Help needed with voluntary work

This is the first time I have posted here so apologies if it is not the right place but I am looking for help… Are there any English-speaking people living in or near Nerac would like to do some voluntary work helping me to teach English in a local primary school? I started about four years ago and the whole thing has been so successful that I now have over 65 children aged 3-10 wishing to join my groups. Currently I run three groups a week ages ranging from 5-10 years and a friend runs a group for 3-4 year olds. The groups have now got bigger and it would be helpful if we could have two people helping us. I love the work! It is so rewarding! If you are interested please let me know!

Hello Patricia, such a joy to read a positive “can-do” post on here! Well done you!!!
i’m sorry no-one near you replied, but you might think about the big language college in Agen (that’s near you right?) they are certain to have a notice board - on line or real-life and there are language courses for native english speakers. it’s called the Maison de l’Europe d’Agen
Good Luck!

Hi Patricia… I read your post with interest, but didn’t reply as I am already a volunteer at my local primary (for 10 years now).

Having said that… can you tell me what (if any) qualifications your school asked for before letting you loose on the children… :grinning: I wish I could teach.

Officially, I am only allowed to encourage the children to discover/enjoy another language and they must ask to join in my sessions, which are outside of the curriculum. I am not allowed to teach, as such. It would be better if I could have regular attendees… it’s a bit hit and miss otherwise.

I return home, often shattered, but always grinning… the kids are wonderful.

How do you define teach? Do you work on your own or as an assistant to someone else?

David… are you asking me ?? when I say teach, I mean that I could have the same small group of kids for a defined number of sessions.

In the beginning, I was asked to assist at the Lire et faire lire sessions…5-8 yrs… and the children often asked about English words etc…

I now work, on my own, during the out-of-school-activities periods. Sometimes I have 20 kids wanting to join in (impossible)… sometimes just 4 or 5. (eg depends if I am up against football). Small groups do best and flexibility is the key. I will have a session all planned, and that can go out of the window, for whatever reason…so I always have Plan B, C and D…:slight_smile:

Thanks. Your first paragraph has answered my question. I couldn’t understand how you were working with groups of children like that but didn’t consider that you were teaching them.

David… it is really a surprise how much sticks in their heads.

Recently, a new arrival seemed very excited to hear a particular song… turned out that I had taught it to her elder brother some years before…and he sings it at home to entertain her…:grinning:

You don’t need to tell me :). I did it for a lifetime.

Patricia… I do hope you will soon find some people to assist you.

Really, I cannot understand why more folk do not volunteer… surely some must have time on their hands and it is a wonderful way to integrate.

If anyone is thinking about it, but (perhaps) afraid/shy… I urge you…please do take your courage in both hands and go for a trial period at least.

good luck…

Hello Everyone! Thank you for your responses… I just wish there were some volunteers out there somewhere!

I’m not sure if all the questions were directed at me but I will answer them anyway.

What qualifications did the school ask for: In a word… None! One of the first things I did when I moved here in 2012 was to speak to the Mayor about voluntary work. In the UK I worked voluntarily with people suffering with Motor Neuron Disease but knew my French was not good enough to give the support needed. However, I had also worked with children and felt that I could help out at a school. The Mayor arranged for me to meet one of his team responsible for community work and my husband and I had quite a lengthy meeting with her. I explained that I had no teaching qualifications but I had a lot of experience working with children of all ages as I was a school secretary for many years. I had also worked with mentally handicapped children in my capacity as PA to a consutant psychiatrist and had voluntarily worked in the UK helping slow learners to read. A few weeks later I was contacted by a French woman who, at the time, was running a small private group of six children called Learn for Fun, teaching English to 3-6 year-olds. She came to my house in the summer holidays, we chatted and she said that I could start the following term. There was no contract or any other document to sign and I was horrified that she did not even ask for a CRB check!

How do I define teach? As I have said, I am not a qualified teacher and do not pretend to be. I try to make learning fun. With the younger children I use flash-cards, any visual aids I can find that interest the children - coloured feathers, balloons, etc. We sing… anything and everything! We dance, play games and I read little stories in English to them. For the older children who think singing is silly and childish. I devise other interesting ways of learning… They love Bingo. I am the Bingo Queen of Nerac! I make the cards out of any bit of cardboard I can find and print images from the internet. We have Bingo on animals, colours, weather, the body, Halloween, Christmas, you name it I make it!

I suppose to define teach - I would say you need to know about what you are teaching but you also need to be enthusiastic, motivated and believe in what you are doing. From that small group called Learn for Fun (which I still run), my work has grown. Shortly after Learn for Fun the headmaster of our local private school contacted me. I started there one evening a week with about twelve children, now I work two evenings and one lunch-time and there are 65+ children wanting to join my groups which last for one hour. Last year I also ran a group at one of the state schools but found it difficult to fit in and also I felt that the staff were not as keen for me to be there as the private school staff. This will be my fourth year working at the school and running Learn for Fun.

Do I work on my own? Mostly, yes. In the beginning my husband helped me at the private school but it is not really his thing, although he did go on to help coach the Under 7s Rugby team until a shoulder problem made it difficult for him to continue. With Learn for Fun, occasionally the French woman comes along but at the moment she is living in Ireland so I am running the whole thing.

Stella Wood, I think my experiences are very much like yours. My groups are all out-of-school and because of their success it is becoming impossible for me to manage. My Thursday lunch-time group has twenty-two 4-year-olds and it is just not working - it’s more of a guarderie. I have discussed with the Head Teacher and he is so keen for the groups to continue… hence my plea for help!

Please spread the word!!

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Hi Patricia…

My husband and I have volunteered for almost everything over the years and this has really helped us to make friends and improve language skills.

Re School: Sounds like we are on similar lines with activities for the kids.(15 years as Akela in UK gave me some ideas and my siblings are all teachers.)

Unlike you, I was vetted by the local Gendarmes (necessary for State schools). In the early days, my “fame” spread to the nearest town and I was co-opted for a few months to the larger school while they sought someone permanent. So I must have been doing things right…:wink:

I love the idea that we can make a difference. It is magical to watch the children blossom. Out shopping or wherever… there is a sudden shout… and I am grabbed by a child (or sometimes a young adult after all these years)… seems they don’t forget the people who have made them happy.

Life is great…

Thank you for your kind comments, Teresa. I have heard of the Maison de l’Europe d’Agen but I thought they found clients for people wishing to be paid to teach English. I will research them on line and see if I can use them. The trouble is, as the work is voluntary, people are not so keen to travel a great distance. Buses are not very reliable and it would not be worth while to travel too far just for an hour’s lesson which you are not getting paid for, especially if you have to pay for petrol or a bus fare. I live just up the road from the schools here so it is no problem for me.

Your support is much appreciated though.