By: Qisthi Shafira
I am glad I have the opportunity to be an Indonesian Language Teaching Assistant (ILTA) in Curtin Primary School, Australian Capital Territory (ACT). This happens because of an MoU between Indonesian Embassy in Canberra and ACT Government. The Embassy in Canberra has to provide ILTAs for primary schools in ACT, and ACT Government helps to evaluate this cooperation each year by monitoring the activities and communication between ILTAs and Indonesian Language Teachers at schools.
I also feel lucky I meet Ibu Deborah Fitzgerald. Ibu Deborah is an executive teacher in Curtin Primary School and an Indonesian Language Teacher there. She starts learning Bahasa Indonesia in Australian National University and has an experience teaching in Darwin before moving to Canberra. I come to school every Thursday morning and experience the school life by Ibu Deborah’s side until 3.30 PM, and I must say — It is the best getaway from uni assignments every week!
Ibu Deborah is very supportive to the way I assist her in teaching Bahasa Indonesia. She also shows me how encouraging and motivating she is as a teacher in the classroom. We have classes from kindergarten until year 6 students, and Ibu Deborah teaches them how to count and how to start conversations in Bahasa Indonesia. I mostly add the cultural part by delivering presentation slides in the classroom and having interactive QnA session in the end. In the end of the day, there is nothing cuter than having those innocent questions from the kindies and/or year one until six students.
The most interesting moment I have is when I show them a video of traditional market in Indonesia, and they innocently ask why the market looks so dirty with many vegetables on the ground. I try not to laugh and calmly say: Yeah — the market is so crowded, and people do not realise that they make the vegetables fall from the table to the ground. Or when I show them the video of traffic in Jakarta (because Ibu Deborah and I think that we should give them the understanding that Indonesia is not necessarily identical with the notion of rice fields and bamboo houses), some of them curiously ask why the traffic is really bad and questioning where the police is. Adding to that curiosity, the students also emphasis, “Isn’t it their job (the police) to control the traffic?” For a moment I want to burst into laughter, but Ibu Deborah, of course, gives me moral support by answering it diplomatically: There are too many people in Indonesia, so it is harder to control the traffic than here in Australia.
Overall, it is amazing to have such an experience in Curtin Primary School. Every recess and lunchtime, I get a chance to mingle with other teachers in the staff room, and they are very welcoming. The students are also determined to learn another culture every week and are interested in exploring more new things about Indonesia. Moreover, the school has an Indonesian room full of Indonesian books and artefacts, encouraging the students to learn more about it. It has angklung, Indonesian uniform for primary students, a photo of Bapak Presiden Joko Widodo, an Indonesian flag, emblem, map, puppets, batik clothes, congklak, takraw, topeng, and other helpful learning media.
Unfortunately, the MoU let me assist Ibu Deborah for only two terms. In the end of my last term at school, year six students organize Indonesian Day from a month beforehand. They split themselves into groups and perform something based on their interests in Indonesia. Some groups play angklung while others try something else, such as Indonesian shadow puppet show (but the story is about Rapunzel!), Indonesian meditation room inspired by some people’s trips to Bali, Indonesian games (badminton and congklak), dress-ups, face-painting, and some presentation about Indonesian coat of arms and national emblem. Even some students are busy practicing the legendary Indonesian dance, Poco-Poco. The participants of Indonesian day are from kindergarten and year five students who take turns to appreciate the work of their fellow year six students. That being said, I am proud of every single of them who is willing to learn about Indonesia and its culture. Thank you to Ibu Deborah for being supportive and being by my side during this program, for all the laughter and stories, and for welcoming me to Curtin Primary School. Thank you to Indonesian Embassy in Canberra and ACT Government who make it happened.
Qisthi Shafira is currently doing Masters in Diplomacy at Australian National University. She is also an avid reader, part-time writer. Most importantly, she believes in the power of Bubur Ayam (Indonesian-styled Chicken Congee) to cure homesickness.