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My Experience with EOD

 
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missjones



Joined: 02 Mar 2009
Posts: 23
Location: Florida

PostPosted: Mon Apr 06, 2009 10:08 pm    Post subject: My Experience with EOD Reply with quote

Hey guys. There's been a lot of questions about the English Opens Doors Program and I thought I'd put my two cents in. I volunteered the first session of last summer, so if there are any new developments I can't speak for them. Sometimes the program forwards new applicants' questions to me, so I'll just post them as I get them. If anyones on the forum has any questions, I'll be happy to help out, but I prefer to answer them on the forum rather than on PMs so other people can get the info.


How beneficial did you find it in terms of getting experience?
My experience in Chile was one of the best in my life. I learned a lot about teaching and learning a language; I developed a lot of empathy for my international students here in Gainesville. I developed a lot of lessons that I know I'll use (or not definitely not use) in the future. I feel like I became much more flexible as a working person and in general I feel more secure with my identity.I learned a lot about the working conditions overseas - for example, if I ever teach in Korea I'll know how to adjust to new assumptions about work life in general.

However, understand that this was both my first experience abroad and my first experience teaching independently. If you are a master's student, and if you have traveled before, you will probably get something much different out of it. Having a bachelor's degree, you could probably find a paid summer job somewhere else that would earn you equal work experience. Of course, that would defeat the purpose of volunteering, and you might miss out on some of the important cultural exchanges that go along with getting involved with a family and a community, as the EOD program necessitates.

I was just wondering what you thought of the program overall?
The EOD program was one of the reasons I decided to go to Chile. I needed to spend only a summer away from school, having no degree I couldn't get a paid contract, and I could not afford to pay thousands of dollars to sign up with a volunteer program elsewhere. EOD pays for room and board for the whole summer and that's an awesome deal. That said, do not expect the kind of well-oiled non-profit type of operation you might find in the States or elsewhere. Guys like Clayton and Samantha do their best, and are good at what they do, but are still embedded in and restricted by the government bureaucracy they work for. For example I never received the package of class materials I was promised, and neither did many of the volunteers. These types of kinks are things you will have to work around, regardless how indignant you and the other volunteers might feel about it.

How are the students?
Depends which volunteer you ask. Volunteers in parts of Santiago or really poor areas had a really hard time. Others thought it was a blast. Keep in mind that if the school wasn't underpriviledged in some way it probably wouldn't need a volunteer. No doubt you will have to be creative, especially if you don't speak Spanish. Working at an all-girls' middle school, I generally liked my students (though certainly not all the time!). I did realize, though, that if I'm going to teach ESL, I'd want to work with adults. However this has nothing to do with Chilean kids per se, it's just my personal feeling towards kids. Keep in mind that your students probably won't be able to converse in English by the time you leave - you job is to make English fun and cool so that they'll be motivated to learn more of it after you leave.

How is the living situation?
Awsome. Living with a host family was the best and most rewarding part of the experience. I still talk to them. Most other volunteers felt the same way. Chileans are the most hospitable people I ever met. I never, ever felt unsafe. Strangers have gone out of their way to help me. Of course, when it came to host parents, there were a few bad eggs as some volunteers can testify. Chilean parents can be overprotective, even if you're an adult. Some volunteers had a curfew.

Are there other TA's from the program in the same school or are they spread out in different schools?
I'm pretty sure all schools had only one volunteer unless special arrangements were made. But most likely there will be 2 or 3 volunteers in your town or the neighboring town.

Did you feel you had enough support if you needed anything?
From my host family - absolutely. From the school - usually. My principle was authoritative but wanted me to be comfortable. From EOD - the representatives there do their best and really care about volunteers, but, as I said, are sometimes in limiting situations.

What's a typical day like?
I had a little less than 20 hours of class per week, if you have morning classes, school starts at 8. For each class period, you coordinate a situation with the Chilean English teacher where she works for half the class and you work with the other half of the class, and then switch students in the middle of the period. This is a pretty good situation because you get no more than 15 students at a time, and the kids probably consider you to be the fun gringo teacher and have a better attitude in your class than in the other teachers' classes. While the different grade levels might have different levels of meta-linguistic knowledge of English and maybe more or less vocabulary, I realized very quickly that they were equally illiterate in basic conversational English. For this reason I used essentially the same content in all grade levels and made minor adjustments for each grade level regarding pacing and delivery. Each lesson was either 20 minutes or 45 minutes. I would plan the whole week on a Sunday and that was usually fine. At my particular school, the schedule was (roughly) something like:
8:00 - School starts
11:00 - 20-minute tea break
1:00 - 2:00 - lunch break (most teachers go home for lunch)
3:45 - school ends
Of course, having no more than 20 hours of class you would not work the full day. You might start later or finish earlier on some days, etc. Also, this sample schedule could vary greatly depending on the school you're working at.
Once at home, things went slowly. If I had nothing else going on that day I would take a nap until dinner, which is at 7 or 8, and then watch tv after that. However I also got involved with the high school English club at the nearby high school and would meet with them twice a week. Once a week I would meet the local Chilean English teachers to help them out with professional development and help them practice English or answer questions about the language. Some of them I developed a good relationship with and would meet them for tea or something. However, these things were not everyday ocurances, and I often felt quite bored and despondent in the evenings. Free time is not a good thing during the worst stages of culture shock. Looking back I could have been a lot more proactive about being active, as many of the other volunteers were. This is a necessity when Chileans themselves don't live very active lifestyles. Anyone who has spent time in Chile will tell you that the nightlife there is anything but exciting, and Chileans in general prefer to spend free time with their families.

Would you recommend this program? Was it worth doing?
Yes and yes. However, keep in mind that despite that fact that room and board is paid for, the stipend of 200 dollars is barely enough to live on, especially if you want to travel during your vacation. What I'm getting at is that the trip as a whole can get expensive, especially if you buy your ticket late or spend money on stupid stuff you don't need and can't even fit into your luggage and have to give away anyway. This are things I did and I'm still paying off dept because of it. The point here is that if money is an issue for you, you are by far better off getting a paid job (and there are plenty in Chile) if you have the credentials.

If you have any more questions or would like some sample lesson plans or the teaching methods I found useful there, I'll be happy to post some more.
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sharkeyv



Joined: 29 Jun 2008
Posts: 43
Location: Santiago

PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2009 1:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well this doesn't look like an ad now, does it?
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johnson430



Joined: 17 Mar 2009
Posts: 33
Location: Texas, USA

PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2009 5:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

sharkeyv wrote:
Well this doesn't look like an ad now, does it?


Sharkeyv,
I think she is merely telling her experience with the program.
I don't think there is even a link to the program in her post.

For those interested:
http://www.teachingchile.com/index.php
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missjones



Joined: 02 Mar 2009
Posts: 23
Location: Florida

PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2009 11:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Well this doesn't look like an ad now, does it?


If this is just a forum where culture-shocked postgrads get to comiserate about their working conditions, then that's just lame as hell.
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sharkeyv



Joined: 29 Jun 2008
Posts: 43
Location: Santiago

PostPosted: Wed Apr 15, 2009 12:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

missjones wrote:
Quote:
Well this doesn't look like an ad now, does it?


If this is just a forum where culture-shocked postgrads get to comiserate about their working conditions, then that's just lame as hell.


It does seem that's the case sometimes. In this case however, it's just a blatant ad. The mods haven't copped on yet!!

Be careful with your criticism though. They are very sensitive souls and don't take to kindly to it.
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roadwalker



Joined: 24 Aug 2005
Posts: 1537
Location: Ch

PostPosted: Wed Apr 15, 2009 3:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the post, missjones. When someone who has no previous posts writes a review about a school or program, it is usually met with suspicion. Personally I took yours at face value. You didn't try to make it sound like it was a perfect program, just a good program for you. Hatchet jobs are also free advertising for the competition. It's a good idea to be skeptical about all posts.

EOD is already a sponsor of Dave's http://www.eslcafe.com/joblist/index.cgi?read=19035 so I don't think they are trying to backdoor a free advertisement. I'm glad to hear positive and negative views on any school or program, particularly the larger ones that employ so many teachers or in this case, volunteers.

Although I may be headed to Chile, I don't think I'll be volunteering, at least not for the remainder of this year. Once I have a dependable income, it looks like a good possibility. Please don't stop posting as you seem to have something to add to the conversation.
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roadwalker



Joined: 24 Aug 2005
Posts: 1537
Location: Ch

PostPosted: Wed Apr 15, 2009 3:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd also be interested to know if anyone has had a bad experience with EOD. Anyone?
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missjones



Joined: 02 Mar 2009
Posts: 23
Location: Florida

PostPosted: Thu Apr 16, 2009 3:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, there were a few volunteers who weren't happy with the experience, a few of whom opted to go home early. As far as I know the issue had mostly to do with the host family situation. As I said, some students had curfews, which, if you're an adult, can be a royal pain in the ass and a definite hamper to the experience. Others had parents who wouldn't take care of them or weren't home often enough or something like that. These types of experiences were only one in a handful. I know the program has a screening process that involves interviewing the host families in person before selecting them for the placement. When I was the regional representative would come and check on me every few weeks and ask about the living situation. Others, however, never saw their rep or were not able to contact them.

Thanks for explaining the skepticism. Being new to the forum I guess it's understandable to question my motives. As for my skepticism: it's pretty common to find hostile responses to positive reviews about an employer, even when it's just a matter of name-dropping. Many people on this forum like to nit-pick what they appreciate and don't appreciate about a culture. Whenever there's a tread about job-searching it's hard to find a post that doesn't take issue with the long working hours and low pay - yet Chilean public school teachers teach 35+ hours per week for a grand per month, and don't get paid for planning time. These types of working conditions are standard in Chile. I'm not talking about the posts where teachers have been legitimately taken advantage of. I'm talking about the general sentiment that one is entitled to live better than the way most Chileans live just because they're accustomed to more privileged conditions. I feel like I have to read some of these posts with a Chilean lens in order for them to make sense.

Of course, roadwalker, none of this is directed at you. I appreciated the rational and civil explanation. Anyway, I noticed that someone posted a link to the program which is actually for a placement agency. At the peril of my credibility I'll recommend that applicants go directly to the ministry at centrodevoluntarios.cl. There should be no reason to pay a placement fee for the program. A few people on other threads asked about some 1,000 fee for the ministry for something about health insurance. That I don't know about.
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best_gaijin



Joined: 04 Oct 2007
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 5:11 pm    Post subject: Interview Reply with quote

Thanks for posting this info, do you remember anything about the telephone interview? Did you have to go through sample lessons or anything?
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