If I Were to Write a Letter to the World…: SMAN 10 Malang WORDS Competition 2015

I had been late to a fairly important dinner the night before due to a flat tire on my motorbike, and I had spent most of the morning spending quality time with my kamar kecil (bathroom) because I wasn’t feeling my best (I’ll spare you the details).  Needless to say, I walked into my school’s WORDS Competition feeling less than positive about the whole thing.

I’ve had mixed feelings about WORDS from the beginning.  WORDS is a speech competition required of every ETA; we hold local competitions at our schools, and the winner goes to Jakarta with us to compete nationally. It’s an excellent opportunity for students to showcase their English skills, as well as a talent related to the topic of their speech; and the winner has the further opportunity to meet young people from all over Indonesia and ETAs from all over America, as well as tour their nation’s capital.  This is all wonderful, and I am glad my program is able to offer students this chance.

It is also, due to its nature as a competition, competitive.  I competed quite a bit when I was my students’ age through my local 4-H club, often for the opportunity to travel and meet others with similar interests, just as my WORDS participants are doing.  But after trading the title of participant for coach and later joining the ranks of those who dare to call themselves educators, I found myself striving to encourage teamwork and support of others, and disliking competition more and more, especially individual competition.  Here, whether due to Indonesian culture or merely the culture of my high-achieving school, I have found my school to be more competitive than the high school I graduated from, and much more so than the 4-H club that defined the person I was as a young adult.  The culture of competition is one of which I have come to recognize the positive aspects, but to which I still feel I’ll never properly belong.  So I admit I was slightly frustrated when I learned that the one project every ETA was to work on was a competition.

I should have known my students would change all of that.

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Yes, the fact that this was a competition deterred more students from participating than I would have liked.  I chose to include both of my campuses in this competition, because I did not wish to add to the divide between the two campuses I had observed fairly early in my time here, and the policy determined at our mid-year conference was that both tenth and eleventh graders could participate.  So my tenth graders were intimidated by the eleventh graders, my first campus students were intimidated by my second campus students, and no one felt they had what it took to win.  I tried to encourage everyone as much as I could, to accentuate that it would be a good experience even if they did not win.  Some of them listened, and I began helping those few brave souls in any way I could.   

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I was with some of them every step of the way, from the planning stages to practicing their speeches in the week leading up to the actual competition.  Others came to me only for parts of the process, often for editing their speech, often last minute.  I made myself as available as possible, scheduling meeting times twice a week on both campuses and letting student e-mail me their speeches right up until the night before the competition.  I won’t pretend it wasn’t more than a little stressful.  I felt seriously underqualified to assist my students, since public speaking has never been my strong suit, and just as I feel about many other aspects of being a teacher, there never seemed to be enough time to give my students everything they deserved.  But it was all worth it.

I really came to know those students who began working on their speech shortly after I announced the competition.  Some of them brought updated versions of their speech to me three or four times, asking for advice.  Some of them showed up to every WORDS meeting, sometimes just to practice their English.  Some of them were quiet students, whom I hadn’t thought would join a speech competition, and who amazed me with the passion with which they could speak, even if they trembled as their words rang about the room.  Some of them were students who had struggled to greet me in English when I first arrived, and whose English improved incredibly over the course of the month we had to prepare.  I never felt happier with my decision to come to Indonesia then after a WORDS meeting. I couldn’t have been more proud of these students, and how far they had come.

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The theme of the 2015 WORDS competition was “Message in a Bottle,” and the students were asked to answer the question, “If you were to write a message to be received a world away, what would you say?”  As students planned their speeches, they came to me with questions like, “But who will get my message?” and “But what can I say that is important to anyone?” I think the conversations which arose from those questions were far more important than any speech-writing skills I tried to give my students.  These fifteen and sixteen-year-olds were grappling with the question of what we, across the world, have in common with one another, and what it means to be human. The 2015 WORDS competition will come and go, but that is a question which, I hope, they will continue to craft an answer to for rest of their lives.

The themes of their individual speeches varied considerably, with such a broad theme.  One student dared us all to chase our dreams, no matter how difficult that might seem, while a different student tried to find a way to define the meaning of home.  One talked about the importance of maintaining traditional cultures in a modern age, while another challenged Indonesia to stay true to its claims and work towards a brighter future.  Another begged us to always be honest. Family, friends, the effects of smoking… it was all there, and it was all amazing.

Their talents were as varied as their speeches.  They sang, they danced (a mix of modern and traditional that I’m persuaded only Indonesians can really pull off), they performed puppet theatre, and they recited poetry they had written themselves.  One boy even played the drums.  I have seen, again and again, how talented my students are, and I was thrilled that others were able to see just how talented they are as well.

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 Whatever misgivings I had had about the WORDS competition, if they had not already been diluted by the privilege of working one-on-one with my students, were swept away in the joy of watching the fabulous performances given that morning.  Whatever kind of bad days I had had leading up to the competition, even if I wasn’t feeling one hundred percent that day, none of that mattered.  My kids were standing in front of their peers, their teachers, and five judges (two of whom had come all the way from Surabaya), to share their message with the world, and they were doing so brilliantly.  That is what mattered.

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The winner of my competition was a girl I know as Afi, a high-achieving, some-what shy girl who is an avid Doctor Who fan.  She gave an amazing speech about a childhood friend with autism, who had taught her so much about kindness and friendship.  Her friend recently passed away, and I could not help but be blown away at her ability to speak of such a personal topic so soon after it happened. She had many in the audience, including myself, in tears by the end of her speech.  She should be coaching me in public speaking, not the other way around.

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The morning of the competition, I was to give the opening speech for the event.  I might have been more nervous than most of my students—I wasn’t kidding when I said that public speaking isn’t really my thing—but it needed to be done.  I had taken a few notes, reminding myself to thank those on the academic team who had helped me plan the event, and to reserve special thanks for my co-teachers, who had supported me through the entire experience.  Armed with these notes and the short biographies my judges had sent me, I stood in front of some of the most important people in my life and hoped I didn’t babble too much.

But standing in front of my students, I knew exactly what I needed to say.  I gave the necessary thanks and introduced all of the judges, and then looked to my students, thanking them for their bravery and talent. “If I were to write a message to the world,” I told them, “It would be about you.”

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And it’s true.  I’ve struggled to articulate it, again and again, but truly the most incredible part of my experience here isn’t the natural wonders or the foreign culture, but the young people with which I am privileged to work.  That is my message to the world, and I will keep on saying it, as loud as I can, for all the world to hear.

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Indonesia Blog 28: Warning: Visibility May Vary, or, Being White in Indonesia

“Miss, you see the people taking photo of us?”

I look away from the dance performance I had been watching at a Malang teen event, and, sure enough, see the flash of a camera, its dark,cold lens pointed quite obviously at the corner in which I tried to hide myself.

“You did not notice?” he asks, disbelievingly.

I didn’t.  I smile at my student and explain to him, “This happens all the time to me.  I don’t really notice anymore.”  He nods. Having grown up in a university city on Java, I’m not the first foreigner he’s met.  He understands.

And then I realize what I just said.

It’s true that I attract attention almost wherever I go, an experience I have never had before.  Cell phones are whipped out and pictures are less-than-surreptitiously snagged of me as I drink coffee, try to go for a peaceful stroll, wait at a stop light.  Children are pushed in my direction, hoping to elicit a smile from me, which their wide, curious eyes and tiny grins never fail to do, even as I know these innocents are merely part of a larger game.  I am pulled into group pictures with strangers, sometimes—no, most of the time—without anyone asking if it is okay, leaving me overwhelmed and unable to do more than look in the general direction of the nearest lens, praying to every god that has ever populated this archipelago
that it will all be over soon.[1]

There is a reason why this happens.  It’s a reason I cannot necessarily help, but one I cannot afford to ignore.

It’s because I’m white.

There is a word for what I am here.  Bule.  It is an Indonesian word that essentially means “Caucasian foreigner.”  This word is shouted on the streets as I pass by on my motorbike, whispered as I enter cafes and restaurants.  This word can be a source of amusement, and it can be a source of endless frustration.  This word is thrown around by many ETAs—including myself—to tease tourists in Indonesia, in a vain attempt to extract ourselves from its hold.  This word is the reason I wear a handkerchief and sunglasses underneath my helmet visor, covering up every inch of skin that I can—I tell people I do this to protect my eyes and my lungs, but that is only half my motivation.  This word is the one I use whenever I mess up something inherently Indonesian, referring to myself as “the silly bule,” much to the amusement of the teachers at my school.  This word is the reason I keep my head down whenever I walk anywhere alone.

But this word is so much more than my bewilderment at my sudden celebrity status or my lack of comfort as my personal bubble is unceremoniously ruptured.  This word, and my position within it, is heavy with a history of colonization, a complicated reaction to Western influence, and the ever omnipresent white dominance that stretches across the globe.

It is easy to get caught up in the discomfort of being a bule, and to find myself complaining endlessly to friends over skype about the people who reach out to touch my skin while I am walking or riding my motorbike, or the boys who shout “Mister!” Every. Single. Time. I walk into one of the local convenience stores, no matter how many times I’ve told them that I am Miss. It’s easy to become bitter about the way people react to me, to long for the anonymity I used to have on the street, drawing attention only from those who already know me as an individual.  Being a bule can be wearing, even in Malang where I attract considerably less attention than I might in places less frequently visited by foreigners. Ignoring people is the simplest response.  Ignoring people helps me maintain sanity.

But ignoring people is passive, and that is something I cannot allow myself to be.

When people shout “Bule!” it is not merely because I am different, but because I am a different they have been socialized to admire, to be completely and utterly fascinated by.  Shouts of bule are often accompanied by a heavily-accented “Beautiful!” or “Gorgeous!” even when I am disheveled and sweaty and far from any description of that sort.  These shouts stem from the same place as my students’ hatred of their “black”[2] skin.  What is an annoyance and mild frustration for me is an internalized oppression hard at work.

It’s not only about skin color.  Nothing is ever that simple.  The fact that I am clearly a Western woman also has something to do with the way I am treated, but even that is inherently tied to the color of my skin.  ETAs of color often do not receive the same treatment as white ETAs.  Hitam manis, or “sweet black,” is a phrase often used to “compliment” foreigners and Indonesians alike, because simply “cantik” (beautiful) cannot apply to those with dark skin[3].  ETAs of color are sometimes treated as though they are “lesser” Americans.  Sometimes people do not believe they are American at all. So no, being called bule, the treatment I receive, and the oppression it stems from, is not just about skin color.  But skin color has a lot to do with it, and to say anything else is to undermine the significance it has.

I am called out to in the same way a movie star might be, though my name will never appear on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  All this, because of the color of my skin.

I have benefitted from white privilege my entire life.  This not the first time I have struggled to find a way to contend with the special treatment I receive simply because I am light-skinned; it is merely the first time this treatment has been so very open.  I know I should not benefit in this way, and I know it is my responsibility to fight this systematic oppression where I can, even as my very existence possibly makes me part of the problem.

Those are nice words. It’s easier said than done.  I spent much of my time as an undergraduate education student trying to figure out how I, as a white individual, could help combat the inequality that people of color face, especially my students.  Various professors were instrumental in helping me to develop ways in which to fight oppression even from the position of the oppressor.  I spent my senior year volunteering in the after-school program of an African American Community Center, learning from the fabulous women who worked there how to help little girls believe that black is beautiful, smiling every time a kindergarten student tried to pile braids atop my head and told me that I had the “wrong kind of hair.”  I still haven’t figured out exactly what my role must be, but I know it must be an active one.

In the classroom, and in conversations with students after class, I can attempt to play this role. Earlier this semester, during a lesson on expressing hopes and wishes, as I circled about the room, checking for grammatical errors and helping students as best I could as the “walking dictionary” my students think I am, I saw the same idea over and over again: “I wish I had not black skin,” “I wish I could be white,” “I wish I were beautiful white.”  Most of these statements came from my female students, who already feel the pressure to be beautiful first, and the amazing young women they are second; but some of them also come from my male students.

I ask my students, “Why do you wish you were white?  Don’t you know you are beautiful?”  They shake their heads and tell me they are not.  I tell them it again and again, until it becomes something like a mantra: “You are beautiful. You are beautiful.  Youarebeautiful.”

I tell them white people in Western cultures often wish they had tan skin like theirs, and go to tanning salons and use chemicals to make their skin darker, in the same way that many people in Southeast Asia use creams filled with chemicals to make their skin lighter.  I tell them some of my friends at home feel they are “too pale.”  I tell them that all of this is silly and that people ought to see how gorgeous they are in the skin they were born to.  “You are
beautiful. You are beautiful.  Youarebeautiful.”

I know standards of beauty are so much more complicated than this.  I probably shouldn’t even be telling them about how women in the U.S. also destroy their bodies in the hope that they will be pretty.  And it’s not as simple as the old saying, “All the curly-haired girls want strait, and all the girls with straight hair want curly.” Although many white people in Western cultures want to be tan, they would never want to be black.  There is such a thing as too pale, and such a thing as too dark, but it’s still more advantageous to be pale and no one ever seems to be able to reach that middle ground wherein beauty apparently exists…

Sometimes I am able to talk about the complexities of beauty with my students, after class or during meetings for a speech competition that always begin focused and structured, but usually derail into opportunities for students to practice conversational English (i.e. chatting).  We talk about how all over the world white people are considered more beautiful, and should not be.  We talk about how people in Indonesia should see themselves as beautiful members of the world community.  We talk about how, within Indonesia, lighter skinned Indonesians should not discriminate against darker-skinned Indonesians, and how all Indonesians should be seen as beautiful.   We talk about how Americans who are not light-skinned, blond-haired, and blue-eyed are still Americans.  These conversations warm my heart, and give me hope in humanity.  Nothing I have to say on these topics will ever be as important as what these students have to say, as what they believe.

But these are conversations with only a select number of students.  In the middle of English class, the mere hour and a half we have each week to somehow cover everything dictated by the National Curriculum… sometimes there just isn’t the time or language level (both on my students part and my own) for those long, in depth conversations.  I try, but even if I cannot completely complicate their world view as it relates to beauty, I hope I can at least leave them with the message they most need to hear in that moment: “You are beautiful. You are beautiful. Youarebeautiful.”

Sometimes they listen. Later, as part of our review of the conditional form, my students help me to recreate the music video for Emma Blackery’s “Perfect,” a song that talks about the importance of loving yourself for who you are.  I ask each of them to write eight sentences: three practicing conditional, about things they wish they could change about themselves, and five as statements, “about what makes [them] AWESOME.”  This time, some of them write about their skin as a positive:  “I have black skin and I am beautiful.”  Usually, this is not the sentence they choose to include in the video, but it is there, in their notebooks.  I only hope it is in their hearts as well.

It’s harder to create change on the street.  Most of my students speak enough English that I can at least have surface-level conversations on the subject, but many of the people living around my school know little more than few words in English.  And often events that remind me of my bule status happen on my way to school, or on my way back to the dorm for a meeting with students.  My kids are first priority: I don’t have time to stop.

I want to.  I want to find a way to communicate to people as I whiz by on my motorbike that I am not more beautiful or in any way a better example of a human being because I am white.  But I don’t know how.  And so I often ignore that it is happening, because I find my inability to change the situation too frustrating, too disheartening.

But by ignoring it, by letting it happen sometimes without even noticing, I become an even greater part of the problem.  It’s true that I need to learn that I sometimes cannot say nor do anything in that moment to change people’s mindsets.  I cannot have an in-depth conversation with everyone I meet about the politics of beauty and skin color.  Indeed, to claim it is my job to do so implies an arrogance on my part that I cannot allow.  But I have to remain aware, so that my response to the situation is never one of mere acceptance.

Almost a month after my realization at the teen event, I still catch myself sometimes ignoring the shouts, the cameras, and the stares.  I still catch myself trying to wish away the color of my skin and my visibility.  But more and more, I find that, even if most of my more serious conversations remain at school, I am now more able to respond to the attention I receive, at least in little ways.  I’m not sure that these fleeting responses will create any real change, but I can try.

I’m a pasar (market), and as I bumper-car my way through the crowd I catch a little girl nearby staring at me, wide-eyed and fascinated. She pulls at her mother’s skirt, and points to me: “Orang putih.” (“White person.”)

Her mother looks at me, nods at her daughter, and continues bargaining.   The little girl turns toward me again and whispers, almost inaudibly, “Cantik.” (“Beautiful.”)

I look down at her, give her my biggest smile, and hope that someday, when she is a young woman in this world, she remembers what I tell her:  “Ma kasih, adik.  Kamu juga.” (“Thank you, little sister.  You are too.”)

[1] I do want to make it clear that this does not happen every time I leave my home, and sometimes people—especially school children—do approach me with the intent of practicing their English with a native speaker, not just of getting a photo with the white girl.  (They invariably ask for a photo as well, but these are photos in which I am okay with participating.)  I don’t spend all of my time in Indonesia fighting off photographs and unwanted attention.  Just more of it than I would like to.

[2] Any dark skin is described as hitam, or black, in Indonesian.  There seems to be no word for what Westerners might call “tan.” This is more than a lingual phenomenon, and expresses so much about what Indonesians think of skin color.

[3] Hitam manis and the treatment of foreigners and Indonesians with darker skin deserve far more attention than I have given it here.  I only have my own experience, and can in no way claim to fully understand what it is like to be a person of color living in Indonesia. Last year an ETA named Nina wrote an amazing piece entitled “Blacksweet: Grappling with Skin Color in Indonesia,” on standards of beauty in Indonesia and her experience.  I hope you will read it.

Aku Akan Kembali

I am happy to announce that I will be returning to Indonesia next year for a second round as a Fulbright ETA. I most likely will not be teaching in the same school, and I don’t know where I will be placed yet, but I know I will be coming back to this beautiful, baffling country. The adventures (and the blog posts) will continue long after I return (now only for the summer) to America in May. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world right now.

Tempat Paling Indah

I had intended to travel during midterms, to hop on a plane and head off to the far reaches of this amazing archipelago.  I could spend my whole life traveling around Indonesia, and still never see everything there is to see, but I wanted to go and witness at least some small wonder.

But then I stayed at home instead.  I made this decision partially because I have a lot of work to do, what with my WORDS speech competition barely two weeks away, my lessons for the second half of the semester not yet planned, and never-ending laundry to be washed by hand. The thought of traveling started to feel more stressful than exciting, and here in Indonesia I’m starting to learn my limits, to know when I shouldn’t just keep pushing onwards.  But it had also just dawned on me that I had a mere three months left in Malang, and there was so much more I wanted to see, right here in my backyard.  That was probably part of the anxiety that had crept into my enthusiasm.  So I canceled my trip, and decided to stay.

Much of this week has been spent working—catching up on my blog, trying to develop creative projects for the upcoming semester, and generally trying to plan the little time I have left in Indonesia so that I do not waste one precious moment—but, in keeping with this last goal, parts of this week have also been spent exploring some of the sites in and around Malang.

One of those places was Coban Pelangi, a waterfall just east of Malang. I had already seen a few of the waterfalls near Batu, and when my students learned of my love for all things nature, they told me that I needed to go see Coban Pelangi while I was here.  My students’ advice never steers me wrong.  With a week off and some time to spare, I was determined to fit in a trip to the waterfall.

I went with an Indonesian friend, whom I had not yet really had the opportunity to spend quality time with. I already knew he was the perfect example of orang baik hati (a kind person, a good-hearted person… there are a million ways to translate this Indonesian phrase, all of them essentially lovely), and it was wonderful to spend a morning talking to him about his family and his friends, his love of his home city and of photography (which are not necessarily unrelated).

I live for moments like this, the quiet, happy moments of small adventures with people whom I really enjoy.  This is the pleasant side of cultural exchange, the side that offers a reprieve from the tough questions and conversations about education and women’s rights and religion and race that I have almost daily.  I love those tough conversations as well—they are part of the reason I came here, after all—but there are days when my soul needs an escape, when I need a long motorbike ride through the mountains, a short hike through a jungle, and a friend.

Coban Pelangi was gorgeous, even if we were denied the rainbow its name promises.  Coban Pelangi crashes down upon the rocks below from a height of 110 meters (361 feet), into a gorge teeming with lush vegetation.  The mist enveloped us, leaving us sparkling in the ribbons of sunlight that danced through the gorge, inspiring my friend and I to make more than one Twilight joke.

I made the right decision by deciding to stay in Malang for my time off.  Yes, I’m sure I could have seen some beautiful places had I decided to travel, but it could not have compared to what I found here.

Because it’s not the waterfalls, or the mountains, or any of that that makes this tempat paling indah (the most beautiful place).  It’s the people, and the moments I am so lucky to share with them.

Meet Kelas Sebelas, or, The Emma Blackery Project

My students are the best part of being in Indonesia.

Anyone who has met me in real life is probably not at allsurprised by that sentence.  I love teaching, and I live for those moments in the classroom.  Generally, in my eyes, students are the best part of anything.

But really, my students are the best part of being in Indonesia.

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 The students I get to work with every day are some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met. They take around fourteen classes at the same time, and spend their entire day in the same hot classroom with sometimes up to forty other students.  And yet, they are somehow able to have more enthusiasm for learning and living than I would have ever thought possible.  They amaze me.  They are the reason I go to school even on the days when I know I will be in and out of the classroom all morning, vomiting up whatever delicious food it was my American stomach couldn’t handle.  They are the reason I stay up late into the night preparing lessons, accepting that I will be running on instant coffee the next day. 

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 They are the best Bahasa Indonesia teachers Malang has to offer. They are some of the best comedians I have ever seen.  They are artists, musicians, athletes, inventors… and they are generally between the ages of fourteen and sixteen.  

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 I am a teaching assistant in both tenth and eleventh grade here at SMAN 10.  Today, I want to introduce you to Kelas Sebelas (Grade Eleven).  

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Kelas Sebelas baffled me at first.  It wasn’t their fault at all.  My goal is to eventually teach middle school, and the oldest students I had ever regularly worked with prior to coming to Indonesia were ninth grade students.  Consequently, I hit it off easily with the tenth graders, who are in their first year of high school, much like my ninth graders back home.  But the eleventh graders were older, wiser… and still kids at heart.  It took me a little longer to figure out what made them tick, and what they needed from me.

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 They still want class to be fun.  They still enjoy the occasional game, the occasionalgrammar joke, the occasional goofball moment from Miss Grace.

But these are students who next year will be applying to colleges and programs, and generally deciding what they want to want to do with their adult selves.  They are beginning
to come into themselves as individuals, and be proud of who they are.  And they are beginning to really see themselves as part of their country, and their world.  They see opportunities, and strive for success.  They see problems, big and small, and want to be part of the solution.

They want real conversations about real-world topics.  These are the students with whom I did a unit on social justice activists.  These are the students who, when we did a unit on recipes, asked questions about food for the homeless in the United States.  These students are getting ready to take on the world, and they want to be prepared to make it better.

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 But they are still teenagers, full of insecurities and doubts about their abilities and their futures. They dream of changing the world, but are convinced they cannot pass the upcoming Physics test.  They hope to make their families proud, but they worry that none of their friends really like them.  They get nervous, they hesitate, they stumble, and they fall.  Sometimes they stand back up.  Sometimes they need a helping hand.  Growing pains are hard.  

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 I know that every single one of my students is an incredible individual, capable of endless possibilities. It’s part of my responsibility as their teacher to help them see that.  

Thus began what I started calling the “Emma Blackery Project.”  Emma Blackery, British YouTube creator and musician, released a song called “Perfect” in early November just last year.  It quickly became my favorite song, the one I danced foolishly to in the privacy of my bedroom at the end of a long day.  I fell in love with its message, and dreamed of using it in class.

Kelas Sebelas is required by the national curriculum to study the conditional tense.  Conditional is hard.  Prior to midterms, they still needed more review on the topic.  I scoured the internet for ideas—I had already used Beyoncé’s “If I Were a Boy” to help them see the structure used in a real example, and I was hoping for another, somewhat enjoyable way to review—but I could not find anything that really inspired me.  Frustrated, I turned to YouTube for some reprieve, and somehow ended up re-watching the music video for “Perfect.”

It was then I noticed that many of the signs Emma’s fans were holding included conditional statements (“I wish I was thin,” “I wish I was funny,” etc.).  There were even
examples of conditional in the lyrics.  That was all I needed.  I proposed my idea to my co-teacher, and she told me to run with it.

I had students watch the video and listen to the song as part mof a listening activity, and then we talked about the conditional in the songs.  I had the students correct the minuscule grammatical errors in some of the signs, while trying to make sure they understood what was really important about those signs: “See?  People who have trouble using perfect English grammar can be in music videos.  English is weird, and it’s hard for everyone.  It’s not about being correct.  It’s about communicating an important idea.”  It’s a concept I’ve been stressing to my students since I arrived in Malang, and Emma Blackery had given me the perfect opportunity to continue the message.

Then it was time for the students to be the star of the show.  I had each student write eight sentences: “Three of these sentences must use the conditional tense.  These are about things you wish you could change about yourself.  Five of these sentences are normal sentences, or statements. These are about what you are proud of, what you can do, what you are that is special, what makes you AWESOME.”  When they were finished, they could choose a sentence to write on a sign, and create a short video clip using my
camera.  I would then compile the video clips, and create a video during the week of midterms, during which time my Visa does not allow me to be in the classroom. Students were not required to participate, but could be part of the video only if they wanted to be part of it.

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 I was overwhelmed by how many of them were willing to be part of the video, and especially thrilled to see how many were willing to stand in front of a camera and bare their insecurities to the world.  Such an act would be difficult for anyone, but it is only made harder by being an adolescent.

I barely had space in the video to include all of the footage.  Cutting even a moment of their smiles was heartbreaking.  In the end, I know my video editing skills are mediocre at best, but I can’t help but feel that the amazing essence of my students somehow shines through.

This is why they inspire me.

This is why they are the best part of being here.

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 I present to you, Kelas Sebelas, perfect the way they are.