Why did you decide to teach with WorldTeach in South Africa?
Katy: I chose WorldTeach in South Africa because I’m interested in international education policy and I wanted to personally experience education in a developing country. Teaching abroad seemed like a great way to better understand education at a grassroots level. I chose WorldTeach South Africa because the program offered a great deal of support (pre-departure and in-country) and was one of the most reasonably priced programs I could find.
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer teacher.
Katy: During the first phase of the program, during the schools’ winter holiday, I and a few other volunteers worked with seventh graders at a community center in a township called Masiphumelele. We had a great deal of flexibility to design and run the program, which made it an even more rewarding experience. We did lots of creative, team-building, and confidence-building activities with the learners, took group excursions around the Cape Town area, and organized speakers about HIV, human rights, and other relevant topics. We continued to see these learners later in the program in an afterschool program. It was great to stay in touch with these fantastic students.
During the second phase of the program, once school resumed, I worked at a primary school in a community called Ocean View. In the mornings, I assisted in a fourth-grade classroom with 46 students. I worked with small groups and individual students in ‘maths’ and English. For two hours, I tutored sixth-graders one-on-one in English. I saw the same students every day, so I got to know them well and see incredible progress over the course of the program, which was very meaningful. In the afternoon, another volunteer and I would go to another fourth grade class and read stories to help them practice English. Each day, the fourth graders would send us off with hugs and big waves.
What made this experience unique and special?
Katy: This experience was unique because WTSA volunteers work in two very different communities in South Africa, which is was a great way to experience the diversity of the Rainbow Nation. Since volunteers are first involved in programs during the winter holiday and then work in schools, WTSA volunteers can act as mentors in a more informal setting and as teachers or teaching assistants in a more formal setting.
My WorldTeach experience was particularly special because we were incredibly well supported by the field director. He welcomed us to South Africa like family and was more than willing to address any questions or concerns that we had about our school and homestay placements and about life in South Africa more generally.
All of this came together to make my WorldTeach experience the best two months of my life, and I recommend the program to anyone interested in teaching abroad.
How has this experience impacted your future?
Katy: My WorldTeach experience further convinced me that I want to work in international education. Every day was eye-opening and inspiring, and by then end of the trip, I felt like I had learned far more than I had taught. Living and teaching in South Africa also made me more interested in studying abroad in Africa.
Highlights: It is impossible to just choose one, or even a few, highlights from the trip. Every day was eye-opening and inspiring. There is nothing more amazing than hearing a group of seventh graders describe education as “the key of life” and discuss their hopes and dreams for the future.
On my last day at the primary school, one of the students I had been tutoring every day in English came back to me during interval (like recess) and asked if he could read more. Seeing his confidence and love for learning grow was one of the many incredible aspects of my WorldTeach experience. Over the course of the trip, I got very close with the learners, teachers, and other volunteers I worked with. These relationships were another wonderful highlight of my WorldTeach South Africa experience.
Morning: During the first three weeks of the program we were working a black township. At the time, it was the winter holiday from school, so I and several other volunteers worked with seventh graders through a community center in the township. In the mornings, we would start with breakfast and a song, and then do team-building and confidence-building activities with the learners.
During the second phase of the program, I worked at a primary school in a ‘coloured’ (mixed race) township. I started off the day in a fourth-grade classroom, working with small groups and individual students on ‘maths’ and English.
Afternoon: During the first phase, our afternoons often included speakers about HIV/AIDS, human rights, and other issues relevant for our learners. We also took a few excursions to give the students more experiential learning opportunities. We often concluded with a game or creative activity and a song.
In the afternoons at the primary school, I tutored four sixth-graders for half an hour each every day, working on reading skills. It was very meaningful to see their progress and get to know them as they opened up over the course of our time together! At the end of each day, another volunteer and I went to a fourth-grade classroom. We would read and discuss a story with the class, and the learners would send us off with big hugs and enthusiastic waves.
Most volunteers were also involved in at least one after school activity. One afternoon a week, I returned to the other township to work with the same seventh-graders I saw every day during the first phase of the program. It was great to maintain a relationship with them this way.
Evening: In the evening, I would typically go for a walk or run on the beach. With gorgeous sandy beaches and views of Table Mountain and Chapman’s Peak in the distance, the area is a lovely place to spend the evening.I was living with a host mother and two other WorldTeach volunteers. Most of the other volunteers were also within walking distance, so I spent many evening hanging out with other WTSA volunteers. Depending on their living situation, some volunteers also spend a great deal of time with their host families, with whom they may become very close.
One evening each week, the volunteers and the field director met up to talk about the South African education system and discuss any opportunities or challenges we were facing. On a few particularly spectacular nights, our meetings included mini-hikes or sunset viewings. These weekly gatherings were a great way to bring the whole group together.