Never before have I valued my high-school’s almost prison-like atmosphere. That is, until I began working for a regular school system in Jakarta.
As someone who always tries to find best practices and appreciates practicality, it amazes me that 1.) my crappy little school system in PA actually did some good things, and 2.) Indonesia needs wide-spread change in the education system as well.
In the middle school and high school I work for, students don’t have lockers…because they don’t change classes. This reminds me of my elementary school days where your desk was sacred because everything you needed for the day was stored inside. With the exception of gym and the arts, all the other subjects are received in one classroom, with all the various teachers coming to the students.
I pretty much reject this idea. This creates an environment of ownership in the classroom that doesn’t belong to the teachers, but to the students. Subcultures form unnecessarily from this arrangement. Students feel that this room is an extension of their home, and being teenagers, they don’t treat the property with respect. They mark up their wooden desks, leave trash and wrappers everywhere, (because there is no actual cafeteria…with students allowed to eat in the rooms), and they don’t end their conversations when a teacher enters a room. There are also between 36 and 41 kids to a class instead of the 20-25 I had experienced years ago.
Timing of the classes are about the same with roughly 45 minutes, and 8 or 9 periods a day, but the organization is crazy. I rather liked my old system of 42 minute classes with a 3 minute break in between. It was just enough time to get to your next class and go to the restroom…or maybe stop at your locker if it was on the way. My Indonesian students have a few classes back to back and then a break of somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes depending on the time of day. Because of this, students are always asking to use the restroom because they don’t have time to in between classes, and by the time the end of third period in a row is half-way finished…the kids have already mentally checked out, because they know a larger break time is coming up.
I also find that having the students stay in one classroom all day lowers their attention span, diminishes any ‘sense of urgency’ they may have had and takes away from their education, considering how many minutes are lost or wasted between the bell always ringing late and teachers rushing to get to their next class.
Being in the room all day makes the kids numb to certain things, feeling as though the next teachers to come is someone who is over their house for a visit…and not necessarily that important.
Now, don’t get me wrong…I’m well-liked by the students, but it still takes me a little while to start the class to really get going. Perhaps before my year is over, I can make some slight improvements in my own little way. I may not be able to change the country, but I’ve got 1,000 students in one school complex that will be exposed to a Western woman’s ingrained sense of efficiency. I feel that only positive effects can come from that.