How to become a volunteer teacher? Guide for beginners

How to become a volunteer teacher? Guide for beginners

 

« Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in. » 

 

You might be wondering what the importance of volunteering is. We believe that we all have the opportunity to vote for the kind of world we want to live in, every day. When you volunteer as a teacher, you play an essential role in a child’s life. Education is power, so as a volunteer teacher, you are allowing and enabling children to learn and grow. Many people have that one special teacher that they will remember forever because they touched their life in some way and helped them grow into the person they are today.

 

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #4 is about ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all. The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in many children losing 2-3 years of academic learning, which inevitably harshly affected already economically challenged communities. When you volunteer as a teacher, you are helping to develop this worldwide goal of access to quality education for all, especially after a difficult period of time due to the pandemic. 

 

 

How to become a volunteer teacher?

If you have a deep appreciation for education and the power it has to transform societies, and you have a strong commitment to supporting local or foreign communities, then volunteer teaching might be your calling! You will find this to be an enriching experience both for yourself and the students.

 

When volunteering as a teacher, usual requirements are:

 

  • A criminal record check since most projects involve working with children
  • To be 18+, although there might be some projects looking to promote youth leadership where those under 18 might be welcome. This would normally be the case with local volunteering where no traveling is required.
  • Have basic knowledge and passion for the teachable subject matter
  • Be proactive, creative, flexible, and self-motivated
  • Be full of energy and enthusiasm to make a difference
  • Have a passion for education, openness to new experiences, and a drive to learn new skills
  • Have an understanding that you will learn more than you teach during your time volunteering

 

 

What does a volunteer teacher do?

 

Volunteer teachers generally commit up to 16 hours per week to teaching, and most projects require at least a one-month commitment, since building relationships with the students is key to any learning process. Generally, we have found that three months is ideal to start seeing changes and progress among students.

 

When you are a teacher, you will be engaging with children of various ages and abilities. It’s important to have a patient, calm, and accepting demeanor and attitude when interacting with students. Volunteering as a teacher requires flexibility to adapt to different ways of learning to ensure the best experience for the students. 

 

The project that you choose to be a part of might have a well-defined curriculum to follow, or you might need to find resources and prepare materials. Either way, you will always need to prepare the classes in advance and adjust the content to your particular students. In English Teaching Programs specifically, your main focus should be on helping the students to learn the vocabulary and the common phrases, while for other types of programs, you may take up any subject, including math, general knowledge, geography, history, etc! 

 

Some duties and responsibilities of a volunteer teacher might involve correcting exercises and exams, organising events, preparing materials, helping with classroom setup, cleaning up after an activity, or onboarding other volunteers. All of these tasks are often the ‘behind-the-scenes’ tasks that make a project succeed. You might even get the opportunity to support field trips and help with the extra-curricular activities of students. This is another way to enhance the children’s learning and life experiences, and your relationship with them as well.

 

In addition to teaching hard skills such as the actual subject matter and topics, it is important to teach children soft skills such as critical thinking, communication skills, teamwork and responsibility. These are key pillars and values that should be continuously taught and emphasized across all subjects and levels of education.

 

 

Volunteer teaching English abroad for free 

 

Teaching English is a popular volunteering opportunity across the world, as more and more, English is becoming a skill for life which opens up new opportunities for students to get their studies to the next level and have access to a wider range of jobs in the future. Teaching English is becoming a way to empower communities and individuals. In many non-English speaking countries, fluent English teachers are scarce, hence the numerous teaching English volunteering opportunities. This is normally part of community projects, where, by local demand, English support has been requested.

 

To volunteer as an English Teacher, it is important to have a fluent level of speaking and writing, since teaching 100% in English is the most effective way to expose students to the language and develop their listening and speaking skills which are the foundation of learning a language.

 

 

Volunteer teaching opportunities

There are many volunteer teaching opportunities around the world that you can be a part of, from local projects to projects abroad.

 

Volunteer teaching opportunities abroad

 

If you’d like to volunteer with nonprofits in a specific country, you can search for “teaching volunteering opportunities in Guatemala”, for example, and dozens of opportunities will show up. 

 

Volunteer World is one of the many platforms you can use to look for opportunities across the world.

 

In most countries, unless engaging professionally with an NGO, you will volunteer as a tourist and your visa requirements will be those asked for tourists from your country of nationality.

 

Online teaching volunteer opportunities

 

Remote support can be very useful too, especially for conversational practice, and 1:1 support on any given subject. It is a good way to gain experience and to get to know other people, cultures and realities.

 

 

How to volunteer in Central America?

If you are interested in volunteering in Central America specifically, here are two resources that may be helpful for you: 

 

This platform links you directly to many volunteer opportunities across Latin America: 

https://www.volunteerlatinamerica.com/

 

If you are interested in working specifically with nonprofits in Guatemala, this is a directory of nonprofits in Guatemala, most of whom have volunteer opportunities: 

https://directorioguatemala.org/

 

How to apply as a volunteer teacher?

 

Once you have found the volunteer teaching program you would like to volunteer for, there should be an email or contact form to apply. Most application processes would ask for availability, time of commitment, motivation and CV to understand how to make the most of relevant skills and experience.

 

Here at One, Two… Tree! we are always looking for enthusiastic English teacher volunteers to come to join us in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala, where we teach children and adults.

 

If you are interested in volunteering with us, there are a few ways to get in touch. You can either send us an email to guatemala@onetwo-tree.com, complete the form on our website, or contact us through Instagram

 

Once we receive your inquiry, we will be in touch with you and share information about the project. Our volunteer coordinator will set up an interview to get to know you and answer any questions.  After the interview, we will share information to prepare your trip  and ask for the required documentation: criminal record check, a picture ID, and an insurance policy.  A month before arriving, we will share an introduction package with everything you need to know about how we work, tips for living in Santiago Atitlán, as well as training material that you can use to start preparing for teaching. 

 

 

FAQ’s

Here are some of the most frequent questions people have when thinking about teaching volunteering: 

 

How to get volunteer teaching experience?

 

Start tutoring your friends or neighbors, look out for local opportunities, and ask at local schools before looking into volunteering abroad. That way you will have a taste of what it is like and if it is something you enjoy doing before commiting to a full experience abroad. 

 

Can you teach abroad with no experience?

 

Yes, you can! As long as you have basic knowledge and passion of the teachable subject matter, and are passionate about working with people of various ages to facilitate, motivate and increase their knowledge and skills then you will be able to make the most of the opportunity. 

 

Humility and an attitude to learn are key, as you will be learning how to teach with the support of fellow volunteers and project coordinators who will train and mentor you. It is important to volunteer with organisations who have similar values to yours. Have you ever thought about this? 

 

Proactiveness, autonomy and independence are paramount for volunteers while being ready to make a difference. These qualities may even be more important than having prior teaching experience. 

 

Does a volunteer teacher get paid?

 

Volunteer work means working without monetary compensation. There are other non-monetary types of compensation involved with volunteering, such as gaining human connection, feeling useful to others, enriching your view of the world, gaining life experience, becoming confident with public speaking, making new friends, and many more. 

 

Most projects will cover the cost of teaching supplies and traveling such as public transportation if needed to reach a remote community. Some projects might offer food and accommodation as compensation, but this generally requires a long-term commitment and specific background to support the project like teaching training or prior experience.

 

Is it possible to volunteer abroad for free?

 

Even though it is normal for projects to charge a fee per week of volunteering there are many projects, like ours, that don’t charge any fee and will only ask volunteers to cover for their own expenses.

A look at our work in 2022, a year full of connections and impacts

 

On 5th December we celebrated International Volunteer Day (IVD). 2022 celebrates the theme of solidarity through volunteering. This campaign highlights the power of our collective humanity to drive positive change through volunteerism.

 

At One, Two… Tree! we are all volunteers. It is a project made by people from all around the world who want to share and connect with others. 

 

This year, we have had the privilege of working with 29 English teacher volunteers (27 onsite plus 2 online) from 12 different countries and two young professionals who carried out internships related to their field of studies with us, supporting us in the administrative area. Each volunteer has collaborated in their own unique way, allowing for everything that has happened throughout the year.

Meet our volunteers from 2022

 

After the isolation that the pandemic brought, 2022 has been all about making up for the time when we all had to stay home: sharing and making connections, bringing back face-to-face learning, spending time together, exploring, and participating in new activities.

 

Thanks to our volunteers this year we:

 

  • Taught over 400 students across 5 public schools, a community school and one secondary school. 
  • Delivered two 4-month English programs to kids, teenagers and adults at our dedicated learning centre, supporting 125 children and 90 adults from Santiago on their English learning journey. 
  • Delivered 1:1 and group conversation classes in person and online so we could help our students reach their learning goals.
  • Created a mini English library at our learning centre from where our students can borrow books to keep practicing in their own time.
  • Supported coffee cooperative CoAtitlán practicing their coffee tour in English and learned loads in the process!
  • Collaborated with Cojolya, a collective of mother artisans, tutoring and organising English activities for their kids, translating weaving classes and supporting with fundraising and social media posts in English.
  • Participated in beach cleans, tree planting and at a local tree nursery producing compost from the coffee pulp. We called these activities our green gym!
  • Organised cultural events and workshops to share and learn from each other.
  • Reviewed and updated our curriculum at schools while creating a whole new curriculum for adult lessons.
  • Participated in an NGO networking event organised by El Directorio de Guatemala, where we could connect and share with other Guatemalan NGOs.

 

Have a look at our end-of-the-year video for 2022 and what it has been like studying and volunteering at One, Two… Tree! this year

 

 

A big thank you to all volunteers who have made this year possible and so special. Let us share with you some thoughts and reflections from some of our volunteers.

 

 

 

Volunteer interviews 

 

Toño (23, local to Santiago) 

 

Toño teaching at our learning centre in Santiago Atitlán his hometown 

                         

Toño first met One, Two… Tree! as an English student himself. His confidence, cheerful attitude and fluent English made him want to volunteer as an English teacher to the children attending our Learning Centre.

 

 

What did you enjoy most about your volunteering experience?

I liked teaching and helping students who have the enthusiasm to learn, spending time with people from different parts of the world and sharing our different cultures

 

What do you like most about Santiago?

I love the nature, the magic and the beauty, and that includes the people. It’s a very welcoming place. 

 

What do you like about your country in general?

The sites you can visit, and how friendly people are no matter which part of Guatemala you visit. I especially like the beautiful lake Atitlán and the villages around it. 

 

Why did you decide to join the organisation? 

To be able to help my community and be a person of change for my country.

 

What is one thing you would say to someone who is thinking of joining?

That you should take the opportunity to volunteer because no matter what you do, you will leave a mark wherever you go.

 

 

 

Sonia (52, Spain) 

 

Sonia enjoying a secret garden in Antigua

 

Sonia came for three months to share her extensive knowledge of teaching English which she has done for over 20 years! She helped us develop our current methodology, volunteers’ training and created content for our children and adults curriculum. We can’t thank her enough for all her energy and support.

 

 

What did you enjoy most about your volunteering experience?

I took pleasure in many things, like discovering hidden places and diving in the « pacas » (second-hand shops). But I especially enjoyed trying to work out how to implement my knowledge and experience in a context that posed many challenges.

 

How was your experience living in Santiago?

Life in Santiago is very lively, noisy and friendly. You’ll never get bored.

 

What about Guatemala in general?

The country is simply beautiful. The small villages around the lake and the volcanoes are stunning. Tikal is out of this world.

 

Why did you decide to join the organisation? 

They were looking for a profile that happened to match mine. I also thought they had a very interesting project going on, so I didn’t think about it twice. Off I went!

 

What is one thing you would say to someone who is thinking of joining?

I would suggest being open-minded and receptive. And to bring a pair of wellies!

 

 

 

Carmela (31, Spain – our current volunteer coordinator!)

 

 

 

Carmela at Cafe Sabor Cruceño in Santa Cruz

 

Carmela arrived as a volunteer early in the year and fell in love with the town and the project. She was keen to get involved in everything she could connecting other local projects in Santiago with One, Two… Tree! fostering collaborations across the different organisations.

 

 

What did you enjoy most about your volunteering experience/ experience as a coordinator?

I loved meeting people from Guatemala and all parts of the world. I also liked how many local projects there are to get involved in. Everyone I’ve met has been very welcoming and I’ve felt very useful and fulfilled throughout my time.

 

How was your experience living in Santiago?

I’ve never lived in a village before, so I enjoyed the community vibe for example walking everywhere, saying hi to people I know in the market and buying things from my neighbours. People have also offered lots of opportunities for cultural experiences. I’ve been surprised and grateful throughout my time here. 

 

What about Guatemala in general?

It is a surprising country; it is so rich in culture and colour. The people I’ve met have been kind, welcoming and polite. There are many breathtaking sites to explore and have an amazing diversity of nature and culture. There is also so much history here that I discovered more and more of throughout my time. 

 

Why did you decide to join the organisation? 

I was changing careers from the corporate world into working with NGOs. I came here first as a volunteer and I felt it was a place I could stay for the whole year. When the last coordinator was thinking of finishing her time at the organisation she helped me to step up and continue with the project as a coordinator.

 

What is one thing you would say to someone who is thinking of joining?

I would say reflect on why you’d like to join, be mindful of your expectations and be prepared to be surprised and have a different way of life here. 

 

 

 

Lauranne (26, Belgium)    

 

 

Lauranne in Santiago Atitlán

 

Lauranne arrived in September, eager to contribute to the project. She led classes at the school of Pachichaj which we were able to incorporate into the program late in the year as the number of volunteers increased.                                                                            

 

What did you enjoy most about your volunteering experience? 

I loved living with other volunteers throughout the experience, and with a local host family. 

 

How was your experience living in Santiago?

It’s been an authentic and real Guatemalan experience. Living by the lake is breathtaking. I had breakfast with a view of a volcano every day and I could never get enough. 

 

What about Guatemala in general?

It’s such a beautiful country yet I didn’t know much about it before coming. In every part of the country, you will find different cultures, landscapes and experiences.

 

Why did you decide to join the organisation? 

Because it is a real volunteer experience, not like the many ‘voluntourism’ organisations out there. You live with a local host family and your rent goes directly to them.

 

What is one thing you would say to someone who is thinking of joining?

What you do, even if it seems small, can have such a big effect. Like the butterfly effect.

 

 

 

Rueben (19, the Netherlands)

 

 

Rueben at Mirador Kiaq’Aiswaan in San Juan la Laguna

 

Rueben decided to take a gap year to travel and volunteer before getting into university. From being our Social Media manager to designing infographics, preparing movie afternoons, role plays for his students in school and developing the content of our teenage course he is definitely a resourceful person! All with a smile always on his face, wishing you the best of luck Rueben!

 

 

What did you enjoy most about your volunteering experience?

I liked how we have the freedom to explore Guatemala. We don’t have full working days and we have 3-day weekends so there’s plenty of time for trips together.

 

How was your experience living in Santiago?

The location of Santiago is amazing. I also felt like we had many opportunities to connect with the culture here.

 

What about Guatemala in general?

Guatemala is an amazing country. During our time here, we’ve been able to explore a lot of different parts. Some of them include: Xela, Antigua, Chichicastenango and surfing in el Paradón!

 

Why did you decide to join the organisation? 

For a new experience, I could tell that it was an authentic organisation and that I would be valued. It’s also accessible to everyone because you don’t need to be a qualified teacher to join the team as long as you are keen to learn and have a passion for education. 

 

What is one thing you would say to someone who is thinking of joining?

Just do it, you won’t regret it. This type of volunteering can suit many different types of people. There are so many things to do and explore and you’re always with the other volunteers so you never feel alone. 

 

 

 

Would you like to volunteer with us in 2023?

 

We are always looking for passionate and proactive volunteers, full of energy and enthusiasm to make a difference. 

 

Do you have a passion for education, openness to new cultures, and a drive to learn new skills? Do you have experience teaching, tutoring, or engaging with children and have a fluent level of English? 

 

Would you like to be part of a proactive and supportive team where your ideas and thoughts will be heard and important in the day-to-day of the project?

 

Volunteering abroad with One, Two… Tree! is FREE, our English teacher volunteers only pay for their own expenses which go directly to the local families and businesses volunteers interact with. You can either send us an email at guatemala@onetwo-tree.com, complete the form on our website, or contact us through Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn.

 

We can’t wait to meet you!

 

 

 

Would you like to collaborate with us in 2023?

 

Are you a public or non-profit educational institution, cooperative, NGO, or local association seeking English support and volunteer work? Are you located in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala, for onsite support or in Central America for online support?

 

Are you another type of organisation or located elsewhere but feel we could collaborate to make English accessible in Central America?

 

Get in touch with us by either sending us an email at guatemala@onetwo-tree.com,  or contacting us through Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn.

 

We can’t wait to know more about your project!