What I learned in 2012 – Yitzha

My 2012 Ride Icha

Wow! I can’t believe that this year is almost over! I felt like I’ve only just begun actually. It has been such a full and amazing year for me. I literally started the year as a little Kindergarten teacher who was just starting my PLN and eager to learn a lot.

Well, I haven’t done a lot really, but what I did this year was to be willing to try and learn new things. After joining #teachmeet at the end of 2011, I certainly was ready to take on more challenges. I started my class blog and have been having fun with it. My class has joined some projects —  having skype session with classes from Australia and then we also did a Voicethread project together.

This year with the help of the amazing Vicky Loras and Ceres Pioquinto, I had the chance to write for ETAS Journal for their spring 2012 Issue, and I also had the honor of being featured in one of the #ELTChat podcasts for their 5th episode, thanks to James Taylor.

I think one of the highlights for me this year was being able to present in a conference. My first ever was at the JELTA Conference in Jakarta this September where as nervous as I was, I was very happy to have some of  my PLN around me including the lovely Barbara Sakamoto, Adi Cerman, Marlene Yosefien and Trika Simandjuntak. Marlene and Trika had also helped me to introduce iTDi among the participants of the conference. Now that’s the true power of PLN in my opinion J . I was also very lucky to have the chance to attend and stood by Barbara’s side as her co-presenter along with the incredible Marco Brazil at the 2012 JALT Conference in Hamamatsu, Japan. Not only that, I also got to meet and learnt from a lot of incredible people! It was a wonderful time indeed!

Oh and one other thing that I’m proud of; I have finally been able to present  material at my school’s curriculum meeting! For somebody who just started to learnt about Montessori and in a school where the standard has always been set, it was a major achievement for me! J

I have to admit that my class has been a major force in my life; personally and professionally. My students have been the greatest muse any teacher could ever hope for. And if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have the urge to constantly learn and grow, so I could be a better teacher for them. Another muse in my personal development is of course my PLN, especially here in iTDi. I have never thought that being active online could give me so much! Not only for my teaching but also for my self.

So my plan next year is to continue what I’ve been doing — but raising the  bar even higher! I’m already excited about the  iTDi workshop this coming February in Semerang, Indonesia, because I’ll get the chance to share and hopefully inspire teachers here to always crave for more personal development and notice the power that PLN could give you. I’m very optimistic for the coming year and to that I’d say : Welcome 2013! Aza Aza Vivacity! ^_^

How important is lesson planning? – Yitzha Sarwono

Prepare for the Unexpected

Detailed lesson plan? Who needs it? Well, maybe we all do. Having a detailed lesson plan can really help you not only own your lesson, but also own your classroom. The first thing you have to realize, though, is that it’s all about outlook and outcome. When you have everything planned down to the finest details, you can be sure that the outcome can at least be something you’ve expected.

Birthday party, grocery shopping, holiday trip or wedding day: we all have prepared something in our life, right? Planning is something that comes naturally in our life. Planning your lesson involves using some of those same skills —  except that with a classroom lesson, your goal is to make sure the lesson is learned well by your students.

When planning a birthday party, you not only make sure there’s enough food for all, but also that the food is something everyone will enjoy: Not too spicy, not too oily, delicious and easy to digest during the fun busy moments. Got it? Now, apply this same idea to your classroom. Make sure your lesson is prepared well enough to feed everyone in class so that they all come out full of knowledge and eager to come back for more. To achieve that you’ll need some serious planning, not only carefully but also completely as you have to prepare for the unexpected. Acquiring this skill takes thinking and practice to own, and it won’t happen overnight, but it is a skill that will help define you as a teacher.

When my lesson has been laid down to the very details, it means not only have I taken a giant step toward owning the content I’m teaching and the methods I’m using (an important thing for me) but also that I can feel secure when I open the classroom door. I have brought my umbrella should things go wrong – and they will go wrong.

I teach kindergarten, so things can go way beyond unpredictable and right out of control sometimes because kids come in with a variety of swinging sleepy cranky moods. This is why I always make sure I have some topic-related fun back-up activities planned in case I need to get learners back on track.

Speaking of which, one time I planned a picnic on the playground to teach my class about adjectives. Of course it rained all day. Detailed planning allowed me to be able to switch the activity with some twists here and there to get my lesson done indoors without panic. This was my umbrella.

To plan your own classes down to the tiny details, here are some questions worth lingering on:

Topic of the lesson:

  • What do you  want students to learn?
  • How do you want them to understand?
  • What questions might pop out along the way?

Concept to be applied:

  • What are the skills I want my students to grasp?
  • What do I need them to understand more and first when I can’t get them to get all?
  • What do I want them to take away when the class is over?

Back up plans:

  • When I’m running out of time which ones could not be omitted and which one I could skip?
  • What activity to prepare should my plan not go well?

All in all, it all comes down to what you have in your bag. If you keep these things in mind, prepare adequately, and come in with the positive outlook, then things will be fine. With the right planning, you’ll know what kind of fun you can expect.

When you have your umbrella you can surely dance in the rain! Have fun planning everybody!

Staying healthy and motivated – Yitzha Sarwono

Being the Super Hero and Finding That Pot of Gold
Motivation is the urge and will to do things. It’s the crucial element in setting and attaining goals and you can influence your own levels of motivation and self-control.  Motivation to me is one’s state of mind. I mean, everyone has their own personal idea on to what motivate thems. In  education, being motivated is pretty crucial because we are required to motivate our students, too. How would we do that if we can’t do it to ourselves? We need to find our own pot of gold before providing the rainbow for our students to reach.

Maintaining your motivation is a long-term effort and starting out can be tough and rough, but with discipline and consistency you’ll eventually reach the point where staying motivated only requires minimal daily maintainance: a simple matter of learning to make the right choices at the right time. Of course everyone is different and maintaining motivation requires knowing yourself, but here are some things that work for me.

Have Goals and Rewards
You can’t anyone succeed if you never set goal.  Give yourself something to achieve, but be realistic about it.  Start with small, bite-sized tasks at first. Then when you’re there, treat yourself to something nice; A bar of chocolate or new shoes always works fine for me.

Make a Den
Whether it’s your classroom, a corner office or a home office, you need a place specifically to  recharge.  Once you’ve decided on that place, use it like the dickens. Whenever you’re there you’ll feel motivated because of that space and your mind will be creative within those boundaries.

Retreat, but Never Surrender
Never give up on projects or problems — and especially not on students. Put them aside for a while, but always come back to them. Dealing with things will not only build your confidence, but also your colleagues and students’ confidence in you. Let me tell you a secret: My papa used to tell me to see myself as some sort of super hero to my students, so if I can’t defeat the evil in me, the world will not be a safe place to them. It may sounds silly, but for me it works!

As far as staying healthy, I do believe in good night sleep. Having a proper rest always does good to your body. Good food is of course important as it’s what fuels your activity. Also, don’t forget to drink lots and lots of water. I carry a 700ml water bottle to class and actually have inspired my students to do the same! And of course, lay off sugar as much as you can.  In  can be a good boost in the morning, but it can bring you down just as fast when it wears off.

As important as it is to be healthy, it is also essential to be happy, so stop moping around and go out and look for your rainbow! Figure out what you want and start being who you want to be. There’s power in the process.

Encouraging student collaboration – Yitzha Sarwono

Aza Aza Collaborating!

Language is the most amazing thing we can learn because we can apply it directly to our daily life in every way as we communicate, socialize and collaborate with others. Since the purpose of learning a language is to communicate, it’s basically all about collaboration.

When students work together, they learn from each other and with assistance from their teacher and peers, extend their interaction and can even take their learning beyond the classroom. In collaborative learning, though, the teacher’s role is no longer a deliverer of material but rather a creative facilitator playing more demanding roles.

Some of these roles include:

  • providing a comfortable setting for students
  • making sure we put students in groups that cater to their abilities.
  • ensuring that tasks are divided up in ways that are comfortable and manageable because when students feel comfortable they have the will to work better.
  • reminding students that discussion and critical thinking are the ultimate ways of mastering the material they are working on.
  • not interfering with the outcome

With experience, teachers can find ways to make collaborative tasks better.  From my own experience I have learned to:

1. Assign tasks that are suitable for collaboration — tasks that are right for their ability and which are doable. As much as we want to push students to their limit, we should also make sure that we do not push them over the edge — especially if it’s the first project a group is working on together.

2. Encourage groups to distribute the work equally. Of course the teacher can assign roles to make sure of fairness, but it is better sometimes to let them work this out  themselves, while the teacher observes.

3. Stage the first group activities in ways that build swift trust among group members so they can get to work on the task to attain useful results nicely.

4. Encourage Interaction so that as students do a task, they develop and build a good community feeling among themselves.

Using language is a social activity and if learning really is a social process, then learning how to collaborate is essential. Through collaboration, students not only discover new information, but also expand their horizons and develop themselves at the same time as they work together and push themselves to find ways to finish a task collectively.

In the end we need to make both teachers and students see that it’s not just about completing a task, but also about building a community.

Aza Aza Collaborating!


Error correction – Yitzha Sarwono

What are language errors? Well, the definition may be a bit blurry just as it may be a bit technical, but we can say they’re often mistakes people make, things that deviate from standard grammar.

For early learners in my classes in Jakarta, Indonesia, one common error that I’ve seen involves the use of verbs. It happens because they haven’t got the full grasp of the language yet. For example, they’ll say “I don’t writing a book” or “I go to hospital yesterday”. Another thing that I normally meet in my class is the mistake involving the difference between it’s confusing and I’m confused or it’s interesting versus I’m interested. This leads to mistakes like I am boring today which is something many of my students have said when they try to express how they feel. They don’t even realize the mistake they’re making or what they’re really saying by making it.

So how do I deal with such mistakes? I always tell my students that they’re learning English because they want to learn the art of communicating in English, so in order for the other party to understand what they want to say, they have to make sure they have said the right thing. Therefore whenever I find an error in one of their sentences that causes a difference in meaning, I write it on board and ask them to translate it with me from Bahasa Indonesian into English. I tell them that in order to know whether they have said what they intended to say, it helps to translate it into their native language: that way they can fully understand where they went wrong. It works very well for my class, because then we can laugh at our mistakes.

As teachers, no matter what subject that we teach, we will see students making mistakes in doing their tasks. In English, you know that the errors can lead to different understanding on what is being talked about. Wrong use of words or grammar can surely lead to miscommunication. That is why it is essential for students to learn the proper use of English – because the purpose of learning a language is to understand the art of communication. But do I get upset about their mistakes? Surely not. That is the beauty of learning. As someone once said: “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”