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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Friday, April 12, 2024
The Echo

J-term: teaching English in Indonesia

Stultz, Ebenroth share experience in Indonesia

This J-term, many students had the opportunity to visit various locations across the globe.

From Belize to Ireland to Greece to Kenya (and other locations), Taylor students and faculty gained unique cultural experiences filled with learning and excitement.

One group of students, led by Program Director and Professor of TESOL, Jan Dormer, and her husband, embarked on the nearly 50-hour journey to Indonesia. Having previously lived in Indonesia for eight years, Dormer had several connections to people and schools in Indonesia that aided the group’s flow and cultural knowledge.

Sophomore Madeline Stultz is a Spanish education major with a concentration in TESOL. She was attracted to this trip because of her interest in travel, appreciation for Dormer and desire to grow in her teaching skills.

“I was really excited about the idea where we really were going to be in the classrooms,” Stultz said. “We were going to be teaching professionally and it would be a really good growth experience.”

Gaining teaching experience is exactly what the team accomplished.

Throughout their time in Indonesia, the team hopped from school to school, providing them with the opportunity to teach English in a diverse range of locations and environments. They spent their first two weeks teaching on the island of Java before hopping over to Bali for their final week.

Each student was assigned a teaching partner from the team with whom they would lesson plan and teach alongside at each school they attended.

“We went to a lot of public schools, which were Muslim and then some private schools, which were Christian and some tutoring programs, then some Hindu public schools in Bali,” Stultz said. “It was just a super wide variety of different classrooms and I think that was something unique that Indonesia offered.”

The team’s first day of teaching was at a Muslim public school. Since it was only their second day in the country, they were all still a bit jet-lagged. Despite this, Stultz found this day to be one of the most impactful.

While at this school, the team wore head coverings and also had to cover their ankles and wrists (in 85-degree, humid weather).

Stultz felt overwhelmed as she was thrown into a classroom with poor classroom management, but found that this stretched and grew her in unique ways.

Before they left the school, the team was met by a large group of students to say goodbye.

“One of the ways they show respect is they take your hand and they put it to their forehead,” Stultz said. “So [the Indonesian students] went around and kept on taking our hands and putting them to their foreheads. I think like 100 of them went by and did that to us, and it was really humbling and really, really sweet.”

Sophomore Sarah Ebenroth, an elementary education major with a TESOL concentration, also traveled to Indonesia with hopes to improve her English teaching abilities. 

She especially enjoyed teaching the elementary-aged students. 

“I feel like those moments [teaching elementary students] are really special because I was able to work with the type of students that I will someday, but also, have the privilege of entering into their classroom and entering into their world and learning about their culture,” Ebenroth said. “Also, the privilege to teach them some English and to hopefully be an example of Christ.”

Ebenroth and Stultz explained how each day was very different.

Some days, the team would walk to a local school, other days they would bus to a university. Some days they would be teaching for one hour, other days, they would teach for a full day. Some days, they would teach kindergarteners, other days, they would be teaching high schoolers. 

“Every day, I felt like I woke up and kind of figured out what we were doing,” Ebenroth said.

This unpredictable and go-with-the-flow nature of the trip was something that each member of the team had to come to terms with.

Ebenroth was surprised by how much she grew over the course of three weeks.

“By the end of the trip, I found myself knowing the activities to do with students; knowing, honestly, how to teach a beginner English, even though they don't know anything,” Ebenroth said.

She understands that there is still so much for her to learn, but feels like this experience increased her confidence and teaching skills exponentially.

Having grown academically, spiritually and emotionally, Ebenroth feels grateful for the opportunity to teach in Indonesia and the many ways it has stretched and strengthened her.

“As a student becoming a teacher, I think I was stretched to realize it's hard and it's not always easy,” Ebenroth said. “A game or activity that you think is going to go well doesn’t always go well. But when you keep trying and showing students that it’s worth it to show up for them — you love and want to teach them because you care about them — I think there’s so much reward in that, even if it’s in small ways.”