Three professional attributes that you plan to use during your Peace Corps service and how these will help you fulfill your aspirations and commitment to service.
Leadership, perseverance, and creativity are three professional attributes that have brought me to my current career and have given me the courage and drive to pursue the Peace Corps. These have been critical in my past and current jobs and I see them as even more instrumental in making my commitment to the Peace Corps a success. My aspirations for my time in the peace corps is to help the teachers in my community learn and implement strategies to better serve their students, to engage students in meaningful learning, and to assist my community in embracing education for their students.
Some professional attributes are learned and some are ingrained in you from an early age. I feel leaders can be made, but the roots that grow a person into a good leader are often inborn traits fostered by life’s situations. Personally, I have always been told that I was a leader from a very young age. Whether pee wee soccer, which was the end of my athletic career, to school projects, I always found myself in a leadership role. As I reflect on the the expressed challenges faced by Peace Corps Volunteers, I find many situations in which my professional leadership could model positive responses to situations and break some of the long standing practices that are discouraged but often continue.
Perseverance is another professional attitude I intend to draw greatly on during my Peace Corps service. I currently work with teachers who have students with many behavioral and social challenges. While the student is my main concern, I have to work hard to gain understanding of the core challenges faced by both the teacher and students. Daily, I am faced with building trust with both and act as an advocate of the student to the teacher and to the teacher to administration as changes are implemented to create a positive learning environment. While giving up or writing a situation off as hopeless is always an option, I have learned to persevere and be the determined party with at times, one or more of the parties involved is not on board. It is my job to get them on board!
Creativity in teaching is a must. From the most elite boarding school to the most remote village, engaging children in the classroom and developing a love of learning requires thinking outside the box and using unconventional methods to make a school room a magical place. In traveling and doing mission work in other parts of the world, I am always reminded that Americans are seen as rich. And while working in remote areas in Kenya, I can understand why that stereotype exist. Unfortunately, the United States school system is not the land of plenty and budget cuts are ever increasing making teaching supplies more and more scarce. My ability to be creative not only in working with minimal supplies but also using inventive strategies in teaching concepts and ideas will go far in working in impoverished areas.
Briefly identify two strategies for working effectively with host country partners to meet expressed needs.
Honesty and Genuineness go far when you are building any relationship and I understand the vulnerability that my host partners put themselves in to allow an “outsider” to come in and be trusted within their village, and especially with their children in a teaching setting. My time in South Africa will be short and I desire to be seen as a fellow human being who wants the same thing as they do; for the children in their community to learn and for native teachers and educational personnel to be supported and grow. My honest desire to leave my community better than I found it. I hope my genuine hope to share some the wisdom that has been shared with me by so many mentors will be passed on and continue of reap positive benefits even years after I am gone. By being honest with my host country partners about my strengths and weaknesses I can use my strengths and surround myself with people whose strengths are my weaknesses. Genuineness is important because even through a language barrier others can tell if you are being genuine or not.
Your strategy for adapting to a new culture with respect to your own cultural background:
Embracing the culture of South Africa will be my number one strategy in developing an effective working relationship with my host country partners. I intend to do this by being a student of their country. Even now, I am reading and learning about the history of South Africa and cultures and customs that exist there. If I wanted to simply live my United State life in South Africa, there would be no reason to join the Peace Corps. Just as I have gone into Kenya and learned “their” ways of life, I look forward to adapting to the South African way of doing things including a slower pace of life and learning their language. I believe this will build trust and acceptance with my host country partners and make my time there more productive as we become a united team.
Adapt, not change will be my motto. I have learned in going into new situations one of the worst things you can do it start changing things and give the impression that you always have a better way of doing something. Going into the different classroom with teachers with varied rules and procedures, I must be able to switch gears to fit in. Adapting also allows me to not be stressed when things change, or different views arise. I am blessed to have spent time in other countries during short-term mission trips from the time I was a child. These times, although short term, taught me many things. One of those things is you can do things you never thought you could. My mother’s motto during these trips was always that complaining is never an option. During my experiences, I will hear her saying: “If you are tired, so is everyone else, If your feet hurt, so does everyone else’s.” Most importantly, to see every challenge as a new adventure and although I am going into the Peace Corps to teach children, the impact I make in the lives of those I will reach can never compare to the impact they will have on me.
The skills and knowledge you hope to gain during pre-service training to best serve your future community and project:
Communication is essential, and I intend to put every effort into learning the language of my host community. Doing the work, I need to do to effectively communicate and “understand” my students, even those who speak English but lack the social skills to express themselves has always been important to me. I will put all my effort into making the pre-service language training a top priority to prepare me to fulfill my obligations and go beyond expected duties to become an accepted person of my community.
I also feel that building connections with fellow pre-service participants will enable me to build skills needed by learning from their strengths and experiences as well as sharing my own. I am sure we will all have much to learn and teach each other. I see bonding with my fellow pre-service classmates as the first step in bonding with my community partners, members, and students.
How you think Peace Corps service will influence your personal and professional aspirations after your service ends:
Just as my first mission trip in Panama when I was seven changed my outlook on life, I feel that my Peace Corps Volunteer service will continue to ignite that fire within me to travel, to serve, and to learn more about people all over the world. If home is where my heart is, I have pieces of my heart in Panama, Belize, Kenya and already in South Africa. I think my time in South Africa will make me less satisfied with settling for less than fulfilling my dreams.
As a teacher, I am sure my Peace Corps Service time will enrich my teaching and expand the career opportunities I have. I have always considered myself solely a special education teacher, but this time will expand myself as an english teacher. In gaining confidence in this new role I see it opening many opportunities that I would not have considered for myself. Also I see this time as a time to solidify my next step in deciding on a graduate degree for myself.