Indonesia / Teaching

Teaching Like A Rock Star

Teaching in Indonesia is kind of like being a rock star. You spend 90% of the time preparing to perform—I mean teach—and 10% of the time in front of the classroom. Many times you repeat the same show—I mean lesson—over and over and at the end the kids want to take their picture with you and friend you on Facebook.

One of many, many pictures with both teachers and students.

Perhaps this was only our experience with teaching practicum since it was only for two weeks, but all joking aside, teaching is pretty amazing. Teachers who teach the things they are interested in have one of the best jobs out there. I have always admired most of my teachers, but as I become a teacher too, I have a new-found respect for this job and how difficult it is. Those who say, “Those who can’t do, teach,” have never taught a day in their life.

In a previous post,  I wrote about my first impression of the Indonesian school system and Indonesian students. While most of those impressions remain, with just two weeks of teaching, I can see that the majority of these children are intelligent and willing to learn. The only trick is making the lessons interesting and relevant to them. This is the hardest part. Luckily I only had to plan three different lessons, but the level of preparation required for each lesson was unexpectedly high. Per 80-minute lesson, two volunteers and I spent about 3 to 4 hours just in figuring out how to teach the topic and creating materials we can actually use.

Sam teaching. I would have liked to take pictures of my classes, but obviously, I had another task to do.

Indonesian English books are not only completely incorrect and irrelevant, but at times also offensive and not age-appropriate. A volunteer from another group told of a story he had to read to his class that involved implying a character was a terrorist. The Indonesian English books follow no logical structure and are probably to blame for why students know so little English, in spite of learning it for so many years. No volunteers I’ve spoken to find the book useful—with good reason—but now we have the burden of coming up with everything from scratch. After being a student, teaching is the hardest job I’ve ever had.

…But it is rewarding! I’m not one to romanticize the impact I’m having on these kids’ educational lives. For all I know, these kids are all going home and forgetting everything I teach them—which may not be that useful in their lives anyways—but seeing kids understand and apply things I just taught in class is definitely encouraging. Maybe they won’t become fluent in English, but perhaps they will find joy in learning. That is my new goal.

In Indonesia, children show respect and appreciation for their parents and elders by bringing the elder’s hands to their lips, nose or cheek. This greeting is called salim. Most Indonesian children practice salim with their teachers. Since we are “bule” the children were not expected to put this greeting into practice and in fact, most “bule” would be uncomfortable with it altogether. However, when my students chose to approach me and give me the salim—though it will always be a bit awkward—I was happy to be included in their customs and felt like I had earned their respect.

Soon, I will also have a lot of new Facebook friends (on another Facebook profile).

3 thoughts on “Teaching Like A Rock Star

  1. Thank you for this insight, I’m hoping to get TEFL’d up and tech in Indonesia as I have very happy memories of briefly living there as a child. There’s so much more to learn and I was never aware of ‘Salim’ and wondered why Thailand has become so advanced at English in comparison… your post answers that question! I hope to read more tales of teaching there in future…

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