Finding the Pull Factor: A Guyana volunteer inspires a love for knowledge in her community
“Education needs to work by pull not push” This quote is from a TedTalk by Charles Leadbeater, British author and innovation consultant who speaks on the importance of innovation in different fields. In this particular TedTalk, Leadbeater covers educational innovation in slums and the need for a new method of drawing children to schools in third world environments. A point he emphasized was the need to create an incentive, a motivation of some type in order to give children a reason to want to come to school and learn. In third world countries, it can be so easy for students to abandon traditional education in exchange for a way to make money quickly in order to make ends meet. The key is to find a way to pull the students in so they find a reason to love getting an education and want to aim higher.
Hallie Fetterman, a volunteer in Guyana speaks on how she has found that unique pull factor in the community of Bartica, where she is volunteering. Her students developed a love for reading and recognizing that, Hallie and another WorldTeach volunteer, Mariah, took the initiative and created a library, making books available and an important part of the curriculum. This way her students would be inspired and enjoy coming to school to learn just as much as she enjoys being there to teach them.
When I came to Guyana I was prepared to teach Math or Science but our school, like many others, has such are large deficit of teachers that I was able to branch out to other departments. Growing up I was an avid reader so I was very excited to teach English and Reading to the students of Three Mile Secondary School. The first term was the most difficult and I spent a lot of time trying to assess the level of ability of my students while getting acclimated to the Guyanese education system.
At the end of the first term, I began to reflect about what made me love English and Reading when I was in high school and the answer was the books that we read as a class. When I went home for Christmas, I asked for books and donations for my students. A couple of weeks into second term, I received a package of 35 brand new Holes books, a story I chose because it was one of my favorite books I had read in school.
My students were hooked! For the first time since I had begun teaching they were silent when they were reading. Many came early for class and left well after the bell. I gave them comprehension questions to supplement the reading and we were able to discuss literary devices such as theme and characterization, something that was hard to do before because we didn’t have books to read.
I began to give out my books to the dorm students during their study hours, and once they had finished reading them they asked for more. That’s when I had an idea to start a library! I realized it was not that the students didn’t like to read, they just didn’t have any books. I shared my idea with Mariah and we contacted our family and friends at home asking for book donations. We now have over 200 books, and we hope to continue sending books to the school when we return home next year. Not a single day goes by without a student knocking on our door asking for a story, and there’s no better feeling than recommending a certain novel for a student and having them come back the next day to have them tell you they couldn’t put it down.
My favorite part of teaching in Guyana has been introducing my students to new ways of learning. Many of them wrote book reports for the first time in my class and I’ve tirelessly encouraged them to use their imagination in their writing. Additionally, two of my classes participated in a pen pal letter exchange with students at John Carroll University, my alma mater. In these letters, my students explained life in Guyana and asked questions about life in the United States; then, the John Carroll students offered advice and guidance to my students in Guyana. Several of my students have said that receiving the letters was their favorite part of the year.
I’ve done many incredible things during my time here such as meeting the President, experiencing mighty Kaieteur Falls, and making lifelong friends. My most cherished memory, however, is inspiring my students to explore new worlds through reading and education. I took the opportunity WorldTeach gave me and expanded upon it with the library and pen pal letters. Guyana is a wonderful country to live and teach, and an excellent place for volunteers to enrich their teaching experiences beyond the classroom.
If you’re interested in learning more about WorldTeach, visit our website at www.worldteach.org.