How Joey Got His Groove Back

I finished the first full week of teaching last week. I will admit, I was a broken man by Thursday. Starting out has been tough. I have no arsenal of lesson plans and even though the internet is a great resource nothing could get me ready for starting out my volunteer teaching here Sumatra other than being thrown in and being forced to sink or swim.

There was a point last week where my heart literally hurt. I haven’t felt stress like that since I left my collections job so it was pretty disappointing. My night class was a real struggle for me last week. The most difficult thing about this assignment so far is that there is no organization in the classes by skill level and they only separate by age. I have students that are real bright with English and others in the same class who are beginners. This makes lesson planning tricky. I imagine that this experience will only help me going forward as most teaching jobs won’t require as much creativity with dealing with different skill levels. My night class is a group of about 8 girls that come every night and are pretty eager to learn. The children in the afternoon are great and I just took on 2 more classes during the day that aren’t connected to my contract. I technically don’t have to do them but 30 children from the village want to be taught English and I’m here so I couldn’t possibly take that away from them. Even though I have little experience in teaching any exposure to natives speakers for these kids is useful for them. This is a moment where lazy Joey really wanted to take over and act as if he can’t handle when in reality I just need to suck it up and take on the extra classes.

So, after last week’s stress filled freak out after my Wednesday night class I decided that I’d finish out the week on Thursday with the kids and then head into town to spend a few nights relaxing by the river. My accommodation at the clinic is paid for by the organization I’m volunteering for so if I want to stay by the river it’s on my own dime, which is fine by me. I booked 4 nights at a really cheap bungalow right on the Bohorok River and hung out with Frida and Liz, two girls I met on the jungle trek when I was here in February. Frida is a frequent reader of Joey Goes Global and has become a good friend with some really great conversation. She is Indonesian and has experience teaching English already as well as NGO work in Aceh after the 2004 Tsunami. She’s also a great Bahasa Indonesian teacher! Liz has been traveling around South East Asia for awhile and passed through here to keep me company for a few days. It’s been great because after about 10 days at the clinic I was getting bored.

Tubing

This actually was as dangerous as it looks

The river was just what I needed. The nights have been cooled off from the heavy rains and it set my mind straight. That coupled with getting pep talks from a lot of friends, including Brooke Carleton of Brooke Reviews who is currently in her last 2 semesters of he education degree at the University of South Florida. Frida shared some of her lesson plans with me which will be useful because they include some Indonesian words.

I’m picking up Bahasa Indonesia fairly quickly here which I’m happy about. I’ve been sort of forced into it. I’ve used the language to help get through lessons. I taught mostly in Indonesian today and had the students translate certain vocabulary into English. I have a few students that are really good with English so since they may be bored with the slow pace since I have beginners, I may actually give them assignments on the side that are a little more challenging.

I feel like I’m all over the place with this post as it’s been a few days since an update so I’m trying to cram a lot into a small space. It’s just that I’ve gone through a huge swing over the last 4 days going from a real low point in feeling like I can’t do this to where I am now where the confidence is building. Tomorrow is a public holiday in Indonesia so schools are closed. My night class is not mandatory so I asked the girls if they wanted me to hold class tomorrow. They all said yes and when I told them I’d cancel it if they want they all gave me dirty looks and said “Nooo!” It’s weird being in a position of authority where if I want to I can cancel a class. In the end though, I went with what they wanted and will hold class. Can’t keep students from learning if they are eager.

I’m back in the game! I see hope now where as last week things were looking pretty grim. I just have to keep a few days ahead on the lesson planning so I’m not panicking and stressing myself out. There is a beautiful river with rapids to tube down and plenty of people here that will join me. I have tons of opportunities to improve my Bahasa Indonesia as well. So things are looking up!

3 thoughts on “How Joey Got His Groove Back

  1. Congratulations on making it through your first stint! I hope things get better for you. I’m in my first year as well, but finishing it out now, rather than just beginning. Sounds like you have quite a few challenges ahead of you. I know I don’t have tons of experience, but giving those “brighter” students some of the work in class often helps them feel special, makes your job a little easier, and often connects well with the lower students because it is in terms they probably understand or can relate to. I like to have my students that understand an activity explain it to the rest of the class (first in English, but then adding some Turkish if they need it.) Or, sometimes I act as though I did not have time to prepare for the lesson, so I have the students design activities to help teach the vocabulary words (mine all have internet access though, so they can find pictures and definitions.) Things like that seem to work well with my students. Hopefully they’ll help!
    Good luck as you continue!

  2. I’m glad everything is falling into place for you now! You know I’m always here for pep talks :) Miss you!

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