I spent the last eight months doing a teaching internship at a private Muslim school, Bosowa, in Bogor, Indonesia. I feel the need to take the time and reflect on my internship and give a review as a whole.
I chose to go to Indonesia because I realized the need to take a year off of school. A big part of this was because some time last year, I had realized that I did not like teaching history. So when I started to search for internship opportunities, one of my major goals was to figure out what it was that I didn’t like – the teaching part, or the history part. Other goals (internship-wise, not exchange-wise) included getting some real, first-hand teaching experience, handling my own classroom, getting a grip on long- and short-term classroom planning, and getting rid of any leftover nervousness about standing up in front of the class.
I searched therefore for an internship teaching what I really like – languages. Chances to teach German in India came in at second place, but I soon realized that I wanted to go to Indonesia and that that would limit me to teaching English.
Among many opportunities in various cities on Java and Sumatra, I chose Bogor (and they chose me). The job description and interview questions seemed very well-thought out and took into account the fact that I was an intern, still in school with no real teaching experience. They seemed to care about things like teaching methods and students’ motivation, which another interview fell far short of. In additon to this, it payed more than other internships I looked at in Indonesia and it was in a comparatively “small” city, with just under a million people. In early September last year, I found out I had recieved the internship spot.
I got to Bogor at the start of December 2013. However, due to schedualing, I did not start with my own classes until after New Years.
The English classes in middle school (7th grade, 25 students) and high school (10th grade, divided into two classes of 15 and 13 students) were divided between the program’s regular (Indonesian) English teacher and myself. Per week I had three hours (je 40 minutes, block) in each 10th grade class, two hours (block) of regular curriculum in 7th, two single hours of conversation class im 7th, and two times 1.5 hours of conversation class with my fellow teachers. This gave me a total of 14 hours of class a week. During my first few hours, the other English teacher would stand with me in the classroom, and sometimes drop by to observe a bit or take pictures while I taught. He also assisted me with planning, especially at the beginning. Other than this, I was on my own in the class.
Our international program consisted of the two 10th grade classes, the 7th grade class, and a 1st grade class during my internship (now it is twice as big because the new school year has started), making up only a very small portion of the school as a whole. We had two teachers for primary and one teacher for every subject in middle/high school (except for English). Both upper grades follow the Cambrige curricumlum, a two-year program that would allow students to take a Cambrige level test (IGSCE in middle school, AS level in high school) at the end of next school year. Thus, I was teaching the second semester of a four semester program. The material is significantly more advanced than that of the ordinary Indonesian national curriculum, and was for the most part extremely challanging for many of the students.
The especially advanced material for the AS level English Language test in high school proved to be particularly challanging both to learn and to teach. It consists of reading and writing on an advanced level, high language comprehension skills, in addition to knowlege of basics like audience, tone, style, genre, and language features for examining and creating texts. The goal is for the students to be able to master the art of recognizing this in featured literature and (re-)produce it in their own writing. This means that I was teaching to the test, helping my students to understand and correctly answer certain specific types of tasks. Because of the difficult material and the time-consuming assignments, there was little space for me to do more creative, diverse task types – to both my and especially the students dismay. Despite my best efforts at changing things up a bit, students often remained bored with the material and consequently unmotivated. This made for a very hard class to plan and teach.
The IGSCE English Language curriculum consisted mainly of training the four language skills and practicing different types of assignments that would be found on the test over a variety of topics such as telephone conversations, giving advice, and writing résumés. This material left much more room for creative freedom and supplementary exercises in class. Most of the time I would avoid using the textbook at all, as assignmemts were often unclearly formulated. As I was not the main teacher responsible for the subject, I would often have a hand in the construction but never the correction of assessments for both grades.
My only major criticism on the program is in regards to the curriculum. It is not hard to imagine that the material is challenging for students who are coming from the regular program taught in Indonesian schools (I have never taught in the regular program but have seen material from other interns that have, and it does not say much for quality). It makes tests hard, and leads to extra lessons for teachers and students after school, stress on everybody’s part to get exam scores up, material crammed through, and results in low student and teacher motivation. I do not know enough about Cambrige programs to know which alternatives would be more suited to our program, but the one being implemented now is struggling to be effective.
My other two classes were both conversation classes and curriculum-free, giving me both the freedom and the curse of being able to do whatever I wanted with the class, with the goal of making people talk (which can be very difficult sometimes in a classroom of shy 7th graders). In my 7th grade class we went though various unit topics such as English Around the World, Crime and Punishment, and a mini-unit on Germany. We sadly did not get to my planned longer unit on the United States. In my teacher’s class, I wanted to keep the tone as fun and informal as possible. We ended up reading the novelThe Westing Game together (which we sadly didn’t have time to finish, sorry guys!), watching various episodes of Adventure Time and some short films, and learning to use the platform Prezi with many conversational games and exercises in between. Both of these classes had no required assessments.
This kept me pretty busy, especially after my 10th graders were producing texts regularly, almost all of which had to be corrected. My time from 7 am to 4 pm at the office each day was well-spent and often I would stay until 5 pm or so. When I had a particularly large and ever-growing pile of papers to correct towards the end of the semster, I would sometimes stay at the office until 7 pm until my hand cramped up enough to go home. Because I could almost always eat breakfast at work and because of the proximity of the office to my house (a four-minute walk), this wasn’t so bad.
I liked my work (except maybe the excessive paper correcting). I enjoyed instructing my classes each week and became comfortable in the classroom. Working with my colleagues was a particular joy and became a central part of my internship. When there was a team effort to be done, such as preparing for parent-teacher conferences, everybody would lend a hand (although there was always a particular pressure at these times on the homeroom teachers responsible for each class, and there was little I could do to help with that – they deserve a much higher stipend for the amount of extra work the role requires of them). From fixing the printer to Two for Tuesday pizza parties to school field trips, the colleguim is what gave everything it’s flavor. The administrators also deserve high praise on my part. They were extremely understanding about my preferences and needs regarding my internship, helping me with anything regarding my apartment or transportation, as well as very understanding in regards to vacation days needed (for example because of visa issues). They would listen to my input and suggestions in regards to our program. Admitted, they are often plagued by the Indonesian style of inaccurate planning, but it was always enough to get the job done in the end.
My goals of becoming more confident and relaxed in front of the class, gaining experience in general and in planning, as well as handling the classroom were well met. Many of these are just pretty integral in teaching over a longer period of time. Getting to know the students better is a cure in itself for nervousness while teaching. In general, this internship offered me an environment to follow a curriculum but have the freedom to interpret it and bring in my own activities. It gave me a chance to practice teaching where I had plenty of autonomous freedom but could ask for help and advice whenever I needed it. I have become much better at handling the class spontaneously when something in planning goes awry (however there were a few times when I would be asked spontaneously to teach a class, with no chance for prior planning. These I very much did not appreciate, as they made me very uncomfortable and feel more like I was entertaining the class than as a teacher). I regret now not having taken the time to observe more classes taught by my fellow colleagues and in the regular school. This would have offered me a wider range of insights into Indonesian teaching methods. I have learned that I enjoy teaching English, which was one of the most important goals for me personally. This internship has had the important function of helping me realize that teaching languages is my thing – even if teaching history is not.
I can only say a huge thanks and a hearty terima kasih to Bosowa for giving this opportunity. They have made me a part of thier program, their collegium, and thier lives and I will always be proud to say that I did my internship with them in Indonesia.