Bayu Adi Persada
[Indonesia Mengajar (Indonesia Teaches) is a volunteer-based educational program that was started by Anies Baswedan, the rector at Paramadina University in Jakarta, to send top graduates from around the country to teach in rural areas. This is the story of a Pengajar Muda (Young Teacher) in finding his passion]
Click here to read "Journal of a 'Young Teacher', Part 1".
I was stationed in Bibinoi village, a population of 1300, in North Maluku's Bacan Island. When my feet first touched Bibinoi's sand and my eyes landed sight on local people's faces, my worries of not getting electricity were washed out. Although I could not find a single bar on my cell phone signal and electricity had been installed but hasn't been stable, I was grateful to be there.
My mission is not to find comfort and luxury; it's to give these disadvantaged kids dream. A dream that they can hold onto their entire life.
The Best Place to Teach
As an elementary public school, SDN Bibinoi was the best place to launch my teaching career. With almost 250 students, SDN Bibinoi is considerably a big school in remote areas. There are four main buildings: three are allocated for classrooms, one for office and library. A field and a small wooden house complete the school building complex.
Only ten teachers, along with the headmaster, are listed in the school. It's the same problem that exists in almost every school in Indonesian villages, especially in South Halmahera. Here, a dedicated and disciplined teacher is a rarity. Most teachers I encountered in South Halmahera do not know the value of their noble profession. Teachers not attending class is a normal sight and parents do not seem to really care about it. Some teachers, as if there is no other way to impart knowledge, shout at and hit their own students. What a pity.
I came to SDN Bibinoi and faced numerous problems: none of them was easy. Among them are: incapable students, teachers' lack of discipline, insignificant parental roles, suspicious headmaster towards new staff, and the list goes on. But I was persistent.
French writer Voltaire once said, "With great power comes great responsibility." I did not possess that great power, but I had faith that I could giver hope for these kids, the school and the society.
Befriend Your Students
The kids at SDN Bibinoi are bright, cheerful and skillful. Regardless of their undiscovered potential, the first two weeks teaching them was a nightmare. They did not speak proper Bahasa Indonesia. They called Bahasa Indonesia as a "high language." There were times when the students did not understand what I was saying. Without mutual understanding, my lessons had no point.
It's true when they say good communication makes everything easier. In just a short time, I could build close relationships with every kids in my school. I treated them as students in class but outside classrooms, we were friends.
Together, we bathed in the river, played along in the beach, and fished in the middle of the sea. And when they have finally gotten comfortable with me being their friend, I could become their teacher. Any activity that was done out of pure intention brought out fun and joy.
Once I got their trust, my first goal is to escalate their willingness to study. Because only with spirit and willingness, one has strong foundation to better himself. For some reason, I felt that I was doing a good job to make studying a pleasurable activity for my students.
Apart from teaching in class, I taught them after school-hours. In South Halmahera, we didn't care if it was the weekend or not. Most of the nights, the students came to my house after dinner. I usually finished when we were tired.
I might get tired after teaching non-stop but their spirit made me go on. It was then I learned that their motivation couldn't be bought. From these children, I learned the value of dedication.
The World's Champion
A teacher's pride lies on his students' accomplishments. When a student achieves something, happiness sets in. When a student solves a math question, a sense satisfaction surfaces.
Olan, an 8-year-old Bibinoi elementary student, was only recently able to read. When there was a national science olympic, I hesitated to include him in my team. But one thing for sure, he has a potential: diligent, kind-hearted, persistent and fast-learner. He was one of the best students in my third grade class.
I taught Olan and five other students Science for a month or so. The team had to learn general science knowledge and do experiments. With respect to the others, Olan was the one who seemed to show deep interests in science, like he was born to learn about this subject.
But, aware of their limited capability, I didn't expect much of my students.
And one day, when I traveled to a port city Babang where phone signal exists, I received an email saying that Olan had proceeded to the semifinal round of the National Science Olympics. And I shouted in joy, "I am the world's champion!"
[Next week: More on nationalism, religion and the kids' brilliance]
Bayu Adi Persada