In which Icha is Interviewed!
I was alerted to Brad Patterson’s PLN challenge as something accessible for me to participate in, versus yet another “cool Twitter thing” to watch from the sidelines, when Sandy Millin asked if I would like to be interviewed. Having seen her fantastic write-up of her interview with Naomi, as well as having spent a not-inconsiderable quantity of minutes interacting with her on twitter, I jumped at the chance! Of course, once an interviewee, the next step is interviewer! For this aspect of the challenge, I was lucky enough to nab Icha, @yitzha_sarwono, who agreed to do a Skype interview with me this fine Sunday evening, the 5th of June, at 1900 Indonesia time.
It was when I first participated in a Twitter #eltchat discussion that I was first alerted to Icha’s Twitter presence and was most excited to discover that another member of our PLN (although at that time I did not know that “PLN” was what this Twitter community is!), like me, also lives in Indonesia. Between then and now, we have enjoyed many a conversation on Facebook, where we subsequently connected, thus I jumped at the opportunity to use Brad Patterson’s PLN Interview Project as an excuse to learn more about my fellow Indonesia-dwelling Tweeter!
Icha’s full name is Yitzha Sheilla Elmeira Sarasati Sarwono but everyone calls her Icha, which came about because when she was very young, her rendering of “Yitzha” came out as “Icha” and the name stuck. (Indonesians seem often to have lovely, elaborate names and I was excited to discover Icha’s full name and to manage to pronounce it reasonably correctly after having her type it on screen and read it back to me! **A tip for anyone thinking about teaching here: It is a fairly safe bet that the series of names appearing on your attendance list for each student are not what they want you to call them!**)
Well, without further ado, let us move on to the five “core questions”.
1. If your students were to label you with three adjectives, what would they be?
At the moment, Icha teaches in KIDEA Kindergarten, in Jakarta. Her students here would describe her as enthusiastic, cheerful (and playful!) and patient.
Prior to teaching pre-school kids, Icha taught teenagers. Back then, her students would have described her as patient, creative and informative. “I always tried to go beyond the lesson, bring more books, materials and sources into the classroom so that my students could understand more.
2. What would we find in your refrigerator right now?
Icha’s fridge would seem to be an ideal one to stage a raid on: it is full of good stuff. “There’s chocolate milk, hi-calcium veggie biscuits, cheese, condensed milk (because I was going to make pancakes this morning but didn’t get round to it!), leftover pastries and cake from last night, home-made frozen yoghurt (for my class tomorrow, we’re doing a project…), fruits, sugar, sweet tea, face masks (something for the beauty haha!) and the usual stuff like eggs and baking soda too.”
3. If you weren’t a teacher, what might your profession be?
Icha found this question hard, as she has no experience of other jobs, having been a teacher “forever”. “I don’t know, probably something to do with books, or writing, or be a librarian. Or maybe own my own coffee shop or deli or something–I’ve thought about doing that when I retire from teaching.”
(Having seen photos, on Facebook, of drinks and food that Icha has produced, all I can say is I would love to be a regular customer at her coffee shop/deli!)
4. What do you find most difficult about the teaching profession or what has been your most difficult class as a teacher?
“Umm, the transition from being a course teacher, teaching teens and adults, to working with pre-school kids. My position with my employers changed to focus on pre school education. That was kind of hard for me at first because it was so different: You have to handle children very differently and speak much slower.
As to the most difficult class she’s had, Icha immediately described a group of 12 boys all aged 11 and 12 years old, who she had to teach twice a week, on Tuesday and Friday. On Friday it was last lesson of the day, starting at 7.30pm. Apparently 11 and 12 year old boys can be a bit of a challenge last thing on a Friday – who would have thought! (I am sure many an EFL teacher will sympathise with this!!) Pre-school kids are a breeze in comparison.
5. What was the last book/movie you read/saw, and what have you seen/read too many times?
Last book: Icha reads a lot of childrens’ literature as part of her job. Most recently, she has read Silverlicious by Victoria Kann, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, or The Ugly Truth, by Jeff Kinney. She preferred Silverlicious, as it is “nice, simple and has good pictures. Children, especially girls, can relate to it easily.”
At the moment she is reading La tahzan by Aidh Bin Abdullah al-Qarni. In Arabic, la tahzan means “don’t be sad” but Icha is actually reading an English version of the book. She told me, “This is an Islamic book about being happy, which quotes a lot from Al-Qur’an and teaches you how to approach things in a different way and cope with your daily life,about how every cloud has a silver lining and why you shouldn’t be sad. Sadness is the purest emotion ever, knowing sadness means you appreciate your happiness even more.”
Icha is a girl after my own heart: She likes Enid Blyton and loves Calvin and Hobbes, though isn’t keen on comics in general. Icha explained that she “couldn’t choose between being Calvin or Hobbes. Calvin has some great punchlines but Hobbes is so nice and wise…”
The book that Icha has read too many times is “Toto Chan – the girl by the window” by Tetsuko Kuroyagi. “It tells about a girl in Japan during WW2, who was rejected by many schools due to her uniqueness and then finally she finds this school which was very different. The story is really touching, I cried during it and it’s a true life story. Tetsuko is a teacher now too. It made me want to be teacher.”
The last movie that Icha watched at the cinema was “Inception”: “I’m amazed by it, it kind of made me a little bit conscious of my own dreams, because, supposedly, in your dreams you are building on trying to do something, so whenever I sleep i try to remember my dreams in the morning and try to connect them to things i have done. I also always try to find my own totem just to know im not dreaming.
If movies seen on TV count, then Icha watched “Alpha Dog” last night and says “it’s quite shocking with the drug thing but then again I shouldn’t be shocked because such things happen in the world. It’s a true story so I was like “wow”!
The movie Icha has seen too many times: “My Best Friends Wedding” and “The Sixth Sense”.
“The Sixth Sense, because I think its brilliant, the ending is unpredictable and Bruce Willis is great in it; I always cry when I found out he’s dead. I think it’s scary but not too scary. The perfect movie!
“My Best Friend’s Wedding, because I like watching romantic comedies and its the best one I have found so far, because in the end, it’s not all happily ever after but still nice. I love Cameron Diaz in it, running around and Julia when she cries on the boat knowing she’s lost him and the scene where they are all singing “Say a little Prayer”.
How long have you been using Twitter and how did you get in to it?
Icha has been using Twitter since 2009, when her friend told me about it. She finds it more amusing than Facebook lately. “You have to be smart to post on Twitter because you only get 140 characters, that’s what my friend said! Someone else also said, Facebook is for people you went to school with while Twitter is for the people you wish you went to school with! I found #eltchat earlier this year. I had already followed Barbsaka, Marisa and Chuck Sandy and saw them posting about eltchat so I was interested to know more about it. One day I joined and found it engaging, something good to do every Wednesday. So I try to follow the discussions, even if I have to be doing it from my phone, when it’s easier to just re-tweet rather than actually comment.”
Did you know?
Icha is one of the Indonesia Partners for Indonesia’s branch of the Design for Change challenge, about which she told me: ”It’s a challenge for a group of five children aged 8-14 years of age. The aim is for them to design changes in things they don’t like to see around them. I have a team and my role is helping the team, making sure things are ok. Most of them are teachers or working education, so they get the kids to join the competition. I have to report to DfCworld and every couple of months we have a skype meeting. We also have a Facebook page, ‘Design for Change Indonesia’.”
To round off with, I asked Icha if there was anything else she wanted to add, whereupon she treated me to an in-depth analysis of the problems of the Indonesian education system! In a nutshell, she thinks it is too much of a political football and that ministers should hold off from changing the curriculum too frequently, so that teachers have time to get to grips with it and implement it properly. She also thinks students’ fluency should be encouraged as well as their accuracy, as the problem with too much emphasis on the latter is that the students are afraid to speak up. Icha had a lot more to say than I could possibly do justice to in a simplified summary like this, but as this interview write-up is already over 1500 words, I had better leave you with a cliffhanger and the suggestion to connect with Icha and find out for yourself what she really thinks!
Thanks, Icha for a most interesting discussion, and I look forward to meeting you in Jakarta in late September!