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Monday, April 25, 2011

Students, Students, Students

I changed jobs and moved to the other side of the world because I thought I wanted to teach. Doing the CELTA (The Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) in Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, living for a month with 11 other people at Nugent Waterside, socialising, interacting, learning, laughing, arguing....this experience really cemented my desire to teach.

The CELTA is not easy. There is no final exam, instead you are assessed over the course of a month on physically teaching students. You also have to write 4 essays on teaching methodology that are assessed for your final grade too. The benefit of this and doing the CELTA in Chiang Mai for me was two-fold. Firstly, the students would all be Thai and wouldn't have much experience of English. Sometimes teaching in England, the students are already exposed to the language. This would be less so in Thailand.
Secondly, I'd be staying on-site at the training venue. This meant that we could spread the work and relaxation, not have to worry about travelling everyday and all of the meals would be arranged for us.

The actuality was that the CELTA was ultimately rewarding in experiential terms, but a complete bitch at the time. The pressure to perform well and the intensity of the learning when coupled with the high expectations on the assessments was overpowering at times. The release valve came in the form of having 11 other people around me in the same position.

I have no idea what the TEFL courses such as I-2-I are really like. What I do know is that if you're interested in teaching, the CELTA will confirm it, one way or the other.

So, this brings me to the students that I have taught with EF. I actually had no intention of teaching kids. The CELTA is aimed at teaching adults, but the methodology is essentially the same. The reality is that kids make up aproximately 90% of the market, be that in actual schools or extra curricular learning such as ourselves. The experience has been surprising on many levels.

Firstly, I wasn't sure I really liked kids. The outcome of that is that I do, and understanding some child psychology has definitely helped with this. Secondly, I wasn't sure i could teach kids. I thought I'd respond better to adults, predominantly because of my age. Let me tell you, age is no barrier to teaching. I have taught kindergarten up to adults and each class brings it's own set of challenges. My age has never proved inhibiting for the students or for myself.

The students are amazing. They can be moody, lazy, obstinate and unco-operative. But they can also be enlightening, diligent, inteligent and funny. Their responsiveness is a direct result of how good our lessons are and it's our job to make those lessons as interactive and enjoyable as possible. I don't mean games, games, games...rather educationally responsible activities that are also fun to do.

The downside of being the DoS is that it takes you away from teaching. Because of the administrative duties you have less time. Our teachers have a minimum 23 hour contact teaching hour week (contact hours being the hours you actively teach in a classroom) after this they get paid overtime. As a DoS mine is 14 hours. I wasn't sure that I actually wanted to even be a DoS so at my contract meeting i had a clause written in that said if I didn't like the job and wanted to do more teaching I could go back to my old job! The reality is that I still get to teach, I have great classes and I also love my new role too.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Weekend

So how does a Director of Studies spend his first long weekend off since starting as a DoS in January?....well let me break it down

As it may have occurred to you all from that last remark, I've worked every Saturday since starting at Gading Serpong. This is unusual as my contract allows me to take one Saturday off in four but due to it being the probationary period and that for the last few Saturdays I've been teaching a private student how to deliver a presentation in English, I haven't had the opportunity. Let's just say I was looking forward to it!

 Firstly I will take the TKT test on Monday morning so part of the weekend has actually been spent revising for that. The TKT is a test of teaching methodology knowledge, linked to EF through Cambridge University. I already hold the CELTA qualification but all of our teachers attain the TKT so it's only fair that the DoS leads by example and takes the same exam. I don't know why but I'm quite nervous about it, hopefully it'll go ok.

So Thursday night I headed back home after some food in Salsa, the food court I've referred to in a previous blog. The lie-in on Friday was great. really needed and I probably stayed longer in bed than I'd intended.

My laptop hasn't been working and I've been waiting for a suitable opportunity to go the 30 minutes to the Supermal at Karawaci. Here you can find all manner of electrical help. Be it a new mobile phone (or a second hand one come to that), Pulsa, the local term for mobile phone credit  as there are no real contracts to speak of here, plus computers. You can find laptops and notebooks of all shapes and sizes and along with this there are all manner of shops set up to mend any problems that you come across. My problem was that no power would get to the laptop so I took it to one of the sites, immediately found a guy who had a good grasp of English (although my Bahasa Indonesian is improving, I could never carry a conversation on the technical difficulties of a computer!) and explained the problem. he plugged it in and of course it immediately started working!

Next stop was a trip to see Bhoni. Bhoni is a girl who works at one of the knock-off DVD stores you can find here. Whatever you're looking for you can probably find it. As a movie buff it's a godsend, especially considering the current craziness going on in the Indonesian government and cinemas but more of that in a future blog. Rp21,000 or the equivalent Sterling of £1.75 saw me walk away with perfect copies of Inception, The Fifth Element and Rise of The Silver Surfer. Now it was time for a coffee.

There's a Coffee company called JCO where they give you a free glazed doughnut with every coffee purchased so it was washed down with an excellent hazlenut latte. As a matter of note, the guy behind JCO got his idea from Krispy Kreme doughnuts from the USA. He applied to hold the franchise rights for Krispy Kreme in Indonesia and, after attending the orientation course, decided to set up his own operation!!....They have a great range of doughnuts and sell a box of 12 for about £6.

Having just moved into a new house my last purchase today was a wi-fi router and with a working laptop this would now come in handy. So all of this in hand I jumped onto my borrowed moped and headed back to Gading Serpong.

I had no real plans for Friday night but that all changed with a phonecall from Zia. She's an Indonesian girl I know and she asked if I'd meet her and some of her friends and maybe record an English introduction for a company her friend works for. We arranged to meet in the Downtown Walk area of SMS and an hour later saw the voice recording done and a fun conversation over a coffee

Before leaving SMS Zia asked if I had any plans for Saturday and I told her no. She had to meet some other friends in Blok M, an area of Jakarta, to pick up the fabric for a bridesmaids dress for a wedding she'll be attending in July and asked if I wanted to go along. Any excuse to go into jakarta is fine by me and especially with a pretty girl too. So on Saturday morning I rode the moped the hour or so it takes to get to her house in Pamulang and we jumped into her family's car and I drove us into Jakarta.

We'd arranged to meet Zia's friends at 1.30 but a delay meant this was now going to be 4.00 and so to fill some time we headed to the Jakarta Convention Centre in the Senayan area where they were hosting and Indonesian handicrafts exhibition.

No sooner had we got through the entrance doors we bumped into Roach, a teacher who'd previously worked at EF Gading Serpong but for his second year he'd be working at EF Tangerang City. Roach was there with his girlfrind Alve and her young neice. I guess it wasn't difficult to spot Roach as we westerners do tend to stand out. We spent some time with them wandering through the exhibits before saying our goodbyes and heading back to the car.

Next stop was Blok M. one of Jakarta's older shopping areas and an area that on a night-time can be linked with the seedier side of the city if you know what I mean. We were meeting Zia's friends in a cafe and as with her friends the previous night they were all very nice and made me feel very welcome. Meeting Indonesians is a great way for me to learn more about Indonesian culture but also a great chance to practise my Bahasa.

From the cafe we then went around some stalls looking for a trophy. Two of Zia's friends are getting married and the four of them had a plan to buy a trophy which would be passed onto the next one to get married....interesting.

With the trophy bought we headed back to the car to return to Pamulang. It was totally dark now and this makes driving even more of an experience.Motorbikes and mopeds buzz around you like angry mosquitoes and you really do need to keep your wits about you. Arriving back at Zia's house i spent some time talking to her sister and her mum while waiting to see if the spitting rain would turn into anything more serious.......it did turn serious but not until I was back in BSD. Needless to say by the time I got home I was completely drenched!

It's now Sunday morning and my plan today is some more revision, probably over a coffee and doughnut in JCO. From there I'll head to ITC, a shopping mall in the BSD area where Iwant to buy a bookcase and a bed.

That's how this DoS spent his Easter weekend....

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

EF and Gading Serpong

I suppose I really should tell you about my school.......Gading Serpong is a suburb of Tangerang. I'd like to tell you that we're in the North East of Jakarta or the South West but frankly I have no idea!! Geography and finding my way around have never been a problem up until now, but here in Jakarta where i have lived for two years, I couldn't put my hand on my heart and tell you. I've even looked at maps. I've found where I live on Googlemaps but for some strange reason i just can't commit it to memory.

If it was a huge problem I'm sure I'd come up with a way to deal with it but getting into a cab and saying "Kemang" (a hangout spot for Bule2 in Jakarta) gets me where I need to go.

Gading Serpong is fairly new as a residential area I believe. I doubt it's more than 20 years old and it's a mixture of residential and retail properties but no industry to speak of. It has a golf course with a swimming pool(Gading Raya) which can be expensive. It has a number of schools, both state and private. It has a shopping mall called SMS or Sumeracon Mall which is in the process of being extended. It also has a great variety of restaurants and waroengs where I guess you can find food from most places around the globe.

Next to the Sumeracon Mall is an al fresco area called Salsa where a central stage that plays live music every night is surrounded by restaurants selling mainly Indonesian food, some of which serve beer! (don't forget Indonesia is predominantly Muslim and  drinking is not necessarily the cultural norm here)

In the mall itself, a pedestrianised walkway called Downtown Walk is enclosed with an even wider variety of restaurants ranging from Wendy's (The American burger franchise) and Pizza Hut, to more Indonesian branded restaurants such as Solaria and Dantes. Again a central stage has live music every night and on Mondays you can usually find a Beatles tribute band.

Indonesia is a land of malls and usually each one is subtly different. SMS has mainly clothing stores plus a couple of household/electrical stores, a smattering of personal shops such as Body Shop and a stationers/bookstore called Gramedia. There's a cinema on the top floor (more about that in another blog) and there's is also a well stocked supermarket called Farmers Market.

Driving in Gading Serpong is much easier than elsewhere such as it's near neighbour, BSD. The traffic seems much lighter and the road network spreading off from the main Jl Boulevard Gading Serpong means you always have options if the traffic is heavier than usual. The biggest problem I find is the potholes. Riding a motorbike you feel them a helluva lot more than in a car!

EF is a little over 2 years old and is located next to the Mall, maybe a 3 minute walk away. A 3 storey building, it houses 20 classrooms, a computer room with 11 computers and two activity rooms. The teachers staff room is spacious and my office is, well let's say it's compact, bijous and more than adequate for what I need. Over 700 students are catered for by a dedicated teaching staff and excellent administrative staff.

I'm contractually required to do a 40 hour week but partly through the love of the job and partly through a poor love life, I spend longer than that here! My day usually starts around 9.30 and I find coming in at that time allows me to get  things done before the teachers start arriving. Then, if I'm needed I'm available. I work Monday to Friday and work 3 saturdays in every 4. Depending on classes may day usually finishes around 7.30pm and 2pm on Saturdays.

Over the next few days i'll post some pictures to give you a better idea but right now it's 10.20am and time for coffee and a meeting with the school's Centre Manager. Daron out.

Religious Harmony

The teachers, staff and I socialise together on a regular basis and on Sunday 17th April a few of us piled into a couple of cars and headed into Central Jakarta for some sightseeing. I have Indonesian driving licenses so I loved driving Zia's car for the day but driving in Jakarta is not for the faint-hearted!

We headed for the Istiqlal Mosque, the largest mosque in South-East Asia where we were given a guided tour. opposite the mosque is an impressive Cathedral and the proximity of these two buildings and the harmonious atmosphere that was evident should be an encouragement to all countries.

After this Aries, one of our Indonesian teachers, took us to a great Indian restaurant. Very basic to look at, the food was incredible and not reotely expensive.

Full bellies then got back into the cars for a wander round one of jakarta's less salubrious districts. Pasar Baru is a shopping area not unlike a traditional high street in the UK. A bit dirty, a bit run down but as with everywhere in this city it was atmospheric and vibrant. All in all, a good day out.

New Beginnings

Todays date is the twentieth of April, 2011 and two days ago I completed my 3 month probationary period as a Director of Studies with EF English First in Gading Serpong........but in the words of the Talking Heads song, "How did I get here?"

Well back in April 2009 I arrived in Bumi Serpong Damai, fresh from a CELTA course in Chiang Mai, eager to get started as a teacher with English First.

The last couple of years saw me take on loads of extra responsibilities and in August 2010 I was interviewed for one of three available DOS positions that were imminent.

Getting the position I wanted, I began my probationary period at EF Gading Serpong in the Tangerang area in January and I have to say I've loved it so far and see no reason for that to change.

My plan with this blog is to keep a diary of my experiences that will hopefully interest you and occasionally amuse you too.

So what of the New Beginnings? Well the job change was one of them, but there were others. I needed to find somewhere to live. Previously I had used shared housing with other teachers whilst working as a teacher but I guess it's not a good idea to try to be the new boss and live amongst your colleagues too. So, with the help of our amazing GA (General Assistant) Nisa, I managed to find a comfortable 2 bedroomed house not too far from the school..........furnishing it is still an ongoing process!

Now I have my job and my house sorted, i can turn my attention to sorting out my love life!