We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.
By Caroline Jeter
Caroline Jeter is a graduate student at Notre Dame da Namur University, studying in the Multiple Subject Credential Program. She lives in the Bay Area, in Mill Valley, California. This summer, Caroline interned at the Mualimaat Girls School in Yogyakarta, Indonesia for five weeks, where she taught conversational English to middle and high school students. In the future, she hopes to earn her teaching credentials, a master’s degree in education, and potentially a PhD to pursue a career in educational research.
As an aspiring teacher, I joined America’s Unofficial Ambassadors to learn more about education around the world. I volunteered for five weeks in Yogyakarta, Indonesia at Madrasah Mu’allimaat Muhammadiyah, where I taught middle and high school students English as a Second Language.
I compiled this photo essay to portray my time as a volunteer working at this school. I wanted to show pictures of my teaching experience and my students, because that is where I saw the true impact of my time in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. My students were overjoyed at the idea of an American teaching at their school. They cheered my name, asked for pieces of wisdom to carry with them, asked me to sign their books, gave gifts, and engaged me in individual conversations about my knowledge of America. I tried to teach, and offer advice, on how they can improve their written and spoken English. They appreciated all the work that I put into each of these lessons, and took note of the corrections I made in their classwork.
Each of my students lived in an environment that I had not been familiar with in America. Most of the girls began living in the school’s religious environment at the age of 13, and they are separated from their families for five years. Because many young students view their parents as a main source of support, I expected there to be some anger among the students, or some sort of depression. But these girls handle it in stride. There was no sign of any angst, and they support each other through friendship. There was not one single person left out of our class conversations. Even in their own free time, the girls talk happily with each, and there appear to be few conflicts. There was just peace and happiness. Coming from the United States, this amazed me, and I aimed to depict this environment in my photo essay.
Photo 1: My students
This is one of my first pictures in the classes. This shows how playful they can be with one another; showing their true joy. Each of these girls are smiling and using some body language to give this kind of message to the camera.
Photo 2: Muallimaat Girls School
I was just walking on my way to one of my classes, and one of them said my name. I looked up, and saw the girls leaning out the window, waving to me. Their joy astounded me. I was truly making a difference by volunteering at Muallimaat. I don’t think I truly understood the impact I was making at this school until this exact moment.
Photo 3: “Thank you for teaching our class!”
This picture is a gift that one of the students gave me. There are so many artistic talents embedded in each of my students. They have big sketchbooks on their desks, and spend so much time drawing to express themselves. As I was going around, I noticed their artistic drawings and complimented them on their talent. I told them to keep drawing and go after their dreams. Later on, at the end of the class, one of the girls gave me this picture that she drew of me. She told me that she appreciated me being there. I felt touched that I had made such a strong connection.
Photo 4: The Water Castle
My students took me to one of their favorite places in Yogyakarta, the water castle. They were happy to hang out with me, and we made conversation about my life back at home and my sisters. They look so casual and relaxed here, with the same kind of happiness they showed in the classroom. I was excited see more of their world outside of school.
Photo 5: A Moment in English Class
This picture showed a moment where my students were working together on English sentences in their notebooks. While American students might work in groups on the floor, it was actually the first time I saw my students working on the floor. They were caught off guard in the picture, but their smiles show that they are enjoying themselves in this particular lesson.
Photo 6: Resident Assistants
This picture shows our resident assistants working away at creating English sentences with the new English vocab words. I like how serious and focused they are in this photo, it shows they are super hardworking in their studies. Also, notice how one of the girls is smiling as she writes something in her notebook.
Photo 7: Ballet Lesson
This picture shows my fellow AUA volunteer Grace and I teaching our students some basic ballet. They were very eager and excited to learn this dance, and they were surprised to hear that many girls in America begin to learn ballet at a very young age. We taught them a simple floor exercise and it pleased them a great deal.
Photo 8: AUA in Action!
This picture shows Grace and me introducing ourselves to one of our classes. The students were very thrilled to have us there, but nervous and shy as well.
Photo 9: Working with English Teachers
This picture shows Grace and I working with Muallimaat’s teaching residents, and looking over the sentences they created in English. By reviewing their work, these teachers improve their English language skills. They are eager to learn from native English speakers, and we were viewed as experts. We did this activity because our colleagues requested extra practice, and they appreciated this a great deal.
Photo 10: Hangman
In this final photo for my essay, I have a picture of my students’ favorite learning game, Hangman. They loved this game and would choose super complex words in English. I was always impressed with their enthusiasm, and their drive to challenge themselves.