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Monday, September 28, 2009

A Room of One's Own

In her book entitled A Room of One’s Own (1929), Virginia Woolf wrote to protest why there was no women playwright or women poet as monumental as William Shakespeare. This rhetorical question led her to read History of England by Professor Trevelyan where she found very bitter facts about women.

“Wife beating was a recognized right of man, and was practiced without shame by high as well as low . ... Similarly, the daughter who refused to marry the gentleman of her parents’ choice was liable to be locked up, beaten, and flung about the room, without any shock being inflicted on public opinion. Marriage was not an affair of personal affection, but of family avarice, particularly in the ‘chivalrous’ upper classes. ... Betrothal often took place while one or both of the parties was in the cradle, and marriage when they were scarely out of the nurses’ charge.”

Similar to Woolf, her contemporary woman intellectual, Anna Wickham, wrote a poem entitled “Dedication of the Cook”

If any ask why there’s no great She-Poet,
Let him come live with me, and he will know it:
If I’d indite an ode or mend a sonnet,
I must go choose a dish or tie a bonnet;
For she who serves in forced virginity
Since I am wedded will not have me free;
And those new flowers my garden is so rich in
Must die for clammy odors of my kitchen.

The two works portray the condition of women very clearly in that era. Women are burdened by family matters and they don’t have any rights to choose what they want to do. Before they get married, they are the properties of their fathers or brothers. After they get married, they are the properties of their husbands (who oftentimes are not their own choice). In “Dedication of the Cook”, Wickham illustrate how women are busy doing household chores so that they do not have time to produce great literary works.


Now, almost a century has passed. The so-called woman movement for equality has come to its third phase. Have all women got what their predecessor struggled?

Sadly I must say not yet. Three years ago I posted a writing I entitled “Mental Depression” (click this site

Just a week ago I met this old friend of mine again. Apparently her life is like in a prison, created by her husband, a husband of her own choice.

I visited her house to tell her about a reunion invitation of our high school. When knowing that the reunion would be held at 7pm, she directly gave me excuses for not being able to come. Moreover when I said, “The invitation is only for one person; we are not allowed to bring along our spouse or kids.” She openly said, “Ah … absolutely I cannot attend it. I cannot go out of the house without my husband or kids. A married woman is not supposed to do that.”

I remember our time in high school. She belonged to the independent type. She enjoyed doing any activities without her parents’ strict control because they believed she could take care of herself. On the contrary, I could not do that.

“Nothing stays the same,” wise people say. “Changes are natural law that will always exist,” I say.

I found the answer why my old high school friend said so when her husband came to join us in the living room.

“What kind of reunion is that? Why are we not allowed to bring along our spouse or kids? When meeting old friends, we are supposed to tell them our status now, right? That we are married? That we have got kids? What is this reunion supposed to mean? What if we meet our past crush? What if that long-lost feeling comes back? This is crazy era where many people have secret affairs. Bla bla bla …”

I got stunned. I had better not respond but laugh exaggeratingly. LOL. but unhappily. :(

I remember one short discussion with a friend about ‘jealousy’.

F: Do you agree with me that jealousy has nothing to do with love?
N: I am of opinion that jealousy shows someone’s inferiority. He or she is not confident that his or her spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend loves him/her.
F: I could not agree more. Jealousy deals with someone’s own feeling, he or she is worried if the one he or she loves will leave him or her. Jealousy is insecure feeling.

A bit similar to what Woolf and Wickham illustrate in their works, I interpret ‘a room of one’s own’ as time for anyone—especially women—to be on their own, to be themselves. It is not necessarily related to be able to produce a great piece of work, but to do what they need to do. Women need their own private time for a change from their routine. To a certain extent, it even can lead them to healthier mental condition.
PT56 07.37 270909

Thursday, September 24, 2009

My teaching experience

There are three elements strongly interrelated to one another to achieve successful teaching learning process. These three elements are teacher, students, and the material used.
In my teaching experience so far, I have three kinds of students, depending on their needs. The first kind are those who want to focus on studying mostly English grammar (somewhat similar to TOEFL material) to help them prepare to be accepted at state universities. The second kind are those who want to study English to help them able to speak English fluently as well as write in English. The third kind are those who study in formal school so that they do not have any special purpose except to follow the curricula they get from school.
Different kinds of students with different purposes make different material. The sense of having successful teaching learning process of course will be different too.
I will elaborate the three kinds of students in this writing.
The first kind of students are all twelfth grade students. The students are divided into two types: the first half is those whose knowledge of English is good enough so that what they need is just to enrich their practice to be fluent in doing the entrance test. Unfortunately the other half is those who really need to learn from scratch. As the teacher, honestly I prefer the first type, I do not need to work hard to explain any piece of grammar (such as ‘causative verbs’, ‘subjunctive’ etc). However, I cannot avoid the second type. Since mostly the students do the preparation in a short time, (approximately four months before the test, with only one hour a week for the session), I have to find the most effective way to explain. Using Bahasa Indonesia is okay in this occasion.
I will have sense of successful in such classes when I can see from the students’ facial expression that they understand the material I explain. It is proven by making very few mistakes when doing the exercise and they can explain why the answer is a, b, c, or d.
The second kind of students come from various background; primary and high school as well as college students. Similar to the first kind of students with the two types of learners, this second kind of students can be divided into two types too. The first is those who go to the institution because their parents force them to do that so that they themselves do not have self awareness that they need to study English. The second is of course the contradictory. They realize the importance of learning English for their life so that it will not be difficult to encourage them. The more mature a student is, usually the easier for him/herself to motivate him/herself. The most difficult is high school students—teenagers—who are in their rebellious period.
Nevertheless, the sense of successful in such classes with two contradictory types of students is the same. After I succeed motivating the first type of students to learn the material on one day, they will show eagerness to listen to my explanation—let’s say expressions to ask for and give direction. They will look excited to practice the new expressions they learn on one occasion. By the end of the session, I can see the satisfied expression on their faces that they learn something new.
In my experience so far, the number of students in class also influences their attention as well as eagerness to follow the class. For elementary and intermediate levels, the ideal number is around ten until fifteen. If less than ten, the students sometimes feel unexcited because seem uncomfortable that they will easily be noticed by the teacher. If more than fifteen, sometimes some students are busy with themselves, thinking that the teacher is busy with the other students. However, for advanced level, with assumption that the students’ capabilities are bigger than those who are still in elementary and intermediate levels, the ideal number in one class is around eight until twelve. They need more time to practice—speaking, listening, as well as writing.
The last kind of students are those who study in formal junior high school. My experience so far is teaching grade seven, eight, and nine. Since I have small classes (three students in grade seven, five students in grade eight, and thirteen in grade nine), it is not difficult at all to get their attention. Besides, they always show eagerness and excitement when learning the material. The daily language used at school is English (since it is an international school), so that the students have high self awareness to study English.
Different from the first and second kind of students where their capability in speaking English is not really good, the third kind of students have good speaking English capability. The challenge is to teach them grammar points. Therefore, I will get sense of successful when I can make them write sentences or paragraphs with only a few grammatical mistakes, or no mistake at all.
Talking about the material used in classes, the first and second kinds of students, books written by a group of Indonesian English teachers are used. It is understandable if the ‘culture’ of the books is Indonesian. While for the third kind of students, imported books (from Australia and America) are used. Western cultures decorating the material are sometimes obstacles to understand (for example when the topic is about ‘humor’), as the teacher I really feel challenged to explain to the students why a piece of writing is considered humorous.
In conclusion, in Indonesia, the role of a teacher in making perfect classes is very important; either to be role models (for example in pronunciation, chunking when reading, acting in role-playing) or to explain the materials thoroughly.
PT56 10.21 240909