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Monday, January 26, 2009

Teaching Literature

In my workplace, besides being assigned to teach English and Bahasa Indonesia, I am also responsible to watch students during ‘library’ sessions. Every student is assigned to read one book—minimally 100 pages for grade 7, 150 pages for grades 8 and 9—every one term. After finishing reading one book, they are to write ‘book review’. In writing the book review, I must check whether they write good English sentences or not. If not, I will return it and have them revise it.

The main reason why students have library sessions (two slots per week) is to help them improve their vocabulary and also skill in reading English books. As a language as well as literature teacher, I am of opinion that this reading assignment is also important to balance students’ left and right brain. Literature—a part of art—is essential to smoothen people’s soul, to be more humane.

I have read some articles related to some criticism addressed to schoolteachers—especially who teach Bahasa Indonesia subject—in some sites. Some complained because many teachers themselves do not like reading. Even in one article I read several months ago—sorry, I forgot to cite the site address—the writer stated that many Bahasa Indonesia teachers he interviewed had not read LASKAR PELANGI novel yet, one very famous novel by Andrea Hirata recently, moreover this novel portrayed the life of schoolchildren studying in a remote and poor school, but still they had very high spirit and enthusiasm to study. Isn’t it a very good example to boost students’ enthusiasm to go to school. Why did those teachers not read LASKAR PELANGI yet? Several reasons gathered were: they did not like reading; they were busy teaching (at school as well as had part time job outside to get more income) so that they could not spare their time to read; the price of books was expensive and teachers who got low salary could not afford to buy them.

For the first reason, it is indeed very shameful if teachers do not like reading. I have loved reading since I was a kid. Feeling unhappy with the fact cited by the writer in that article, I commented that not all teachers did not enjoy reading. Some did, including me.

For the second and the third reasons, I think they come from the same background: lack of sufficient income. When teachers get enough income, they do not need to have part time jobs, in order that they get enough spare time to read, to improve their knowledge and skill as well. For the third reason, schools can be of any help by providing books to be lent to teachers.

I think my educational background has made me a bit different from those teachers interviewed by the writer of the article. I did not graduate from Teachers’ College. Instead, I graduated from Faculty of Letters, especially English Department, and American Studies, with literature interest. When teaching Bahasa Indonesia in my workplace, I just need to adjust the material: from American literary works (or any other work written in English), to any literary works written by Indonesian, in Bahasa Indonesia.

Talking about educational background, this is also a very crucial issue. Many schools prefer having teachers graduating from Teachers’ College. They are assumed to be supplied with teaching techniques and methods. On the other hand, people graduating from other than Teachers’ College only get science and knowledge, minus teaching techniques/methods. As a result, they are not considered to be capable to teach, or to transfer their knowledge to students.

When it comes to teaching literature at high schools, it is understandable when teachers teaching literature (who graduated from Teachers’ College) do not really master anything related to literature, they even do not enjoy reading any piece of literature. When they themselves do not enjoy reading it, they do not know how to make their students enjoy it either. How can they make their students enjoy studying literature and make them realize that studying literature is as fun and important as studying any other exact subjects, such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology?

Going back to my job—assigning students to read and ask them to write reviews—I can conclude that many students from grades 7 and 8 enjoy this assignment. However, only a few grade 9 students who enjoy it. It seems to me that their concentration is more absorbed by the National Examination they will face a few months again.

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Women in Our Sinetrons

I remember one day during my college days, a male senior lecturer of mine protested the portrayal of ‘modern’ women in many soap operas in television (Indonesians call them ‘sinetrons’). ‘Modern’ women were portrayed as women who left behind the stereotypical characteristics of ‘traditional’ ones, such as submissive, soft-spoken, feminine, weak, motherly, etc. To my disappointment, he also opined that that kind of portrayal of women was triggered by feminist movement; feminist movement seemed to be the scapegoat that eventually resulted in women’s hatred to anything feminine.

Since I hardly ever watched sinetrons on television, I did not have any idea what kind of portrayal he meant. Therefore, I did not debate my lecturer at that time although I was strongly convinced it was not merely because of feminist movement.

Years passed by.

Today I remembered it again, especially when reading one article in a scientific journal ANTROPOLOGI INDONESIA vol. 30, No. 1, 2006; the title of the article is “Menjadi Perempuan di dalam Sinetron: Kekinian Femininitas” (“Becoming women in Sinetrons: the recent femininity”) by Widjajanti Mulyono Santoso. This article was resulted from her research based on one sinetron played on television in 2004; the title was “Inikah Rasanya”.

What kinds of women were portrayed in “Inikah Rasanya”?

First, a woman who has a crush on a man. Since feminist movement believed that women also had right to express their feeling to men earlier (until now I still find many men and women who find it embarrassing and unfeminine for women to ‘shoot’ men first), it was okay then for a woman to do it. However, in this sinetron, Rena, one female character was portrayed very aggressive so that she made the boy whom she had crush on feel insecure and threatened. She was highly emotional and temperamental.

Second, a single mother/woman who was illogically emotional. Jason’s mother as well as Nadia’s aunt was portrayed as a woman who had psychological problems since none of them had a spouse. Having these problems made them treat their kid or niece cruelly. In fact this is not far from the portrayal of single women—especially those who have reached certain age brackets—in patriarchal society. Since people adore marriage and consider only in marriage both men and women will achieve ultimate happiness, they—especially women—are accused of feeling insecure when they are single. Therefore, they will do anything to cut the insecure feeling, even sometimes by grabbing any guy. Oftentimes, to express their depression due to the society’s insecure accusation to them, they do aggressive things to people close to them, such as kids and nieces. Feminist movement teaching women to be more expressive seemed to be the best media (as a scapegoat): because of it Jason’s mother and Nadia’s aunt became uncontrollably aggressive.

Third, a female teacher who was irrationally annoying and irritating. Women with capabilities are considered unconventional in patriarchal society. Power that (female) teachers usually have in front of their students is a weird thing. This resulted in the students’ laughter at their female teachers. Mostly female teachers are also illustrated as old maid that have mental problems because of no spouse. Worse, they are also portrayed physically unaccepted: their voice is ridiculously high-pitched, wearing thick glasses, stiff uniform, unfriendly facial expression.

I am of opinion that the visualization of three women above is not only in “Inikah Rasanya”. Many other sinetrons portray similar characteristics of women like that. Realizing that many scriptwriters are male, I concluded that there was a very wrong deviant of feminist movement on men’s head. Or I can also say that men (although not all) felt threatened by feminist movement so that they portrayed very cruel images of women who were independent. What kind of men blaming feminist movement (READ => movement for equality between men and women)? They are men who feel confident before women ONLY when women are weak, stupid or uneducated, submissive, controllable.

What did they expect? Society will stop feminist movement because it will make women heartless, monsters, unfeminine, against natural law for women, etc.

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Thursday, January 08, 2009


Masih dalam euforia TOP TEN BLOGGER 2008. Ehem ... 
In in the previous post I wrote I was indebted to many bloggers who have given the link to my blog, as well as my blog visitors, absolutely I still have to thank many others.
At the first place, my ‘other half’, as my first audience of my writing. I started emailing him regularly in the middle of my writing thesis, especially the whole 2005. When I got stuck, writing him emails was the nice refreshing, starting from merely about ‘being trapped in the rain’, my activities as a college student, Sex and the City, our favorite serial, my trip from Jogja to Semarang by bus where I met a weirdo—for me, until more serious topic, such as my interpretation of THE HOURS movie, that he did not finish reading LOL (“It is boring, darling, I am sorry,” he said apologetically. LOL.), the first article I posted in my first blog (I ‘developed’ it from the email I sent him), life (where I questioned a so-called philosophical rhetoric “What God made this universe for?” I believed he found it boring too), the core of my thesis, about the phenomenon of woman madness in the middle of nineteenth century America, etc. My obligation to myself to read a lot to gather ideas to write more various emails to my ‘other half’ so that he would not get bored when reading my abundant emails. (But still he got bored with the very serious topic. LOL.)
Second, my own study at American Studies Graduate Program. The weekly assignments to write papers made me accustomed to write. After graduating, writing became the best medication for my restlessness.
Third, my darling Abang that has made me a ‘milder’ feminist.  Our long discussion via thousand word emails has a bit changed me from a somewhat radical feminist to be milder. I myself now sometimes find my writing ‘biting’ and maybe hostile toward men; especially those writings I posted before August 2006 (the time when out of the blue my Abang came into my life, and “offered friendship”, “Hey Na, your writing is awesome. Let us be friend.” LOL.) As one fan of my writing, he keeps supporting me to write. And when I get annoying comment from ‘imbeciles’, he is also the best one to ask for help, to write counter-comment, to ‘defend’ me. (That’s what having an Abang is for, right? LOL.)
Next, Fatih Syuhud who has found my blog and featured me as “the blogger of the week”. Until now we have never had any personal greeting to each other. LOL. He himself is a great blogger who is very diligent to write, and also visit many blogs, analyze them one by one, and using his own parameter (well, I don’t know whether there are a group of people behind his activity selecting “the blogger of the week”). I found his feature of my blog fascinating, knowing someone read my posts thoroughly and carefully, and then write about me. It is really fun to know how other people perceive me from reading my blog only. His broad-minded and open-minded characters (to ‘read’ me) have resulted in a post that I love.
One local newspaper whose articles (especially about women) often make me upset, signaling that the writers only know the surface of women movement, or the vision of the newspaper is still gender-biased. Because of that, I am triggered to write. (“True women = modern feminist?” is only one example.)
People around me—especially workmates, students, neighbors, as well as my family members—who have sometimes inspired me to write a certain issue. Some writings of mine are also sometimes inspired by some discussion in some mailing lists I join.
Absolutely I am also grateful to my biggest blessing from God, my Lovely Star. Silently she supports me to spend time to write, the time that sometimes she needs me to lend my ears to her. But as always, she is understanding. 
And many others I cannot mention one by one.
-- the narcissist Nana –
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Tuesday, January 06, 2009


Top Ten Blogger Indonesia 2008

Posted on December 31, 2008
Filed Under Blogger Indonesia, Indonesia, blogging

The essence of blogging, as I put it as a jargon in my Bahasa Indonesia blog, is to culturalize the tradition of writing and reading. Many Indonesians, like those who are from developing or underdeveloped nation, don’t have the habit of writing and reading. They talk a lot. Write and read less. And that’s why, some foreign academicians who come to Indonesia were a bit shocked to find out the lack of reading and writing habit among Indonesians even within the so-called middle class family. The lack of reading naturally would end up in the lack of blog content “charisma”.

There are a few exception, however. Those who can adopt a new positive tradition of modernity–in reading a lot. As a result they write many good articles, creating nice and unique posts and even making an enlightening comments in other blogs.

That’s one reason among others why I’d like to dedicate this year’s Top Ten Blogger Indonesia 2008 specifically to those who consistently make a good content, and no less important, write relatively regularly. A content which is unique and enlightening. By so doing I hope what they have done will be emulated by others especially those bloggers who come later. It’s also my own way to appreciate and encourage those who passionately write good blog articles without worrying or thinking about traffics. A good content blog may not make a big traffic, and thus, a big impact in a short term, but certainly they will in a long shot.

Blogs has grown rapidly in Indonesia. Ten or even hundreds of blogs are born everyday. They start blogging for various reasons. Either way they are an asset to make the tradition of writing and reading blossom in the unlikely place like Indonesia in which the middle class hobby and dream is nothing but to have a nice house, fancy cars and the collection of Chinese old ceramic instead of books.

Last but not the least, there are so many good blogs with good content. It’s a pity that I can pick only ten. It should not be understood, therefore, that the others ten are less good. The links in the bloggers’ name will direct you to the Blogger Indonesia of the Week review of a particular blogger from which you will find the blogger’s URL.


The Top Ten Blogger Indonesia 2008

1. Nana Podungge

2. Tasa Nugraza Barley

3. Rima Fauzi

4. Primadonna Angela

5. Agni Amorita

6. Anita Carmencita

7. Mulya Amri

8. Deden Rukmana

9. Sherwin Tobing

10. Dedi W. Sanusi

Happy New Year 2009 Everyone! Nothing like feeling anew and start afresh all the time! :)


How long have I been idle to write in my 'intellectual' blog located at ?
Several months have passed since I started working as a school teacher that is really time-consuming (as well as energy-consuming!)
I have been complaining to myself due to this. So many complaints (seeing the injustice that happens to the marginalized ...) have been crowding my mind.
But I can only complain because I am just a very bad time manager: I cannot manage my time well: teaching, teaching, and teaching, then reading, biking, swimming, and writing, not to mention my chores as Angie's mother (just imagine the abundant things a single parent must do).
And last two-week-end-of-year holiday, I COULD only write two articles ("Feminism" and "True woman = modern feminists?") I still cannot spare time to write my 'abundant ideas' triggered by watching INTO THE WILD, and about Irshad Manji, the Muslim feminist lesbian.
That's why what a surprise to find an email in my mailbox from someone I don't know personally, to congratulate me. What congratulation is for? Curious, I opened it. And ... A Fatih Syuhud, the 'king blogger' in Indonesia who 'found' my blog in 2006 and featured me in his blog, has selected the TOP TEN BLOGGER 2008. And ... my blog is in among those TOP TEN BLOGGER 2008.
W-O-W ...
Here is the link. Click it ...

I am obviously indebted to many bloggers--that I don't remember or even don't know--who have given the link to my blog in their blogs. The link apparently lead the visitors in their blog to visit my blog.
I am also indebted to those people who have visited my blog, for sure.


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Friday, January 02, 2009

New year resolution

In fact, I hardly ever make new year resolution. First time I made it by the end of 2004. Only one of them I made to come true, almost a year after that, due to my laziness. (And my being a perfectionist. A good friend labeled me. Well, she just valued me too highly, I believe.)
This year, what will I make for my new year resolution? Or a beuer question, why should I bother myself to make it this time?
Just to write in my blog, to be honest, since I'm a narcist. LOL.
To be a better Mom for my only daughter. If I can be one. :-)
To be a better daughter for my Mom. (I know I've made her disappointed in religiosity, since we have been in 'different boats' though still under the same flag. Because of the intellectual gap between us. I'm sorry to say this. But I can't help it. :-()
To bike more to reach any destination I go, to care the environment, since I'm not vegan, and gardening is not my cup of tea.)

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