This post has been a long time coming so I’ll dive right in.
MAN or Madrasah Aliyah Negeri OR public Islamic high school is the type of school I have geared most my energy towards for over the last year or so. After our first training ended and I was still in a constant dazed and confused kind of mindset, my primary assignment as a TEFL volunteer read as black and white; to teach some English to eager Indonesian students. Simple, right? My biggest fear was that the other Indonesian English teachers wouldn’t want this inexperienced clown dancing in front of their classroom. When I was imagining how my service would go down I figured secondary projects would be where I shined with my volunteer energy and contribute the most, eventually taking precedence after my first year in. However, I quickly learned that my fellow English teachers or counterparts (CPs) were drowning and in need of a hand to pull them up from the overwhelming job of teaching a foreign language. After the first year, I realized it wasn’t just motivation for the students that they wanted, but organization and encouragement for themselves to continue to be successful gurus.
In all honestly, most of my energy is drained from typical school days and after school clubs. Like most TEFL volunteers, there comes a point where you don’t really want to just teach English lessons but skills and knowledge beyond this material given in the curriculum that can seem somewhat useless. But education is education and it brings challenge for me as a teacher and for my students and teachers, even if there is a lack of interest or understanding, it’s still education.
Roll in to semester 4
The first week back, the second semester of my second year, my fourth and last semester of service…: AlhamDU…lillah. Between preparing myself and my fellow English CPs, I felt wiped out before I even took a step into the classroom. The first 6 days of school happened and I didn’t have to immediately run to a store to find ice cream. We’ve come far (CPs and myself), and I think we are building, but my MAN still needs a lot work, especially with consistency. I have no complaints about my assignment here or where it’s led. There are plenty of opportunities and plenty of great kids. I do have frustrations. They start of course with the school system itself, and from my position I can only raise a shaking fist to the fan-less ceilings and curse at it right along with the other teachers. Then the frustrations move to my own role at the school and on and off commitment from fellow English teachers. To be fair, it’s been a worthwhile investment, it’s just constantly surprising me and I never know what direction it will take next. Read and view photos on MANDO.
This month was surprising and not disastrous. There was only one cancelled school day and that was for Mohammad’s birthday. Now my MAN has seen it’s days of canceled classes for weddings receptions, new baby visits, school meetings, and for new store openings…we live in a small town. Since the change of principal last semester, the start of this semester has been going strong. Random cancellations no more.
As far as teaching goes this semester things are mapped out and in place, however, I’m always up for doing new things. I need to be stopped and allow the CPs to be in charge. The question is whether I can handle taking less responsibility and act as more of the shadow and aid to my CPs, the second is whether my CPs are able to respond and step up their teaching game.
As they say, “So far, so good” (seriously they say this here a lot). The first week the English teachers scheduled our first meeting back to discuss the syllabus (4 of us) and 2 were present…me and 1 other teacher… Too bad for them because I made cookies. Immediately that same night, I was on the phone with another volunteer complaining how I’ve just given up hope for them and I’d rather just do everything myself. Ready to just post the blog I had written ranting about how my 2 years of hard work will soon be gone once I board that plane, I took a step back and a week later called for a second meeting. No cookies… 3 out of the 4 were present! We talked about enough to keep ourselves busy until my leave date. Typing up lesson plans that still haven’t been recorded. Creating a few more practice dialogues and quizzes. And a final few TEFL sessions that are on topics they requested I share or give more information on. Oh and let’s not forget, the World Map Project that our principal decided to finally approve after a year…thanks sir, just add it to the list!
Something that caught me off guard since the beginning with these two CPs that I mainly worked with was how persistent they’ve been about student-centered classes. We were all kind of clueless on how to approach it from the style of learning they’ve been used to for so many years. It’s taken time and it is definitely clicking for the students. In almost all of the classrooms, we have had success with students leading the lesson for the day. Besides always being strikingly awestruck with the “warm-up” or “motivator” that the students present, it turns the tables and allows them to value the role of teaching. Gets me verklempt every time. I hope this exercise is continued. It’s brought about responsibility that the students take pride in, plus they don’t come to class as late. It is so minor, but I believe to be one of my major contributions to my CPs.
We are just about done with the first unit where, thanks to advice taken from volunteer DP, students are creating their own narrative books. I’ve given the students time in class to complete them, where I’ve been crazy editing their heavily langsung-translated texts. We worked on exercises in order to avoid this, but it’s just a habit that they have been taught over and over again, therefore almost impossible to break. I told them these books will help the future of our school because they will be added to the library. And because it’s suppose to be a narrative closely related to their lives in Indonesia, I said a select few will be copied and taken back with me to America. That got them pretty wound-up.
The first month of school dragged by and it’s finally over. Our student dance class (8-10 girls) is still happening every Monday and the English Club as continued to interview teachers and write up a monthly MANDO Newsletter. I still feel like these clubs and activities rely on my persistent reminders heavily, but I’m hopeful that by the end of the semester they will no longer need me there…hopeful.
Two years goes fast when collected in semester intervals. There’s no need for the reminder because everyone else does every single day. Well… except for my CPs, I have to remind them. I’ve recently been asked what my plans are with clothing, my bicycle, and laptop. Those are pretty normal questions to them but it comes off so greedy, not to mention that 4 months is still a good chuck of time, don’t write me off too quickly! (I give them the “Natalie face,” picture below-an expression my sister makes that just seems to explain how I feel all the time)
My CP had a serious conversation with me explaining what my role could be here for a third year. Although I feel bad and understand that it feels like we are really just getting started, my presence for another year at this school isn’t going to work any miracles. Here I am the youngest teacher cheering them on about their capabilities and attitudes for teaching. No one can do that for them forever.
No joke, this time last year I was fired up to tag an addition year of service on. I still think about it, however, like I said I’d only be allowing teachers to create more excuses and then get really focused right before I left again. I’m not rewarding irresponsible behavior, as teachers themselves they should realize. And of course that’s not the only reason. Besides, I need to roll with the fact that my service is ending and allow the steps in life to fall into place without me being too controlling or over-thinking the exact placement. I’m in a good place with my school, I couldn’t be happier in my community, and I somewhat know what’s going on with myself. I’m seeing things in days, which seem to be dissolving into the cracks of weeks that eventually get swept away into months. I’ll be away from this place soon. I know it’s going to be good for them and for me. So before that happens, I’ll continue to try to suck it dry of all the things that make me both miserable and ecstatic to be apart of it.