Teaching at the Yayasan was a decision we were so glad we made. First, the place is and feels like a grassroots organization that is just starting out and heading in the right direction. We could easily tell that the founder, Ketut, a 31 year old local, really cares about the kids. He’s still learning and there’s a lot more to do but the place has so much potential. He’s currently building a computer room and trying to buy a satellite for internet access with the funds he’s received so far from an NGO.
The students are, to say the least, amazing. They come to the Yayasan because they are the lucky ones in their community; they have sponsors who help pay for their supplemental education ($20/month). The students go to regular school in the morning, go home and do chores in the early afternoon or go to their temple, and then come to the Yayasan in the late afternoon. I taught English to the oldest kids (12 girls who were between the ages of 16-18). They loved coming to class. In fact, when once I wanted to end about 15 min early because I thought they’d be tired from a long day, they actually complained and urged me to continue with the lesson. It was motivating for me to come very prepared each day knowing that I wasn’t teaching to the normal bunch of school kids who look bored and can’t wait til class is over.
My students. All but two of them who were at temple that day.
Unfortunately, my students had a lot to learn about English grammar and conversation. Although they were in their last year or two of high school, they had about a 4th-5th grade level of grammar and maybe a kindergartener’s level of comprehension and conversation. From what Ketut told me, the English taught in the school system is atrocious and borderline criminal. The “English” teachers actually don’t know much English at all, and often times teach things completely wrong. Many of the Balinese teachers became certified because they had the money to pay their license “fees”. As a result, you have a bunch of Balinese students learning English from Balinese teachers who probably couldn’t understand the first few lessons in a Rosetta Stone.
On top of their poor English background, the Yayasan doesn’t have an official curriculum for the students (although Ketut is working on developing one as we speak). With the ever-revolving door of temporary English volunteers (myself included), there’s a lack of continuity and structure in the lesson plans, leaving the kids with incomplete lessons that they eventually forget anyways because the lessons don’t get reinforced. All of this became apparent to me during my first day of class. And I had two weeks to try to do something about it. I decided they were going to learn (or re-learn) all the tenses of verbs (past, present, future), pronouns, and adverbs. I was going to drill these things in their heads every single day until they pled for mercy and said them in their sleep. For instance, pronouns. I got a soccer ball and threw it at one of the students, asking whose ball it was and then pointing to another student. “That is HERS” (or ours, theirs, mine, etc.) A few of the students struggled because they were confused at who the speaker was (i.e. when I asked, it was “that is hers”, when the girl asked it was “that is yours”, etc.) But doing this every day paid off by the end of the week when the ball went around to each person in the classroom and no one made a mistake. I laughed when they all yelled out in a cheer and high-fived each other.
This was taken during our daily “walk.” During the walk, the students could talk about whatever they wanted to each other but only in English. If I heard one Balinese word, we’d start from the beginning of the walk and do it all over. The students hated this in the beginning but got “used to it” in the end.
By the end of the two weeks, I felt most of them were able to grasp the grammar concepts and gained more vocabulary for conversation. I memorialized my lesson plans so that hopefully the next volunteer can continue and reinforce what the students have learned. That is my hope anyways. The last day of class, the students all chipped in and bought me a Balinese t-shirt. I was, to say the least, touched by their gift and gesture and felt so grateful for having had some time (even if a little) to get to know such wonderful people.