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Friday, August 10, 2012

Music - An International Language

Written on 7/27/12

One of the newer young teachers at MBI is a very motivated woman nicknamed Bella.  Today she was to work with the choir groups.  The girls' group would have a competition on Saturday.  They needed to have a good final practice today.  It would turn out to be the boys’ practice day as well, however their competition wouldn’t be until Sunday.  Since the visiting and observing of classes, by now, seemed to be a decision left up to Nancy and me, I decided to spend time with the choir classes.  The first thing necessary was the finding of a space to use.  A room was found, but needed to be cleared and cleaned.  Sound equipment was brought in and set up.  Students and teachers struggled with the equipment.  Only some of the mics worked consistently. 
These girls were ready to begin before
the remainder of the choir arrived.
I checked in to see how the competition went when I saw the girls two days later.  I learned that the girls took a second place.  Very nice job, Ladies!

The piece begins with a traditional,
melodic sound, but mixes in a little
beat-boxing and catchy rhythm.
The boys' choir group's competition is
not eminent, so they goof around a bit
more than the girls.
Because I am American, and these teens listen to and know how to sing many American songs, they serenaded me with a couple of familiar favorites.  My students will really connect with them. 

After spending much of the morning with the choir groups,
I realized that they know some songs my own students would
recognize.  They agreed to sing one on video for my students
and write out the lyrics.  (I agreed to show it only to my students.)
Perhaps one surprising thing for me this day was that the music the students and teachers chose was fun and foot-tappingly addictive.  Since I agreed to show the videos only to my students, I won't post them here, but you can find the American songs they sang at these links:  Second Hand Serenade, Fall for You, and Adele's, Someone Like You

Sunday, July 29, 2012

International English Teaching Strategies Workshop

Written 7/26/12
Discussing best practices
On Thursday, July 26th, Nancy and I presented a workshop for English teachers from as far away as Surabaya.  Because of traffic, it took those teachers five hours to drive to Mojokerto to attend.  I’m honored that they came.  H. Achmad Chudhori, M. Pd., or Che Chep, the principal of MBI, requested a workshop that included strategies for engaging students in English language learning.  We were happy we could provide this kind of service.  Approximately 25 teachers were present.  Indonesian teachers already have many strategies in common with American teachers.  Some examples are:  The use of printed and electronic media, debates, interviews, small groups, and games.

Indonesian English teachers watch the
TJTV student video bulletin from my school.
Veteran teacher, Didiek, talks about what works
in his English classes.
Teachers practice the "Four Corners" strategy.

Indonesian teachers actively participated in our demonstration lessons.  Some were quite passionate about responding to discussion prompts and their senses of humor about working into the evening on a school day were just like teachers at home.  We began at 2:00 p.m., and with one 20 minute break, continued until it was time to break-fast at 5:30 p.m.  This time together confirmed something I already knew, and that is that teachers are in this business because they care about kids.  It feels like we made some new and broader connections in our global professional learning community.  The following day, I visited a 12th grade boys’ English class.  The teacher, who had been present at the strategies workshop, used small groups and a competitive game to instruct simple past tense.  The boys were very engaged.  Another English teacher told me later that day that he was going to use the spectrum activity.  Such willingness to try new ideas!  The principal has plans for a professional learning community of regional English teachers in which the exchanging of ideas will continue.  I wish I could be here to see its development, but I know these teachers and administrators will implement a wonderful program that ultimately enhances student success.

I think I can now put a new event on my resume, the presentation of an international English strategies workshop.  Sounds pretty impressive, eh?

Our very helpful hosts, Tutik and Nizzam.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

U.S. Mail Delivered

Written 7-/24/12

This school day was very rewarding.  I finally got a chance to deliver some of the letters, videos, and cultural lessons I had worked on during this past school year with my students.  They would be so proud to see their letters being read and shared aloud with students on the opposite side of the globe.  Nancy and I were invited to run an activity at the English Club meetings.  This turned out to be a perfect time to pass out letters from our students.  We had students read the letters in pairs or triads.  The “listener” had to report to the rest of the students about the American student who wrote the letter.  It was a great exercise for reading, listening, and speaking English.
I have, by now received letters from some of our Indonesian students to take back.  My heart is full.  For many months my students and I anticipated this global connection, and to watch students here engaged in the messages that my students have sent is all the reward I need. 


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Morning prayers
Written 7/24/12

On Java, well over 90% of the people follow Islam.  Followers are called Muslims.  Because most of the Indonesian population is Muslim, and this month is Ramadan, a significant difference in their lifestyle is taking place.   Islam began with Muhammad, who lived in Mecca and Medina in the 600s AD.  He is said to have been visited by the angel, Gabriel, who revealed to him the word of God (Allah).   Muhammad told the words of God, first to his family, then to his friends, and finally to his community.  One important message he carried was that there is only one god.  Before this, people in the Middle East worshiped many gods and placed images of them at a temple in Mecca said to have been built by Abraham.  Good Muslims do five important things.  They are called the Pillars of Islam.  First, they must declare the there is only one god.  His name is Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.  Second, Muslims must pray five times each day facing the city of Mecca, where the Kaaba (the temple Abraham built) is located.  Third, Muslims give charity.  Fourth, they fast during the month of Ramadan.  Finally, Muslims must participate in the Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca where they perform tasks that recalls the life of Muhammad.  This  pilgrimage is only required if it is possible. 

Preparing meals for the evening break-fast
I am learning , first-hand, what Ramadan means to Muslim students.  At this school, a Madrasah (private religious school), students wake up in time to be present at an assembly by 3:00 a.m.  Prayer is said and sung, and announcements are made.  After this, since it is still dark, students may eat a morning meal.  Once dawn breaks, there will be no more eating or drinking until the fast is broken after the sun sets.  Still, the important school day awaits.  The first of four 90-minute classes begins at 7:30 a.m.  After second period, students get a 15-minute break.  Because students awoke so early, and because they are not eating, they usually sleep during the break.  I tried not to take it personally when I was teaching and noticed a couple of students nodding off.  J  I wonder if there is any effect on the learning. 
Though I am living at the school, I am not fasting.  I did think of trying it for a day or so, to be able to empathize with the sacrifice Muslims are making, but gave up that idea.  I take food and water in private if possible.  My hosts are very understanding and have cooked Nancy and I several meals even though they, themselves could not eat them.  In fact, the meals have been very tasty and the portions have been huge.  At this writing we have asked that they only cook dinner for us.  We have collected such a stash of food to snack on in our rooms, that we will need several days to finish it.

Note that cooking class takes place on campus during the day, even though the product may not be eaten until sunset.  Both the boys’ class and the girls’ class prepared food that smells wonderful.  After sun sets, grand meals are served, so preparations begin early.  Imagine having to prepare food that you can’t eat until dark.

The Daily Routine

 Written 7/23/12

Class takes place in many kinds of available spaces
Yesterday was Sunday.  Our arrival day coincided with a parent visitation day.  Amanatul Ummah, International Standard School, or MBI as we know it, is a boarding school.  Parents dedicate their Sundays as a holiday to come and visit.  Of course the students are always very excited to see their families, and chatter abounds on this day.

My living quarters are nearer the middle school than the high school, though the walk is short and beautiful up the hill to MBI.  If I didn’t know it before now, I certainly can now confirm that middle schoolers are louder and sillier than high schoolers.  The environment is quite different on the two campuses.  The patio onto which my room door opens, serves as a classroom for some of the younger boys, so when I am there, I can hear the random and silly goings on.  Admittedly, they are really excited to see American teachers.  Most students greet us enthusiastically, and sometimes giggle when we respond.

The girls' morning assembly
Students assemble at 3:00 a.m. for morning announcements and prayer.  Since it is Ramadan, and fasting begins at daylight, the morning meal is taken after assembly, while it is still dark.  School officials have not asked us to attend so early, though since I don’t sleep through the noise, I could.  We arrive at MBI at 7:15 a.m.; another assembly is in progress at this time, and then classes begin at 7:30.  There are four class periods, with one 15 minute break following period two.  Many of the students take advantage of the break to sleep.  They have, after all, been awake since before 3:00 a.m.  As teachers return to classes after break, they sometimes have to wake up the students to begin lessons.  The school day ends at 1:00 p.m.  Teachers meet, if necessary, and prepare for any extra-curricular activities they sponsor.  This school year has just begun, so student clubs are forming, and student government offices are being filled through a democratic election system.  Candidates for student body president were giving campaign speeches when we arrived yesterday.   Tomorrow our after school event will be the English club’s open house.

It’s 11:40 p.m., and construction on the mosque next door has just stopped, at least momentarily, so blogging takes a back seat to sleep.  More later.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Living the Dream

This terrace follows the road from our room to our school
Written 7/23/12
Waking to sounds of exuberant young people gathering for class, I realized that I am living, however temporarily, the visions I had of Indonesia.  For much of a year, I have anticipated this opportunity to exchange educational and cultural information with the people of Indonesia.  Now at my host school in Mojokerto, this first day of classes has been exhilarating and exhausting.

Photo taken from my balcony
Walking to school from the guest house was beautiful.  After pausing to capture some pictures of the terraced rice fields that grow next to the road, Nancy and I looked up to see that a towering volcano, Welirang, loomed before us.  Images of Indonesia in travel guides, while beautiful, do not do it justice.  How lucky Nancy and I have been to have been assigned to this mountain school. 
Tutik's morning class in the forest

At school, I was graciously welcomed into my host teacher’s girls’ English class.  They were meeting in the forest today.  A tarp on the ground serves as the area boundaries for the class, and even though it is outside, one takes off one’s shoes to “step into the classroom.”  It’s cool here.  We’re at the base of a passive volcano, Welirang, so we enjoy a mountain breeze today.  My student’s will be jealous of the learning environment.  Since the students at this high school do not move from class to class like American students, the girls in this forest classroom are very lucky to be there for all of their classes.  Ibu Tutik let me take up the whole period to talk to the girls about my home in California.  I knew it was time for the next class when the chemistry teacher arrived.   Three more times, in different classrooms, I shared information about my California.  I was careful to explain that my California is quite different than my neighbors’ California, because we are a state populated by people from many parts of the world.  Given some time to think and to get comfortable, students asked some questions as well.  One thing it seems that all Indonesian students know is that our U.S. president is Barack Obama.  Obama attended school in Jakarta when he was young.  Perhaps I’ll get a chance to see that school before I leave the country.
When school was out for the day, English teachers, our principal, and TGC teachers designed a plan for a workshop on Thursday.  English teachers from several nearby schools will be invited to attend, and the sharing of all of our best practices for engaging students in English language learning will be the focus.