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:
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:
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 email@example.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.
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.