I haven’t shared a lot of specifics about my job as an English teacher in Indonesia, so here is more about what I do at my school.
I work for EF English First, which is an international company that has schools in several different countries. It is one of the top English-language centers in Indonesia, and EF schools are scattered throughout the country. My specific school is in Tangerang, which is a city on the outskirts of Jakarta.
English First is a private facility, so people sign up (or sign their kids up) for after-school and after-work classes. This means that my work day doesn’t begin until the afternoon. Usually, I plan my classes at home in the morning, and then I go into the school around 2:30 so I can round up any last-minute resources before my first class at 3.
Students are divided into groups based on their age and ability, and EF classifies them into its own system of language levels, which are then divided into sublevels. I teach a range of different classes, with my youngest student being three years old and my oldest student being 50. Since EF has its own classifications for the students, it also has its own curriculum for each of the classes. As teachers, we can look at the learning objectives for the lesson, and there are suggested activities to use when teaching the objective, but ultimately we have a lot of freedom when planning our classes.
Small Stars are the youngest students at EF, and while their level of English is on par with their native language, that is sometimes still not a lot to work with—an hour is a long time to keep a classroom of toddlers focused on the lesson at hand. I’ve gotten a lot better at figuring out what works best for my young learners, and it’s all about using repetition and variety in the right places. For examples, we sing the same five songs every lesson, but we never sing more than one song at a time, because the students get very restless if we’re not constantly changing things up.
High Flyer is the designation that EF gives the next stage of learners. Ranging from about six to nine years old, this level is one of my favorite. Many of the other teachers really struggle with this level, but I was able to jump right in, and I immediately figured out which activities worked best for each of my students in those classes. They are able to read, write, and use complete sentences, which makes it a little easier to play interactive games. They also have a very complete knowledge of American media, which means that when we’re talking about something like furniture, for example, we can talk about the castle furnishings of their favorite princesses or cartoons. It’s very easy for me to think of examples that my students in this level will be able to relate to!
Trailblazers are the next level up, and the students are preteens and teens. Their level of English at this point is pretty advanced, which means introducing a lot of the finer points of grammar and some very interesting vocabulary lessons. I’ve already taught units of language relating to extreme adventure sports, accidents and emergencies, outer space, energy sources, and environmentalism. There are some interesting topics, and I’ve even had to do a little bit of reading up in order to teach the lessons. (As an avid recycler, I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t know very much about green energy until I had to teach it a few weeks ago!) Lessons usually go well, but many of the students are at the age where they don’t want anything to do with learning, so I’m still in the process of figuring out how best to navigate around that resistance.
Frontrunners are the teen students who have a very good command of the language. They generally love talking, and the classes are usually very laid-back, working more on conversation of broad issues rather than language introduction. While I observed one of these classes during my training, I have yet to teach one myself.
Business English is one of our adult classes and a little more difficult to teach, mostly because I don’t know very much about business. It’s important to emphasize that we aren’t teaching the students how to be businesspeople, but rather just to use English in business situations. The reason it’s tricky is because there are a lot of business-y words and phrases that I have no idea how to use in actual sentences. (I don’t know how people actually use words like “turnover,” “product range,” and “subsidiary!”) The student textbooks are a great resource for me to learn some of the information myself, and I just need to do a little extra research to be ready to teach the lesson.
Conversation Classes are another option available for adults. There are no textbooks, and no material to teach. Instead, preparing for a lesson involves coming up with a topic to discuss, and perhaps preparing a small activity relating to the topic. These classes are extremely laid back, and the students are very willing to talk. They have taught me so much about Indonesian culture in our talks and are equally interested in hearing about the US. Past topics have included food, movies, the environment, traveling, shopping, and the internet.
In-Schools are morning classes that we sometimes teach at Indonesian schools. These school systems pay EF to send native speakers of English to teach various lessons in their schools. This kind of teaching assignment is interesting because we get to see the students in their actual classrooms, so it makes for a different teaching dynamic.
Private Classes are also offered at EF. Some students just need one or two individual lessons to catch up in their EF course, and some students come to EF for specific purposes, such as high-schoolers who need to prep for the SAT or ACT so they can apply to US colleges.
I’m still learning what works best for me as a teacher and what works best for the students, but I feel like I’m really starting to get the hang of it. I absolutely love being an English teacher, and I still feel so lucky to be here living my dream!
*All photos in this post were taken by Josh.