Monday, June 18, 2012

Four Noteworthy Items from the Last Month, and some other stuff.

1.  I finished my first year of teaching

Another landmark?  I know, they just keep coming.  Here’s another one: I now have less than one year left in Indonesia.  The second semester ended on something of a high note.  I gave my fourth and final test of the year, and overall I was pleased with the results.  I don’t think I’ll have to fail any students—though some don’t really deserve to pass—because the ones with poor grades will have done enough extra credit to save themselves.  Also, after we’d had our last lesson, my favorite class called me into their room so that they could crowd around and read me a farewell letter.  It was heartbreaking and sweet.  A lot of the girls were crying, and I got a bit emotional myself and had trouble speaking.  I seriously cannot imagine how rough it’s going to be a year from now, when I leave the school for real.

Also, from Tim’s Data Department:  Now that I have a full year of data, here are some interesting statistics:

·      Having tracked diligently, the final rate of cancelation (defined as the percentage of scheduled class periods that don’t actually take place, including any period where no teacher is present) for the second semester in my classes was 35.4%.  An illustration: the schedule indicated that 11th grade Bahasa one would have 139 effective hours of English.  In reality, it had 91. 

·      My two IPA classes (science track, generally speaking the strongest students) showed an average improvement of 18.7% and 15.7%, respectively, on their test scores from the first to last.  I made and proctored all the tests—the results were fair.  I am giddy about the improvement, which I attribute to several factors: (1) their increasing familiarity and comfort with the test formats, (2) my improvement as a teacher, (3) my counterpart’s excellence, and (4) the students simply getting better at English.  I don’t know which factor was most important, but I’m proud of this.

·      My Acceleration class (fast-tracked to graduate in two years, rather than three) improved by an average of 22%.  They, being younger, started a bit behind the IPA classes, but caught up quite nicely.

·      My Bahasa classes (language track, not very strong students) were a different story.  They did not show significant improvement.  One of them improved by 5.3%, and the other got worse by 0.6%. These classes started at a much lower level than the others, and I can’t say with any confidence that they improved much over the year.  The question is: Why the disparity between Bahasa and IPA?  Without a doubt, my counterparts in these classes were not as good as the one for the IPA classes.  I think some of the blame lies with the students’ mentality—they really do not have nearly the same motivation or discipline as the IPA classes.  Perhaps some of the blame lies with me for not devising a different method of teaching for these students.  Most of my lessons were designed with IPA in mind and then adjusted for Bahasa.  But really, I don’t think it’s right for me to take much heat for their lack of improvement: they have crap study skills.  Perhaps that’s where I should focus next year.

Sadly, I won’t be teaching any of the same students next year, since they’ll all be in their last year of high school.  That means they must focus on preparing for the national exams, which I can’t help them with.

2.  ID-6 finished training and have sworn in as PCVs.

I went to Batu to spend some time with the trainees in their final days of training.  It was good, quality time.  Café-frequenting, temple-visiting, karaoke-singing, discussion-spawning, kite-flying-attempting, playlist-swapping quality time.  It’s really nice to have made some new friends.  To my dismay and amusement, I think I’ve discovered that I’m a natural schmoozer.  I can live with that as long as it remains pure and free of any manipulative intent.

Anyway, the 44 new PCVs (three didn’t make it out of training) have moved to their permanent sites.  I don’t envy them, as I remember my first two months at site being tough.  Not that I wasn’t happy at all, but there was just so much to battle with.  New family, new community, so much extra time, fighting for a reasonable schedule, fighting to establish some accountability among counterparts, and fasting for a month to boot.  It took a few months to find a groove, and I think I found it quicker than most.  So, I don’t envy them.  But if any ID-6ers are reading this: stay positive.  Your experience is colored by your attitude.

3.  Summer plans have been finalized.

Three major things going on here:

·      From June 28th to July 7th, I’ll be in Sulawesi with some other PCVs.  Hell yeah.  We’re going to Bunaken.  Google it.  It looks like any other tropical paradise, from the pictures.  The word on the street is Sulawesi has some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world.  Fantastic!  In all honesty, I don’t really care about the specifics.  For some reason, I don’t feel particularly called by “adventure”.  I am called by the prospect of sitting around and luxuriating for 10 days.  Away from Java, away from site, away from Peace Corps.  Just me and some friends and long days and long nights and tasty drinks and good food.

·      Right on the heels of my island getaway, we’ve got our Mid-Service Training (MST) conference for a week in Surabaya.  That’s July 9th to 13th.  I’m sort of looking forward to MST, but not nearly as much as I looked forward to IST back in October.  Some other PCVs have gotten in the driver’s seat w/r/t the content of MST, which is fine with me.  I may do a session or two there, which would be fun, I’m sure.

·      The big news is that I’m going to be visiting the US from August 6th to 24thBack in January, my dad put an offer on the table: he would pay for a ticket for me to visit the US anytime I wanted to while in Peace Corps.  When I first came to Indonesia, I thought there was no chance I’d go back to the States during my service, even for a visit.  If you have the opportunity to travel, why would you waste it in the USA rather than in any number of nearby Asian countries?  That logic would still hold if I felt any thirst for “adventure” (yes, those are derisive quotation marks).  I don’t feel that thirst.  I’m not on the hunt for novel experiences that make for good photographs and cheap commendation.  Actually, I think Peace Corps has made me somewhat uncharitable to globetrotters who never stop longer than a few weeks in a single place.  What possible impact can a place have on a person who leaves before their eyes learn to see past the shiny parts?  I’m in the mood for something else.

Right…back to America.  It took me a long time to come around to the idea, but I’m looking forward to it now.  Two and a half weeks to be with family and friends and eat and be reminded of where I come from.  I’m very curious about the readjustment and what there will be to learn.  My vacation coincides with the second half of Ramadan and the entirety of Lebaran (the two-week holiday surrounding Idul Fitri), so I won’t be missing much school at all.  In fact, I will miss almost no effective time.  When I get back, it’ll be 10 months to go, and I’m hoping to feel fully charged for a kickass second year of school.

4. ID-4 went home.

With the exception of three extendees, ID-4 is gone.  My group members are now the grizzled, street-wise veterans.  We’ve all sprouted shaggy beards.  I guess this means that the Indonesia program is no longer an infant.  Maybe a toddler.  If my blog were a bar and all the readers were patrons, I would propose a toast to the founders of PC Indonesia.  They started this from nothing and almost with nothing.  I consider myself a pretty autonomous person, but there’s no denying that I benefited immensely from ID-4’s presence here and all the wisdom they had to share.  It’s incredible they were able to achieve as much as they did without anyone to show them the way.  I’m proud of them, and as time goes on I have come to stand in awe of their resilience.  Consider this:  ID-4 came in with far less preparation and with much less stability in the program, yet they had only three early terminations from a group of 20 (and only two of those ETs were by choice).  ID-5 had a far superior training program, but we have lost 10 people to early termination (eight by choice) from a group of 30.  Conclusion: ID-4 are some tough mofos.


Something occurred to me yesterday:  I have done literally NOTHING with the purpose of making money in more than a year.  I mean, I’ve altered my behavior in order not to spend money, sure, but not a single action has been intended to make money.  This is pretty cool, I think.  It’s got to be the first year of my life since early childhood that this has happened.


Unless I start discovering some damn good new music quickly, it’s going to be hard to pull off the 2012 Thought Porridge Awards.  I’ve listened to a grand total of six new albums this year, and we’re almost half way through.  I am open to suggestions.


I haven’t stood on a scale for a while, but something someone many people tell me I’ve gotten too skinny now.  I spoke to my host mother today about changing up my diet a bit.  The main change is I need more food, and it can’t always be the same four things I’ve been eating the last year.  And I need to eat more, even if it’s not as good as I’d want.  As great as Peace Corps has been for me, I’ve made two sacrifices that I have to think about basically every day.  The first is food, which is battling with friends and family for the top spot on my List of Reasons to Visit the USA.  The second is the NBA.  As I said to my friend Matt, if I had realized that joining Peace Corps would mean missing THREE years of NBA playoffs—perhaps the most exciting three years in history to be a Miami Heat fan—who knows if I would have signed up.  Go Heat.

1 comment:

  1. id4 loves you guys so much. thanks for your kind words. we miss you dearly and wish the best for you! i'm sure i can speak for everyone! you guys are so talented, funny, quirky, and such amazing inspirations for your students and friends!! i was so happy to get to know you and build friendships. it was a pleasant surprise, and one i'm very grateful for. keep up ... everything. i miss you, tim! xo