Cendekia Serpong School: A Lesson in Gift Giving

Posted on July 26, 2012 by

Each time I walk into the lobby I pause and take a touch of aromatic oil for my hands. It’s a little lift to my senses, a special gift I give myself. It helps me get ready for this amazing experience.



Prepared with ‘Gift of the Magi’ lesson plans, we arrived
late for our 7 am class because our driver overslept…thinking our teacher would
have started without us, we were surprised to be ‘on’ the moment we walked into
the classroom.  The 12th grade
students were very polite and shy, and as Amy and I began our lesson, we were
pleased that our teaching styles meshed so nicely and things moved along
seamlessly.  The teachers are fascinated
with our collaboration, and share their desire to learn how to work with each
other as well as their frustration with unsuccessful attempts.
Indonesian kids are similar to Americans in many ways, except these kids spend many more hours at school – class begins at seven, and ends
after three.  During Ramadan students
wake at three, pray, eat and arrive at school by 6:30 am.  We ignored the yawns and listlessness of some
students, and empathized with what they dealt with on a daily basis.  We learned that 3,000 students apply for
admission, and only 120 are accepted.  It
is a great honor to attend this school, and many students use government
scholarship for tuition.  Teachers refer
to the program as ‘career studying’.
Students who don’t pass are expelled – there are no second chances.
After two classes, each videotaped by the teacher, we
switched to 11th grade English and our presentation on the US and
our state, schools and families.  The
students asked more interesting questions about American culture, boy/girl
relationships, the CIA/FBI, what ‘Sin City’ was, and the American Dream.
Several classes have told us they know America is a ‘superpower’, and that they
can earn scholarships to study in our colleges.
They have such hope for their futures.


Later that evening we were invited back to school to literally
‘break-fast’ with some teachers and the dorm counselors.
  As we arrived, we were excited to see the male
students out of uniform and participating in an ‘Iron Chef-style’ cooking
competition using bananas, chocolate and cheese.
  Girls could only gather around and express
their frustration with their techniques.




Just like American students, Indonesian kids don’t love
their cafeteria food.
  Big blue coolers
filled with endless amounts of rice supplements the canteen offerings.

A quick tour of their dormitories revealed the stark reality that they
live far from home.


We ended our visit with a traditional ‘break-fast’
meal.  Interestingly, we start with
sweets (dates, coconut drink, steamed buns with rice paste), and end with
savory (chicken, rice, and fresh vegetables).
Sitting on the floor, eating new foods and watching our hosts so adept without
utensils, we reveled in the gifts they were sharing with us.
Each day in Indonesia concludes with a mixture of exhaustion and
admiration; navigating this extraordinary culture takes a great deal of energy,
a humbleness and willingness to learn from our mistakes, and an openness to
receiving the gifts of knowledge and awareness.

We process our similarities and differences, laugh at ourselves, and ask
a multitude of questions in our quest to bring our disparate worlds
  I am so grateful for the
honesty and candor of the people here; they are giving me a priceless gift that
I hope will help me enrich my global classroom in America.



Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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