I slept in this morning! Heard the 4am call to prayer and promptly fell back asleep again. Ibu woke me up at 4:50 so I jumped up quickly out of bed to have a mandi. After my mandi, Bu Valentine presented me with some clothes; the most important criteria being a shirt with a collar. Today’s ‘raker’ requires formal clothing and my usual outfit of T-shirt with a skirt just isn’t good enough. Bu Valentine lent me a long blue skirt and a shirt with a collar.
Thankfully we were able to catch a taxi today to get to school as early as possible! It was lovely being able to sit back in the taxi and relax. However because we had to book the taxi, we couldn’t leave whenever! The one day I sleep in! In the taxi, I asked Bu Valentina about the meaning of ‘raker’. I had been wracking my brains trying to make sense of the word, thinking maybe it was based on an English word. Turns out to be an abbreviation for ‘rapat kerja’ (a meeting for working on several tasks)! At this meeting will be several departmental representatives and the 2 main tasks to be covered will be the signing of the sister school agreement and preparing for the 2013/2014 school year. This meeting sounds very much like the ones we have in SA at the beginning of each school year. Staff and the subjects they will teach will also be confirmed at this meeting.
We got to school at 6am this morning, half an hour earlier than usual. Bu Yanti is busy getting the dancers and their costumes ready.
While she is busy putting the makeup on their faces, the other staff are sitting together eating delicious food that various people have brought in. There is a box of delicious cakes that one of the teachers brought in because it is her birthday, and also on the table are other snacks like bakwan, tahu isi (fried tofu with vegetable filling) and other savoury foods I have never seen before. One is a glutinous rice roll with a vegetable filling wrapped in banana leaf. The ones I know about are all vegetable based because now that everyone knows I am vegetarian I am only offered the vegetarian foods!
Now that the food is almost finished and everyone is full, teachers are moving off to their desks to get any last minute jobs done before the meeting starts in an hours time. Bu Valentina & I are expecting the principal of Bakti Mulya 400 at 8am when he will drop in to introduce himself and we can organise what is happening next week.
Suddenly the staff room emptied, so when I stuck my head out of the staff room door, there was a huge stream of people heading to the multi media room for the meeting. In the multii media room, the tables have all had their coverings changed and the room is looking spic and span. People have already grabbed seats and the room is already full. As I walk in, the staff are rehearsing the singing of the national anthem. It sounds absolutely beautiful with such a large group and I would have loved to record it!
I tried to sit inconspicuously towards the back but was spotted and directed to sit in the front row with Bu Valentina and other leadership. As we have to excuse ourselves shortly after the meeting starts, sitting in the front row away from the door, means that a surreptitious exit won’t be possible. We are going to have to walk in between the desk with all the big knobs and the rest of the staff! Will have to remember to bow low and lower my right hand as I cross in front of everyone!
The meeting has begin slightly behind time as we are still waiting for the dancers who have yet to arrive. The 2 people from the department have arrived. I have shaken hands with one of the men who looked slightly surprised to see a westerner! I could see him struggling to decide whether to greet me in Indonesian or English! They sit at the front with Pak Husin, the principal, at a long narrow table facing the rest of the staff.
Bu Mula is now outlining the meeting goals and our schedule. We are all invited to stand to sing the national anthem of Indonesia which again sounds beautiful. Straight afterwards, we continue standing while one of the male teachers is invited to come out to the front and say a prayer. He begins with an Arabic prayer which the teacher next to me echoes. It sounds so lovely and guttural. He then prays in Indonesian asking for guidance and forgiveness of our weaknesses. It went for quite a while while we stood with the muslim teachers holding their hands out in front with their palms upwards.
Next the visiting teachers are introduced with my name being called first. I am terrified I am expected to speak but thankfully all I have to do is stand up! The other visitors are also introduced although most are yet to arrive.
Pak Suharyanto, kepala Suku Dinas Pendidikan Jakarta Selatan, is introduced and begins his speech while Bu Yanti and the dancing group wait outside. He includes a welcome to me and I am invited to go up to the front to meet him formally where he shakes my hand and asks me in a mixture of English and Indonesian, how long have I been here. I answered in Indonesian, “Dua minggu Pak.” assuming he means here in Jakarta. He then continues with his speech which is based on a powerpoint which is projected up onto a screen in front of us. We are shown how SMKN 29 Jakarta ranks up against other vocational schools in Jakarta – 43rd. His power point looks just like a departmental policy presentation, found I’m sure, world-wide. It includes topics like Quality School Leadership, Quality Management, Teacher Quality, Subject Quality & Quality Graduation.
He puts up his slides and goes through each point giving examples as we progress.
He tells staff that if teachers aren’t diligent, our students won’t study hard, consequently we shouldn’t expect any rewards or good results. I was pleased he promoted the importance of students experiencing success because this is one aspect of education in Indonesia which is currently not considered important. He then went on to tell us about a nearby high school (and names it) where only 1 year 12 student has passed, Another point he raised involved the importance of evaluation and observation. However a lot of his explanations goes right over my head. It contains local references and is laced with formal vocabulary & acronyms, most of which I have yet to grasp. I sit listening trying to concentrate on his talk while waiting for my phone to ring to say that Pak Hadi has arrived. Pak Suharyanto finishes after about 45 minutes by wishing staff a better result in the 2013/2014 school year.
There is then a break when staff grab a cuppa and some morning tea. While that is happening I get a chance to chat with the students who have been waiting outside to do their welcoming dance. They practice their English which was great. Makes me even more disappointed on their behalf that they had had exams all week and have been too busy to have any chance to practice their English with me.
Finally the dancers move towards the principals office where the dance begins and the principal emerges out of his office with Pak Happy Gustin, the Kepala Bidang SMK DKI Jakarta (superintendent). I didn’t realise the dance was for Happy Gustin and thought they were just doing it for me to film so I was a bit put out when the principal and Pak Happy opened the door and stood in front of me while I was filming! Hopefully I didn’t step on any toes by continuing my filming while the dancers welcomed Pak Happy. That will teach me to assume that all ceremonies are put on for me!!
As Bu Mula was asking everyone to finish their morning tea and head back to their seats, I received a message from Marg asking if she could face time. I raced out to the staff room where the internet connection is quite good. I was so hoping we could connect as the dancers were there too still in their beautiful costumes, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be. We gave up and I headed back to the multi media room where Pak Happy had begun to speak. Pak Asep is now in my seat so I moved to a seat thankfully to the side of the room where I can see everyone. For the first time I notice that other than the mixed gender of leadership on the front table, the women teachers are largely seated at the front rows while the male teachers are largely in the back rows. Just about everyone is listening intently. A few of the male teachers are looking at their lap top screens but I bet that they aren’t checking Facebook like they usually do in meetings. Pak Happy is a very forceful and passionate speaker with the key word being ‘motivasi’ (motivation). Sounds very familiar!
He is outlining policy that must be implemented at school. For example, all teachers must attend the flag raising ceremony just as all students are expected to attend. He also congratulated the 4 maths teachers for their work as one of their students scored 10/10 for their exam! Pak Happy then outlined one of the plans the government is proposing about closing some of the schools in the city of Jakarta (as SMKN 29 is) and opening more schools out in the suburbs so that students don’t have to travel so far to go to school. This should help enormously with their traffic problems too! He finished up also by wishing SMKN 29 greater success in 2013/2014.
I was then called to the front again where we had the signing of the sister school agreement so that the departmental bigwigs could witness it.
There was another break where tea was served again. Just as my hand reached for a cup, an unfamiliar face demands my attention. In a very unIndonesian way, a male teacher from another school briefly introduces himself (teaches by day at a vocational school and by night at a private university and was in the early 90’s employed as an interpreter by Deakin University). He asked me if I know how he can get a scholarship from Deakin University! I explained that I am a primary school teacher and have no links with any universities and suggested he go online and look at the Deakin website. He was very insistent and luckily I was rescued by Bu Valentina who had a brain wave and suggested that he contact Pak Nyoman (APBIPA) who may have contacts at a tertiary level. He was very interested in that idea and luckily for me, redirected his intense attention towards Bu Valentina who is so adept at dealing with all types of personalities.
Once phone numbers had been exchanged, we were told that Pak Hadi from Bakti Mulya 400 had arrived. We headed to the principals office to meet him. It was lovely to put a face finally to his name and speak to him. They already have a sister school in Turkey and are keen to have one from an English speaking country as well. We chatted about next weeks timetable, about what I have done so far with SMKN 29 Jakarta and then Bu Valentina gave him the original Sister School Agreement that my principal, Brenton Hudson, had signed before I left Australia. It sounds like there are several families keen to host me next week which is awesome.
It was a very brief meeting and after our ‘terima kasih’s’ Bu Valentina & I headed back to the raker while Pak Hadi returned to his school. Pak Sholle Dimiathy, Penawas Sekolah (a superintendent) from Suku Dinas is now talking about the curriculum. He is ready straight from his powerpoint. I am again in the front row and behind me I can hear many voices chatting and to combat this Pak Sholle is talking very loudly into the microphone. He has talked about the changing role of teachers. We used to be instructors (the source of information, the experts) but now we are facilitators (collaborator, counselor, navigator). He points out the difference between ‘mengajar’ (to teach) and ‘membelajarkan’ (to assist learning).
While what Pak Sholle was telling us was interesting, his voice became louder and louder and I had to leave the room. My head is pounding and I am starting to feel queasy! I don’t know whether everyone else is tolerating the high noise level because they have a higher tolerance for noise or because saying anything would be rude. I followed Bu Yanti out who made no comment when I said that my head is ‘pusing’ so I am thinking it must be the former. I am constantly amazed at how much noise Indonesians live with. Meetings are a classic example. Mobile phones constantly ring or beep with incoming messages and no one bats an eye. People chatting, surfing online etc. I find it so distracting when a loud ringtone sounds, but I am the only one. Everyone else stays focused! At a meeting last week, the fellow next to me was online. Even visually I was distracted! If he opened a page with music, while it wasn’t blaring, he didn’t make any move to close the page. The meeting continued over the top of it! It must be so strange for our visitors when they are present at our formal and quiet school meetings.
For lunch, caterers provided us with masakan Padang. Masakan (food) Padang (a town in Sumatra) is famous throughout Indonesia. You can spot it before you even read the sign on the window because the food is always displayed on plates stacked in a particular checker pattern in a bay window backed by a lacy curtain to keep insects and dust out. On each stacked plate you can see what is available to eat at that restaurant, so you can see exactly what is available and what it looks like. However for our lunch, we were given a selection of foods all wrapped separately in plastic bags and given to us in a box with the name of the restaurant on the top.
There was jackfruit curry, fish curry, rice, potato chips, tempeh strips, and cucumber slices because masakan Padang is always very spicy! It was all so delicious. We were also given some bottled water with our lunch which was fantastic because with all my running around this morning I am feeling slightly dehydrated.
We were given an hour for lunch and it was lovely to sit around chatting with the teachers. For the first time since I have been here, the English teacher who sits next to me in the staff room, had a conversation with me. Usually it is just Bu Yanti who I speak to in English. This English teacher is rarely at her desk when I am there and up till now we haven’t had much opportunity to talk. Other teachers also asked me questions about Australia and our food. They were amazed to hear that the population of the greater Jakarta area is greater than the entire population of Australia! They were also amazed we don’t have restaurants selling masakan Padang!
With 10 minutes of our lunch break left, I headed back to the multimedia room to set up for the afternoon session. I found Pak Asep and other staff singing dangdut karaoke together! Unfortunately the volume was still so incredibly loud I couldn’t stay. I explained to Bu Valentina that I wouldn’t be able to participate in the afternoon session with the volume so loud, so she kindly gave me a leave pass to sit here in the beautifully quiet staffroom! Absolute bliss.
What an amazing day and one I feel so lucky to have been able to witness. It is amazing the direction that education in Indonesia is heading. Be fascinating now to watch how the new Indonesian education thinking heads eastwards to the other islands.