Archive for the ‘School Days’ Category

MANNERS AT THE TABLE

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The worst thing that can happen in a dining experience is if someone acts like a boor at the table. Face it: no one wants to associate with someone who slurps through the soup, makes a sandwich of the dinner roll, or talks to everyone at the table while chewing. It is a complete turn-off, which automatically closes all doors of opportunities.  A pig at the table becomes an unwitting victim of etiquette bullies, who take utmost delight in pointing out the mistakes. I witnessed such an event years ago when I was a still a journalist in Singapore. I was at a dinner function and next to me was an American lady who, I learned, was casually sizing up people based on what they’d do with the dinner roll.

“You know how to eat the roll!” she gushed just as I took a bite of it.

She continued: “You know how to tear it into small pieces and butter them unlike those across the table who cut it in the middle and spread butter.”

Flabbergasted, I just looked at her even after she handed me her name card that said she was some sort of an etiquette expert. I flashed her a wry smile and continued to ignore her the rest of the evening.

That incident is not a nugatory one. It smacks of a high-handed attitude of a know-it-all towards the ignoramuses, and which blatantly ignores context. Dinner buns, after all, are not compulsory in an Asian dining setting.  Asians do observe dining etiquette. Seared into my memory, I pushed for holding a seminar on western dining etiquette for teenagers when I went back to teaching. I felt strongly they must be armed to the teeth when they venture out of their homes and it begins with dining etiquette. It took several tries to finally get it right. There was always something going amiss. For instance, one time the organizer was a drifter who conned us into believing they could hold such a seminar (imagine – they had no cutlery!). The other time the organizer didn’t serve food after the seminar, saying it wasn’t part of the package we paid for (she didn’t tell us it was a separate payment for the food!).

 

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Pak Vino (right) and Pak Cecep how to fold the napkin to wipe the mouth

 

 

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time for the first course – salad

 

But this year everything fell into place with the help of the staff of Aston Imperial Bekasi Hotel & Conference Centre. Under the tutelage of Pak Vino, Food and Beverage manager of the hotel, the grades 7 and 8 students of the Cambridge Preparatory Classes of Global Prestasi School (GPS) were lectured on the dos and don’ts of western dining etiquette. The program included a brief lecture on its history followed by the very detailed rules in, for example, using the cutlery, eating the dinner roll, sipping the soup, using the napkin to wipe the mouth, body posture during eating, the plate codes, when to start eating, proper and improper attire, leaving the table to go to the restroom, behaviour for both men and women, and many more.  The students were immediately tested on what they heard from Pak Vino – they sat through a four-course lunch that included a beef salad as an appetizer, mushroom cappuccino with garlic crouton for soup, chicken cordon bleu as the entrée, and Imperial crispy banana with vanilla ice cream for dessert.

 

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napkins on the lap

 

 

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ready to tuck into the main course

 

 

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waiting for everyone to get served the main course

 

 

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buttering their dinner rolls like a pro

 

 

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helping out to demonstrate how to hold the fork

 

 

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dessert – Imperial crispy banana with vanilla ice cream

 

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the entree – chicken cordon bleu

Prior to the seminar, the students were treated to an inside look at the hotel as they visited the various departments and sections of Aston Imperial. It was a good way to introduce them to the hospitality industry. Who knows? Some of them might end up as executive chef, food and beverage manager, head of housekeeping, executive manager, or general manager of a property in Indonesia or overseas in the not-so-distant future.

It was a sight to behold my students all looking grown up in their formal wear. There was pre-dining etiquette seminar briefing on what to wear and what not to wear. There were a lot of whining and groaning when they heard that sneakers, jeans, t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops were not considered appropriate attire for the seminar. Furthermore, I had to remind the ladies to practice walking in their heels if they intended to wear heels.

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They’re all looking so grown-up.

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a post-seminar picture of grade 7A with their goodie bags and their homeroom adviser, Mayang (second row, extreme left)

The table manners seminar for GPS was held on March 3. The four-hour-plus affair saw the hotel buzzing with activities the moment the parents dropped off their children who went home with goodie bags after. Screams and giggles floated through the lobby when everyone saw what each one was wearing.  But inside the Dynasty meeting room on the second-floor seriousness punctured with episodic laughter reigned as they navigated through the intricacies of following the dining etiquette outlined by Pak Vino. Rounding off the good experience was being told that the students were very well-behaved.

Additional photos by Mayang Anestia

 

 

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OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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The excruciating caterpillar sting could have been the deal breaker. I was oblivious to the caterpillar; it must have fallen from some trees where the bus parked a distance from the observatory when I was making my way up the bus. I was thrown into a panic when I suddenly felt this warming sensation on my back that spread to the nape and the ears, and then this unbearable itch. To complete the agony, a strip of red rashes covered my neck. Happily, the school’s counselor came prepared with her first aid kit and came to my rescue with minyak tawon (bee oil) to counter the itch.

Then there’s the very early call time of 5 am so as not to get stuck in the infamous Indonesian traffic and miss the queue at the observatory. Booking a taxi would have been convenient but the cab driver couldn’t find my flat so off I went to hail an angkot (a form of public transportation that looks like a mini-van). No such luck. I learned later on that they didn’t ply the road until after 6 from one of my eagle-eyed students who, fortunately, spotted me looking lost and forlorn, and gave me a ride to school.

Caterpillar sting and early call time, surprisingly, didn’t dispel my excitement in being one of the chaperones for the field study of the students of Global Prestasi School (GPS). Whatever you call it – field study or field trip – I have always had a strong predilection for such trips. It’s reminiscent of my old high school’s philosophy of learning by doing which meant not teaching and learning outside of the classroom. GPS has always been a staunch believer in exposing its students to all kinds of teaching methodologies and environments, which is why huge tourist buses parked within the school campus is commonplace. From elementary to senior high students, each GPS student has a treasure trove of field trip memories to last a lifetime.

The field study this year skewered four subjects – science, English (national and Cambridge curriculums), and Indonesian language – that would test the mettle of the students in terms of academic performance and character. Finally, I was free to chaperone, together with 13 of my colleagues and the principal, the grade 8 students from the national and Cambridge Preparatory classes, to two venues in Bandung viz. Bosscha Observatory and Jendela Alam.

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First stop was Bosscha Observatorium, in Lembang, in West Java, which, to my chagrin, was a four-hour road trip from Kalimalang. It was imperative to be on the road by 530am to be able to get to the observatory before 10 am to book tour slots. The observatory, which sits on top of a hill, is a constant pull for visitors in and out of Indonesia for viewing the stars at night during the months of April until October. However, seeing stars has become a matter of luck these days because of the light pollution in the area as well as the presence of hotels and villa. Back in the 1930s, the land around the observatory was devoid of tenants and populated by trees.

Impressive was the word that came to mind when I saw the gargantuan telescope that a fully grown man can hang from.  Called Zeiss double refractor, the telescope is one of the five telescopes housed in the observatory which is hailed as the oldest observatory in the country. It took its inventor Karel Albert Rudolf Bosscha five years to finish constructing the telescope, starting in 1923.

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Next stop was a little more rustic with its gardens, mini zoo, and vegetable patches. Called Jendela Alam (roughly translated as Nature Window), it’s roughly 25 minutes away from the observatory on a day when traffic is smooth, but it takes an hour plus when traffic gets snarled up. It’s what I’d call an open- nature laboratory where students have an up close and personal experience with special tailor-made nature activities.  For the students of GPS, they had three activities to complete namely, constructing a mini terrarium, making telur asin (salted egg), and dissection. Each activity lasted between 30 and 40 minutes. Each activity had its own group of facilitators hence the teacher-chaperones were free to wander around or have coffee with pisang goreng (banana fritters) at the coffee shop called Kedai Alam.

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Classroom learning is de rigueur in the pursuit of knowledge, but learning out of the classroom is a welcome respite from the stifling effects of always staying in the classroom all the time. The surroundings make good points for observation and immediate application of theories by the students. And student interaction is enhanced – bonds are made stronger, mended or forged. As for the teachers, it’s a longed-for, although brief, break from marking papers, writing notes on the board, and pressing the button for the next PPT slide. It was time for them to breathe in a bit of fresh air to clear the mind.

 

YEAR OF THE ROOSTER

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the barongsai at Global Prestasi School

It never grows old no matter what happens or what people say. Every time I hear that the troupe will be coming to Global Prestasi School (GPS) to usher in the Chinese New Year, I am always filled with excitement. The barongsai, as the dragon or lion dance is called in Indonesia, never fails to ignite this child-like enthusiasm in me, banishing morose thoughts temporarily. The moment I hear that they’ve arrived, I’d drop what I’m doing and run to the main grounds of GPS to get a good spot to watch those colourful, swirling dragon-lions.

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one of the dragon-lion prepping for the dance

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This year is my year. According to Chinese astrology, I was born under the year of the rooster and if it’s your animal that is the ruling animal of the year, you are in for one auspicious year. To know that lady luck is your constant companion for a year – she won’t be making her presence greatly known until after 12 years – does one’s spirits more than some good. You feel this overwhelming sense of confidence commingling with positivity which leads to a general sense of well-being. Simply put, a force field of positive energy has been placed around you thus any sad or tragic news thrown your way by fate is met with more gumption than fear.

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It was not like I was cowering in fear all throughout the 12 years lady luck was just hovering at the periphery as another animal took centre stage.  Looking back, several years were indeed fraught with tension and grief, but those years galvanised me taking me out of the rut I was in. I was admittedly chary – am still am – but those years prepared me slowly to take on the world again. One can say it prepared me for the year of the rooster, the year I see as the year of splendiferous moments and glorious feelings.

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CAT GOT YOUR TONGUE?

It is one of my most hated bugbears, but which seems all right with people. I can tolerate shyness because some people are really timid. However, answering like a Neanderthal, which, by the way, is my most hated bugbear, is something that shouldn’t be tolerated at all. Isn’t being able to carry a conversation or argue with confidence and logic a part of the reason why one goes to school? It has become a rarity these days to come across someone – millennial or not – with the gift of the gab because what you get, I’d observed, are monosyllabic or incoherent answers, signalling that speaking is moribund. Looking for a person with the gift of the gab is like looking for a charging station in a remote area. In this digital age, we look for someone who can answer simple questions and return simple greetings.

I am reminded of a student – not one of mine – who knocked, entered half way through the door without so much as a by-your-leave, and flourished the book she was holding.

Me: “Good morning. How can I help you?”

Student: “Huh?”

Me: “Who do you want to speak to?”

The student then dropped the book on the desk near the door and left.

Another incident went something like this, as I walked to the canteen:

Me: “Hi. Are your exams finished?”

Student: “Huh?”

Me: “Are you done with your exams?”

Student: “Ah.”

Fortunately, a friend of the student came to his rescue and answered that there was one more exam to go before they could call it a day.

It is cases like these that push me to want to take a semi-permanent leave from the world and be a hermit in Bali or Ora Island. It is unthinkable in my world to say “I don’t know” or “Huh”. If I genuinely don’t know the answer, I extrapolate. These times too I ponder on the importance of connecting when people are so disconnected. However, after spinning class, I am lucid and remember my duty to break bad habits, push students out of their comfort zones, and to make them speak with assuredness.

What is my solution in ascertaining that my students don’t look like the cat got their tongues? I go old school, baby. Holding steadfast to the philosophy that one must read in order to speak or write, my grade 10 International Program students at Global Prestasi School, before they all sit for their IGCSE exams from April to June, write a research paper in their English class – my class. I guide them through the whole process – topic, thesis statement and line of argument, note-taking, topic and sentence outlines, bibliography, interviews, and the drafts. Each step is monitored closely and each paper marked meticulously. They’re also constantly reminded about the repercussions of committing plagiarism and missing deadlines.

The panel of judges for the research paper oral exam is composed of teachers and former IGCSE students.

The panel of judges for the research paper oral exam is composed of teachers and former IGCSE students.

Writing, to the amateur, can be a daunting task, but it is not impossible. Professional writers can write an article in an hour or an academic paper in a few days, but this skill comes with aeons of practice. However, my students suffer from the delusion that writing a research paper can be done overnight, so they stupidly cram the night before falsely believing that their physical exertion can compensate for weak thesis statements, shoddy prose, jumbled up structure, and incorrect paper and bibliography formats. This over assuming attitude is dovetailed with a presumptuousness that the panel of judges for the oral defence won’t read their papers. Once the second draft is completed, each student undergoes an oral examination for 25+ minutes to test the soundness of the arguments, probe how he/she thinks, establish if he/she is the actual author, and, lastly, build the confidence in speaking before strangers while defending a stand. The oral defence is the ultimate preparation for the Cambridge Speaking exam wherein they are tested on their ability to answer logically and grammatically apart from pronouncing well. Moreover, it prepares them for the numerous interviews they will undergo while applying for admission to universities.

A demonstration of the Rejang Dewa dance by Rani Ardiyatna helps to make clear her  research paper on Balinese dances.

A demonstration of the Rejang Dewa dance by Rani Ardiyatna helps to make clear her research paper on Balinese dances.

Winsa Daniswara explains by being vegan is not a way to a healthy lifestyle.

Winsa Daniswara explains why being vegan is not a way to a healthy lifestyle.

I have been chagrined at some of my students’ failure in the research paper oral exam due to their behaviour particularly of their underestimation of the judges. And this is despite my forewarnings and the students before them. But some students have also done me proud as they held their ground before the stern judges and their barrage of questions. They certainly weren’t and won’t have to be asked, “Cat got your tongue?”

GODS ON STAGE

I belonged to a generation that preferred to stay behind the scene of a production. The very thought of facing an audience was nerve-wracking and intimidating. However, the generation of students at Global Prestasi School (GPS) take to the limelight like fish to water. There are still the shy students of the International Program (IP) who, like me, adamantly remain behind the curtains, but majority are very much at home strutting their stuff on stage. There is still the usual cajoling – bordering on threatening – for some to take the roles, but convincing isn’t that difficult. Peer pressure usually does the trick and the reluctance eventually turns into commitment to the roles.

The stage before opening night of "Of Gods and Mortals"

The stage before opening night of “Of Gods and Mortals” (photo by Sarah Huinda)

This year’s IP production was titled “Of Gods and Mortals”, a concept that was ruminated upon by the old theatre team and brought to life by this year’s re-energized crew. The point was to veer away from the commonplace variety show format of song-and-dance built against a flimsy storyline. Literature primarily mythology and epic became the anchor points of the scripts that the IP students worked on with a little help from the IP-English teachers who laid out the structure. Thus “Of Gods and Mortals was born: Looking at the past, before the supremacy of science, there was a distinct line between the gods and mortals. Life was simple: the deities did not tolerate the insubordination of people thus repercussions were expected, which were swift, with any act of defiance. In one of the most well-known mythologies, Greek mythology, the Olympians walked the Earth as humans and behaved like humans. They were petulant, narcissistic, irascible – name all the feelings of humans and the Greek deities exhibited them – and yet they demanded complete fealty. However, they weren’t exactly benevolent or reciprocal in their dealings with the mortals that they greatly pressed loyalty from. Similarly, in Egyptian mythology, the gods and goddesses assumed human form, walked the earth, and ruled ancient Egypt – as pharaoh – with the same tenacity as the Greeks. Analogously, the Hindu epic Ramayana, which has been adapted by Indonesia, the lives of deities and mortals were entwined in a saga of human values, war, defiance, brief reconciliation, and knowing one’s place. Meanwhile, the mortals tried to live as piously as they could amidst the vicissitudes of life. Their end goal was to lead peaceful lives vis-a-vis the omnipresent deities who had no qualms in wreaking havoc at the slightest whim. They knew their place in the hierarchy of life and abided by the dharma or divine rule.

Dress rehearsal: Isis telling Osiris her plan to dethrone Ra. (photo by Theresia Sabono)

Dress rehearsal: Isis telling Osiris her plan to dethrone Ra. (photo by Theresia Sabono)

December 12 was premiere night and Global Hall was filled to the rafters. Interest was stoked and curiosity piqued when the posters and banners started surfacing in and out of school weeks before the play date. The BBM group of the parents of the elementary students fuelled the fire of interest greatly with their incessant texting about the tickets – “Have you gotten your ticket?”, “Are you buying platinum (Rp200, 000) ticket?” – and suddenly tickets were selling like hot cakes. Tension, commingled with excitement, was mounting as premiere night drew near. Nerves were getting frayed as last-minute efforts were made to ensure everything was working – microphones, lights, sounds, and projector – and in place like the pillars on stage, the banner across the stage, and props within easy grasp of the actors. Then only a few hours were left before show time.

A scene from Parade of Gods and Goddesses - Isis and Osiris plotting against Ra

A scene from Parade of Gods and Goddesses – Isis and Osiris plotting against Ra

Sinuhe (foreground) does a fight dance in The Adventures of Sinuhe

Sinuhe (foreground) does a fight dance in The Adventures of Sinuhe

Showtime was exactly at 6pm much to the surprise of some of the audience. Unknown to or ignored by others, an IP production always starts on time. The mandatory prayer was delivered by grade 7A student, Hanna, which segued into the national anthem sang by sixth grader singing sensation Morei accompanied by the elementary violin ensemble. The hosts, Raine and Gisele, both from 7A, kept the crowd abreast of what was happening on stage aside from serenading them, together with Hanna, with a song from “Le Misérables”. And then “Of Gods and Mortals” premiered, opening first with Of Gods and Mortals and ancient Egyptian mythology and tales The Parade of Gods and Goddesses by grade 9A followed by The Adventures of Sinuhe by grade 8B.

The national anthem led by Morei, singing sensation from GPS Elementary, with the violin ensemble

The national anthem led by Morei, singing sensation from GPS Elementary, with the violin ensemble

Hosts Raine (left) and Gisele (far right) sing with their friend, Hanna

Hosts Raine (left) and Gisele (far right) sing with their friend, Hanna

The saman dance group of junior high take to the stage

The saman dance group of junior high take to the stage

Prior to the second act, choral speaking (or reading), was inaugurated in GPS. Picture a group of students on stage looking like a choir but they’re not going to sing. They are going to recite and act out literary pieces such as grade 8B’s performance of The Adventures of Sinuhe. The audience saw more of the choral speaking from grades 4 and 5 IP students. Naturally, singing, like playing badminton like a pro, is in the genes of Indonesians, so grade 8 students Karis, Lukas, and Khansa took to the stage with a song from Radiohead after.

Act 2 showcased Lord Ram and Hanuman from the Hindu epic Ramayana played by the elementary IP students followed by Greek mythology – Olympians vs. Mortals by grade 7A and Pandora and Ilk by grade 8A.

It's the elementary students' turn to shine in "Lord Ram and Hanuman".

It’s the elementary students’ turn to shine in “Lord Ram and Hanuman”.

A battle ensues between the Olympians and mortals in "Olympians vs Mortals"

A battle ensues between the Olympians and mortals in “Olympians vs Mortals”

The cast of "Pandora and Ilk" go through the final scene of their performance

The cast of “Pandora and Ilk” go through the final scene of their performance

“Of Gods and Mortals” ended three hours later to a rousing curtain call with everyone, actors, crew, and audience, moving to “Twerk it like Miley” (a unanimous choice by the students), and hamming it up for the numerous cameras flashing left, right, centre, and above.

Time for the final bow for "Of Gods and Mortals"

Time for the final bow for “Of Gods and Mortals”

A photo op for the IP team with the Director of GPS, Pak Widodo (in batik shirt)

A photo op for the IP team with the Director of GPS, Pak Widodo (in batik shirt)

(Photography by Samuel Jeruel | Additional photos by Theresia Sabono and Sarah Huinda)

GPS EXPO

It has been a week since the busy day at Global Prestasi School (GPS). October 24 saw the grounds of GPS bustling with activities, as it was Expo Day, a day that the school opens its doors to the denizens of Bekasi and beyond to give them the GPS experience. It is back after a brief hiatus as the organizers renewed their collective creative juices.

GPS Expo 2015 began with an academic activity of parents coming to collect their children’s report cards for the first quarter. While the teachers and parents engaged in tête-à-tête about the children’s progress, vendors, students, and staff were at the grounds preparing. Invited vendors were on prep mode, setting up their food stalls or their food trucks like the huge Chicken Town parked at the entrance and the Nula Chocolate Volkswagen van parked next to it. Similarly, the crew of Milk Bar was checking power connections for their blenders and stock of milk cartons for their vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry milkshakes. Students were also getting ready for their performance on stage situated next to the main lobby of the school. An all-female band called Selcouth, which is comprised of GPS’s International Program students from grade 9A, was going over their repertoire of local ditties. Not to be outdone was the music teacher of the junior high unit, Nando, and his friends who were also going through their song selection.

Fried chicken and moist chocolate cake from Nula were the big hits of the day at GPS Expo.

Fried chicken and moist chocolate cake from Nula were the big hits of the day at GPS Expo.

Let's give it up for Selcouth! (L-R: Josephine , Prita, Karyssa, Sharon and Olivia Risa)

Let’s give it up for Selcouth! (L-R: Josephine , Prita, Karyssa, Sharon and Olivia Risa)

Meanwhile, at the other part of the school grounds, cooking enthusiasts were readying themselves for Chef Andre’s cooking class. The GPS alumnus-turned chef was going to teach the participants how to prepare a healthy menu and last Saturday’s menu included guacamole, coleslaw, and extender-free chicken nuggets made from fresh chicken breast.

The day’s activities all got underway by 9am and buzzing until 2pm. Then it was time for its culminating activity, Fortals, the festival of arts organized by the senior high students of GPS, which was going to stage its main event following its pre-main events of futsal and basketball competitions held last August. Later in the evening three of the popular jazz artists of Indonesia were going to grace the Fortals Jazz Festival 2015 hosted by the popular YouTube personalities, SkinnyIndonesian24.

It was a night of luminous performances at the Fortals Jazz Festival 2015.

It was a night of luminous performances at the Fortals Jazz Festival 2015.

By 12 midnight, GPS was ready to call it a night – or day – and head back to the drawing board for the next Expo.

THE BEE’S KNEES

“I don’t even remember any of the words!” exclaimed Humaira Syifa Rizal, a smile crossing her face as memories of that day, September 2, came rushing in.

“Is that right? Why?” asked their ICAS-Writing teacher.

“It was that adrenaline rushing, Miss,” replied Ghibran who made it to the fifth round of the spelling bee.

Continued Ghibran: “Actually, I can’t believe it that I made it to the fifth round.”

“I remember ‘debris’,” Bryan chipped in while memories of that day where he reached the fourth round slowly clouded his mien.

“Wait, I remember ‘maneuver’,” said Syifa.

L-R:  American Spaces Spelling Bee 2015 contestants Bryan Christly, Humaira Syifa Rizal, and Muhammad Fikry Ghibran with classmates Nadia Iga and William Help

American Spaces Spelling Bee 2015 contestants (left-right) Bryan Christly, Humaira Syifa Rizal, and Muhammad Fikry Ghibran with classmates Nadia Iga and William Help (extreme right)

Syifa and her two classmates, Bryan Septiano Christly and Muhammad Fikry Ghibran, were selected from the entire batch of grade 11 students of Global Prestasi School to take part in the American Spaces Spelling Bee 2015, which was held at the Information Resource Centre (IRC) at the US Embassy. The GPS triumvirate went to head-to-head with more than 30+ student-spellers from 14 private and public schools. According to GPS English teacher cum chaperone, Theresia Widi K, IRC Director Oktiviane Sinaga shared it was the first time that the centre had participated in a spelling bee and that the overall winner will be the representative of IRC Jakarta in the nationwide competition to be held on September 22.

Each student, related Theresia Widi K, had five rounds to compete in against other students from other schools as well as their own school mates. Each student-candidate had to spell the word the emcee said correctly within two minutes until only three contestants were left viz. Syifa and the students from Labschool and SMAK Penabur 1. Theresia noted that Syifa had a calm demeanor and quickly outdid her foes. Syifa proved she was definitely the bee’s knees when her competitor fumbled with the word ‘squirrel’ and she breezed through the final round with the word ‘blizzard’.

Humaira Syifa Rizal qualifies for the final round of the American Spaces Spelling Bee 2015

Humaira Syifa Rizal qualifies for the final round of the American Spaces Spelling Bee 2015

Shall Syifa emerge as the Queen Bee of spellers on September 22? GPS is undoubtedly rooting for its Queen Bee. Go, Syifa! Go, Syifa!