Change Yourself…Change The World.

Construye Tus Sueños: Build Your Dreams (And Mine)
October 27, 2011, 12:15 pm
Filed under: Paraguay

Today marks my third week of teaching ‘Construye Tus Sueños,’ a course on how to start your own business. Every Wednesday, 4-6 PM, I go to the private high school in Caazapá to teach 15 students in 10th-12th grade. Topics covered during the course include conducting a Feasibility Study, Market Research, Analysis of Customer Demand, Sales Strategies, Social Responsibility, Basic Accounting, Tackling Entrepreneurship, and more. I’ve been really excited to teach this course, as I find it very interesting and hope I am teaching something that will inspire people in my community. Business Development has been a huge theme throughout my travels, and I’m happy to be working on something so concrete here.

To be quite frank, my Peace Corps bosses were surprised that I started teaching this course so early-on in my PCV role, and I now understand why. First, this is my first time actually teaching a class. Sure, I’ve taught some classes on English here or there during my travels and a photography lesson during Peace Corps training, but only as a substitute- now this is MY class. This places a great deal of responsibility to my students, and to ensure it runs smoothly I’ve been spending hours every week poring over the guidebook, preparing charla (presentation) paper, and trying to come up with fun and engaging material. It’s a lot of work- I’m starting to gain newfound appreciation for teachers who not only teach classes all day but prepare for them every night (AND grade homework!)

Second, while I’ve been in Paraguay for five months, I still struggle with my Spanish. While the guidebook thankfully has translations in Spanish, I started using it as a crutch during class, staring down at my notebook rather than engaging with them. When the students would talk, give responses, or even ask me questions, I would mostly have trouble understanding what they were saying. Finally, I’ve had little to no preparation on how to manage a classroom. I never considered concepts like how to react when no one’s paying attention, or ways to get students to stop talking to their friends.

All of this came to a head last week when I had my second class, which was about teamwork and the entrepreneurial spirit. I spent hours preparing for the class and decided it would be fun for them to play a game that taught teamwork and different styles of leadership- a very common Peace Corps game, two teams compete to build the highest free-standing tower out of newspaper and tape.

In short, the class was a disaster. The students didn’t understand the game or what it was trying to teach, and the losing team took their loss badly. No one wanted to answer the questions, and when I tried a couple of other engaging activities to talk about the entrepreneurial spirit, everyone’s responses were lackadaisical. I finished the class early and fought back tears, defeated and depressed. I felt like a terrible teacher that no one liked or wanted to pay attention to.

After I slunk back home and hurled my charla paper into a corner of my room, I considered my choices: I could either wallow in self-pity and dread class every week, or I could sit down and write constructive ways to improve my class. After compiling a page’s worth of notes, I realized that I wasn’t doing a good enough job explaining activities and most importantly, stressing why it was important. I had also been relying on my notes too much to get me through the class instead of actually talking. Finally, I wasn’t taking an active enough role in making sure students were paying attention to the material instead of goofing off.

With these ideas in mind, I prepared for my class in a new way. I decided to repeat the rules of the class and write down some new ones. I devised an easy and simple game for the kids to play in the beginning of the class that would teach them creativity and entrepreneurship, while stressing the goals of the game.  I decided to place people into groups of my own choosing, rather than them choosing themselves. And instead of writing two hours of notes in Spanish into my notebook to regurgitate, I instead chose a few key words I had to remember, with the intention of talking more to the students.

This last class was a resounding success. The students paid attention more, they had thoughtful answers about entrepreneurship, and I was really proud to be able to discuss with all of them how to conduct a Feasibility Study. I left the class feeling like I had taught something valuable. It was a great day.

Building your dreams is hard business, in the classroom and out, for the students and also for myself. Being in the Peace Corps is so challenging in many ways, but the failures I’ve experienced make the successes so much sweeter. I teach this class for free with the hope that these students get something out of it, but really I keep coming back to the age-old adage of volunteerism: you get back so much more than you give.

7 Comments so far
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congrats lil sis!! don’t forget to tell them to talk slowly and clearly because “it is imperative in the business world” aka so the teacher can understand you haha 🙂

Comment by hillary

Or maybe I should just say ‘Ladies and Gentlemen… I have something to show you…’

Comment by brittanygoesglobal

hey brittany! tried to contact you on facebook but your name has disappeared. I wanted to check if you have the snapshots journal? give me a heads up of when you think you might send it, because i’m going to be traveling a bit in the next few months. thanks and look forward to reading your stories!

Comment by Kim

Hey Kim- have it all ready just have been procrastinating majorly on actually sending it. I will send it out by the 18th at the latest.


Comment by brittanygoesglobal

Dear Brittany,
Your posts have been fascinating; thanks for sharing your experiences! You are truly an inspiration.
I emailed you at, hope that’s okay … I’m a former PCV who lived in Caazapa 37 years ago (!) and am planning to visit in January. Sure would love to meet you and learn more about your projects there.
Wishing you all the best,
Emmy Creigh, Tucson, AZ

Comment by Emily Creigh

Right on, girl. Teaching is craziness and I can’t even imagine trying to do it in Spanish! You’re rockin’ the world 🙂

I just got hired at the Boys and Girls Club in Sonoma and I’m loving it so far – I don’t start actually “teaching” activities for a few weeks still but it’s literally insane in there. But fun!

Come visit us in Sonoma! We miss you!

Comment by Liz & Danny

You can come visit ME in Paraguay bitch, like you promised!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Miss you!!

Comment by brittanygoesglobal

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