I remember being this age. I thought I knew everything. I knew that I knew more than everyone else, at least. I felt like the world was waiting for me. My boys, my friends, were the only thing that was important to me.
Man…I knew nothing back then.
These girls, and the boy in the background, all attend a school that is run by the Bala Keselamatan (Salvation Army). They are a few of the more than 2000 students who attend the school in Palu, Sulawesi. It is a remarkable school, but what’s more remarkable are the students.
Beautiful, curious, enthusiastic, and energetic, their stories will inspire and break hearts. Many of them do not live with their parents. The reason? Their parents know that an education is important, but living in rural Palu with little means to a good education has left parents with one option – send their children to Palu to live and learn. Many of these children rarely see their parents.
They choose an education over family. That is a choice I’m glad I don’t have to make.
I was in Palu, Sulawesi, Indonesia, for the last two and a half days. I was looking at opportunities for service for my 10th grade students. I got to visit two schools, an orphanage, a couple of churches, and a nursing academy. The photo above was taken at one of the schools.
Yes, that is chicken wire acting as a window. Yes, that is a corrugated steel roof. Yes, those slats letting in daylight are the wall of the Kelas Satu (1st grade) classroom. Yes, students come here daily from 7:00 am to 1:00 pm, and they’re grateful and enthusiastic for the education they get.
If you work in a place like I work (a highrise-housed, private, international school), or where I worked in Canada, or where friends of mine work in America, let me assure you…it is as bad as you can imagine to be a student in a rural school in Indonesia. It is like this all over South Asia, Asia, the Middle East, most places. Not every school is like this, but there are schools like this everywhere. The problem isn’t reading Three Cups of Tea and donating to your local educational charity. It also does not require all of you reading this to drop whatever job you have and come roaring over to Indonesia intent on saving the day.
The problem is that there is no one solution. No single fix-it approach. These students need teachers. The schools need financial help. The people need to believe that education is important. The world needs to wake up and start investing in the things that matter, the future of their children, not what fills their gas tanks or funds wars or…
…to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. “
So said Mark Twain, and I agree. I think that there are other agents for the fatality of negative human attributes, like education and education. And I should be clear – some people can travel the world looking for McDonald’s restaurants and Macy’s stores and Holiday Inn hotels. They can avoid all the culture and ethnicity and find North America everywhere they go, complaining that no one speaks English. Sadly, I’ve been around some of those people as I’ve traveled around South Asia.
I’ve also had the pleasure of traveling with and around people who are looking for a better understanding of the world and its people. It may be, though, that it’s the attitude of the traveler that will determine whether prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness are fatally eradicated. Mark Twain, from what I’ve read, seemed to be the kind of man who was willing to challenge himself as well as others. Some people, sad people, do not have any desire to upend their tiny understanding of the world.
I take a twenty minute walk to work each day. I am going to show you my walk to work, but it’ll take a few days. It’ll also take quite a few photos. Here’s the first part. We live in an apartment complex that’s part of a much larger complex of condominiums and townhouses. We’ve got lots of security. You’ll see them soon.
We walk past our security gate and some really nice guards every morning. I used to walk with headphones in my ears all the time, but I hear, “Selamat pagi,” so often in the morning that I keep my headphones out until I’m well on my way up the hill away from home.
We’re past security and on the way to school, and so are a lot of other people. Our school is a couple of kilometers away, but another school, an Indonesian National school, is located right outside our Villas. From what I understand, this education is free, and so many students and families want their children educated that they send them to a school that is so overpopulated that they run two schools in one – one that starts at 6:30 and another that starts at 12:30. I feel hope and sadness at the same time.
I don’t know if you can see them, but the bajaj drivers are waiting for my wife and children, who drive to school, and then I start up the hill. Once I crest the hill, the rest of the walk is easy. Flower shops on the left, miscellany on the right.
Before I left my former school in Canada, I moved from the third floor to the first floor. I did this for two reasons: 1. All of my student leadership activities were on the first floor, and; 2. I hated running up and down flights of stairs just to get from my classroom to the office to the gym and back again.
Then I moved to Jakarta. My school is in a high-rise building. There are something like seven floors of parking before you even get to my school. Once inside, my school has LG (lower ground), G (ground), and UG (upper ground) floors. Then, floors one through eight. Here’s a little math for you: take 400 students; divide by two elevators; multiply by eleven floors…and you get a great number of stairs that must be negotiated every day. It’s easier, and harder, to run the stairs than it is to wait for an elevator. Plus, it’s a good workout. I guess I can eat a little more at dinner tomorrow.
The photo, above, was taken on the sixth floor looking down to the Ground Floor. I guess that makes it nine floors down that you’re seeing. Weirdly abstract.
Happy Monday, everyone.
Today is my first day back to work after Spring Break. In conjunction with the first day back, I’m also on my first day back after having had a student teacher for six weeks. I’m feeling really rusty, and hoping for the best. Please send your hopes and encouragement my way today, and I’ll hope that I make it through.
This is what it looks like when I arrived at SFU yesterday morning. I have to arrive, to mark exams, between 7:30 and 7:45 in the morning, as we start marking at 8:00. With the incredible weather we’re currently enjoying here in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, the sunrises are gorgeous.
Well, I guess you might have already guessed that.
Enjoy your Sunday!
WordPress’ photo challenge this week is “Windows“. I went hunting through old photos for windows and found all kinds of photos, but nothing really stood out until I found this one of the Academic Quadrangle at Simon Fraser University. I think this pretty much meets the challenge.
I included a few of my favorite quotations about windows. I hope you like it.
“A house without books is like a room without windows. No man has a right to bring up his children without surrounding them with books, if he has the means to buy them.”
“Never have more children than you have car windows.”
“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.”
This is St. Ann’s Academy in Victoria, BC. During the reception for my brother-in-law’s wedding this weekend, I took the opportunity to shoot the area surrounding the Parkside Resort and Spa. Across the street from Parkside is St. Ann’s Academy. It’s been a lot of different things in the more than hundred years it’s been around, but one thing that’s not changed is the beauty of this old building.
We do not build buildings like this anymore.
We Day was so awesome that it almost deserves two or three exclamation marks. It won’t get the extra punctuation, as I am an English teacher and extraneous punctuation is unnecessary and a horrible sin against all things great about writing.
If you’re not familiar with We Day, you should look it up. There we 18000 students, aged 12 to 18, packed into Rogers Arena to hear amazing speakers like Michel Chikwanine and Mikhail Gorbachev and other speakers whose names did not start with “M”. Also, you should “like” it on Facebook. For every “like”, corporate sponsors add a dollar to the cause. One million “likes” equals one million dollars. Kind of cool.
I had a great day today. We had Kate Whitfield in our school today talking to the girls and she met, after, with all of the girls in leadership to discuss how they could set the proverbial bar higher in our school for “girl-world” behavior. Then I hung out with my son tonight as we watched “How To Train Your Dragon” and for part of it, he let me run on the treadmill. I’ve been so busy that I’ve not gotten out to take any new photos and I feel like I’m rehashing stuff from way too long ago. I’m going to rectify that this weekend, starting tomorrow.
1. Helped make my school a better place for the girls.
2. Hung out with son watching awesome animated movie.
4. No photo…yet.
p.s. If you’re a teacher and need someone to come in and discuss girl issues with your girls, there’s no one better to call than Kate. She’s awesome.
…when we get to it.
I feel as though most of my conversations in my profession end with that phrase. We so love our contingency plans. We love them so much that we sometimes forget that the worst case scenario rarely occurs. In fact, because of our increasingly litigious world, we’ve become insanely insular in the name of safety and insurance.
Maybe we should just cross those bridges when we get to them, rather than constantly planning for worst-case bridges.
I went back to work, officially, today. I’ve been in the school (I’m a teacher, btw) a few times already this year, for a 9th grade orientation that I run and to put some things together for the year, but today was the first day that all the students were in the school and classes kicked into gear.
So…I’m thinking of the beach. And how much I wish I was there.
It’s not that I don’t love my job. I do. I feel that teaching is my calling – it chose me as much as I chose it. It is an incredible profession and most days I can’t believe that I get paid to have this much fun. I do, however, wish that I was still on holidays, lazily enjoying the ocean breeze, desperately avoiding real life.
To that end, I present to you…driftwood. A friendly reminder that only seven hours away from work is a beach. A happy place, as it were.
Where I’m going to be in a week? At school, back at work for the next ten months.
Where I wish I was going in a week? Back to the sandy beach of the Oregon Coast.
I guess there’s always the lottery to make that come true. Or, another 21 years and then retirement.
Tomorrow morning, at 8:00, I’ll be welcoming up to 240 9th Grade students to my school. Along with forty-eight student leaders, I’ll be attempting to entertain and inspire these students to greatness in their first year of high school. It won’t be easy. It will be fun. I will pass out when it’s all over. This post ends now, because I have to go read the script you see above one more time. And probably again. And once more…
This is the ceiling of the Maggie Benston Center at Simon Fraser University. It houses the university’s bookstore, the Student Services center and a myriad of other student services. It is also where I’ll be marking exams again tomorrow. I’ve already marked for a day, but there’s at least two, maybe three days of marking left. The room in which I mark exams overlooks a large grassy area on which students lie around a suntan while I read the papers of a couple thousand students. I missed marking today (although, if I am completely honest, I didn’t miss it that much) due to a medical concern yesterday.
After nine hours in emergency, x-rays and blood tests, the doctor diagnosed a complication in my abdomen. After ruling out appendicitis and most likely ruling out a kidney stone, Doc decided that I’ve got a little (well, Large) intestine issue. So I’ll be eating a ton of fruit and drinking enough liquids to drown myself over the next couple of days and I’ll get it all sorted out.
Well, that was more personal than I meant it to be.
There’s a line in a poem by Taylor Mali (I think the poem is “Train of Thought”) wherein the speaker ponders whether people who think in “trains of thought” aren’t lacking creativity. That people should be thinking in “dirigibles” and zeppelins. They can go anywhere, back, forth, up, down, where train of thought thinkers can only move forward or back at a relatively slow pace.
Now that the school year is finally over, I’m happy to say that my line of thinking is less line-like than ever.
On the other hand, I seem to be gleefully moving toward summer and I’d like that line to be as short as possible.
I really am too tired. I’ve not taught a student this week and I’m more tired than ever. I’m currently moving my classroom from the third to first floor (at my request) and I’ve been moving the better part of twelve years of teaching around my school. And…ho-ley craaaaaap have I accumulated stuff. I’m using this as a time to cull the stuff I don’t use, but I still have to move it, whether I cull it or not. Yay! Now I know how Sisyphus felt.
Needless to say (so I won’t – haha), I’ve not had a great amount of time to take new photos. Above is a photo from last week’s graffiti photo-fest. I found this one buried among the other photos.
…makes you a believer as much as standing in your garage makes you a car.
This analogy works for a lot of buildings – going to school makes you a students as much as…going in to work makes you a worker as much as…working in a school makes you a teacher as much as…
But the appeal in this analogy to me is that who you are is a choice, not a geographical position. I think a great number of people I know believe that being in a place makes you something related to the place. This is not true. Not that being in a certain place is not inspirational, but there is a long way from inspiration to change.
I could make a bunch of jokes, like: “I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place.” Or, “I’m leaving no stone unturned.” Or…actually, maybe that’s all I could come up with. I just got back in from my school’s awards night and I have ten hours before I have to be teaching again and I’ve had no time to take new photos.
Oh, and I am writing almost exclusively in run-on sentences now so forgive the lateness of this post and I hope to be remedying the situation shortly. Either that or I’ll have a nervous breakdown.
Oh. The photo? It’s a big crack in a mountain in Manning Park.
Davis Guggenheim, the speaker on stage here, was discussing his latest documentary film “Waiting for ‘Superman’” with 18000 high school students. That’s a pretty big number of people. I recently watched this film and my immediate reaction, as a Canadian teacher, was one of revulsion and disappointment. I see what’s happening to children, to young people whose future is outside of their control and jeopardized by adults – teachers, politicians, administrators, economists – who are thinking of themselves instead of those they are charged to protect, teach and help and it makes me feel queasy. Listening to Guggenheim last October made me feel at least somewhat encouraged that there are people who are seeing the horrors of the education system.
While visiting Vancouver for We Day, Guggenheim reminded the students that the reason they were there was because of good teachers and that good teachers would make the difference in the lives of students who would change the world. As a teacher in attendance, it felt pretty good. For a brief moment, me and the teachers in attendance were given an ovation that few of us will hear in our lives. 18000 people clapping, cheering for the good we’re doing is pretty amazing. Thanks, Mr. Guggenheim.
At Simon Fraser University, in Burnaby, BC, there’s a bronze statue memorial for Terry Fox. He’s a Canadian hero. He decided that, while he had cancer and had already had a leg removed, he would run across Canada to show both that people with cancer could accomplish great things and raise awareness to the cause of research for a cure for cancer. Along the way he quietly ran into the hearts of millions of Canadians. He’s definitely one of my heroes.
Keep running, Terry.
I had parent-teacher interviews tonight, and I’ve not been home all day, but I wanted to post this. It is absolute crap weather outside and at the rate we’re going it should be sunny sometime around October. Also, maybe I can get some solid sleep by then.
Anyway, I’m rambling and need to sleep.
Here’s the photo. Sleep well.