My first day at SMK29 Jakarta with Bu Valentina & Pak Asep

Bu Valentina’s school has hundreds of teachers and I think I have been introduced to most but for the life of me can not remember the names of any I met today. There are 4 English teachers and the ones I have met are thrilled to be able to practice their English with a native speaker.
Because the year 10’s have exams tomorrow most classes are just filling in time. I was surprised the English teacher didn’t use the lesson today to revise for the exams tomorrow. Students told me they have 9 exams over the next week! These exams are the culmination of a years work and the result is vital as to whether students pass their fist year at this school or fail. The principal earlier warned them that if they fail, they will not be allowed to repeat which means they can not continue here. Pretty severe.
The year 11’s are out doing work experience for 3 months and the year 12’s have finished altogether. So there is only a small contingent here today.
My morning began today with Bu Valentina waking and getting up at 4:30. As soon as she put the light on, I woke up immediately. She had asked her niece to toast some bread and warm some milk for our breakfast! I felt terrible refusing them both. So Bu Valentina organised some left overs from dinner last night and brought them to school for us to have as breakfast once we got to school. To get to school, Bu Valentina explained that we had to leave quite early because if we left it much later, then the traffic would be terrible and it would take much longer to get to school. We began with a motorbike ride to the train station. It was lovely and quiet on the roads and lovely and cool too. At the train station, we no sooner got to the platform when a very long train arrived. We got on into the first carriage and I was puzzled why everyone was pushing and rushing to get on. I found out why soon enough. There were only a few seats left! Bu Valentina though asked people to move up and we squeezed in on the long bench seat. By the time we got to our stop, the train was packed. It was great to see really because if not for the train, then all those people would have been on the street too making the street even more congested! We next caught a bus and got dropped off right in front of the school. We left home at 5am and got to school 6:45am! School starts at 8, so we had heaps of time to meet the principal and various staff members before having our breakfast.
After breakfast was the Upacara Bendera (flag raising ceremony) which all schools do each Monday morning. It is the most formal ceremony I have ever seen. School staff and students take their patriotism very seriously. Students line up by class and it is done with military precisions. Each student is an arms length behind the student in front of them and also an arms length from the people standing to either side. The Ketua Kelas (head student of each class) stood out the front of his class while the student leading the ceremony called out the instructions. Any marching was done in sync and very precise. The ceremony included the unfurling of the flag and raising it while the choir sang the national anthem. We all saluted the flag once it was fully raised. The principal was invited to speak and he got up and spoke for about 15 minutes about various things. They included encouraging students to be self reflective, the fact that as all the staff would be in Jogja on Friday, students had to stay home to study, he also shared with students results of the national exams. While this school had 100% of their students pass, one school had not one student pass! Other schools had various pass rates and he went on to say that if students fail there was no option to repeat! I must ask Bu Valentina what happens to those students. The principal also introduced me to the students and I spoke briefly to introduce myself. I will be speaking more formally after we get back from Jogya to the whole school so will be asking BU Valentina to help me prepare for that! The assembly was then brought to a close. Such a formal ceremony and run totally by students who all wore red sashes.

The principal here is an Indonesian teacher who is in great demand at the moment because their new curriculum starts with the next school year which is only a few weeks away. The Indonesian school year starts in July and finishes in June just like the American school year. He has been visiting schools as far away as Lombok to talk to them about the content of the new curriculum. Amazing timing because the Australian Curriculum for LOTE (Languages other than English) begins in 2014, 6 month later.

Once the upacara bendera had finished, I turned around to follow Bu Valentina back to the staff room and there lined up behind us was a group of about 15 students. Apparently they had all arrived to school late and so were not allowed to join the ceremony. Once everyone had left, they were dealt with. Firstly their shoes were removed and taken away. They then had to sit on the basket ball court and write an explanation of why they were late. When their writing was deemed good enough, they then were told to run to the oval and do laps. A couple were late to school because they had been fighting students from another school. Their parents were called to school and they were to be sent home.Their shoes would only be returned once their parents had arrived.

This morning I went to an Indonesian lesson and an English lesson. The Indonesian teacher seemed threatened by me being in the classroom with her and avoided teaching while I was there. She invited me to teach the class but I declined because I really wanted to see her in action. After recess I joined an English class.This teacher invited me to talk about myself and introduce myself to the class. I decided that to make it more interesting I would start with the game that Pak Bayu had done with us in January. I drew up a 3×2 grid and wrote various words in the grid and then asked the students to guess how they related to me. What I forgot to take into account was how difficult it is for students here to contribute orally to lessons, let alone taking a risk to guess. It was very difficult. I led them for a few to give them the idea and we eventually got through them all. A couple of students did all the work and the rest giggled nervously throughout. I then played a game of hangman with them but that too was too hard. After playing 3 times, I gave up and handed back to the class teacher. My homework is to have a lesson plan up my sleeve which suits student who are reluctant to participate and make mistakes.

For lunch, Bu Valentina took me to the staff canteen. This is a room where food is cooked and then put out on the table for staff to help themselves. For lunch today was a tofu curry, krupuk, rice and salty boiled eggs. It was absolutely beautiful, especially because I didn’t have to cook or wash the dishes afterwards! Someone is employed to do it all! I could get used to that!

Walking around the school, students constantly come up to the teachers and take the teachers right hand and press it to their (students) forehead to show respect. I asked Bu Valentina if I needed to say anything but she shook her head and smiled. I have never seen students do this as much anywhere else. Even the students who are in trouble and are sitting outside on the bench waiting for their parents to arrive, jump up when we pass and grab first Bu Valentina’s hand and then mine!

This afternoon, there doesn’t seem to be any lessons so I have time to sit here and catch up on my day in the staff room with a few other teachers. Students come in now and then asking teachers questions. The teachers though are doing very little. One is having a nap, one is on her mobile phone and the others are chatting. Poor Bu Valentina is running around writing an exam for one of her teachers who is away today and hasn’t written it yet for tomorrow! She then has to photocopy it! It is now 2pm, so I guess once Bu Valentina is finished with printing it off, we too will head home. Being the middle of the day, I wonder how long it will take to get home!

20130604-090606.jpg English lesson with year 10 students

20130604-090706.jpgSchool lunch for teachers with Bu Valentina

20130604-090920.jpg The day began with a leadership meeting. Played the imovie I made of the various PEPS classes introducing themselves. I then played a video I had taken of Pak Asep playing the guitar and singing. Both were loved! The man on the left is the principal, Pak Husin and then the next person is our wonderful Pak Asep. Do you recognize him. Then Pak Caca and Pak Budi.

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One thought on “My first day at SMK29 Jakarta with Bu Valentina & Pak Asep

  1. Cathy, I am loving your blog. It is so entertaining and informative. We are so lucky to have you as part of PEPS. I haven’t had much of a chance to share it with the kids but plan on making sure we put it up after morning walk so hopefully you will get some comments from them.
    What an early start! How was the ride home? Imagine the out cry if I took my kids shoes away for being late – might make them runaround the oval though. I can imagine it was difficult trying to get the students to take a risk answering your questions if the consequences for failing are so severe.
    Was great talking to you briefly yesterday. Did you end up getting through to Sandy? We will need to make a time next week to hook up my class with some students – I am sure they would love it.
    Keep blogging – loving it!

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