Archive for the ‘School Days’ Category

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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lion-dance-at-gps

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!

LASER FUN

Olivia Haura, Andita, Syifa, Prita, and Yunia of 9A are all set for a night of fun.

Olivia Haura, Andita, Syifa, Prita, and Yunia of 9A are all set for a night of fun.

There really is something salutary with breaking the routine every now and then and letting your hair down. For the grade 9A students of Global Prestasi School, who are enrolled in the International Program (IP), it meant taking a break from the books and mock exam sessions. The grade 9A IP students are facing four exams this year which begins with the ICAS Maths and Science exams from the University of South Wales this September. This is followed by the National Exam (locally known as ujian nasional) from the Ministry of Education sometime in May and a few weeks later they will be sitting for Cambridge’s First Certificate of English exam. It is interesting to note that it’s going to be a long school year for the grade 9A because they don’t get to go on summer break until after their FCE exam which is sometime in June unlike the non-IP students who are already on vacation after their National Exam in May.

The ladies and gentleman of GPS-IP are all geared up.

The ladies and gentleman of GPS-IP are all geared up.

The other teams aren't missing on the action as well.

The other teams aren’t missing on the action as well.

The last Saturday of August had the students trooping to Laser Game Indonesia on No. 16 Kemang Raya for some laser fun. Aside from a night of class camaraderie, it was also a reward for their hard work during their Preliminary English Test they sat for last school year, as everyone passed the exam.

The fun begins when, after the list of players has been handed to the “officer” (read: staff of Laser Game Indonesia), and everyone lines up before the weapons room. Each player is assigned a number which corresponds to a vest and a laser gun. Once inside the blue room (the lights are blue) each soldier straps on the gear with the help of the crew of Laser Game. The target points, as indicated on the vest which lights up when hit by the laser, are the chest, back, shoulders, and the gun. But before they head into battle in the dark room, there’s always time for a photo op. Once that’s done the games are on. Divided into two teams – red and green – and gear strapped on, each team tries to outdo each other in the world of make-believe laser marksmanship.

the ladies of IP

Adults are into welfies too.

Adults are into welfies too.

Green tea frappuccino caps the laser game night.

Green tea frappuccino caps the laser game night.

Starbucks Kemang Sky 2As for the post-laser game, after the students had gone home with their parents or their drivers, it was time for the adults to chillax at Starbucks, Kemang Sky which – thankfully – is open 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays.

Photography by Sam Jeruel

TOGA TIME

invites to commencement exercise 2015June is the month of commencement exercises in Indonesia unlike in the Philippines, as graduations were held in March, which marks the start of a new school year. Schools in Indonesia are agog with excitement weeks before graduation after almost 10 months of toiling in the classroom. First, the ceremony signifies a new chapter in their lives, and, second, they get to go on a long well-deserved break overseas or otherwise.

Global Prestasi School in Bekasi, Kalimalang hosts three commencement exercises annually, one for each of its unit viz. elementary, junior high school, and senior high school. Before the opening of its Global Theatre, the ceremonies were held at either the Global Hall or at the nearby hotel of which at that time was only Hotel Horizon. Now, the school proudly hosts all commencement exercises in Global Theatre, with each unit choosing its preferred date in June following the announcement of the results of the national exam (locally known as ujian nasional) by the Ministry of Education. The students of junior high and senior high donned their togas on June 12 while the elementary students are set to don theirs on June 26.

At 8 in the morning, my junior high students – those enrolled in the Cambridge classes – were a sight to behold in their shiny blue togas and caps, million-dollar smiles on their faces. Soon, they were marching into the theatre – teachers, led by the principal Yulie Tan, first entered the hall then the students as the audience (parents, school officials, choir members) stood at their seats to welcome them. Interspersed with song numbers and speeches by invited alumnus and parent, the highlight of the ceremony was the capping ceremony. Each student had his/her turn to shine on stage against the huge backdrop featuring their name and several pictures capturing their growth through the three years in junior high. Tempus fugit! From the chubby awkward children that entered grade 7, they had grown into tall, svelte – even muscular – confident teenagers ready to take on senior high school.

The graduates of Global Prestasi School Junior high before the march

The graduates of Global Prestasi School Junior high before the march

Assembled and waiting for the cue to start walking into Global Theatre

Assembled and waiting for the cue to start walking into Global Theatre

Marching into Global Theatre

Marching into Global Theatre

A song from the teachers to the graduates (Photo by Elizabeth Puella)

A song from the teachers to the graduates (Photo by Elizabeth Puella)

Meanwhile, my grade 12 students, those enrolled in the IGCSE in their 10th year, occupied the hall at 6 in the evening. They were hardly recognizable in their shiny black togas and caps, as they cleaned up well from the scruffy-looking students in their bedraggled uniforms and sleepy mien. I noted that I felt more emotional at the senior high commencement exercise than I was in the morning. I chalked it up to one reason: my grade 12 students are going to fly the nest soon. They are going to spread their wings and see the world for themselves. They are now going to be faced with the vicissitudes of the real world to test their mettle. Part of the sentimentality came from the overwhelming pride I felt surging in me as my former IGCSE student, Kelvin Theandro Gotama, swept up several the best subject awards and, the icing on the cake, was named the best student of the year. Bravo!

The best student of the year - Kelvin Theandro Gotama

The best student of the year – Kelvin Theandro Gotama

Grade 11 students performing the Lenggang Nyai, a Betawai Dance

Grade 11 students performing the Lenggang Nyai, a Betawai Dance

Senior high students perform the saman dance at the commencement exercise of senior high school

Senior high students perform the saman dance at the commencement exercise of senior high school

The teachers are not far behind - they've got a song for the graduates too.

The teachers are not far behind – they’ve got a song for the graduates too.

the graduating batch of SY2014-2015 of SMA Global Prestasi School

the graduating batch of SY2014-2015 of SMA Global Prestasi School

Commencement exercises are indeed emotional events for every teacher, student, and parent. It presages simultaneously an ending and a beginning, new challenges and solutions, and new hurts and victories. Carpe diem, graduates!