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…
On my way home from a haircut (“Saya potong rambut” in Bahasa Indonesian), I snapped this photo of a flower seller reading a book. He seemed deeply engrossed in the book, as there was total chaos going on around him. Bajai and Ojek drivers moving past, cars going by, some white guy snapping photos…and he stayed focused on his book. Here’s hoping that, as we start the school year tomorrow, my students are as dedicated to their reading as this man is.
I was marking Provincial Exams at Simon Fraser University today and the weather was insultingly beautiful. Insulting because it was beautiful and I was contractually obligated to sit in a room and watch the sun pass across the sky through our classroom window.
I got out during lunch and shot some of the area and managed to get some wonderful candids. The one above is a photomerge of two captures taken one after the other. He was really moving, apparently. I was just playing around but it seemed kind of fun so I’m posting it. It’s about the most obviously manufactured photo I’ve ever posted here. I hope you find it amusing.
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.
Al Gore, during his We Day speech, told the 18000 students in attendance that they are not “our future”; rather, they are our present. He exhorted them to think of themselves as the people who would solve the world’s problems and to start now. He then made an analogy that I’d never known. When the Apollo program put a Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon in 1969, the average age of the people in NASA’s mission control was 26. This means that when JFK made the speech in 1961 that the USA would put a man on the moon within the decade, the average age of those same mission controllers was 18. They heard the challenge in 1961 and eight years later they provided the response. We have to stop thinking of our students as the future and start thinking of them as our present. Thanks, Al Gore, for putting things in perspective.
Trust the Greeks (ancient ones, that is) to come up with brilliant and beautiful metaphors. As I think about going back to school in a week and a half, I am reminding myself that I am “planting trees” through my students. That I will not sit in the “shade” of those trees has never bothered me. When I started teaching I was told by many older, more experienced teachers that teaching was rewarding, but that information was always offered with a sort of wry look and a verbal irony that belied the cynicism that takes many teachers who’ve lost their passion.
Along the way I’ve met a great number of other teachers, not all of them teaching in a school, who’ve reminded me why I went into teaching in the first place. I teach because I love teaching, but more than that, I enjoy watching other people learn. I like that moment when I can practically see the neurons firing, the synapses connecting for that brief second when learning happens. The “ah-ha!” moment.
I teach students, not a subject. And I’ve got a job to do.
My school’s grads had lost a floor hockey tournament against the staff, so the grads challenged the staff to an ice hockey game, in the hope that they’d win and regain some honor. Then the students lost, again. Ha. Ha. Hahahahahahahaaa…
I shouldn’t find that so awesome, but I do. Old guys win again.
Pentax K20D; Sigma 70-210mm; f4; ISO 1600; 1/60 sec.