Teaching Abroad in the Dominican Republic: Guest Post from Emily

¡Saludos! I'm Emily and I have been teaching in the Dominican Republic for the past 7 years.  I work for a ministry called Kids Alive International, which provides holistic Christian care for children at risk around the world. After three years of teaching without training, I returned to the US to get my Master's in Elementary Education and my teaching license at the University of Pennsylvania. (My undergraduate degree was in music.) Upon returning to the DR, I spent a year as assistant principal, and am now entering my third year as a 2nd grade teacher.

 Here in the Dominican Republic (DR), a large part of Kids Alive’s work is in the field of education. We have 6 schools across the DR, with nearly 2000 children in our care. Education in the DR, like all aspects of Dominican life, is marked by disparity. We have beautiful, internationally accredited schools with all the latest technology and IB curriculum, and we have one-room, multi-grade schoolhouses with no electricity. Many non-governmental organizations like Kids Alive have stepped in to fill in the educational gap left by the public school system.

The school where I teach
In the DR, only 75% of the population finishes primary school (UNICEF). According to the World Economic Forum, the DR ranks 126 out of 140 countries for "Quality of Educational System." Most Dominican public schools meet for half-day sessions. Students go to school for 4 hours either in the morning or the afternoon. The government has been investing in education over the past few years, however, building new schools and supplying more resources, and some public schools now meet for a full 7 hour day. Teachers usually teach by writing on the chalkboard and having the students copy into their notebooks, and in public schools you can find as many as 50 students in one classroom.

The students in their uniforms
I teach at a K-8 school in a small rural village, tucked away in the sugar cane fields. Because of former sugar cane production in the area, many of my students come from Haitian families, and all of my students live below the poverty line. Kids Alive works to bring hope to these children by sharing the Gospel with them and by improving their education so that they can get jobs that will allow them to break the cycle of poverty.

A typical student home
I teach in Spanish, and I am the only non-national teacher in the school.  We sometimes have electricity in the school office, but never in my classroom. The school lunch we provide for our students is the bulk of their nutrition for the day; some don’t have food in their homes. My students come with all the issues you would expect to see in students with complex trauma, but a rural population like the one I work with has no concept of learning disabilities or developmental delays, and there is no support for teachers working with difficult students.

Read to Self
I teach for 3 hours a day; my students spend another hour in Bible class, recess, and lunch, and then they go to the local public school from 2-5pm. My school day includes lots and lots of literacy, a fair dose of math, and character education. I also teach science, social studies, art, and physical education in small amounts. The DR has a national curriculum that includes all those subjects as well as religious education. I work hard to make my classroom a place where my students feel safe and loved so that they can focus on learning. On any given day, my classroom activities look and sound a lot like a 2nd grade class in the US – we have Read to Self time, math stations, and interactive notebooks. We use a curriculum similar to the Common Core, and I assess my students regularly, though we don’t assign grades at my school. Through teaching abroad, I have learned that kids are kids, no matter where in the world you go – they love to sing songs, play games, and explore the world around them! 
Working on interactive notebooks!
No matter where you are in the world, teaching is a simultaneously challenging and rewarding profession. I absolutely love teaching in a place where I can see the effects of our work on my students’ futures.  Students who grew up in Kids Alive schools are now attending and graduating from university, working as teachers and paraprofessionals in Kids Alive schools, and breaking the cycle of poverty by providing for their families as engineers, doctors, and businesspeople. Many people think about teaching abroad as something to do for a few years before starting “real life,” but for me, teaching in the Dominican Republic is a long-term investment in the children of the village.

Morning commute to work!
Photo credit: Emily Bill

Emily is an American teacher living and working in the Dominican Republic with Kids Alive International.

You can find her on Teachers Pay Teachers at "Profe Emily" or by clicking her button! You can also find her on Pinterest and Instagram!


Thanks for joining in on this week's WorldWide Wednesday Post! Join us next week when Allie takes us over to Tanzania to see what it's like teaching in Africa.

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