moving to the chosen country, find out all necessary information concerning its culture. Learn about peculiarities that are typical of that country, ranging from forms of address to types of education.
  • Be patient. Don’t expect too much from the children who have never gone to school. Take your steps carefully taking into consideration each student’s abilities.
  • Avoid politics and religion.  Especially when you are in a foreign country, you must avoid speaking about politics and religion. Instead of them, use motivational topics for discussion.

We teachers are gifted people, as the bright future of our children is mostly in our hands. 

“Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.” 

Sherry Anderson


Вероника Аветисян

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