James Hogan - General Teaching Projects in Romania
My name is James Hogan. I spent three months in Romania last autumn as a volunteer English teaching assistant in a school. I received a TEFL certificate in 2012 and ever since then I had been looking for a chance to put it to use. After researching my different options, I thought three months would be a good length of time for my first experience of teaching English in a foreign country.
My Teaching project
My placement was the Romanian equivalent of an American public school. There were several hundred students at this school, which had grades 1 - 8. I worked with students from grades 2 - 8. Most mornings, I would arrive at the school at 8 and would work there for several hours. After work, I would go and enjoy my day elsewhere in the city.
In the classroom, my role was that of assistant to the teacher. She led the lessons and I provided input where she thought necessary. Primarily, I was there to provide the students with a native English speaker who they could listen too.
I was allowed to prepare activities for the students and use them in the classroom after having them approved by the teacher first. But for the most part, I would be used for reading activities. I would read a passage and the students would listen to me reading. Other times, I would read from a list of vocabulary words and the students would repeat the words after me.
Depending on the age group I was with, my tasks in the classroom would differ. With year 2, I might help lead a song or draw pictures on the chalk board. With years 4 and 5, I would usually be reading from a list of vocabulary words or sometimes playing a game of some sort on the blackboard.
With the older students, especially the year 8’s, I would have conversations with them. These conversations could be about anything: school, clothes or our respective countries. The teacher encouraged these older students to talk to me. The teacher would consult me in class about customs or rules in my country. In short, each class I had presented a different challenge but each was fun in one way or another.
Some of my favourite memories of being at the school are from my first week. The teacher had the students ask me questions. Usually (especially with the younger students) the questions took the form of “What is your favourite (something)?” With the older students, there sometimes were more unexpected questions. One boy in 8th grade asked me my opinion of the situation in Syria and American involvement there!
During my time in Romania, I lived in an apartment block that had been built during the Communist years, so I felt that I had a good taste of living in standard urban Romanian housing. My hosts were a middle-aged couple. I enjoyed living there very much. My hostess was an excellent cook and I always looked forward to her meals. What I most liked about living there with them was that they provided me with a place to sleep and some good food while providing me with enough freedom to go about as I pleased.
Free time in Romania
My free time was spent mainly wandering through the city. Brasov has a lot to see and experience and I got to do and see a lot while there. From sitting in the park, to climbing up to the top of Mt. Tampa, I was all over the place. Nor did I have to be alone.
At any time, there were always some volunteers around if I felt like doing something with someone else. This usually meant making a day trip to a nearby town or city to see something there or would go out to eat or drink somewhere during the evening, usually on weekends. Upon leaving, I realised that I had just scratched the surface of what Brasov and the surrounding region had to offer.
Projects Abroad staff
From the very start, my interaction with the Projects Abroad staff in Romania was positive. At all times they were helpful and caring for my well-being while in Brasov. I soon came to see them as more than just administrators, but as people who wanted to see me have the best time I possibly could during my stay in Romania.
I felt free to stop by the office whenever they were open if I had a question, concern, or simply felt like chatting. My 3 months in Romania wouldn’t have been the same without the wonderful staff in Brasov.
I have no regrets about having spent those three months in Romania. I did it for the experience to be gained by working in the school and I got more than my money’s worth. The whole experience was enjoyable. I would more than willingly go back again for a visit. To anyone thinking of volunteering abroad, whether as a teacher or something else, I would highly recommend travelling to Romania with Projects Abroad.
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