Tag Archives: teaching

One week left!

27 May

How does it feel to wake up with only one week left in my Peace Corps service?

Click here to find out

I can hardly contain myself. I’m absolutely giddy, and at any moment I could be on the brink of tears.

Suddenly I feel so free, nothing matters. All of the little things that concern me, stress me, bother me…in a week they’ll all be gone.
Yet at the same time EVERYTHING matters. The time is so limited.  Because of that, all of the things that I have come to appreciate and love about this experience —the people, my village, all of the day in and day out stuff I’ve become comfortable and familiar with — all of the good stuff, equally will be gone in a week. Every moment is precious.

I find myself in an odd dance with everyone around me. Living our lives as usual, yet with the acute awareness of my imminent departure. It’s hard to leave, yes, but to reiterate Erin’s post and something I’ve now felt from the both sides—  it’s harder for the one that’s being left, than the one doing the leaving…

I’m a reflective person. It’s often easier for me to make sense of something in hindsight when I can piece it all together. So for now, I won’t try any further to explain what all is happening in my head. I’d rather focus on a few highlights from last week.

Gelar Seni and an official goodbye

Last Sunday was our school’s Gelar Seni. It is a combination between a graduation ceremony and an arts showcase. If video didn’t take so long to upload and I had software to edit it with, I’d consider posting a few pieces from it. It’s one of my favorite events because it allows me to see my students’ in such a different light where their creativity isn’t limited by the walls of their classroom. (See last year’s Gelar Seni post for some examples.) There were a variety of performances including student bands, dance routines, dramas, the school choir and more. It also gave me the opportunity to officially thank my school community and ask for forgiveness. (Asking for forgiveness is very common here. During special holidays or events or even something as simple as speaking up at a teacher’s meeting, people will often say they are sorry and ask for forgiveness for any mistakes they have made. This includes mistakes that they are unaware they have made.)

Teacher’s Workshop in Bondowoso

After weeks of on and off frustrations with class cancellations, counterparts’ dwindling motivation, and the other typical inconsistencies at my school, we ended on a good note. At our Sustainability Conference  back in March my principal, counterpart and I discussed having a workshop in our district to share our best practices. With some pushing from me and help from the wonderful English teachers at the local MGMP (English teacher’s professional group), we had the workshop last week. It was a hit! Sixty teachers from junior and senior high schools in Bondowoso and English teachers from local tutoring centers attended. They learned a little bit about me, the U.S. (Arizona to be more specific), Peace Corps and a lot about activities and techniques to use in their classrooms to engage their students more and set them up for success in learning English as a Foreign Language. I’ve been receiving emails and texts from teacher’s who’ve already tried out some of the new activities in their classes. They said their students loved it! Hooray for sustainability and spreading best practices!

One last weekend trip

A while back I got the idea to go paragliding in Batu from a few other volunteers who had attempted it. The weather wasn’t right, so they weren’t actually able to do it. Then I kept hearing about it and seeing it. I quickly added it to my “Before I leave Peace Corps Indonesia Bucket List.” It wasn’t too difficult to recruit a fellow volunteer up for jumping off a mountain with essentially a glorified kite.

Here we go! Attempt #1:

Mike had a little more luck with the wind than I did.

Here we go again! Attempt #2

We did it!

Welp, this is how I’m feeling right about now…

3 Oct

School and my actual work take up an extremely small fraction of this blog. Perhaps it’s what continues to make people wonder things like what is the purpose of the Peace Corps these days and what are volunteers doing other than having some kind of exotic and nutty two year trip. Well believe it or not, we do do work.  I just find it hard to bring up here because it’s a massive challenge and difficult to summarize. I kid you not, I’ve got a 16 page blog draft dedicated to school challenges that I shall someday unleash if I can get that mess of info into some sort of concise and coherent piece. Regardless, I’ve got to say this year things have gone  surprisingly well. I still can’t figure out what’s happened. Is it me? Is it my counterparts? Even our class cancellation rate has gone down from last year! What’s suddenly caused that lurking beast Progress to begin poking his nose out from wherever he’s been hiding?

Running on a high off of summer vacation, our mid-service training and a much smoother start to year two than the chaotic point I was at last year, I’ve felt incredibly more positive about my time here and my choice to do this. (Not only in my work but in how I’ve grown from this experience.) Last year, at times, I’d find myself conceding  “well, at least I entertain them,” as being my accomplishment at the end of a day. Now small changes are happening in class as teachers and students begin forming new habits that I hope will benefit them and be sustainable once I’m gone. And the best part is we’ve developed them together! (Ok and with some pushing from me.)

Sometimes I get too ahead of myself though. There’s still plenty that gets me frustrated, but not nearly to the extent as last year. Which means when something does frustrate me, I get really frustrated. Frustration. How many times can we throw that word in here?

Today was one of those days after increasing issues of students being noisy, not paying attention, and not doing their work over the past few weeks which wastes class time and leaves my counterpart and I exhausted after these two particular classes.
Again these are issues we had last year. Students start to get more comfortable and push their boundaries. That and things are heating up with the muggy rainy season now upon us which just makes everyone more restless and less focused.

So today we laid down a bit of a smack down. One class we created a seating chart. BAM! Your privilege to sit by your friends, gone. In the other class, I was flying solo without my counterpart. So two students got warnings and another three got kicked out of class and a stern talking to afterward. They aren’t permitted to return until they can commit to behaving in class. We’ll see how all this works out as it really is the strongest test thus far of my counterpart and I’s commitment to more sternly and consistently enforce rules around here. Which isn’t done all that often.

The school bell rang, signaling the end of the break. I gathered my things, my counterpart in tow, adrenaline pumping. A teacher who had overheard our conversation with the students just prior leaned over and whispered behind me “patience”… and walking out of the teacher’s room and into the sunlight headed towards my next class, all I could think about was that scene from Cool Runnings.

And in the name good fun and for the sake of memeing I’ll leave you with this gem. Maybe I’m just out of it after a long day but it had me in tears laughing. Maybe you’ll get it, maybe you won’t but some of these just ring so gosh darn true.