Student Ari Sukmana: ‘The Soul of SIT’

Fulbright scholar Ari Sukmana, an English teacher of rural Indonesians for 8 years, enlivened SIT classrooms with his sharp wit, inquisitive mind, and embracive spirit. From the perspective of his MAT colleagues, he has fulfilled Senator J. William Fulbright’s intention to “foster leadership, learning, and empathy between cultures.” In describing his learning this year, he demonstrates the essence of this MA in Teaching.

The Soul of SIT: PTOTP, Experiential Learning, and Social Justice

Before coming to study in SIT’s MA in Teaching, my teaching — in public and private schools — shaped my beliefs about language teaching and built my awareness of and sensitivity to social justice. I dreamt that I could pursue higher education and articulate my personal teaching theories and beliefs as well as apply my language teaching philosophy for the sake of social justice.

In 2006, I won the Fulbright scholarship and was admitted to three outstanding universities in the US. Initially, I chose SIT only because of its great reputation in the field of TESOL and its prominent professors. During my studies here, however, I discovered that SIT’s teaching philosophy is based on learning through experience for social justice and was greater than I had thought. These two elements were the answers to my long time dream as a language teacher and a seeker of educational justice.

My learning in such courses as Approaches to Teaching Second Languages and Teaching the Four Skills assisted me in articulating my beliefs about teaching, learning, subject matter, and contexts of teaching. For example, the professors encouraged me to study some existing theories of teaching and learning and reflect on my previous teaching and learning. As a result, I could adapt some of the theories to my specific teaching context and enrich them with my own teaching beliefs and personal teaching experiences. Also, exchanging teaching experiences and beliefs with classmates who are language teachers from all over the world has broadened my perspectives and knowledge toward teaching in different contexts.

An experienced SIT professor, who helped me to grow as an international as well as professional language teacher, supervised my internship at the International Institute of Rhode Island. The daily journals, comments, and feedback on my lesson plans and teaching styles from my supervisor were very helpful and improved my teaching skills day by day.

Intercultural Communication for Language Teachers not only sharpened my knowledge about how to deal with multicultural classes, but also broadened my understanding of how to create peace and social justice in my own classrooms. For example, teaching activities such as “culture box”, “culture bumps” and ethnographic studies helped me see myself better and built my sensitivity toward people from other cultures.

Curriculum Design and Assessment helped me put my beliefs into practice. The most challenging part in this course was that I learned to design a course curriculum based on my own beliefs and contexts.

Language Analysis for Lesson Planning and English Applied Linguistics equipped me with fun and exciting grammar activities as well as deeper knowledge about English grammar. In these two courses, the professors demonstrated many activities to teach grammar, such as role plays and pair work. What made these classes absolutely interesting was that every student had a chance to contribute their own fun and fascinating grammar games and activities to the other students.

Attenders of my Sandanona Conference presentation, “English for Farms, Hills, and Rivers.”

One of the greatest things about SIT is that it values a student’s development of a personal theory of teaching practice (the PTOTP in the title). The Sandanona Conference on the Learning and Teaching of Language is the culminating event of MAT. Students present their beliefs and express their personal theories of teaching. In this valuable moment, I described my restlessness as a language teacher and as a seeker of educational justice, connecting them to English language teaching in rural areas of Indonesia. I felt honored to present my beliefs, experiences, and personal theories to my own professors and language teachers from all over the world.

These nine months went by so fast. I am excited to share the knowledge and experiences that I obtained here to my colleagues and students in Indonesia. On the other side, I feel so sad that I have to leave my precious school and beloved friends who always supported me. In the last, I am proud to say that wherever I go and because of what I learned and how I will put my learning into practice, I am now carrying with me the soul of SIT.

After my great internship, I returned to SIT in March filled with happy feelings.

Photo by my friend Mary Quirk.


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