Boston-Area Teacher: Former Volunteers Help Connect Classroom to the World
By Brittany Clark on Monday, August 9th, 2010
School is almost back in session and teachers in search of engaging lesson plans should look no further than the Speakers Match request button. Speakers Match, a Peace Corps program that brings Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) into classrooms to present their service experiences with students, “puts a human face and story to the Peace Corps,” says Merrie McIvor, a Spanish teacher at Chelmsford High School in Massachusetts. McIvor, who has been hosting Boston area RPCVs in her classroom for years and whose own daughter served in Panama, wants more teachers to know that a unique opportunity is available to them this school year.
Regardless of whether or not students are planning to become Peace Corps Volunteers, hosting a guest speaker can prove to be extremely rewarding. RPCV speakers at Chelmsford High School have successfully opened up young minds to a new world of global service possibilities after college. Speakers also enhance the sometimes ho-hum traditional learning experience by demonstrating how school subjects can be practically applied in real life situations. One of McIvor’s Volunteers presented to her upper level language classes exclusively in Spanish, proving to her sometimes skeptical students that developing practical language ability is both attainable and incredibly useful.
It isn’t just Spanish classes that are benefiting from RPCV visits either, McIvor makes clear— “What RPCVs can share touches every field.” Volunteer speakers have backgrounds in a wide range of subjects, including biology, the environment, oral and written communication, science, math, history, psychology, and culture. In the past, Speakers Match presentations have been enriching and advantageous to a number of diverse school subjects, and for every age group—from elementary to college students. McIvor and her students found their time with Volunteer speakers so gratifying that they decided to be of assistance to other Volunteers. Currently, they are helping to fundraise for a Peace Corps project in Nicaragua.
Daily life in the Peace Corps as compared to American life seems to be the most impressive and fascinating topic for students, many of whom know very little about the Peace Corps before meeting a Speakers Match Volunteer. McIvor explains that her students “understand going abroad to be a tourist, even do a homestay, but to actually serve… that is a new concept for many.” RPCV speakers are warmly welcomed and applauded in McIvor’s classrooms. Her students look forward to the presentations, which involve anything from photo slideshows to personal stories from the field. Some RPCVs bring along artifacts from their host countries for the students to pass around to see and touch. Students “are always fascinated and often moved by having someone share personally their growth and experience,” adds McIvor.
Teachers always hope that their lesson plans resonate and continue to impact their students long after the final bell rings. They are constantly in search of better ways to make that happen. A smart solution seems to be to invite someone to class who has put classroom skills to work in the global community. McIvor urges other RPCVs to come forward and accomplish the Peace Corps’ “third goal” by speaking to students. “They are in a powerful position to connect what is happening in the classroom to the real world, and making a difference for good,” she says. Teachers and RPCVs, take note this school year—sign up for Speakers Match and help connect students at home to their world.
Have you participated in Speakers Match? Let us know! Or tell us about the experience in the comment area below.