I have been living on the remote island of East New Britain, a province of Papua New Guinea, for the past year on a Voluntary Service Overseas placement at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Kabaleo Teachers College.
I'm working on the language support programme, which aims to improve the literacy of lecturers and student teachers, many of whom don't have sufficient language skills to deliver their lessons. I offer training and support, and produce course books to help develop skills and build confidence.
As a teacher trainer, I run conferences and workshops on grammar, reading, writing, assessment, and speaking and listening. My days are extremely varied but I usually arrive at work by 7.30am. I live on campus so it's a two-minute walk, which I spend admiring the palm trees and blue skies.
At 8am I have a one-to-one meeting with a maths lecturer who shares what she's planning to teach. I make suggestions and produce visual aids and resources to support these ideas - I'm amazed at how resourceful I can be with only plastic cutlery, elastic bands, paper clips and cardboard boxes.
The student teachers arrive just before 9am. Teaching is very different in Papua New Guinea. There aren't enough tables or chairs, so children have to sit on the floor; not great for producing their best work.
At 9.50am we gather in the staffroom for morning tea, which comprises a drink, a cracker and a briefing about the student council election results. Then the student teachers come to the office to get their lesson plans signed off in preparation for the next day. I suggest how to make them more student-centred and interactive, and praise those already taking this approach.
At midday I eat my lunch under the lau-lau tree with the other lecturers, but, after one ant bite too many, I return to the office to finish the lesson plans.
In the afternoon I travel with a colleague to a nearby primary school to deliver a phonics training session. Holding these training sessions and sharing knowledge, ideas and resources is my favourite part of the day as I get to meet the children. I also enjoy how appreciative the student teachers are: I just know they're going to use these strategies the very next day in their teaching and that feels extremely rewarding.
On my way back to school I stop at the market to buy some vegetables for dinner. It's the hub of Kokopo and a wonderful place to be - the ladies on the market stalls are always keen to talk to me.
After collecting my things from the office, I head to an evening storytelling session under someone's house (many houses on the island are built on stilts). My social life here is dramatically different from back home and being part of the lecturer community has helped me to build good friendships.
Papua New Guinea is a beautiful country. Even the rain here is impressive and invigorating - as long as you're not out in it. This whole experience is life-changing.
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