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Borneo Day 7: Thursday, July 27, 2017

On our final day at SMAN 1 Mandastana we conducted three professional development workshops.

Early morniing rice field

Driving through rice fields in Mandastana to get to the school

Nazar invited a group of about 20 English teachers from neighboring schools to meet with us first in the language lab room. This session would be without translation, and he wanted us to simply tell some things about our schools and what education is like in America. I went first then Craig followed.

Craig presenting to English teachers

We conducted three sessions of professional development this day. Here, Craig is presenting about his school in Indianapolis to English teachers from the surrounding schools.

I had put together a more extensive presentation on American Academy of Innovation the night before, focusing on our approach to project-based learning (PBL) and what that means. I wanted to plant some seeds of possibility for teachers in Indonesia to think in terms of student projects, which can be done as easily in English classes as they can in science classes. One teacher asked me of an example of a project that could be done by his students in an English class. I said his students could pretend they are taking a vacation somewhere in America or other English speaking country. They are allowed a budget with only so much money, and have a certain number of days for the vacation. They have to research where to go, how much it would cost, where to stay, what to eat, and everything. In the process, they learn the geography, the culture, the food, and a lot of practical English skills. It is meaningful because they may very well take that trip some day, just as I had to do research before this trip. I’m glad I did, or we would not be going to Loksado tomorrow.

Craig presenting in teachers room

We gave the same presentations (about our schools) to all of the teachers at SMAN 1 Mandastana in their break room during lunch time. Here, Craig is showing the diversity of students that he has in his classes in Indianapolis.

Craig spoke of the diversity of his school and the average school day for teachers and students. There is surprisingly little diversity here in Mandastana – almost all Banjarese with maybe some Dayak mixed in, but no other ethnic groups. I know there are some Chinese in Banjarmasin, but apparently none out here in the country.

Craig with students freestyle

We also took some final selfies with students and teachers. This was Thursday, which is the day in Indonesia to wear local batik (or sasirangan in Borneo). This is to promote Indonesian culture. As it is the beginning of the school year, not all students have been able to purchase their sasirangan patterns yet, so many students were wearing their regular uniforms.

We took photos with the teachers and answered questions, then went to the faculty room. Nazar wanted all the teachers at his school to see the same presentations and have a chance to ask questions during lunch. We projected up on a light blue wall again and the teachers asked frequent questions, especially of the everyday lives of teachers and students from Craig’s presentation. Mine was a bit more pedagogical than ordinary life, so there were fewer questions.

PD class

We met in the biology room at the end of school to present our final professional development session on integrating technology into the curriculum. We had about 40 teachers from surrounding schools attend.

The teachers were especially interested in how our workweek went – that we teach five days instead of six, but must be in school an hour or more after classes are over – we don’t go home with the students as teachers here do. We also talked about the differences between the advancement tests given here and the testing required of No Child Left Behind; that here, the students are tested to determine which track they will take in high school whereas with us, the teachers and school are the ones actually being tested. There are no consequences for students to fail the end of year tests. They thought this was fascinating and a little alarming. It was interesting to think of this from their point of view.

Singing the anthem

We started the session with all of the teachers singing the Indonesian national anthem.

We had a brief time to rest, then moved over to the biology room, which is the best suited for a larger group. This was the session we had been planning for some time. 40 teachers from around the area came and we held a training session on technology integration.

Presenting to headmaster

We presented a certificate from the Teachers for Global Classrooms program to the Headmaster. Notice the nice banner in the background advertising our professional development session.

Craig and I had planned out what we wanted to do. I would look at two tools I have used, and so would Craig. His would be more on how to use cell phones constructively in the classroom to do quiz games. Mine was on using the MIT BLOSSOMS website and videos and using Scratch to as a programming language from Code.org and MIT.

After some introductions, I began with MIT BLOSSOMS and showed them how to find videos, including mine on the parallax lesson I taught here yesterday. Since their bandwidth wasn’t good, I wasn’t able to actually show the video. I also wish they had an option to translate into Bahasa Indonesia, but at least they do have Malay as an option.

Craig and David presenting PD

Nazar was kind enough to take photos of us presenting to the group. I am showing the MIT BLOSSOMS website and scratch programming with the MIT site. Craig’s presentations were on how to use cell phones to do quizzes and other classroom possibilities.

Craig then showed how to run a quiz using Kahoots, and had the teachers sign up and play the quiz as he demonstrated their scores realtime. The teachers got into it, and he handed out school lanyards as prizes at the end.

Edy wins award

Edy, the computer and video teacher here at SMAN 1 Mandastan, receives a school lanyard from Craig for winning the Quizziz game.

I then showed how to use Scratch, but was in the Code.org site instead of the MIT site, so it wasn’t as easy to log in and show. People weren’t as interested, but I had wanted to show them how it was possible to teach computer programming without many materials or that the students could be self-taught. But I think computer programming is so far away from where they are realistically that I would have been better off showing something simpler. I had thought of showing EarthExplorer, but it isn’t very useful unless you can go all the way to 3D models, which is too far beyond them now. Maybe some day.

Craig and David with PD group

Craig and I with many of the teachers who attended our final professional development session in the biology room.

Craig showed Quizzizz, another cell phone/online game or quiz, and got great participation. I should have found something more active, but I don’t have a smart phone. I think it is time to get one; then I could have demonstrated some apps that are more accessible for the needs of teachers and students here. We finished up with questions and answers.

Laughing teachers

The teachers wanted to take selfies with us afterwards. Here they are trying to get lined up to take a selfie with Craig.

We were given some nice certificates by the headmaster and assistant headmaster, and we presented the headmaster with a certificate as well – I had given Nazar his already when I presented the Embassy bag to him earlier in the week. We took photos with the 40 teachers and a lot of selfies with teachers afterward. I just goes to show that teachers like selfies as much as students. I was a fun and informal gathering.

Certificates

We were also presented with certificates by the Headmaster and Assistant Headmaster.

We packed up our things and put them into Nazar’s car. We were reluctant to leave this school, which has been a welcome bit of normalcy in this foreign land. No matter how different education may be here, teaching is still teaching and teachers are much the same everywhere. We have felt at home in SMAN 1 Mandastana.

School on stilts

Part of SMAN 1 Mandastana. Because this is a tropical climate, there are no interior halls. The school buildings, as are all buildings around Banjarmasin, are built on stilts because of the swampy nature of the ground here.

Frustasi no

A good slogan to live by!

Craig playing volleyball

While we were waiting to pack up, Craig played a little freestyle volleyball with the volleyball team, who have won several championships.

Last view of school

Our last view of SMAN 1 Mandastana.

 

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Borneo Day 5: Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Country lane near school

The country road leading to SMAN 1 Mandastana.

On our second day at SMAN 1 Mandastana, I was faced with a bit of a challenge. During my presentation yesterday on my school (American Academy of Innovation) I showed slides of my students doing chemistry demonstrations, including the well-known flame test demo, where nichrome wires are dipping into solutions of potassium, lithium, sodium, calcium, barium, strontium, and copper salts, then heated in a Bunsen burner flame. These elements have fairly simple quantum structures (one or two electrons in an outer shell) and emit very definite colors. As the electrons are heated up, they absorb energy from the flame and jump to specific higher quantum levels. They then emit the same wavelengths of light as they fall back down to their ground states.

Doing flame test lab

Doing the flame test lab with chemistry students at SMAN 1 Mandastana near Banjarmasin in Southern Borneo.

The students asked, through Nazar, if they could do the same lab. My response was, “I don’t know – let’s look and see what you have and maybe we can.” I didn’t want to commit the chemistry teacher to do a lab, but she seemed willing, so we looked through her supply of chemicals after the class and found cupric sulfate, sodium chloride, potassium chloride, and barium sulfate. No lithium or strontium, which give off the best colors, but at least these four will work. Then we looked at her equipment. She has a lab assistant, and we unlocked the cabinets in her storage room. They have one nichrome wire, alcohol burners, and a good supply of beakers. So we could make this work.

So this morning I went to the chemistry classroom first thing, about 45 minutes before the students were to come in. The teacher got out the chemicals, and I discovered something interesting: none of the chemicals had been opened, not even the sodium chloride. The equipment also appeared to be unused – not brand new, as the storage cabinet had some dust on it, but sitting there for I don’t know how long. No stains on the beakers, and the alcohol burners had never been lit. We had to scrounge around to find a cigarette lighter. At least the container of alcohol for the burners appeared to have been used – about 1/3 of it was gone.

Flame test 2

David Black helping students with the flame test lab at SMAN 1 Mandastana near Banjarmasin in Southern Kalimantan.

Now I know this is not the norm throughout Indonesia, as I had seen the Assistant Principal at the elementary school we visited do the Priestley Experiment, the chemistry equipment at the SMAN 8 Jakarta school was well-used, and I found out later that other teachers saw science experiments being done at their host schools. So I don’t know why the equipment and chemicals have not been used here. The teacher certainly knows her stuff, as I saw from the class the previous day when the students were taking notes on mole fractions. And she is very willing to do this lab. So it seems to me that she either hasn’t had the training/professional development of how to conduct labs and use her equipment or she is unwilling to use up her supplies.

It also appears to me that the chemicals and supplies were part of a package provided by the central government, with a set list of materials. As chemistry classes go, she was fairly well supplied, but the chemicals were stored inside the fume hood as well as underneath, and the hood looked as if it might not function or be hooked up properly. The school is 20 years old and all the sinks in the chemistry lab were rusted out and nonfunctional, so that I had to get water for my solutions from a container on the counter. It was not possible for me to inquire further to see if this condition is general throughout Kalimantan Selatan or other provinces, but I guess that this might be a common problem in rural schools in Indonesia. After all, it is a common enough problem in the United States. Many teachers in both countries do not do the types of inquiry labs that students need to understand the practical side of chemistry.

David with chemistry teachers

David Black posing with the chemistry teachers (left) and English teachers (right) of SMAN 1 Mandastana. I really need to get my name tag straightened out . . .

Once I had the solutions made, I lit an alcohol lamp and saw that its flame was orange, not the blue I’m used to in Bunsen burners or with methanol. But with repeated dipping and heating, the colors were visible except for the barium, which is always the hardest one to see. We were able to find or make five wires, and divided the students into five groups. They traded off the four solutions. I told them what the five chemicals were and what colors to expect. I found that most of the elements are named the same in Bahasa Indonesia, except that the ones with Latin symbols are also pronounced with their Latin names. For example, sodium is called natrium in Indonesia and potassium is kalium. The only chemical I had to learn was copper, which is common enough that an Indonesian word exists for it: tembago. I labeled the solutions A, B, C, and D and told the students that they would have to observe the colors in the flame, then make their best guess as to which chemical each solution was. It took some doing and many dips. The copper kept contaminating the results for subsequent chemicals, but the potassium was good and the sodium simply made the orange flame oranger.

Flame test lab

Students in the chemistry class at SMAN 1 Mandastana conducting a flame test lab. I had to improvise for materials and chemicals, but the lab turned our fairly well. It was a true challenge in global education!

When we finished, I had the students shout out which solution they thought each was, and they got it right. I understood the names of the elements in Bahasa Indonesia by this time, so I didn’t need as much translation. Barium had to be guessed by a process of elimination. Given the challenges of the materials and the alcohol lamps, which simply didn’t get hot enough to really see the colors well, this lab turned out quite well. I will never forget this experience of teaching a science lab in a foreign language using scrounged materials.

As I observed the chemistry teacher the day before, and as I taught this class, I was struck by how impossible this would have been if this had been any subject except science. Yes, Nazar helped translate, but I was able to use Indonesian words for the elements and explain a few things where he didn’t know the words, since he is an English teacher and not a science teacher. Where Nazar couldn’t translate and I didn’t know how to explain, the chemistry teacher and her assistant were able to. Science is truly a universal language, but I have never put it to the test like this before. I was even able to do some explanation of quantum leaps and color emission, which the students seemed to understand. I don’t know if they have studied this before, but I saw comprehension on their faces despite some fumbling with the translations, more so than I usually see in American students’ faces.

Flame test

Looking for the blue flame of copper (tembago) sulfate.

Nazar said we could treat him to American food today, so we drove back to the city. We passed a large mosque at a roundabout that we had stopped at on Sunday in order to say prayers and use the restroom, but now there was a protest going on in front of the mosque in the traffic circle itself. The signs said this was a protest in favor of Palestinians in Israel. We didn’t stop, as we had been told not to get to close to protests as the mood of the crowd can turn ugly fast. This protest seemed pretty peaceful, with a few banners and people chanting but nothing else.

PE class with Nazar and Craig

Before the chemistry class, we went out with some of the students during their PE class to visit the junior high school next door and to see the area. Notice that the students are walking (and running) on a rough road surface in bare feet. The girls wear PE hijabs which seem very hot to me to wear in this heat.

We found a Kentucky Fried Chicken place near the Duta Mall in Banjarmasin. It was fairly standard KFC, except for the steamed rice they served. You can’t get away from that. But I think I’ve had about enough fried chicken for a while. I was running short of money, so we found a currency exchange place not far from the hotel and I exchanged the rest of my U.S. dollars (about $60) into rupiah, which was quite a pile.

Interesting name for a store

We passed this store on our way to the school, and I got a photo of it this morning. It is the old logo of my college alma mater, a strange thing to see in Borneo.

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Borneo Day 4: Monday, July 24, 2017

Taking notes in chemistry

The chemistry (kimia) class at SMAN 1 Mandastana near Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan.

Today we got to do what we came all this way for: to teach at a school in Borneo.

All schools in Indonesia start Mondays with an early morning flag ceremony, so we had to leave the hotel early to make it. After breakfast, Nazar picked us up in the lobby at 7:00. We drove across the Sangai Martapura and onto the road leading north out of the city that we had used the day before. We turned onto Jalan Ahmad Yani and headed toward the Barito River Bridge, but before getting that far we turned north onto a narrow country lane. This traveled straight through rice fields and past scattered houses to a wooden bridge across a canal, then turned west. I could see the school to our north, a blue building next to a grass field.

Country road

Jalan Achmed Yani, or the Trans Kalimantan Highway. We drove on this out of Banjarmasin to the northwest, then took a smaller country road to the school.

I recognized it from looking up their website and talking about it to my students. This is SMAN 1 Mandastana, the school where Nazar and his wife teach. We passed the school and immediately turned back north onto a somewhat worn cement road leading to the front entrance.

Ride paddie

The school is north of Banjarmasin about 15 km and is in the middle of rice fields. This is the view on the way to the school.

Nazar drove up to the entrance and we saw a sign hanging up welcoming Craig and I by name. We walked in through a breezeway into the school’s main office area and put our bags in the headmaster’s office (except my camera bag), then walked out into the main courtyard. The students and teachers were already assembled in ranks, waiting for our arrival. Our big moment had arrived!

SMAN 1 Mandastana from road

SMA Negeri 1 in Mandastana, near Banjarmasin. This is the school the Craig Hendrick and I taught at for a week in Borneo.

It is hard to express how I felt. I was being given the honors of a master teacher, an education ambassador who had traveled all this way from America to teach at this school. It was difficult for my mind to accept that I deserved this level of respect. Yes, I had come from America to teach here, but although I have multiple award plaques and certificates attesting that I am a master teacher, I have never really believed it in my heart. I know I have so many ways to improve as a teacher, even after 26 years of doing it. I’ve known so many teachers who were more deserving than me, who should be here instead of me.

Welcome sign

Our welcome sign at SMAN 1 Mandastana.

I wanted to shout out that they had the wrong guy, that the name on the banner must be some other David Black and not me. Yet here I was – half way around the world, about to attempt to teach in a place I’d never heard of before to a people I knew very little about. How very presumptuous of me. Yet buried under all that uncertainty was a part of me that knew I had finally arrived, that all my hard work at being an education professional and presenting at all those conferences was finally paying off. That I deserved all of this. I wanted to bask in the attention. I wanted to run away. I was thrilled to be there. I was scared to death.

Students in ranks

Students at SMAN 1 Mandastana standing at attention during their Monday morning flag ceremony.

I finally decided that even if I didn’t know whether or not I was a master teacher, it didn’t matter. All I had to worry about was that I should be a teacher, nothing more. If the students will let me, I can find the common ground that will allow me to be what I know how to be.

Craig with teachers

Craig Hendrick standing with the teachers at SMAN 1 Mandastana for the Monday morning flag ceremony.

We were asked to stand with the other teachers, who were wearing khaki uniforms. The students were in white shirts and blouses, white hijabs, and gray pants or dresses. They stood with their backs to the morning sun, but it was directly in our faces and already blazing hot. As the ceremony progressed, I stepped out of line a few times ostensibly to take photos but also to turn away from the sun for a few moments, as it was making my eyes water and I was beginning to sweat.

Raising the flag

Raising the Indonesian flag at the Monday morning flag ceremony of SMAN 1 Mandastana.

A squad of students marched in practiced formation to the flagpole and unfurled the red and white Indonesian flag. A group of girls sang the national anthem, and the squad attached the flag and slowly raised it until it reached the top as the anthem ended. A teacher recited the five Pancasila principles from a microphone on a podium while the students repeated. Then we were introduced and each made a few remarks while Nazar translated. The ceremony ended and we took some photos of us with the entire school.

Craig and David with students

David Black and Craig Hendrick posing with the students of SMAN 1 Mandastana after the Monday morning flag ceremony.

As the students moved to their first period classes, we went into the headmaster’s office for a few minutes. He offered us some snacks and we answered his questions through Nazar. We were then ready to meet the students.

David with headmaster

Meeting the Headmaster (Principal) of SMAN 1 Mandastana.

There are two English teachers at this school. I went with Nazar and Craig went with the other teacher, whose English is also fairly good. The school is built in an almost enclosed letter C shape around a central courtyard, with the offices at the bottom of the C, the computer and language lab on the small right leg with the kanteen or cafeteria at the end and a separate wing almost completing the open part of the C. A new classroom was being built at the far end. On the left side, the longest side of the C, is classrooms with a tile walkway in front and a wooden walkway beyond along the inside edge. The front area of the courtyard is cemented and used for the flag ceremonies and for volleyball, basketball, and soccer. There is a small grassy area behind that, along with a greenhouse that is being built for the biology classes. The grass becomes more swampy as it goes further back, along the top curve of the C. The entire school is built up on stilts to prevent it sinking.

English class

Nazar’s English class at SMAN 1 Mandastana. This is the class that I first presented to, showing a slide show about my home, school, and family.

I walked with Nazar on the left side of the horseshoe. Racks of plants and flowers are growing across the tile walkway, causing us to step down onto the wooden walkway next to the swampy area. I wheeled my blue suitcase around these obstacles as best I could, until we could step up onto the tiles walkway for the top section of the C, where Nazar’s first class is located.

David with English class

Posing with the English class after our lesson. They like to take photos and selfies. They will pose seriously, then do a “freestyle” pose such as this one.

Since Indonesian students stay put in one classroom (except for PE or for classes that require specialized labs, such as Kimia or Fisika), the teachers are the ones to travel. Nazar’s morning English class was in the north wing. The students were excited to see me as I wheeled my stuff in and set up my computer. Nazar had grabbed a portable projector, as the one mounted on the ceiling in the room didn’t seem to be working. I had remembered to bring the power converter with me, so I was able to plug my computer into an extension power strip. I had remembered to bring a VGA cord and my conversion dongle, knowing that HDMI probably wouldn’t be available (but I had an HDMI cord, too, just in case – this is why my carry ons are so heavy). Fortunately everything worked, and I was able to project onto a light blue wall at the front of the class.

David iwith chemistry class

Posing with the girls in one of the chemistry classes at SMAN 1 Mandastana.

I had prepared two slide shows, one the night before about American Academy of Innovation and a second show with harder English about the trip my family made to the Four Corners region of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona at the end of June. This one was more about geography and geology.

David with chemistry boys

Posing with the boys in the chemistry class. They wanted a separate photo from the girls. There were more girls than boys in the class. I don’t know if this is the case for all science classes or not.

I showed the first slide show during the first block of the period (45 minutes). Nazar translated for me. The students watched carefully, and exclaimed when they saw the photo of my school on a snowy day. They have never seen snow in their lives. After, I asked if they had questions but they were reluctant to speak, probably because they were afraid their English wasn’t good enough. A couple of students were able to ask a few questions.

When the bell rang, it sounded exactly like the tones played in the Hunger Games movies to announce that a contestant had died. Craig and I both found this a bit unnerving.

Going to class

The inner courtyard of SMAN 1 Mandastana. Since there isn’t snow or cold weather, there are not internal hallways, similar to schools in California. The students wear gray pants/skirts and white shirts/blouses with hajibs and/or hats on Mondays.

During the second block of the 90-minute class, I showed my higher-level slide show on the geography and geology of the western U.S. They were interested in the comparison slide I had made between Borneo and Utah and the other four corner states, that Borneo is 3.38 times larger than Utah and just barely smaller than all four states. But as I showed the various national parks (Taman Nasional) and our route, I could tell that the English was too hard for them. They had fewer questions than I had hoped. I picked things up by opening up my blue case and handing out flyers, brochures, and other materials I had been given at the Utah Valley Visitors Bureau the day before I left Utah. They were excited to get them and have something to practice on.

Happy birthday

A birthday cake for a student in the Language Lab room.

At the end of the class, all the students came up and insisted on taking group and individual photos, including many selfies. They wanted photos in normal pose and what they call “freestyle” which is to pose in a less formal fashion. As I was leaving the classroom, all the students came up and did something they had told us about, but which still came as a surprise. Each student took my hand and placed it against their forehead or cheek or kissed it. This is a normal sign of respect for teachers in Indonesia.

Craig with class

Craig Hendrick teaching in the Language Lab room to students at SMAN 1 Mandastana in Borneo.

The bell rang again (another dead contestant!) and Craig and I traded classrooms. The other English teacher was teaching in the chemistry classroom and we waited a few minutes while the chemistry teacher finished up her lesson. This was the second week of school, and she was reviewing mole fractions (mol fraksi), a subject I don’t often teach until deep into second semester. Even though she was speaking and writing in Indonesian, I was able to follow most of what she was doing as the language of science is fairly universal. Indonesians use Arabic numerals just as we do, and with many words transliterated from Latin in a phonetic alphabet, I was able to follow much of what was written. The teacher was lecturing and writing on the board while students took notes. I walked around and noticed that the students’ handwriting was extremely neat, better than any writing I’ve seen in America (including my own).

Mole fraction notes

Student notes on mole fractions (mol fractsi). Notice the neat handwriting.

Once the lesson was over, I set up the projector again and went through my slide shows. When I came to showing some of the activities my students have done, I had a slide showing two students doing a version of the flame test lab as a demonstration, a lab I’ve done many times. One of the students asked if they could do the lab (through the English teacher) and I looked at the chemistry teacher, who was still in the room, and said we’d have to see what materials she had.

Library

The library at SMAN 1 Mandastana.

After the second slide show was done, I handed out more tourism brochures to these students. We took group photos and selfies again, and as they were leaving to go to mosque, they bowed their heads and kissed my hand as had the other class. This gets to the heart of my basic doubts about myself – that I don’t deserve the great respect they are showing me. Certainly I’ve never seen anything like it before. I wanted to bow back to them, but was told by Nazar later that I don’t have to do that.

Periodic table in Indonesian

Indonesian periodic table. Most of the element names are based on the Latin root words, such as Kalium for potassium (K). Some of the elements, such as Tembago for Copper, must be Indonesian words that predate the introduction of western science.

After the class was over and the students left, we looked through the chemistry supplies and discovered enough materials to make the flame test work. We’ll try the lab tomorrow. While looking through the classroom, I took photos of the periodic table hanging up at the back of the room. I could recognize most of the elemental names, based on the original Latin names, such as kalium for potassium and natrium for sodium. Only a few elements, such as tembago (copper) or beso (iron), were unfamiliar. These must be names that predate chemistry as a science in Indonesia.

Banjar houses craft

Student crafts, including a traditional Bajarese house, on display in the library.

As I walked back to the teachers lounge, I thought of how things had gone and my impressions of it. All of my teaching career I’ve wanted to make a difference in the world, which I have done. There is a part of me that would like to be well known if not famous, perhaps even remembered by history. Whether or not this ever happens, I can at least say that for this week, I was shown the greatest respect I’ve ever known as a teacher.

Teachers room

Teachers’ Preparation Room at SMAN 1 Mandastana. Overall, this school had a lot more light and seemed more airy than schools in Jakarta. There was no air conditioning, so ceiling fans and open windows were the only ventilation. Teachers wear khaki uniforms on Mondays.

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Jakarta Day 5: Wednesday, July 19, 2017

David by SMAN 8 sign

David Black standing by the sign for SMAN 8 Jakarta (Jakarta Public High School # 8).

We had traveled through narrow, winding streets and across railroad tracks to get here, but once we arrived at SMAN 8 Jakarta, it was in a quiet neighborhood. This public high school is in a low-lying area of the city, and I was immediately impressed by the nice mosque that stood at the entrance to the school.

Although it is a regular public school, most schools in Indonesia have religious facilities such as a mosque or mushollah (prayer room) for students to use during prayer times and as part of their Islamic or Character studies classes. The United States places a strong value on separation of church and state, brought on by the persecutions of the Church of England or Lutherans against many religious groups (such as the Pilgrims, Quakers, and Puritans) who then came to America seeking religious freedom. It was built into the original Bill of Rights. But other countries don’t have such a value, and they establish state approved religions. Indonesia recognizes five religions officially, and in theory all are allowed to create religious facilities at school and hold religious classes. In some places, such as Bali and the Maluku Islands, Muslims are the minority. But in most of Indonesia, they form the majority religion with about 87-90% of the total population, such as in Jakarta. So there is a beautiful mosque with golden domes at the entrance to this public high school, and classes are arranged so that students can attend the noontime call to prayer.

Mosque with bougainvillea

Bougainvillea and school mosque at SMAN 8 Jakarta.

This might seem strange to some Americans, who tend to think that the way we do things must be the only way to do things, but its not unusual in many countries. Being from Utah it is not strange to me. We have LDS Seminary available to Utah students; although the seminary buildings must not be on school property, they are usually adjacent or nearby the schools, and students are allowed to have “released time” periods to attend seminary classes. This time doesn’t count toward graduation requirements, so seminary students have less periods with which to meet those needs, but with only 22 credit hours required, it’s not hard.

School mosque

The school mosque at SMAN 8 Jakarta. Indonesia does not have the value of separation of church and state that Americans have. Religious education is a required part of their school curriculum.

This school is considered a model high school in Jakarta and we could tell that they are much more accustomed to having visitors. There wasn’t a sign welcoming us, nor any great fuss about us. We were shown to an auditorium room and given snacks and water against the heat and waited awhile for the assistant principal to arrive. A teacher there who has been an ILEP alumnus greeted us and answered some questions while we waited. They had a nice Promethean board in the room, with a fancy computer control station to run it, and all the male teachers were looking it over as the female teachers discussed the dress code and daily operations of the female teachers who were there.

At SMAN 8 Jakarta

In the auditorium room at SMAN 8 Jakarta.

We were shown around the school, and went in to some of the classes. They had nicely colored bougainvillea growing in planters along the inner railing, and many trophy cases showing excellence in academic competitions, such as Science Olympiad. They have had students win all the way to the international competition, which is an amazing accomplishment. We watched a group of students presenting in a biology class, and other students asking excellent questions.

Biology presenters

Students presenting in a biology class at SMAN 8 Jakarta.

We saw a math class that Mike was especially interested in, since he is a calculus teacher. We talked with students in an English class, and I walked into the Kimia (chemistry) lab and saw the standard supply kit – alcohol lamp, a few beakers, a test tube rack, and a few test tubes. Not much, but at least here the equipment was well used. The biology lab room was well stocked with microscopes, models of various body parts, and even preserved specimens in jars. The computer lab was well equipped. We were shown the teacher preparation room, with more trophies, and I discovered that the word for teacher in Bahasa Indonesia is “guru.” Next to the Guru Room was the Guru Toilet. I had to take a photo. I think maybe I should insist that my students call me Guru.

Chem equipment

Lab station kit for the chemistry lab. Notice the well-used test tubes and alcohol burner. They don’t have much, but they use it to good advantage.

We walked to the principal’s office and were shown a plaque designating this school as one of the top schools in the country, an accomplishment that they were very proud of.

School philosophy

Five areas of intelligence according to the faculty of SMAN 8 Jakarta, an award-winning school in the city.

The assistant principal spoke to us about the school’s philosophy. SMAN 8 considers and builds its programs around five aspects of intelligence: Intellectual Intelligence (IQ), Spiritual Intelligence (SQ), Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Creativity Intelligence (CQ), and Adversity Intelligence (AQ) – what we are calling “grit” at American Academy of Innovation, or the ability to learn from failure and be persistent. Most schools in Indonesia consider only the first three, but this school believes that creativity and persistence are important things to teach to students. He said this is the main key to this school’s success.

Explaining school

We might not agree with how spirituality is one of the central values of Indonesian education, because we are so conditioned to see religion as completely separate from school. And yet it is not separate in the lives of our students or of the teachers in our school; it just isn’t talked about much. Back when I taught World Civilizations in California, I would teach about Buddhism, Hinduism, Daoism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and other religions as part of the culture and history of different civilizations and no one batted an eye. Yet when I talked about Christianity as an important aspect of western civilization, the students would start to protest that I shouldn’t be teaching religion in school. I had to point out that I had already been teaching about religions all year, and that you can’t understand the central motivations of a civilization without knowing about religions or the spiritual beliefs of its peoples.

Rest Makes Rusty

Indonesian schools all have signs hanging up with mottos and sayings in English and Indonesian. This one is at SMAN 8 Jakarta.

My own school, although it hasn’t put its values in exactly these terms, also believes that creativity and grit are important for our school. We are supposed to be reading Grit by Angela Duckworth over the summer, but I haven’t been able to find a copy in my local library yet. We’re also reading Creative Schools by Sir Ken Robinson, which I read last summer. His thesis is that the factory model of education that is so prevalent in most American schools is literally crushing the creativity out of students at a time when it is so needed in our country.

Trophies

Just a few of the many awards and trophies at SMAN 8 Jakarta, and award-winning school in Indonesia.

If this is true, and SMAN 8 Jakarta is any indication of where Indonesian schools are headed, then we have much to worry about as we will soon be out competed by this rising country, the fourth largest country in the world.

Guru toilet

Gurus need toilets, too.

We walked out into the central courtyard and took some photos by the school sign, then walked to our pariwisata (tourist) bus, which was waiting for us.

Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea growing around the courtyard at SMAN 8 Jakarta.

Headmaster with group

Headmaster of SMAN 8 Jakarta with the Teachers for Global Classrooms group.

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