July 31, 2013

Aspiration Statement

A: Identify three professional attributes that you plan to use during your Peace Corps service and how these will help you meet your aspirations and commitment to service.

I hope that my experience, not just teaching ESL but my lifelong work experience, will be something I can share with those I'm working with both in the classroom and the community. I am so grateful for the years I spent in Mongolia because it gave me a real understanding of the difficulties working with the cultural divide, but also the wonderful possibilities. But I also know that my new experiences in Thailand will teach me even more about myself as much as about the people I encounter.

With my varied work experience and travels, I think I am a pretty flexible person in any work environment, whether its doing something fairly technical or getting my hands dirty. Again, what I learned in Mongolia was that you have to be flexible because things don't always turn out like you want and you have to accept the failures with the successes and move on.

I love creating things. Half the time I need to learn new skills to reach the end result I want, but to me that is what makes creating things more fun. In Engineering school I tried to think outside the box, bringing in ideas from other fields that might shed new light on seemingly unrelated problems. Leonardo di Vinci said he was a “jack of all trades and a master of none” which I think could describe me a bit. Teaching ESL in a foreign culture, especially with children, I think requires creative thinking and creative execution.

B: Briefly identify two strategies for working effectively with host country partners to meet expressed needs.

Our goal is the help the teachers increase their skills, which in turn will improve their student outcomes. I will need to constantly be asking myself how best to accomplish that aim. By using my experience, be flexible enough to find other creative paths to that end result, but always, always keeping the teachers themselves as my first priority. It's not about me at all, as I am only a guest in their country. With patience and understanding, hopefully I will build enough trust to help them learn new ideas and improve their English skills.

And, I need to relax, and roll with the punches so to speak. Every negative that happens is a learning experience that, if looked on in a positive way can reveal solutions that may work better. Or not. But I still need to keep a positive attitude because results might take a long time to reveal themselves and probably in ways I hadn't thought of before. People are people, and as long as I approach my host country partners with honesty and openness without any ego, I'm sure we can accomplish what we set out to do.

C: You strategy for adapting to a new culture with respect to your own cultural background.

My strategy would be to relax and enjoy every day as it comes. To me, living in a new culture is a wonderful experience full of new sights, sounds tastes, people and customs. Participation is a wonderful way to immerse yourself. Everywhere I have traveled, people were immensely happy if you enjoyed their country with all your senses, not just looking and taking a few pictures. And they are very forgiving of mistakes as long as you are trying. And I feel language is a real key to this, so I plan on continuing my Thai language instruction throughout my service.

D: The skills and knowledge you hope to gain during pre-service training to best serve your future community and project.

First and foremost, I want to learn as much as I can about Thai culture and language. Not only does this help with any professional aspect of my service, but it is the surest way to avoid problems and pitfalls both with individuals and in the community. And even teaching the English language is made easier by knowing where our cultures diverge and where they overlap.

My ESL knowledge was for the most part self-taught during 4 years teaching in Mongolia, which means a lot of trial and error. I am looking forward to learning more about participatory learning methods but also whatever the other volunteers care to share about their own skills and experiences. And I'm interested in what past PCVs have done in Thailand, especially what didn't work and methods that had the greatest impact on the students.

E: How you think Peace Corps service will influence your personal and professional aspirations after your service ends.

I think the Peace Corps will help me learn how much more I can do to help others by giving me additional skills and experience. I think I would like to continue being of service to my fellow man, whether abroad or in the USA, through to my retirement years and beyond. I know I still have so much more to give and am grateful for the opportunity the Peace Corps is giving me.