For The Love of Learning
Organized by: Eliza Silverman
English Club begins in the same hot classroom at MAN 1 Semarang every Wednesday at 3:00 p.m.--but inevitably, most of the students shuffle in apologetically around 3:30 p.m. after the call to prayer is finished.
First, we eat. We always eat. In the beginning I tried to bring healthy snacks--fruits, some plain crackers--but quickly realized an after-school sugar fix is almost necessary to spike the energy levels in the room. After all, my students gather here for extra English practice after an 8-hour school day in hot, crowded, un-air-conditioned classrooms. So I buy chocolate, and candy, and cookies.
Then, we warm up. We get moving. Ignoring a chorus of exaggerated groans, I always ask them to stand up. Once they do, their excitement is palpable. Lessons that incorporate movement and partner activities are few and far between at my school.
So they walk around the room, ask different students questions, perhaps race to the board to answer jeopardy questions, and on some days, I just ask them to act like animals ("be the frog. BE the frog"). It's highly silly.
Then, we work. Usually, my kids write letters to their American pen pals. I give them a prompt, but always remind them they can be CREATIVE and ASK QUESTIONS to feel closer with their new foreign friend, a world away. The letters began in October with initial introductions, and are still exchanged today. My students named things they were grateful for on Thanksgiving, and wrote them "love letters" on February 14th. They wrote "Bio-poems" and wrote about one thing that makes them happy. These letters spark their creativity and allow them to make connections with cool (hehe) Americans eager to share about their own lives. These pen pals happen to be my best friends spread throughout California, Washington, Minnesota, Louisiana, Oregon and Pennsylvania. I am forever indebted to them for their help with this project.
English Club celebrates together. I introduced them to American holidays (Halloween, Valentine's Day), and we had a small birthday celebration for our advisor and my beloved counterpart, Pak Gi. It was his 50th birthday--and he had never once before celebrated his "ulang tahun" (birthday, in Bahasa Indonesia). English Club even got to meet my mom when she visited.
English Club also talks about diversity. I often show them photos from the popular website "Humans of New York." They are amazed at the differences between faces, skin colors, hair colors, sizes, ages and stories. It's hard for them to believe that all those different faces and stories come from one city.
After the election of a new president, I asked them to write about their dreams for Indonesia. Many of them remain hopeful for a future without corruption, pollution, or poverty.
They write about what Islam means to them. They write about what makes them beautiful. They write, they write, they write.
So, in English Club, my students practice listening, writing and speaking. But they also practice thinking. They reflect on their religion and their country. They practice making new friends both within English Club (cross-gender, cross-class relationships are formed) and with their American pen pals. I have seen them change over the last six months. My English Club students have become more confident.
But I am worried. Worried because next year there will not be another native English speaker placed at my school. It is unlikely that ETAs will ever get placed in madrasahs again- in my view, it is precisely these Islamic schools that reap the most benefits from having a foreign teacher who is able to present a new perspective in an otherwise homogeneous learning environment. I am worried because the English curriculum in Indonesia allots for only 90 minutes of instruction per week. I am worried because the curriculum in place encourages neither free thinking nor creativity.
Basically: I'm worried that after I leave, these kids will stop feeling excited to learn English--a language that enables them to connect with other people and express themselves in new ways.
I don't want that to happen. My English Club students are hopeful, beautiful, intelligent, hard-working kids who deserve to keep writing, learning, practicing, thinking, for the rest of their lives. And that's why I made this page. That's why I am asking for your help.
My school already has a collection of English books. For the most part, they remain locked in the library. They are largely too advanced for the level of English at my school. So rather than order books for the school's collection, I want to raise enough money to buy every single English Club student different supplies to sustain their passion for English. I also want to provide the teachers with different media and materials to create engaging English lessons next year.
The funds I raise with this Crowdrise will go directly to the students, and then, the teachers. I want to buy them:
-English comic books, such as The Adventures of Tin Tin. There's a story behind this. My mom and I met a very vivacious man at a Korean restaurant in Semarang who was nearly fluent in English. He told us that he was self-taught. His secret? Comic books. He found English comic books at a bookstore in the mall, and the combination of words and images made it easy for him to expand his vocabulary without direct instruction. I think it's a brilliant idea.
-Flashdrives loaded with different media such as appropriate English movies and music that will aid their comprehension
-Individual memory books including all the letters and assignments they have submitted to me, so they can see how their writing has improved from October to May
-And more. I will keep thinking about thoughtful materials best suited to their ability level that will help them continue to learn
I set my fundraising goal for $1000. I know that's a lot. If I reach that number, it will be more than enough money. But I am setting my sights high, because even if I am able to buy books, media and make memory books for all students in English Club with the money I hope to raise, there are so many more ways to help my school. I can buy new, small English/Bahasa Indonesian dictionaries for every classroom. I can help them fix the dozens of broken projectors so that teachers can develop engaging lessons with powerpoints and videos.
I can also find ways to help with their living conditions. Many of the students in English Club in particular stay in boarding houses away from their parents and villages. The conditions of these boarding houses are the furthest thing from nurturing. They are packed like sardines (100-200 girls will live together in a boarding house) without personal space to sleep, cook, and wash in. At MAN1, the girl's boarding house floods almost every day during rainy season.
With any extra money, I will buy them cooking, cleaning and sleeping supplies. I will try to help my students who live at MAN1 to fix the flooding problem.
So I am asking for your help. I know that there are hundreds of thousands of causes that can benefit your donations. That's why I'm making this personal. And strategically posting this a few days before my twenty-third birthday ;)
If you know me, or if you've read the blog this year, you know how much this school means to me. It's going to be so hard to leave them.
I will feel so much better about leaving if I am able to leave them with the tools they need to live and THRIVE in an environment where they would usually only survive: engaging materials, classroom supplies and living necessities.
Your donation will earn you a PERSONALIZED, hand-written thank you note from English Club and ALSO a mailed copy of the MAN 1 Magazine when I return home in June. I will send photos of the students you helped so you can match faces to names. I will probably kiss you on the lips if I see you this summer.
But it's not about me. It's about Ashfa, Ana, Zaki, Firman, Richa, Ainun, Shinta, Sinta, Falinda, Ifa, Cinthiya, Nurul, Endang, Nabila, Farda, Amelia, Indira, Ilham, Shoniya, Risa, Citra, Izza, Rizky, Zulfa, Aini, Ayu, Intan and Anisatul. It's about the kids who made Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. my favorite part of the week.
You can see for yourself in this video:
Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
Elizabeth Anya Silverman