The Wonderful Staff & Students from SMKN 29, Jakarta

The morning azan (call to prayer) woke me early this morning at 4:15am. The mosque is just across the road but surprisingly the azan isn’t too loud. I jumped out of bed and had a quick mandi because I needed time to write out a long hand copy of my speech that I had written on my ipad yesterday. On Monday, during the staff meeting, the principal asked me to speak at one of the apel ceremonies while I am here and today was the day. Every morning at SMKN 29, students ‘apel’ on the basketball court. This ceremony is a brief assembly for staff and students to gather and listen to a motivating talk before the day begins. Being late for apel has serious consequences however with the terrible traffic in Jakart, I am surprised there isn’t a bigger group each morning! The classes line up on the basketball court, all exactly an arms width apart. They stand ‘at ease’ (arms behind their back & legs apart) until the ceremony begins and then they stand with legs together and hands by their side. It is very regimented. There is one student who is the ‘pemimpin’ (leader) of the ceremony who tells everyone what to do by calling out the orders. ‘Hormat, gerak’ means ‘salute’ and ‘istirahat’ means at ease & ‘siap’ means stand at attention.
Before we left for our one and a half hour journey to school this morning, I had only managed to write out 3/4 of my speech. I then jumped on the back of Bu Valentina’s motorbike and we zig zagged through the back streets (jalan tikus) of her housing estate because of roadworks. We passed an Indonesian Fried Chicken sign complete with an Indonesian “colonel’, several men pulling carts full of recyclables that they have sourced from various rubbish areas (pemulung), people setting up their stalls (warungs) and even though the sun hasn’t risen fully yet, hundreds of motorbikes! At the train station, we hopped off the bike in the parking lot and raced off to the train platform, leaving the bike for the men there to park in neat rows up to 5 rows deep. We passed a lady sitting on the ground with a large bucket of freshly made, warm soy milk (susu kedelai) in front of her. We bought 2 tiny bags each (Rp 2000 each) and a straw which she bagged.20131107-102102.jpgWe paid for them quickly and then rushed to the platform because the bells were ringing to warn us of our imminent train. There were hundreds of people already on the platform. As the train came to a stop, everyone pushed towards the door closest to them like a mob of sheep. How we all squeezed in, I have no idea but thankfully Bu Valentina suggested we headed to the end of the carriage where for some reason it wasn’t quite so crowded. We threw our bags up onto the racks because it is safer, reduces the opportunity for pick pockets to take anything! Quite an odd feeling to relinquish my bag and have it sitting up high on the shelf away from me. But it truly was safer because if anyone touched the bags they would be totally visible to everyone! I enjoyed the luxury of being able to reach a handle and stand swaying with the motion of the carriage safely. However at the next station, more people squeezed in and I was forced to move closer to Bu Valen and in doing so had to grab a new handle. This handle was just above a man’s head so I couldn’t relax any longer or I would have ended up knocking his peci off his head! He somehow read the paper while swaying back and forwards! At the next station even more people squeezed in and by this time, we were all totally truly packed in. In preparation to get off at the next station, we had to retrieve our bags yet there was now several people between us and our bags, yet they happily helped us, even the man reading the newspaper, took a short break to reach over and grab Bu Valentina’s bag for her. Those of us getting off at the next station somehow jostled closer to the door which was no mean feat in such a crowded train. At the station the doors opened and I soon realised that the train driver didn’t align the doors with the mobile steps and there was a meter high drop down to the platform. Thank goodness today I wore slacks! I jumped down and turned back to help Bu Valentina and then we joined the droves of people queueing to exit the station. With the new train station, we now have to exit through turn styles using our prepaid card. Only 2 turn styles were open so it took a while for the enormous queue to move through. We then headed out onto the street and flagged down a bajaj. Once Bu Valen had negotiated the price, we jumped in the back and finally relaxed. We sat back and watched the scenery as we opened our soy milk savouring the warm milk. It was so delicious and just right after the freezing morning air from my motorbike ride and the incredibly cold air conditioning on the train. Such a lovely lull before we arrived at school.
At school we were dropped off at the front gate and we headed into the front office, shaking hands with staff that we encountered along the way. Bu Valentina greeted them with ‘Assalam Walaikum’ (peace be with you) while I greeted them with ‘Good Morning’. Since I am here as a ‘native speaker’, teachers get a real kick out of practicing their English with me. Students that we passed though, gently grasped our right hand and pressed it to their forehead in respect. We headed towards the staff room where I quickly finished writing out my speech and then changed out of my slacks into my long skirt. Much more appropriate for teaching! I wore slacks for the motorbike leg of my morning journey to school. Out on the basketball court, all the students were already lined up with the ketua kelas (class leader/captain) at the front and the 3 kommandens (one for each year level) standing with their year levels. Pak Husin, the principal, motioned for me to stand at the front of one of the teacher lines and before I knew it the ceremony began. A student MC announced the start with the words, ‘The apel for the 7th of November, 2013 will start immediately’. The ceremony pembina (me this time) was announced and I walked out to the podium below the flag pole. She then called the ceremony student pemimpin to come to the front which he did by marching and then did a smart turn to face the students. He then shouted the order for the 3 komandan’s to report to him. The 3 komandan’s took a loud step and then ran to him where they each reported briefly and formally that their students were all ready to start the ceremony. After an extremely formal about face, they each retuned to their spot. The pemimpin, then turned about and marched to just in front of me. He told me that everyone was ready to begin to which I replied ‘Laksanakan’ meaning, “Let the ceremony begin!” He then returned to his position just in front of the students and commanded all students to stand at attention, and then they were then ordered to salute me. I had to return the salute, which I did while looking from right to left to ensure I faced the entire group of staff and students. As soon as I finished my salute, the pemimpin then ordered them to cease saluting and return to standing at attention. The same again was done to salute the flag except this time I joined in on the salute. The student MC then invited me to speak, which I did and here it is:

Good morning Mr Husin, Staff and Students,
Saya senang sekali karena berada di SMKN 29 sekali lagi! Pada Hari Senin dan kemarin saya beruntung karena diberi kesempatan masuk kelas Bahasa Ingris. Murid murid yg bisa saya bertemu langsung dalam pelajaran B.I., sungguh sangat semangat. Karena jarang mendengar a native English speaker, baru saya mulai berbicara, walaupun susah sekali dipahami, mereka semua tidak mudah menyerah dan sedikit demi sedikit, mereka tambah mengerti apa yg saya sampaikan. Hebat sekali! Saya sangat terkesan!
Pada kesempatan ini, saya akan menceritakan sebuah cerita dari Australia. Judulnya: The Ant and The Grasshopper (Si Semut dan Si Belalang).
Pada sesuatu hari pada musim panas, si Belalang bermain dan berdansa karena cuaca panas, makanan serangga banyak dan oleh karena itu dia merasa senang sekali. Tiba tiba dia melihat banyak semut yg berkerja keras dan dia heran. Dia mendekati semut itu supaya bisa bertanya, “Kenapa kalian bekerja keras hari ini? Cuaca hari ini sangat bagus dan jauh lebih cocok untuk main main. Ayo, ikut bermain!” Si semut berjawab, “Kami bekerja keras karena harus menyiapkan untuk besok, bagaimana kalau cuaca berubah? Menjadi jelek?” Si Belalang langsung tertawa dan mulai menggoda semut karena mereka tidak mau ikut bermain. Tetapi, semut semut tidak memperhatikan sama sekali, dan melanjutkan pekerjaannya. Besoknya, cuaca memang merubah. Hujan deras, suhunya dingin, dan anginnya kencang. Si Belalang kelaparan, kedinginan dan merasa sangat sedih sedangkan semut semut puas di sarangnya.

Cerita ini menjelaskan kepada kita bahwa walaupun kita ingin santai terus, lebih bermanfaat kalau selalu rajin supaya selalu siap. Kalau malas, kalau selalu main main dgn teman, pasti besoknya ada konsequense. Harus rajin sekarang supaya besok berhasil. Mudah mudahan kalian semua sebagai semut ya, bukan belalang! Lebih bagus rajin sekarang supaya besok bisa santai dan puas.

Sekarang ada hubungan sister school anatara SMKN 29 dan sekolah saya, Port Elliot Primary School, di Australia dan saya harap besok besok,rombongan murid dan guru dari sekolah ini akan berkunjung sekolah saya di Australia, seperti Pak Asep dan Bu Valentina tahun lalu. Melalui program ini, ada kesempatan belajar tentang kebudayan dan bahasa negara lain apalagi kesempatan pertukaran guru dan murid. Luar biasa kalau staff dan murid di port elliot primary bisa mengucapkan Selamat Datang kepada rombongan dari SMKN 29. S aya juga harap saya bisa kembali lagi ke sekolah ini mendamping rombongan guru dan murid dari sekolah saya.
Berarti, tetap semangat, tetap rajin seperti Si semut dan mudah mudahan bisa kertemu besok besok sekali lagi okay?
Kalau ada kesalahan, mohon maaf.
terima kasih

I was encouraged to include information about our sister school connection and it’s benefits as well as encouraging the students to be ‘semangat’ (enthusiastic) about their learning. Do you think I achieved that?

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When I first started speaking, I was so nervous! My right leg shook so badly! Thank goodness I was wearing a long skirt! Also every time I looked up to make eye contact with my audience, I lost my place, so after a while I just concentrated on my speech and by the time I started telling them the Aesop’s story of the ant and the grasshopper (sorry to the purists, I know it isn’t an Australian story!!) , I finally found myself relaxing and my leg finally stopped shaking! In no time at all, I finished my speech. The audience kindly applauded me! The MC then invited the pemimpin to finish the ceremony. He did so by requesting my permission, which I gave with the word, “Bubarkan” meaning to disband. The ceremony finished and the staff all came over and congratulated me on my speech and shook my hand warmly. I was so relieved it was over because it meant I could then relax. What an amazing experience and even though I was terrified and regretted agreeing to be the ‘pembina’, it actually was the perfect way to speak directly to all staff and students about the sister school program very generally as well as explaining to them all exactly who I am and why I was at their school this week. Consequently, students now make a beeline to me to show their respect whether I have met them or not!

After the ceremony was finished, Bu Valentina organised for me to teach in 2 classes before morning recess. Both classes were a kelas 3 (year 12) and as I hadn’t met them yet, I stuck with a lesson that came together yesterday. On Monday, my first day here, I joined 3 English teachers in the classroom and it quickly became obvious that they were not comfortable teaching in front of me. Two of them basically begged me to take the class while Bu Yanti was the only one brave enough to continue her lesson with me in the room.

20131115-161110.jpgSo the following day, I was determined to have something up my sleeve. I wrote out a quick paragraph about myself making sure I included both past, present and future tense as that seems to be what classes are focusing on at the moment. This paragraph was what I used for my lessons this morning. After being greeted formally by the students led by the ‘ketua kelas’ and then introduced to the class by the English teacher (one teacher got a bit muddled and introduced me as the Australian President of Teachers!- WOW!) and then I began my lesson which went something like this:
I first greeted them with ‘Good Morning’ and then asked them ‘How are you this morning?’ My Australian accent took some getting used to and at first I had a lot of blank looks on the faces before me but once we got going they started to nod as they understood more and more of what I was saying. It was also extremely useful being able to speak Indonesian. If they looked puzzled, I would ask them to translate what I had just said into Indonesian by breaking up the sentence into short phrases. I tried not to translate for them, so that they didn’t zone out during the English while waiting for the Indonesian! I explained to them that I was going to read something to them and they needed to listen carefully because afterwards we would play a game based on what they have just listened to. One class immediately got out their pens and paper but after some quick mental deliberation, I told them to put them away as I wanted them to focus on the skill of listening. I read out my script very slowly with no translation and at the end asked them if they wanted me to read it again. Every single class eagerly took me up on this offer. I found that the second read through was the most successful as their nervousness had lessened slightly and they could concentrate on listening. I then explained the game heads & tails – I will make a statement based on what I had just narrated and if it is true, the students have to put their hands on their head however if the statement is false, they have to put their hands on their ‘tails’. Whoever got it wrong had to sit down and the last person standing was the winner. The game explanation needed lots of repetition and student help to translate it but they all got it in the end and we did a demo run with the statement, “Canberra is the capital city of Australia”. In only one class, did the majority of students know that this statement was true! I also tried the following statement, “Bu Valentina comes from South Sumatra” and for this I had 100% of the students know this to be false (she comes from West Sumatra), I wonder how many of my students would know where I come from! A noticeable and interesting difference between Western (Australian) culture and Indonesian culture! I then played the game with questions like, I teach at a high school, My grandmother used to be a teacher” & My daughter is coming to Indonesia next week. The last student standing was presented with a koala keychain (again thanks to Marg!) which was hugely popular.

Depending on how much time I had (if it was a single or double lesson) I would play the game again several times before introducing the students to Monti.20131107-125812.jpgContinuing in English, I explained that I had brought Monti with me from PEPS and he is one of many soft toys I use in the classroom with my JP students. They identified correctly (& easily) that he is an orangutan and could even tell me that we can tell he isn’t a monkey because he doesn’t have a tail! I then asked them to tell me where Monti lives. I wrote their suggestions on the board – Kalimantan, jungle and then asked them to give some describing words to add to jungle and we came up with large, green and vast. At this point I introduced them to the word enormous which was unfamiliar to them! I then asked them to put all those ideas into a sentence which they did impressively. Once they had the idea, I asked them to write a paragraph about Monti in the first person and I gave them a time limit, 5 minutes. In explaining the concept of first person, I gave further suggestions they could include like favourite food, family etc. After the 5 minutes were up, I asked them to count their words and write the number in a circle. This totally perplexed them however as soon as we broke the sentence down, they realised they knew each of the words I was using!

20131109-091804.jpg After the time was up, I invited a student to read out their writing and as you can probably guess, nobody volunteered eagerly. In each class one student eventually agreed to read their writing and instead of focusing on the content which was largely fine, I instead acknowledged the courage it took to get up and face the class to share their writing. I shared with them how I feel in Indonesia using Indonesian all the time (this in Indonesian to push home my point) where I constantly make mistakes and am always feeling embarrassed yet instead of going home and giving up, I persevere and hope that my Indonesian is enough that they understand my meaning at least. I firmly believe that a successful language student must have courage and not worry about making mistakes. Consequently I handed out to the one student in each class who was prepared to share their writing with us all, the final koala keyring. Just before the bell, I thanked the class and told them how much I loved spending time with them. The last class, I added, “You’re a great bunch of students” which lead instantly to a final impromptu mini lesson about the double meaning of ‘great’!

After my first 2 lessons, I returned to the staff room for breakfast. As the school day here at SMKN 29 starts at 7am, and as most staff travel a long time to get to school, we each bring breakfast and eat it at school between lessons. Bu Valentina organises my lunch box which is always a mixture of last nights yummy left overs topped up with freshly cooked vegetables. The first few days I didn’t get around to eating my breakfast until 10am, which was very odd as at home I would be starting to think about recess! Today though, was better as I was able to eat in at the more reasonable hour of 8am.

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Another interesting food fact is that staff here have lunch provided. There is a staff canteen area where a lady and her husband each day cook food that is then laid out buffet style for staff to serve themselves. Some days it is absolutely packed in there but today there was hardly anyone and a few even came in and when they saw what was available decided to head out and buy their lunch at a nearby warung. I don’t know what the problem was! Lunch was boiled eggs in sambal, a tempeh and bean dish as well as fried tofu. Admittedly it wasn’t the tastiest meal I have ever had, but it certainly was filling! Because there were so few there, I got a great photo of Pak Asep & Bu Valentina in the canteen. (See NB below)

After lunch, Bu Valentina opened the multi media room for me to sit in and revive. The multi media is a large air conditioned room used mainly for staff meetings. It has 6 long tables arranged in rows facing the front where up on a podium is a matching long table facing in the opposite direction because that is where the principal and vice principals sit whereas the other tables are for staff. There are 5 air conditioners which are on almost 27/7 because of the expensive technology in this room. There is a data projector, a large flat screen wall mounted TV, a loud-speaker system and then behind the head table is a large open cupboard in which plaques and several airplane models are displayed. For most of the time, the multi media room is empty, so it was a lovely cool, quiet spot to sit. I enjoyed having some time to focus without interruptions to write this blog. Absolute bliss. At 1:50pm, I had just finished when students started pouring into the room followed by Bu Valentina. She explained that as their classroom is on the top (3rd) floor of the furtherest building, she thought it might be more comfortable to hold this last lesson in the multi media room. It was a brilliant idea however as it doesn’t have a white board, I asked if there was another spare room nearby. Bu Valentina then had another brilliant idea – use the English Language laboratory. I had been meaning to ask to have a look at the language laboratory, so was delighted to get a chance to teach in there. Wow, what an amazing resource! I now want to watch a lesson being taught in it to see how it all comes together. Language laboratories have come a long way since I last used one as a student at teachers college! My last lesson was just like the others and once again Bu Valentina recorded my lesson to use as a teaching resource for English teachers. At the end of the lesson, Bu Valentina asked the students to tear out the page they had worked on and then on the back of the page, write a a comment about my lesson. Later when we looked at the comments, I was blown away with how much they had enjoyed my lesson! The comments were all so complimentary, I was overwhelmed with how successful my lesson had been.
Here are a couple of the flattering comments I received: *I like study with Mrs Katie. She teach with interactive language. She very discipline when teaching her students. And she give the gifts for brave students. M. Mardiansyah
* Terima kasih telah berkunjung ke Indonesia. Saya sangat suka gaya mengajar anda karena itu sangat baik, bagus dan menyenangkan. Dan terima kasih juga dengan hadiahnya. Fajar Aditama
*In my opinion: I’m very glad to study with Mrs Cathy and she is amazing. She can speak Bahasa Indoneisa very well. Dicky nur R.
*Belajar dengan Bu Chaty sangat asik tapi sedikit agak tegang karena saya tidak lancar berbahasa Inggris, dan pembelajaran sangat asik dengan game2nya yang sangat seru. Dia memberi motivasi yang sangat bagus bagi kita semua. Salam buat pelajar di Australia. Akhmad Farhan

My lessons with the students at SMKN 29 were a blast and they truly all are a great bunch! Today is my last day here at SMKN 29 and there are no lessons tomorrow because students will receive their mid-semester report before having a very early dismissal!

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NB Once again I am having camera download issues! Unfortunately I can’t add any photos from my camera at this time (only from my ‘camera roll’) but as soon as I can, I will add them in, so stay tuned!

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8 thoughts on “The Wonderful Staff & Students from SMKN 29, Jakarta

  1. A Mammoth effort!! What a good idea to return to jakarta for a short visit. Isn’t it wonderful how (mostly) students respond in indonesia. It can be such a contrast to responses here. Looking forward to catching up in person. : )

    • I am so disappointed I am having camera troubles agian. I took all these photos specifically for the blog! I am not sure if my camera download problem is due to my camera or my ipad. Salam for you from Bu Yanti!

      From, Catherine Elliott

      • At this moment I am in Kadeks village (near Medewi). They are collecting coconuts and I am taking a break (haha break from what?) while they get another load!

        From, Catherine Elliott

      • That’s exactly what I am doing, having a break. I feel slightly guilty because I always arive here exhausted and then leave energised ready for my next adventure! Meeting Bec in a few days for our adventure to Sulawesi!

        From, Catherine Elliott

      • The following evening our flight leaves and gets in at 11pm! How disgusting! Lion is the only carrier to offer a direct flight, otherwise we have to go via Jakarta! STill, gives us plenty of time to get organised, eg., get pulsa, 3G, etc

        From, Catherine Elliott

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