Monday, July 19, 2010
Today is the first day
Today is the first day of the teaching and learning process.
The day begins with the Monday morning assembly. All the students stand at attention and salute when the leader of the students directs them. They salute the flag, the principal and the teachers (I think.) All the teachers are standing in a row, partially shaded by the trees. It is so hot. I see one student swoon and she’s helped off the field. I begin to wonder how long we need to stand there. My legs are tired. I’m dreaming of water. The principal gives a big speech and the students and teachers laugh at his jokes. I think this probably would not be so painful if I really knew what he is saying – something about eating apples and going to the bathroom, as well as studying and attendance.
After an hour we are all dismissed and I go to the teacher room to find out that the teacher I will team teach with is not here today. She had to go to the hospital for a check up. So the three grade 10 double classes that I had planned to team teach with her, I now have to do alone. (An hour and a half worth of teaching to each group.)
No problem. I already figured out that teachers buy their own magic markers and bring them to class and then take them back with them. I have my magic marker, my topic in mind: introductions and a song to teach.
I go to the first class and find out it’s not there. I ask around and the room has been moved. After asking 5 different people I find the class and go in and they are thrilled.
I greet them (and every class) with the long form of the Arabic greeting:" Assalamu alaikum warohmahtullohi wabarokatuh." "In the name of Alloh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Praise be to Alloh, The Cherisher and Sustainer of the World, Who has created everything in the world for human beings." They say the answer, in Arabic, then I say ‘Good morning, class.” in English.
I have them practice simple things like everyone please stand, this row please stand, please sit down, etc. I ask them what they want to know about me. It’s hard for them to formulate questions. If I hear something that sounds remotely like “name” I ask the student who said it to please take their desk mate and go to the front of the room and write the question on the board. I can read their writing a lot better than I can understand what they are saying. They ask my name, my age, where I come from, what are the things I like, where do I live here. I have the whole class read the question and then I answer it. I tell them about my children and grandchildren. I write the word daughter and the word doctor on the board and try to get them to say them correctly. Then they say one and I guess which one they said. They get better at distinguishing the two sounds. Two different teachers come in and take attendance. This is good. I’m not supposed to sign my name to anything official and EVERYTHING requires an official signature here. I try to repeat each name as the teacher says it and the kids laugh. My pronunciation is so off, they can hardly tell I am saying their names.
I teach them the chorus to it’s a Small World After All. They love it. They can sing it well after just 1 try. I have them practice the word “world” which they pronounce like “word” Together the class and I roll our r’s and unroll them, add and subtract l’s.
Then another teacher comes in. I ask him to go ahead and he explains that he is going to teach now. I didn’t hear the bell ring. The school is adjacent to the train tracks and there are bells that ring all the time. I figure I better have the kids tell me when it’s time for each class to end.
I find the next class I’m supposed to teach and this time after the directions game, I take out 3 by 5 cards with information about me. My name is Colleen Young. Please call me Oma. I like to eat nasi pecel. My favorite snack is ice cream. I was a bus driver in America. This always amazes them. Bus drivers here are all men and fearless. Big busses rule the road. I have only seen them give way to construction trucks. Everyone else knows they are supposed to get out of their way. Each pair of students reads a card aloud and then the whole class repeats it and I repeat it and then the class says it again. I figure my main job here is to get them to speak in English so that’s the point of this whole exercise: Please do what I ask you to do and please speak in English. So far it’s working well. I say everything slowly in English, mangle a Bahasa translation, and then repeat it in English until I can see that most of them understand.
I teach this class the Small World song and we practice singing it by omitting the word “small.” I have a lot of fun. But it’s good to take a break.
The next two classes are cut short for prayers. I am informed that yes, of course, there are prayers every day. As I look around the teacher room is deserted except for 3 women teachers (out of 52) I assume they are having their periods and are not assigned to take care of the girls who are also having their periods, who sit on the steps of the mosque.
There must be some regulation that each class period is 40 minutes long, even though everyone knows that approx.11:30 – 12:00 is prayer time. Actually the prayer times vary. There is a schedule posted on the yearly school calendar. It has something to do with when dawn occurs, but it’s not symmetrical. In July, August and Sept it ranges from 11:23 till 11:39 as the time for beginning the 1st prayer. The prayers that are said before dawn belong to the previous day.
Okay, I think I better get some lunch. So far, I’ve gone with other teachers to the canteen. I’ll see what they are doing today.
No teachers are eating lunch. I buy a cold vitamin water drink. It doesn’t list calories; it lists “energy” as 80kcal. The vice principal who also teaches English to 12 graders tells me he doesn’t think 2 years will be long enough and I need to stay longer. And he also tells me that he likes the song we sang for him when he came in to take attendance and it would be good for me to teach many songs.
I go to the third class and they are smart. There is something they need to fill out, but I don’t understand what. I just tell them to go ahead and finish the papers and then they give them to one boy. I assume he is the leader of the class. Each class appoints their own leader, assistant, sec, asst. sec, treasurer and asst. treasurer. In this class a girl walks around and collects1000Rp (10 cents) from each student. There is an announcement on the loud speaker so I’m quiet so the kids can hear. I have no idea what is said, but the boy who collected the papers looks nervous so I ask him if he needs to do something and he says yes and I give him permission and he walks out of the class with the papers.
I repeat the whole introducing myself, having them ask questions and teaching them the chorus to “It’s a small world after all.” I also ask them how they got to school. One person says she walked (I have found out that there is a dormitory when students spend the night!) and one boy said he rode his bicycle. Approx. 30 students rode a motorcycle and 8 rode a little micro bus. I ask who has a computer in their house and 2 students raise their hand. I have them translate so the whole class understands and yes, 2 students have a computer at home. I ask who has ever been to a warnet and 1 other student raises his hand. I ask them what they want to be when they grow up. They come up with the answer: teacher, and doctor. I ask “Who wants to be a farmer?” (This is the occupation most of their parents have listed on the school application form.) They all say no. I ask who wants to be a mother / father? I translate and about 90% of the class wants to have children someday. I ask who wants to be a business man / woman and 2 students raise their hands. I ask what time will this class be finished and look at my cell phone. Man, this is a long class. We have 5 minutes to go. I hand the marker to a student and tell him to write an English word on the board, then run back and hand the marker to his desk mate, who then runs to the board and writes an English word.. We make it through 10 boys and finally the bell rings.
I am hungry. I need to figure out a better solution to the eating lunch dilemma.
In the teacher room, I see the teacher I was supposed to team teach with. She told me she had to go to the hospital for a heart test. I ask her if she is okay and she says, “Yes. Never mind. And Maybe.” Last week we had a long discussion about “maybe.” When ever I tell her she looks beautiful, she tells me she doesn’t believe me. I told her that “maybe” would be a better answer. That way she can make up her mind about whether she wants to accept my compliment or not. Maybe means maybe I am beautiful and maybe not, but right now I will not choose either way. I tell her that for her to say “Maybe.” Is a big step and I am proud of her for not answering automatically: I don’t believe you.
I have no idea why she tells me “Maybe, the test is fine.”
I say Goodbye and grasp hands with every woman teacher and join my hands together and bow to every man teacher. And head out the door looking for food.