Jumat, 31 Agustus 2007

Why Teaching?

I've worked many odd jobs in my life--washing dishes, waiting tables, representing a radio station, cleaning vacation homes, in sales, catering, working at a library, a county fair, a call center, a law office, an architectural firm, a telecommunication and a real estate company--but nothing is like teaching. For the first time in my working life, I can say that none of these jobs brought me as much joy, and possibly stress, as teaching. I maybe underpaid but I'm actually loving what I do. At one point in my life, I never thought work can be genuinely rewarding and exciting.

For us teachers, we are also known to be counselor, security guard, therapist, babysitter, disciplinarian, appointment setter, event organizer, cleaner, and mom and dad to our students. Being involved in the students' lives gives me a sense of joy because, somehow, I'm making a difference. No one day in a teacher's life is ever the same but full of a myriad surprises from your students. It's a joy. A privilege. A gift of giving. A stress. A love. It's been awhile since I think of how to better others' lives and not just my own...

This is my favorite second grader--Callum Gordon. Callum is half-Thai, half-English and came to Indonesia about a year ago and couldn't speak a lick of English then. I was designated to be his personal tutor. Callum had a reputation of walking out of his classroom if he didn't understand what was going on. When I first started tutoring him, He'd often bite me, teasingly of course, and run around when I asked him to sit down. I didn't know if I could do it because I barely had the energy left after all day of teaching and to spend it on getting him to simply sit was definitely taxing. But then I sorta figured him out. When he ran around, I'd tell him to come back after 5 or 10 minutes. And usually after he let out his excess energy, he'd come back to me. Sometimes, he'd scream and cry and call me crazy when I tried to get him to read. I didn't want him to hate me, but it was necessary to threanten him that I'd tell his parents. Thank goodness, the kid still has the fear of his parents.

Anyhow, I think he has a crush on me too, as explained by my friend Chris. Well, I think it's mutual! When he sees me around the school, he often yells out my name and because of that I've become quite popular among second graders. Now Callum is spelling out words as he sees them on the streets and has made a significant improvement in his classes. I'm so proud of him!

Senin, 06 Agustus 2007

It Is Well...With My Soul

Yes, I am in Indonesia. But that’s far from the complete truth. I’m teaching middle/high school and didn’t know what subjects I was supposed to teach my teenage students on the first day of class in Indonesia. I felt like a lamb thrown into a pack of wolves...

On the first day, I spent four hours with a bunch of seven graders. Four hours! Green as a blade of grass, I was. Other veteran teachers didn’t seem to sweat it one bit. Give them ten hours with the same group of kids, and they’d say bring it on. I seemed to be the only one running around like a chicken with its head cut off. What the credential program taught us back in the US came back to haunt me: you’ve got to make a good impression and set the tone for the rest of the year; otherwise, watch out, they’ll run wild, run the class and, eventually, run you! What if they asked me all kinds of questions that I couldn’t answer like what are you going to teach us exactly? Or why do we have to spend four hours with you? Thank God these kids aren’t like what I’d experienced in US schools. Don’t get me wrong. I had lots of good kids in my classes back in the US and, of course, some wild ones who made me think more than twice about teaching as a career. A few teachers here would complain about kids misbehaving, and I’d gently reassure them, You ain’t see nothin’ yet until you teach in an American high school. If you can handle a classroom full of American teenagers, you can teach anywhere.

For some reasons, I was confident that there wouldn't be much of a culture shock for me in Indonesia. After having traveled to a few Asain countries, I began to get cocky with my ability to adapt to new places. That's why I love traveling because it gives me opportunities to see things in my character.

For instance, when it comes to work, I was used to the way things are run in the US. Efficiency is the name of the game. Not to say that Indonesians aren’t efficient. It’s just that their definition of “efficiency” and many other words are defined in different ways. Things like passing out wedding invitations just two weeks before the wedding. Well, I’m thinking a few months or half a year is more like it. Also when you cross a street, forget the crosswalks or hitting the button for the little-white-human light to appear at an intersection. Here, one needs to practice the art of Jakartan Street Crossing—nothing too complicated--simply close your eyes, say a prayer and cross...

It’s been over two weeks since that first day of school, and I’m still breathing. As a matter of fact, I’m beginning to enjoy teaching what I know and love like literature. There’s nothing better than getting paid to do what you love. The kids here are wonderful after all, although some teachers would say that’s a matter of opinion. I’m starting to get used to the life in Jakarta, basking in the traffic, the fumes and pollution. I once told a friend of how I miss nature. He said that after awhile you’ll get used to the traffic and will miss the traffic when you're away. I’ll see about that. But all in all, it is well…with my soul here in Indonesia.