Speaking with a group of future language teachers
Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet with a class of undergraduate language teaching students here at UNNES – they were in a class called “Teaching Indonesian to Foreigners.” I was invited by their teacher, and my language tutor, Ibu Wati, to talk with them about American culture to help facilitate their understanding beyond what they know from Hollywood movies and television shows (one favorite that was mentioned was The Blacklist – can you imagine if that’s all you knew about American life!?).
After a brief introduction and some quick observations from me about what I have come to see as some key differences (e.g., food shopping, being a pedestrian, the daily schedule) between Semarang and Rochester, I opened the floor to discuss their questions. And, I was intrigued by what they wanted to know about:
- What are friendships like? – We talked about when and where friends gather, same and mixed gender friendships, and book clubs!
- What is school like in the U.S.? – This led to an interesting discussion of class schedules, local control/design of curriculum, relationships between teachers and students.
- What’s a good example of a “Bell Work” exercise? – This one surprised me, but the young woman had done research about American schools online and found this term and wanted to understand how bell work could be used in her future language teaching classes. I shared how I used bell work activities when I was a middle/high school teacher, and we talked about the importance of settling secondary students into a content classroom after the chaos and excitement of a passing period. Just the idea of the ringing bell for a new period was something that needed to be explained. And, it led to this next question…
- What about time? – This student wanted to understand why Americans were so concerned about time, starting on time, being on time, what time it was. Time is thought of differently here, and early on in my stay, I got acquainted with the concept of “rubber time.” Puji warned me during that first ride from the airport in September that I needed to “be flexible and patient,” and time has been one area where her advice has been very helpful to me in Indonesia.
- What celebrations do you have there? – A very timely opportunity, given that it’s Halloween. 🎃 We talked about summer bbqs, Thanksgiving as an eating, family, and football 🏈holiday, the madness that is Black Friday, Santa, and the way Americans can turn even the most religious or innocuous celebration/holiday into an occasion to consume large amounts of alcohol (case in point, St. Patrick’s Day!).
It was a great cultural exchange and the stuff that a Fulbright is designed for: to create connections in a complex, changing world and to foster mutual understanding.