Monday, September 22, 2008

On Training

I realized that I didn't post a great deal of training-specific information while we were in training back in October and November of last year. For the benefit of the the group that is arriving very shortly, I thought I would do that now.

Our training lasted eight weeks. Five of those were spent in our host village and the other three were in Apia. The host village stays were divided into periods of one week and two two-week stays. While in the host village we stayed with host families. While in Apia we stayed at a hotel. Our group had classes six days a week, though Saturday was a half day. However, the most recent group only had classes five days a week with both Saturday and Sunday off. Personally, I think this change is an excellent idea. Training is a very challenging experience and two days off a week give you more time to relax, process, study and get to know your host family.

Classes started at 8 am every day and usually ended around 4:30 pm (looking at the schedule, I can see them ending earlier rarely and later occasionally). There were also hour-long tutoring sessions offered after daily classes. A typical schedule will include four 1.5-hour long classes, two tea breaks and one 1.5-hour long lunch break. After the first week or so of training, most or all of the four daily classes will be language classes. The rest of the classes will be divided among Life & Work, Safety & Security, Medical and Cross Cultural.

The language classes are excellent, though grueling. The language trainers are outstanding. I have never successfully learned a language, though I have tried twice. I took three years of French in high school (Je ne sais pas, Je ne comprends pas, Je ne parle pas francais) and 13 credit-hours of Spanish in college (No se, No entiendo, No hablo espanol) and have just included in the parentheses what I know in both those languages. At the end of our eight weeks of training, I could muddle through basic conversations in Samoan. Granted, I have since lost all those skills, but I was briefly rudimentary in a language.

Life & Work training was supposed to focus on job-specific skills and living in a Samoan village. I have to admit that I feel our Life & Work training could have been more helpful. We could have received more job-specific training (I was repeatedly comforted by my recruiter in Atlanta before heading to LA that it didn't matter that I didn't know anything about computers, that I would be trained on everything I needed to know once I reached Samoa — this did not happen). Since most of our group were to be teachers (some computers, some special needs and some vocational), we received very general teacher training. Ice-breakers, classroom management skills, discipline, etc. Personally, as a computer teacher I have found very little of our teacher training useful and I have basically been making it up as I go along. My understanding is that this is changing and that the work training is now going to be more tailored to teaching specific topics in the Samoan school system.

The Safety & Security training was also very general. It included information on ways to look and act that will help to keep from attracting trouble, which is helpful. From my experience, I do not consider Samoa to be a dangerous place.

Medical training made us more self-sufficient in dealing with our own medical needs. Our medical officer wanted to make sure that she didn't have volunteers running to the hospital every time they got a new rash or bug bite (seeing as how you will frequently have a new rash or bug bite). Cale says that our medical training is something that he will remember for the rest of his life and appreciated it greatly. I agree that I found the medical training to be incredibly helpful, though the lesson on STIs might have been a little over the top (I learned all sort of new terms for new sexual behaviors, it was enlightening).

Cross Cultural training focused more on the theory behind different cultures. The main goal was to give the cultural answers behind the question "Oh my god, why do they do that?" But also to make sure we were also asking the question, "Oh my god, why do we do that?"

Training also included assessments. The assessments included four LTAs (language & technical assessment), motivation interviews, mock interactions and the LPI (language proficiency interview).

The first LTA was presentation of your host family's family tree. The second was a group presentation of a village map. The third was a co-teaching experience to village students. The final one was a solo-teaching experience to village students. These were all in Samoan.

The interviews were conducted two or three times with the language trainers and the mock interactions took place over the course of one day. During the mock interactions you went to different stations and had conversations on a certain topics (buying groceries, asking directions, etc).

Finally, the LPI is a conversation with an outside interviewer about yourself and your family and on one of six or seven different topics.

Training also included learning Samoan dances, performing a skit, attending church in the village, playing lots and lots of volleyball, making cultural mistakes (like trying to do anything on a Sunday, our only day off), Culture Day (kill a pig, cook it and serve it to village leaders), eating new foods (or not eating new foods and losing 20 pounds), being followed by throngs of children, two days at the beach and one day snorkeling, an Independent Travel Experience (here's the name of your village and here's bus fare, see you on Tuesday), a Volunteer Visit (go hang out with a volunteer while school is not in session, so there isn't much to do) and random other stuff.

— Sara


ProfSeeman said...

I think that this can be helpful to you:
Go to:

If you get this book and video: PREVENTING Classroom Discipline Problems, [they are in many libraries, so you don't have to buy them] email me and I can refer you to the sections of the book and the video [that demonstrates the effective vs. the ineffective teacher] that can help you.

[I also teach an online course on these issues that may be helpful to you at: ]

If you cannot get the book or video, email me and I will try to help.
Best regards,


Howard Seeman, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus,
City Univ. of New York

Prof. Seeman

Cale and Sara join the Peace Corps said...

Prof. Seeman,
Thanks for your recommendation. However, I find it highly unlikely that your book in in the library in Samoa.