One of the new initiatives for the ETA program this year is a required Teaching Workshop, preferably in collaboration with an English Language Fellow (ELF). In Indonesia, ELFs are associated with the Regional English Language Office (RELO), and their primary job is to teach in various tertiary educational institutions (most of the ELFs in Indonesia are in universities, but there are also those in Police Academies and the like). But while most of their time is spent at their host institution, schools and such can also request a workshop held by an ELF in their Region.
There is no ELF in Gorontalo, but there is one in Manado: Jeremy, who has been in and out of Indonesia for years now, has taught in all sorts of contexts, and is all-around the kind of awesome I can only dream of being. Jeremy was also at our Mid-Year Enrichment Conference (MYEC) during my first grant, so I already had some idea as to how great he is, and it was a pleasure to work with him again.
I’ve assisted in the implementation of various conferences before, but I’ve never been anywhere close to heading one, and so as my two sitemates and I planned the conference together, there were certainly quite a few learning curves. But I think we all gained a lot from the experience, and the workshop ended up being really helpful for all the teachers who attended.
Because my school is most centrally located, we held the workshop there. My teachers helped to plan much of the details, including when the workshop should be held, food (you simply cannot have an event in Indonesia without food), and inviting teachers from other schools to attend the workshop. My sitemates and I chose incorporating speaking into the classroom as the subject of the workshop, and communicated with Jeremy to plan what we wanted out of sessions. Our workshop, cleverly entitled “Teaching Dynamic Effective Speaking” (courtesy of Jeremy), was well on the road to fruition.
There were plenty of bumps along the way: many of elements we thought had been planned well ahead had actually been forgotten on the wayside by various parties and ended up being completed last minute (to an extent, this happens when planning any kind of event, but I do feel jam karet was somewhat to blame), and only about two-thirds of the teachers whom we had been told were coming actually came to the event.
Nevertheless, through some heroic efforts of everyone involved, everything managed to jalan dengan lacar (this literally means “walk with fluency,” and means “to go well”; it’s one of my favorite phrases in Indoensian). We had twenty-six teachers at the workshop, from fifteen different schools. Jeremy’s sessions—which, while they also talked about some of the more theoretical reasons as to why speaking should be incorporated into the language classrooms and what a speaking objective looks like, mostly focused on practical ways to incorporate speaking into the classroom (and having the teachers actually try the activities, a hands-on approach that is certainly effective)—were an absolute hit. While I cannot speak for all the teachers who attended, I can certainly say that my own teachers were very excited to change various things that we do in class in order to further encourage speaking.
All in all, the Teachers Workshop was probably one of the coolest things I’ve been part of since becoming an ETA. As hard as we strive to do so, times when I truly feel I’ve been able to benefit those I am working with are rare indeed. This workshop was one of those moments.
 Jam karet means “rubber time,” and it the idea that time is flexible. Sometimes I can find jam karet somewhat positive, as it means people here are much more forgiving if a person is, say, caught in traffic and might be late for a meeting, than the average American might be. But most of the time, jam karet means that pretty much nothing starts on time, and makes planning anything an exercise in patience.