A lot of people asked me why I wanted to be a teacher in a remote area with very limited facilities. Most of the time, I always failed to give them a proper answer. Most of the time, my mind still wanders in an abstract part inside my head. For me who often needs time to think things over, the best response was through writing.
What does it mean to be a teacher? To be a teacher means to dedicate your life and knowledge to your students. To put your time, heart, and mind in the service of other people. But is it only during the time we teach? I just learned that to be a teacher in this area goes beyond the classroom wall.
To teach something means we have to be updated with the subject we’re about to teach. Not all teaching material is updated and relevant to our local conditions. What I remember from one of my teachers who once taught in Montessori, is:
‘In here, teachers prepare and deliver the lessons based on what students really need to use in their daily life as a minimum goal. They do it through observation in the class instead of preparing and delivering the lesson based on plans and curriculums like most teachers do.’
Being a teacher over here means a lot more than just teach a particular subject like math or science. We need to have a quality to be a specialist as well as generalist in every subject. Not that we have to know everything about anything, but we need to know at least in general aspects the other teachers subject and of course be a specialist in our own subject. Why? Because we never know what and when the student will ask us.
More importantly, we can give a proper answer to any questions the students might throw at us. Not to mislead them, not to leave them hanging, but be able to give a proper answer in words they’re able to understand and that will make the students feel content as well as curious about it. But this is not all, we also need to make sure that what they learn (except for math), is a progressive knowledge that helps them improve and be able to keep up with any changes in the future. A teacher should be able to give quality lessons with a flexible and adaptable knowledge.
Even though I think of it as a foundation to be a teacher, there are also different aspects such as how hard it is to see that my love for history might not be shared by my students. I have to except that every student has their own mind and feelings, and it’s not a good thing to force them to like something.
The hardest part about being a teacher in this village is to realize that everything I say and do is being seen by the students and integrated in their behavior. This may be as simple as a joke or how we use our phone, or as complicated as how to handle a heartbreak or how to socialize with others. All of it is seen and somehow copied in their behavior, as one of the teachers reminded me. It’s not just about teaching school’s subjects, but also about being a good role model, be that in word, behavior, or even lifestyle.
The reason I chose to be in a remote area is that I realized the difference of having an education in the city where teachers are available every time I went to school as opposed to most remote areas in Indonesia (you can read the article ‘literacy as a foundation’ for further information). With what I have right now, why not give the children the same or even better-quality materials for them to study with?