I agreed to teach a group of Indonesian teachers for three weeks through a program associated with Ohio State University, which is part of a consortium of universities that offer scholarships to Indonesian students so they can study in the U.S. The problem has been that many scholarships go unused because the Indonesian students lack the English proficiency to get accepted.
So after a three day (yes three days) journey from Chicago to Los Angeles, to Tokyo, to Singapore, to Jakarta, I arrived in Pekanbaru. Flying Singapore Air made all the difference. They offer such gracious, thoughtful service: hot towels, good food with lots of choices for special meals, lots of drink choices, cleaner bathrooms. I could check two bags for free.
I’m working with another teacher, Tara, who’s completing her doctorate and has been a conscientious, kind companion whom I’m enjoying getting to know. We’re at Pesonna Hotel, a new nice, clean mid-range hotel, just 10 minutes from school. The staff is taking extra good care of us trying to offer plenty of vegetarian dishes for Tara and going out of their way to ask us what services we might need.
The teaching schedule and goals of the program are challenging. In three weeks, I’m to get my students to write a 3-5 page article for publication and Tara’s to get her students to make a conference presentation on that topic. We’ve got students for 4.5 hours a day. and the students have an extra hour in the morning and in the afternoon with co-instructors who reinforce what we’ve taught or give students time to do homework.
Our students are young instructors or graduate students. One class consists of English Language teachers and the other has an assortment of fields including IT, economics, Islamic accounting, animal husbandry, banking, dentistry and public health. Some students in the mixed class have very low English so I’m not sure why they don’t take a regular English class to up their basic skills, but that’s how it goes in Asia.
The students have been pleasant and eager. Teaching adults should be easier than kids and while the levels may not be what I’d suggest, no one’s been forced to take this class, which makes a world of difference.