Tag Archives: PST

A collection of Nepal PCV blogs

I hear the N/199 group is doing well at the PST in Chautara, Sindhupalchok district. Very exciting. I am following a few of the PCV blogs with what I will admit is mix of admiration and envy. I said never again, but ah, to do it all over again—wait! no, I wouldn’t. I mean, I would, but I don’t have to. Never mind, doesn’t matter. Now I armchair quarterback.

I wish them well in their service and experiences. I hope I get to read some crazy shit, like about drinking jar for breakfast during training. Nonsense!—and I loved every minute of it.

A description of a service

Below is a copy of my Description of Service, or DOS. Every Peace Corps volunteer files a DOS at the end of service, whether it be an early termination or the conventional COS. This document remains with Peace Corps as it kept as the official record of my Peace Corps experience.

But it doesn’t express what my experience has meant to me and only concerns my experiences in the Peace Corps related to my project goals. So a lot of my actual experience—good or bad—won’t be found here. Note that the odd, third-person language is just the DOS is filed.

Description of Peace Corps Volunteer Service

Scott Allan Wallick — Nepal/194

After completing a competitive application processes stressing applicant skills, adaptability, and cross-cultural understanding, Mr. Scott Allan Wallick was invited into Peace Corps service. He was assigned for his first year of service to teach English as a Foreign Language (EFL) at the primary level and for the second year to work as an English Language Teacher Trainer (ELTT) with primary-level English teachers.

Wallick entered Peace Corps’ pre-service training (PST) on February 23, 2002, participating in an intensive, 11-week program in Nawalparasi district, Nepal. Language training included 135 hours of Nepali (speaking, reading, writing) and 12 hours of spoken Hindi. Technical training included 110 hours of methodology, educational systems, and other large-class, low/no-cost materials strategies. As a part of technical training, Wallick completed 6 days of practice teaching two 4th and 5th grade English classes.

In addition to language and technical training, Wallick also completed 30 hours of health and medical training focusing on self-diagnosis and self-medication, 30 hours of cross-cultural and community activities, including English and math tutoring, and 17 hours of safety and security training, focusing on historical and current implications of Nepal’s Maoist insurgency.

Wallick successfully completed training and was sworn-in as a Peace Corps volunteer on May 8, 2002. For his first year of service, he was assigned to Sri Sundarmal Ramkumarji Kanya MV (secondary school) in Birganj, Parsa district, Nepal, where he was one of 22 faculty members. The girls’ school, with an enrollment of over 450 students, offered eleven grades of study. Wallick was assigned to His Majesty’s Government’s (HMG) Ministry of Education and reported directly to the school’s headsir, Hari Krishnore Misra.

Wallick was responsible for the HMG’s mandated English curriculum for the 4th and 5th grades, teaching 12 hours per week for 9 months (over 300 hours of instruction), a full school year. For his first year, Wallick’s primary responsibilities included curriculum development, lesson planning, constructing and administering exams, monitoring and evaluating students, and preparing the students’ end-term grades. Wallick shared all faculty responsibilities and also taught a computer literacy class to the faculty for 2 hours per week for three weeks.

For Wallick’s second year of Peace Corps service, he was assigned to the District Education Office of Parsa district, located in Birganj, where he reported directly to the District Education Officer, Yogendra Bahadur Basnet. Wallick was responsible for holding bi-monthly teacher trainings for a cluster of schools comprising 26 primary-level English teachers. Prior to the beginning of this second year project, Wallick worked with 11 other N/194 ELTTs to create the program’s curriculum, including structures, functions, educational topics, and monitoring and evaluation tools.

During his second year, Wallick instructed 26 teachers during 30 hours of formal sessions and provided over 200 hours of on-site assistance to the teachers individually at their schools. His major responsibilities during this program were to monitor and evaluate the progress of the teachers as well as the ELTT program (Peace Corps/Nepal’s first), design sessions based on the ELTT curriculum, provide specific support and generate motivation to the teachers, assist the teachers with classroom management, and provide and model EFL methodology.

In addition to his primary first- and second-year responsibilities, Wallick also organized and facilitated two teacher trainings at other Peace Corps volunteers’ sites. He created the curriculum for a seven-day teacher training (21 hours of instruction) in far-western Nepalgunj. The training was designed for non-teachers, as the school was also an orphanage and the teachers were volunteers.

He designed and co-executed a four-day, two module teacher training in Dharan, located in the mid-hills of eastern Nepal. The first two days (7 hours) were a general training for the school’s faculty (eight teachers and a headsir), focused on developing student/teacher relationships and expectations and establishing rules and consequences. The other two days (7 hours) were for a cluster of 14 primary-level English teachers and focused on effectiveness methods for teaching English speaking, reading, and writing skills.

At the request of Peace Corps/Nepal’s training office, Wallick assisted during two other PSTs (N/196 and N/198), instructing Peace Corps trainees (PCT) on Nepali educational systems, teaching strategies, and classroom management, for 22 hours, including example teaching four 4th and 5th grade classes for PCTs’ observation. He also mentored two PCTs during their practice teaching, providing pre- and in-class support for over 6 hours to each individual.

On two other occasions, Wallick was asked by the training office to assist during in-service trainings (IST). He facilitated a 3-hour session on classroom management during the N/194 IST. He also facilitated 6 hours of sessions during the N/196 IST, including a review of the ELTT curriculum and second-year planning for their second year.

Peace Corps/Nepal’s training office also asked Wallick on two occasions to locate and analyze potential sites for volunteer work placement. Wallick selected two schools after conducting interviews with the faculties and analyzing the schools’ data. Two volunteers were later placed in both schools and completed their first year assignments successfully and with positive experiences.

Wallick planned and organized various secondary projects while full-filling his primary project goals. He planned two children’s day camps at schools for disadvantaged communities during the 2002 and 2003 International Children’s Days. During his first year at Sri Sundarmal Ramkumarji Kanya MV, he created and mentored a girls’ club for three months, which meet weekly for 2 hours.

He provided logistical and technical support to two other PCVs for a daylong HIV/AIDS awareness rally in Jhapa district, far-eastern Nepal. Wallick also was responsible for communicating information between the office and 22 volunteers as a regional warden. As warden, Wallick received over 5 hours of training in emergency preparedness and “what if” scenarios concerning the safety and possible evacuation of those 22 volunteers from the country.

At the completion of his service, a certified Foreign Service Institute examiner tested Mr. Scott Allan Wallick and he scored an ‘advanced’ in spoken Nepali.

Pursuant to Section 5(f) of the Peace Corps Act 22 USC. 2504(f), as amended, any former Volunteer employed by the United States Government following his Peace Corps Volunteer Service is entitled to have any period of satisfactory Peace Corps service credited for purposes of retirement, seniority, reduction in force, leave, and other privileges based on length of Government service. That service shall not be credited toward completion of the probationary trial period of any service requirement for career appointment.

This is to certify in accordance with Executive Order 11103 of April 10, 1963, that Mr. Scott Allan Wallick served successfully as a Peace Corps Volunteer. His service ended on April 7, 2004. He is therefore eligible to be appointed as a career-conditional employee in the competitive civil service on a non-competitive basis. This benefit under the Executive Order extends for a period of one year after termination of Volunteer service, except that the employing agency may extend the period for up to three years for a former Volunteer who enters military service, pursues studies at a recognized institution of higher learning, or engages in other activities which, in the view of the appointing agency, warrants extension of the period.

Closing ceremonies

I was in Birtamod just after the Thanksgiving trip to Kolkata. I was having lunch with two guys from the Peace Corps office in Washington, DC. They were security.

On guy told me that he had been doing, well, military intelligence in Somalia for a several years before retiring and coming to work for the Peace Corps. He told me that when Peace Corps has had to evacuate its volunteers from a country, it’s usually because of families calling the office. Or a senator.

The other guy had done similar work for the armed forces, but some time ago and in Vietnam. We asked him to talk more about what he did.

Counter intelligence, he said as if that was a complete explanation.

I wondered if he was joking, So you spent a lot of time behind a counter, eh?

No laugh.

It was convenient that they had come, because after their night in Birtamod, they were heading west and north to Dharan, where I was to give a teacher training to a government school faculty.

Jen talks with Sunil, her counterpart at the Dharan nagar palika.

Jen talks with Sunil, her counterpart at the Dharan nagar palika.

I was helping out another volunteer from my group, Jen, who was working in youth development but found time to teach English classes at this school and who wanted some help developing the skills of its teachers.

(The teachers in Birganj had clearly expressed their disinterest in what I had to offer, or at least doing those things, so I thought a change of venue might be good; though I was worried.)

I thought, If this training sucks and if the teachers fall asleep of if another student vomits while I’m teaching, then I have to start being critical—maybe it’s me.

I was going to use this training to evaluate myself for better or worse. It was the placebo.

When the Washington folks dropped me in Dharan, I quickly found out that the lovely ANNISU-R had called a bandha for three days—exactly when I had scheduled my training.

A view from the north hills across Dharan.

A view from the north hills across Dharan.

When I met with Jen later that day, we immediately walked over to the school to see what we could do. The headsir told us that he was planning on asking students to come to class on Saturday so they could finish their exams, and meant there wouldn’t be time left for the training.

So we rescheduled. I left the day before the bandha and got to Birganj safely. I sat around my flat for those three days with not much to do, wondering exactly when I’d be working again.

Fast forward a month later. Our yearly All-Vol conference had just finished in the middle of January, and I’d been asked by my program officer to go up to the N/196 group PST to help facilitate sessions with the teacher trainers in Godavari, just outside of Kathmandu. I looked at a calendar and noticed something that didn’t make me happy

Date Agenda
Jan 22, 2004 Fly to Biratnagar; catch bus to Dharan
Jan 23, 2004 First day of training
Jan 28, 2004 Last day of training

This was troubling. I realized that the materials and the curriculum that I had prepared for the first and later rescheduled training were in Birganj. And I realized this on January 21, 2004.

I was up in Godavari and wouldn’t be getting back to Kathmandu until the night of January 22, 2004.

What in the hell was I thinking? I was going to have to conjure up a curriculum as well as the necessary materials in the few free hours I wasn’t traveling in the few days left before the training.

As soon as I got into Kathmandu, I went straight to the office, printed the curriculum I had written in Godavari and ran back to drop off my stuff.

I ate, packed my bags, and passed out. The next morning was January 22, 2004, and I had a early flight to the airport. When I finally opened the door, I was somewhat pleased that it was foggy.

If I’m late and it’s beyond my control, then I’m safe.

My flight left moments after reaching the airport.

Scott, your author, and Tony (left to right) giving instruction to the faculty.

Scott, your author, and Tony (left to right) giving instruction to the faculty.

Once we reached Dharan, I bought the supplies I’d need for the training and then tried to call Tony, who had been planning on helping me facilitate the training.

I got a hold of him and we made plans to meet the next day. The first two days were for all the school’s teachers and would have to be done in Nepali. The other days were for the English teachers in the area cluster.

I had to get in touch with the resource person. I had to find a pocket chart. I had to make flash cards. I had to revise the curriculum. I had to make a games/songs packet to distribute. I had to figure out how to speak Nepali. I had a few hours.

The next two days went well. I worked with the faculty to create rules and consequences to use school-wide as a method of classroom management and positive reinforcement, but it was tough.

I was trying to explain why each rule needs a logical consequence. I asked, What’s a logical consequence if a student is late?

Renu Miss, a bombastic Newari woman who had hugged me when I asked her in Newari, Bala du?, had answered the original question, Beat the student?

Students assemble at school on the day of Saraswati Puja in Dharan.

Students assemble at school on the day of Saraswati Puja in Dharan.

I tried to work through her answer, trying to illustrate through other examples of a rule with a logical consequence (several of the teachers were right on, coming up with some great stuff).

Then asked her if she thought a beating was a logical consequence or if it positively reinforced the rule

Well then, utpas, someone offered.

Utpas are up-and-down exercises that kids do while holding their ears.

So I didn’t quite reach everyone, but school and class rules were made and the faculty eagerly discussed making banners and posting signs in each classrooms.

One teacher, also a little hesitant in being so explicit with the students queried the other teachers, asked How about we give them the rules, but keep the consequences secret?

Once again, I realized hadn’t explained it as well as I should have. The language was an obstacle.

A student gives another tikka during Saraswati Puja in Dharan.

A student gives another tikka during Saraswati Puja in Dharan.

In the end, the rules were made and the teachers as a whole were excited. After the final (second) day of the training, everyone was complementary on the evaluation.

I felt like I had done something good. That the students were suddenly going to understand exactly what teachers were expecting from them and vice versa. That made me feel good.

When the English training sessions started, I felt relived, since Tony knows English education backwards and forwards, and I would be able to relax for a while.

Tony really commanded the majority of the English training, and I just popped up between segments to provide an activity that the teachers could use in class. My favorite was something that Trey and Tony had developed called ‘paragraph sandwich.’

It was basically a formulaic approach of brainstorming vocabulary and then fitting it into a modeled descriptive paragraph.

Jen was made an official assistant teacher to Tony and I during the training.

Jen was made an official assistant teacher to Tony and I during the training.

I thought the teachers could use it for their 4th and 5th grade classes, but after running through the demo and writing a paragraph as a group, most thought it would work well for higher secondary level.

They offered their concerns, which I thought I addressed well—but still, I couldn’t sure.

On the last day of the training, two teachers, Krishna and Hari Sir, approached me just before we started the last session. Krishna had actually been a student of Hari Sir’s years ago at that very school in Dharan.

They told me that they had tried the sandwich paragraph in a 9th grade class, and it had been a success.

The idea of collaborating, together, a teacher and his former student, trying an activity that I had modeled for them, just blew my mind. Usually the stigma between teacher and student is . . . well, prohibitive of such activities.

Imagining those two teaching a class together, trying new techniques and basically working to become better teachers—together—just overwhelmed me.

At the end of the training, when the teachers presented Tony and I with ties (quite nice, actually) as tokens of their appreciation, I felt like I had somehow found the right people, done the right things, and had actually made a difference.

And it was the first time in two years.

All the news fit to print

As I mentioned before, former fellow Birganj-wallah Rob departed Nepal. On his last day in country, he hired an elephant to take him from his hotel to the Peace Corps office to hand-in his final paperwork.

It’s lovely living in a place where the elephant is just as much of a zoo attraction as a mode of transportation.Here’s an article from The Himalayan Times about the recent developments with the pre-service training that was occurring in Butwol.

Maoist fiat forces Peace Corps out

Thirty American Peace Corps volunteers have been forced to leave the district following an ultimatum by an armed group of Maoists asking them to leave within six days.

The volunteers were running a temporary Peace Corps office at the Butwal Technical Institute (BIT), of the United Mission to Nepal, in Manigram VDC. It is said that the ultimatum was issued keeping in view Prachanda’s hostile attitude towards the Americans.

The volunteers left for Narayangadh with no intention of returning.

The owner of a house where nearly a dozen volunteers had put up said the Americans had come to Butwal two and a half months ago and planned to stay for around two years.

The volunteers, who could communicate in Nepali, were studying the language in Manigram VDC-2 and -4. They also used to provide financial and technical assistance to the Aama groups.

Earlier there were 36 volunteers but of late only 30 of them had been staying including some women.

They used to visit Butwal, Shankarnagar, Kariya regularly and were planning to visit Pokhara, Siraha and Bara.

Commenting on the incident, SP Dhak Bahadur Karki of District Police Office said, Though we had heard about the volunteers being asked to leave by the Maoists we have no idea whether they left due to the same reason. He said the police might be able to gather more information when a team would visit the area soon.

Accepting that the volunteers had left the VDC, the manager of BIT, Bishnu Hari Devkota, said, We did not ask them the reason for leaving and they did not tell us.

According to him some remaining Nepali staff were also planning to leave the place tomorrow.

© 2004 The Himalayan Times

At least it keeps things interesting. Still standing fast.

Retrained: Revisiting Pre-Service Training

As I mentioned before, I’d been invited to the current Pre-Service Training (PST) to teach a couple classes in government schools for the new group, N/196, to observe. But observe what? The new group has lots of energy and interest in their jobs.

This could go without saying, but some groups are more casual about work. Yes, we’re volunteers for Nepal. Yes, we’re here to make a difference. Yes, I’m often more interested in taking the tea than talking pedagogy. Perhaps that’s because I don’t know that much about pedagogy.

The fact is I’m no longer certified as a teacher in the United States. Though the US government says I’m no longer qualified to teach in a US classroom, I’ve come here with the Peace Corps to train teachers.

I know that I do have a lot to offer the teachers here, but the strange dichotomy of my situation has not gone unnoticed.

Anyhow, I’d come full circle from my training. There I was, a year in-country later, helping to facilitate the N/196 PST. I felt unready to be guiding the new folks in any way, let alone into professional roles as PCVs in Nepal, but I had learned a thing or two.

Most about Nepali tea.

Back in June 2002, I went to Nepalgunj to conduct some teacher trainings. I felt intimidated being an authority amongst people who had been teaching a lot longer than me. Again, I was uneasy about teaching for people with education degrees and EFL/ESL certification.

But what did I learn from those trainings in Nepalgunj? Just look like you know what you’re doing and people will believe.

Patricia, a N/191 RPCV, was the in-charge person who’d asked me to come to PST. She asked me to prepare a lesson plan from the 4th grade curriculum to teach in two different schools to two different 4th grade classes. Details on the schools were unavailable. She was asking me to walk in and teach cold. I said yes.

Mahatma Buddha, the primary school

The first school I was to teach at was a secondary school called Mahatma Buddha, aka the Enlightened Buddha. Patricia came by the hotel the night before my first day of teaching. She bought me a beer and said, You may have to teach outdoors to 70 students. Cheers.

The school situation was going to be iffy, which relaxed me since I would have much lower expectations of what I could accomplish within the constraints.

The next day we arrived at Mahatma Buddha just before my class. As we came into the school grounds kids stopped playing and began to form a crowd. There were eight of us: Patricia, six PCTs, and I.

We were a sight to behold. I remember how overwhelmed I was when this happened the first time I visited a school in Nepal. While the PCTs slowed to a halt, stunned by the crowd surging around us, I pushing through like Indiana Jones with a machete.

I began talking to the teacher before we went to her class. I told her that I was happy and thankful to teach her 4th grade class for my friends and tried to confirm that I would be teaching as I saw her taking her stick for whacking kids. She seemed aware, but nervous. Too nervous.

Soon the bell rang and we were off to class. I sighed in relief as we walked towards a classroom. No outdoor teaching today.

After the PCTs and Patricia settled in the back of the classroom, the teacher said a few threatening words to the students. The students straightened up and sat quietly. I hung a poster on the board and asked the kids to take out their books.

They began rummaging through their bags and I started to sense that something wasn’t right, though I couldn’t put my finger on it. Everyone was digging deep in their backpacks, slow to find their books.

I wandered back to the front of the class and asked a student who was making no effort to get his book, in Nepali, Where’s your book?

He looked at me blankly, This is 5th grade.

Fuck.

Nobody had the book because I was in the wrong class. I looked at the teacher who was still glaring menacingly at the students. Patricia just put up her arms and shrugged, clearly wondering what I was going to do.

Well, I said trying to keep up my pace, I can teach this, and dove in head-first with the materials I had. I couldn’t do the writing activity without the books. Suddenly, I had to adapt my lesson plan to a different grade.

The class went well enough but I had to ask myself if I could have written the lesson plan better so that it could have been more adaptable because you can’t always rely on the students having something, like a book or pen.

As we left someone said, considering I was in the wrong class, things had gone really well and asked what I thought.

Well, I said with a smirk, it was enlightening.

Bhairahawa Secondary, the high school

The next day I was to teach at the first government school established in Bhairahawa. Patricia had made more visits to this school and felt that things would go better than the day before, but since I had the time I thought I’d go over to the school a bit early and chat with the teachers so that everyone was a little more comfortable.

I sat in the teacher’s room and met with the teacher whose 4th grade English class I’d be taking for the day. She was a nice enough woman, Manju. When she asked the helper to bring tea for me in Hindi, I saw an opportunity to practice my Hindi before my upcoming trip to India.

I told the helper, Gaaram wallah dijieh, much to the delight of the other teachers.

The other group of PCTs came just as my conversational Hindi was peaking. Soon I found myself in front of the class teaching.

It’s remarkable how easily I transferred the energy I had gathered from chatting with the other teachers into my class. Manju came to class, but sat in the back amongst the PCTs and Patricia, which created a much more relaxed environment for the students.

The class went great. The kids went insane and sand and threw up their arms and legs and hands and feet in the air on command by the end of class. The class ended on a high note with some kids frothing at the mouth with excitement.

I left with a deep sense of accomplishment. The kids were waiving goodbye and asking if I’d come again the next day to teach again.

One out of two isn’t bad, I suppose.