Monday, 26 April 2010

Teaching...

This is a bit of a random post. I'm becoming tired with the lack of support that the school provides in terms of materials. It's not that they don't provide materials – it's that barely any of the classes have appropriate materials or realistic teaching times. The lessons are way too long. My 5 year old class, who are progressing to the next level next week and means I won't be teaching them, are just about teachable. They are lovely kids and mainly use the structures that I teach them to make fun of me, which is actually semi-successful because they are correctly using the language that I teach them... just not in the right context! I often hear "Mr Lee wears a dress" or "Mr Lee has a girlfriend", whichever incarnation manifests itself, the class usually erupts in laughter. They've even managed to progress to passing notes around the class – although they're not old enough to realise that when you pass notes around the classroom you're not supposed to pass them to the teacher as well! With all of this banter and an almost endless use of kinaesthetic activities and ball games – I can just about fill a 60 minute lesson! I used to fall asleep at university after 60 minutes – hence my horrific attendance when I was there! Keeping the attention of a group of 5 year olds using the book provided is practically impossible...




The book that the school provides for my 12 year olds is also useless. The books are really easy for the students and take about 20 minutes for them to complete the amount of course materials assigned to the 80 minute lesson. Again the duration of the lesson is too long! At least younger kids are quite eager to participate in activities, by the time they get to the age of 12 they have blackberries and other interests beside accusing the teacher of having a girlfriend! There are also only so many games that you can play to fill time during the lesson. These kids are about to become teenagers and are lazy so you have to be very firm and ordered with them in the classroom if you don't want them to start trying to take the piss out of you. I don't mind providing supplementary materials in any lesson but when I have four lessons in a day it's almost impossible to successfully do so with the lack of scope of the school's course materials...



Teaching teenagers in a private school context is becoming a lot less desirable than it was at first. They are usually late, unkeen and disinterested. Two of my teenage classes are particularly lazy and the younger ones in particular get a very hard time from me. Although that class is a group of cocky 15 year old boys and a girl that refuses to speak. I'm making a little headway with them but I've given up using the book they are supposed to use, because it's terrible. I just use my own contexts and cover the grammar and skills points that they are supposed to be learning. Although this approach is only ever semi-successful because I never have enough time to plan their lessons to the extent that I need to, in order to deliver a successful lesson... and that is without the prospect of having to teach two two-hour lessons in a row, after teaching two 80 minute lessons with only a ten minute break between the last two lessons! Alongside the perpetual issue of lateness which really frustrates me! I have had moderate success with the other two teenage classes that I teach... I've managed to conduct a speed-dating lesson, which was quite fun, although transmitting the idea was a little difficult at first! Quote 1 of the week comes from Joseph in that class – he's a westlife fan... enough said... – when asked if he'd ever been on a date with a girl he just looked at me and said "of course not..." and then looked at me as if that was the strangest question to ask a 17 year old boy! The other teenage class that I've been teaching consists of a core of 3 girls who are really clever and eager to learn. I always manage to deliver a semi-successful lesson and they really are a pleasure to teach. Although Jessica decided to inadvertantly insult me in our last lesson! While complimenting a colleague of mine on losing weight , she said to my colleague "Sir, I think you've lost some weight, have you? I wasn't too sure whether to mention it though... I'm not sure whether you look slimmer or if you just look thinner because you're standing next to Mr Lee!"... Thanks Jessica I'll be off to comfort eat some donuts to make myself feel better!



All of that aside I've managed to have some brilliant lessons with my business class. The books that we use for our business course are actually really good however the time that the school assigns to the course is way too long and the material needs to be dragged out. I've had to write completely original lessons for the last fortnight... which isn't easy given my time restraints. So in the last two weeks – once we'd finished the material that the school assigned – I've been using a lot of group activities and games to cover the grammar points that we have discussed. My current business class are awesome though. There have been relatively few lateness/attendance issues and they are all very eager and interested in learning and participating in activities. This class have been a real pleasure to teach! It's just a shame that next week is my last week teaching them! :(... I'll probably get given a conversation class... and if I do, you're in for a world of bitching on here!... ;)



As a side note I'm going to mock the commercial use of English and western ideas. It is very fashionable here to be seen as westernised and the Chinese-Indonesians seem to spend a lot of cash to stay in accordance with this notion. But sometimes they are a little wide of the mark with the naming of some of their shops... in our local shopping centre we have an 'Athlete's Foot' shoestore, 'Shaga' health and fitness supplies accompanied by a French bistro aptly named "Cafe Gayo"...

Monday, 19 April 2010

Carita

I'd had a bit of a hectic week last week which was indicative by the nature of the last post. Putting that rant aside, I decided I was going to get away for the weekend. Carita was the destination of choice. It's a small beach resort in northwest Java. When I say resort I mean more like street. It's a nice enough place although it is still a bit too close to Jakarta to be pollution free... but it's still well worth a visit. The only affordable mode of transport to Carita is to get a bus, and I use bus in the loosest sense of the term... This was a metal shed with wheels. The journey wasn't too bad as we were heading to the beach so we were really excited! Although the constant ramblings of shit singers climbing on and off of the bus begging for money became increasingly more annoying. As did the constant supply of people selling 'refreshments'...

Once we arrived at Labuan terminal we got an ojek (motorcycle taxi) to Carita, which was quite a pleasant journey along the coast for about 7km. I had decided that I wanted to go to the jungle to see a waterfall called Curug Gendang. My friend Justin had decided that he wanted to get pissed. I found a guide called Bobo and headed for the mountains while Justin headed to the beach to get drunk. Once I arrived at the gate I realised I'd made a bit of a rookie mistake – I hadn't packed any decent shoes. I went to the jungle in flip-flops! After falling arse-over-tit during the first five minutes of my walk I decided that I would go barefoot. It wasn't so bad but my feet were a bit sore by the end of it. I walked 4km through the jungle with no shoes on! It was all worth it though I saw some monkeys – which were too quick for me to get a photo of :(... I also saw Curug Gendang and that made it all worth it. It's not the biggest waterfall around but its natural beauty is quite something.



Once I'd got back from the waterfall I showered at the hotel and found Justin on the beach. We had a few drinks there and stayed to watch the sunset Justin had found a beach hut selling beer and sat with the owner Freddy and his family. We had dinner in a local restaurant. I had one of the freshest fish meals that I've ever had – the red snapper is awesome – and we chatted to a Spanish guy for a while. After that we thought we had seen the nightlife that Carita had to offer so we headed back to the hotel... we were wrong! Bobo – the guy that took me to the waterfall – came to find us and take us to the local 'karaoke bar' that was owned by his friend. This was a pretty cool experience but it was little more than an Indonesian persons living room that they open as a bar. The karaoke machine was a dvd player with a microphone and all the songs were in Indonesian. This made the experience more fun though and we got steaming... There is a little more to it than that but it's not up to me to publish the hilarious antics of others on the internet. Lest it be said that Justin was very happy that his beloved Norwich were promoted and was drunkenly planning to show the Indonesians how to live it up... He kind of succeeded...



The next day we were a little hungover but not partied out so we headed for the beach until mid-afternoon before getting an angkot back to Labuan to catch a bus back to Jakarta. During the angkot trip – which is basically a van with a sidedoor missing that drives a set route like a bus – we decided that when people bothered us on the return trip we would just hassle them in English asking them for things that they have never heard of. Of course we were bothered and this plan proved very effective! The first seller to approach us asked us if we wanted to buy water... we countered with 'do you have any cheese?' of course the answer was 'aku tidak ada' (I don't have that)... that kind of bewildered him and we found it quite amusing, so we decided to give him a larger dose, we asked him for everything from peanut butter to ham and pea soup! After gawping at us with no real comeback he gave in and realised that we were mocking him! It worked though as none of the others really gave us any hassle after that!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

'EF: The Faster Way to Learn English'... Hmmm

This week has been a bit random... I'll present Thursday as a case in point. The sheer incompetence of the is starting to catch up with me. I didn't get much sleep as my housemate and I decided to have a bit of a random Wednesday night and drink Anggur Merah until 5am... that obviously didn't bode well for my housewives club, which started at 10.30am. I was a little hungover but tired more than anything. I managed to coast through my first lesson and the activities that I had planned seemed to work fairly well during execution.

However, the longer the day progressed the more annoyed and crabby I got. The books are shit at times and the material that we are supposed to teach doesn't always last the duration... usually it lasts half at best and sometimes 5-10 minutes! Therefore we have to source a lot of supplementary material, which is okay sometimes but is also very time consuming. On Thursday I wasn't in the mood! The book my 12 year olds use is way too easy for them, so I have to supplement there lessons quite a lot. Which would have been fine had the photocopier decided not to break on me... 5 times! Let it be noted that our photocopier is an ancient piece of shit and needs replacing! When I confronted the 'management' about the issue I was assured that it's not the photocopier... it's the paper they buy - it's the cheapest they can find... It's kind of ironic that the excuse they gave me was little more than an admittance to being a bunch of tightarses!

Next up was my first teenagers class... for a start they're supposed to be 'upper-intermediate', and through no fault of their own – they are simply victims to the churn of the EF English factory – they are at the wrong level. There are a number of problems I have with this class, one being the aforementioned book/level situation; the second being the length of the lesson, two hours is too long especially for a bunch of hormonal teenage boys; finally my third problem is the lateness issue – teenagers are always late in Indonesia! I was being observed by my 'DOS' for the first hour or so, but he was late as well so I started the lesson without him. After he had arrived late and another four students weighed in during the next twenty minutes or so each interrupting my instructions or stopping me from providing assistance, my lesson hit a note that was satisfactory! It's not that I don't enjoy the teaching - it's just hard to hit a note with constant interruptions. It may sound like I exaggerate at times - I don't - but I may possibly sensationalise my disbelief at times...

I'm not really bothered about the feedback that I'm going to receive on my teaching. I could pretend to feign some enthusiasm for it... but my mum always told me not to tell lies ;) I really am starting to feel that as long as I don't take my job seriously then I'll enjoy it. It's not that I don't take teaching seriously, I do because I want the kids to receive something for their parents money, it's that the teachers have no say in anything that happens on the educational front. The penny-pinchers downstairs would sell a Business course to a 6 year old if they thought that his/her parents would stump up the spondoolies! A prime example of this – and there is no eloquent way of saying this other than defining it as BULLSHIT – is a chap in my other class of teenagers. I really like the class on the whole because there are a core of girls in the class who turn up on time and do their work without complaining and enjoy learning English. Unfortunately the aforementioned student always turns up late or not at all, if he does turn up it's without a book or pen, and he doesn't make any effort to speak any English. I could forgive his lack of English skill if he were at a lower level, but he isn't! This level of commitment and what can only be described as a lack of ability are all the school requires to progress you into their advanced program?!

I'm whinging a lot in this post because I need to vent my feelings and this is a good avenue to do it. It's a shame for people at home to be reading the random negative shit that is going through my head... but without a doubt – I need to do it! I finished Thursday with no intention of teaching the final class properly, by this time I was teaching my fourth lesson that day and my second two-hour lesson consecutively, with only a ten minute break between them! I played games and let them go ten minutes early. I'm probably going to get into trouble, but the book they have is useless and archaic and their enthusiasm as a class is non-existant. My desire to teach this class has been reduced to zero and my state of job satisfaction that day was reduced to zero... I'm not saying that I don't enjoy teaching, it's just hard to feel motivated with a lack of support on any front by the school. The one saving grace is that the other teachers are wonderful and really helpful. I've actually had a lot of help this week and somebody in the staffroom always seems to surprise me with some kind of good idea or resource that rejuvenates some kind of sense to work through the company's bullshit. It also helps that everybody is aware of the situation and is in almost complete agreement - except anybody in management who seem to be paid to be oblivious or act like a bellend - it's just a shame that they have worked through it enough that they just accept the bullshit as part and parcel. I don't think I'll ever be able to do that. I certainly don't want to accept bullshit!

I'm going to the beach this weekend, hopping on a bus to a small town called Carita. I need to escape Puri Indah for a night and chill out. The one bonus of living in a country like Indonesia is the sheer vastness of the country, there is so much to explore here. In a sense I'm living for the weekend here, it's just that now I'm not working weekends (temporarily I'm sure), it means that my weekend doesn't have to be centred around booze! I can do things! So to summarise my mood for the week... I'm happy at the end of a shit week because I can hop on a bus and go to a nice beach for the weekend! There is also a forest reserve there that is a small patch of jungle that spreads through some hills and has a nice waterfall and presumably some wildlife... I'm going to try and fit that in, that would be a nice way to end the week... I've never been to the jungle. If not though, I'll just settle for the beach and some booze. Time will tell. My next blog post should be about Carita and markedly more upbeat!... Peace

On a quick cheerful sidenote: my 5 year-olds - appropriately called 'small stars' - have decided that 'Mr Lee have 3 girlfriend and they all love me because I'm fat and hairy...'

Sunday, 11 April 2010

The tale of Cirebon and the girlkisser

So my planned weekend trip to Bandung has been postponed for a week... I hadn't left Jakarta since the visa run to Singapore, so I decided that I was going to get away for the weekend regardless. After talking briefly with a couple of the people that I was supposed to be going to Bandung with, there were three of us up for jumping on a train and heading somewhere random. I consulted the lonely planet guide and came up with the idea of Cirebon. It worked out quite well as Ashanti had planned to go and see Monas and the train station we were departing from is a five-minute walk from the Monas monument, so we managed to see that up close as well. I was so happy to be heading out of Jakarta – not that I mind it that much – I needed a change for a day...


Once we had arrived in Cirebon and fought our way through the mass of numpty taxi drivers trying to overcharge us – we got a taxi... and were overcharged ;) Either way it wasn't so bad and we made our way to a hotel to try and book in for the night. We were turned away by the Hotel Cahaya, but were relieved to discover a hotel with free rooms a 5 minute walk down the road. We managed to find the hotel – modestly named the Hotel Asia – and it was a shithole! We booked in regardless to save trundling around the town searching for somewhere else to stay! The room cost about 70,000 Rp (about £5) between the three of us... We left to try and find some food as quickly as we could... and the idea of returning wasn't exactly appealing!



We tried to find Cirebon harbour, which is a little difficult to find, especially considering none of us speak Indonesian fluently in a small Javanese town! :( We finally gave up trying to find the harbour after a trek across the town in some cycle taxis (unfortunately the Indonesian name escapes me!). We managed to find a Chinese restaurant that was okay, although I didn't finish the food, it wasn't particularly terrible... some of the food here can be!



After another trek across the centre of Cirebon – keeping in mind that it was starting to get late – we stumbled across a live band and watched them for a while. They were piss poor though really and weren't helped by the fact that their crowd were all still on their mopeds! Indonesians have some really peculiar habits... We also stumbled across a plethora of nice hotels and started to realise we'd made a bit of a faux pas... after being turned away by another 3-4 respectable looking hotels we stumbled across the Bentani Hotel... and there was room at the inn!!! This was a nice hotel with facilities and a bar. The room was really comfortable and we managed to get a discount for working at EF... about the first and possibly only perk of my job! Hopefully not though...



Once we'd woken up, had a nice breakfast and nipped back to the other hotel to get our stuff... we went to visit Kraton Kasepuhan! This is one of the four palaces in Cirebon and was well worth seeing. It dates back from sometime in the fifteenth century and has lots of cool stuff. Apparently the bricks are glued together with an adhesive made from the sap of a tree... unfortunately it's kind of hard to knock the idea of using what was described as 'tree glue' as the Indonesian archipelago suffers a shedload of earthquakes and this place has been standing peacefully for about 600 years!



I didn't ask the tour guide's name, so I'll call him... Jim! Jim knew a lot about the palace – not surprising I suppose as he is an official tour guide – but he was awesome and explained loads of stuff to us! He also started flapping the wings of the dragon on the King's chariot thing – which was pretty cool! Although the painting below is a picture of one of the King's grandfathers and it's eyes follow you wherever you are standing in the room – a pretty cool piece of art!...



I'm now back in Jakarta, having had a nice and random weekend! Although I've got work tomorrow and I'm feeling a bit too relaxed to be arsed to make a concerted effort tomorrow! :(


Anyway, as there has been relatively little cynicism in this post, I'll include a funny anecdote from last week. I've started teaching a class of sixteen year old boys. They are okay, but I think would try and take the piss out of me, had I not been very firm with them from the start. Last week was my first week teaching them and I was teaching them about cultural differences... which obviously bores them to death... and they don't really have much of an idea about any other cultures but their own really, besides the American influence in their malls. Anyway, one of the topics we were discussing was taboos in other cultures and they had decided that kissing in public was very taboo here in Jakarta... after a little tug-of-war trying to get past one of the cockier boys egos, I asked him if he'd ever kissed a girl (I was starting to get annoyed by his sarcasm)... he replied 'no...' and went bright red – so I asked him how he was such an authority on the subject? 1-0 me...

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Housewives Club!

Last week ended on a really high note for me in general - I had a really good weekend, met some cool new people and really chilled out. I probably had the best weekend that I've had in Jakarta since I arrived. It was awesome. Unfortunately I had a proverbial kick in the balls when I got to work on Monday. I was informed that I'm going to be teaching an Indonesian housewives club... What the fuck do I have in common with a bunch of 50 year old Indonesian birds?!...

I taught them for the first time this morning, they were really nice, but terrible at English... That wouldn't be such a problem, but my school seems obsessed with offering conversation classes! These are classes where you choose a topic to talk about for 80 minutes, although they don't even provide so much as a sniff of material to work with... Again, the ladies want a conversation class, it's just a shame that none of them can converse! Today I talked about the Womens' Institute in the UK for half of the lesson and then had them design posters of their own womens' clubs. These classes are going to be a nightmare because I have to think of topics and create the material myself. I've already had some positive feedback, apparently the ladies think I'm cute and nice. That's a bonus, the new class that I have that is almost impossible to teach, also doubles up as a "Mr. Lee" fanclub...

Rant aside, I did have a good weekend. I've just started the week in a bitter fashion because I didn't sleep much Sunday night and then have had two jam-packed days. I can have a lie-in tomorrow though, so all is not lost, I'm also going to Bandung with some teachers from another school and one of my colleagues at the weekend, so that should be pretty cool. It has also been confirmed that I have my weekends for the next four weekends... so that should be nice! I'm also going to start looking at booking some holidays and things in the very near future, I have some cool ideas and want to see some pretty stuff here...

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Some good, Some bad, Some random...

I've started the week relatively well and have had a nice relaxing weekend. I'm looking forward to the prospect of possibly not working on a Saturday... although I stress the 'possibly'. I've been working until 2pm on saturdays for the last 7 weeks and from what I'm told it works in 8 week rotations. Of course I work for EF Puri and the Director of Studies is really a 'yes man' for the Centre Manager, so if she or one of the other office clowns decides that I will be working another rotation straight, then that is probably what will happen... so I'm not holding my breathe on that one.

Yesterday I went to Central Park, which I thought was going to be a big indoor park, but it's just another mall really with a little patio area they call a park. I was a little let down by that. I did however find solace in having my first cup of Kopi Luwak - for those that don't know it's a coffee made from beans that have been selected and eaten by some kind of cat thing and then shat out, apparently it only selects the best beans - it was pretty expensive but I quite liked it, although I think I'll stick with my usual hazelnut latte as my wallet would probably punish me if I continued to drink those! I also ate some awesome Sundanese food there, I had some squid and some barbecued prawns and they were awesome, although I'm rather partial to Indonesian offal as well and ate some skewered chicken hearts and intestines... For those who're queasy, chicken intestines are actually delicious!

My day went well today and all of lessons ran smoothly and felt relatively successful. I am however alarmed that one of my students is covered in bruises and after reporting it the only response I have received is that the school refuses to take up personal issues with the children. If I see him with bruises again I think I may enquire as to why his dad feels it a good idea to beat his seven year-old son. Unless I have the wrong end of the stick - ironic use of idiom I know! Poor kid. Also another of 'my students' - whom I've met twice - was 35 minutes late and turned up without a pen. His attendance is about 20% during this intake and he has been at least 30 minutes late both times, as well as coming to the lesson unprepared. I'm not happy with him - as I barely even know him - and today was his progress test to see how he is dealing with the current level of material half way through the course. He scored 20%! If this continues and the school insist on progressing him to their next level I'm going to refuse to sign the certificate, and promise to write "Congratulations on your competent level of illiteracy in English", you can quote me on that... if he passes the course I'm going to post a scan of the certificate on here to prove what a joke the progression system seems to be! As yet, I have to take it up with my 'DOS', and so hopefully he's going to be bust down to a level that he is competent in.

Another unusual experience I've had this week has also been with the kid that is covered in bruises. I made him cry... but only because he punched another student square in the jaw. The class of 7-8 year olds are really quite pleasant now, aside from the odd incident like this where kids punch each other or poke each others eyes, even though they are the naughtiest young class I have quite a good rapport with them now. It's difficult sometimes because there are a couple of classes that I just can't seem to get on with. I have a class of 12 year-olds and I'm just bored of them now. They are lazy and the work they have is way too easy for them. This means that I have to provide 'supplementary material' which sounds easy enough but in fact is pretty difficult if you are teaching four lessons! They are quite talented but do the work in about 15 minutes and then don't want to do anything else. I've taken to piling on the workload and trying to improve their grammar etc... I also have a similar problem with my advanced teenagers. The book the school gives them isn't even in print anymore! The school photocopies it and binds it... which I'm pretty sure is in breach of copyright laws?! I don't even use that book, it's out of date and provides no interesting contexts; it's also way above the level that the students are really at, but because the school progresses the students at a ridiculous pace, they soon run out of materials for their own curriculum. I basically just cover the grammar point in the book or find a reading or listening skills lesson. The reason my rapport with the class has dwindled is because they are lazy, late, unenthusiastic and the lessons take a lot of effort to prepare. Effort that isn't appreciated. Which if I'm honest is becoming a little disheartening.

Teaching here, in my experience so far, has it's ups and downs. As our school is a franchise - we socialise with teachers from a lot of other schools, and two in particular. There are a lot of good people out here teaching and everybody has their own gripes and triumphs as a teacher. From what I hear though, EF is just a good company to get a years experience, and then move on to better things. I like the kids, and I'm getting good experiences with business and teaching young learners - which is cool. I'd like to be able to add TOEFL and IELTS, an American and international English exam to my CV and then I'll be happy... ;) I'll still moan like a bitch on here though!