Green Teachers Indonesia is a community of teachers who try to elevate their knowledge, attitude and practice toward climate change in their workplace.
Most of our Indonesian teachers who went to the Skillshare in Australia are part of Green Teachers Indonesia. Over time they have shown amazing dedication to environmental education. The Skillshare program was a huge reward for us. For me it was a dream come true, as we have tried but were unnable to make it happen in the past. Our teachers have always worked hard, but the Skillshare was a great opportunity for them to see what others have done, so they could see new approaches and practices, and what it’s possible to achieve.
Everything was special in the Skillshare. The story telling sessions, the school visits, sharing our cultures through cooking, the workshops, the community programs, and our tour of parts of regional Victoria. By the end I felt like I had known the educators and Climate Leaders from India and Australia for years! Which was a very good to start to us learning and sharing.
The most special moment for me was experiencing how student centered learning is practiced by teachers in Australia. The way the teachers encourage the students to lead, and help them to understand their world. I realised that my concept of student centered learning, which has been talked about frequently in my office, was only a theory.
During our visits to Australian schools we saw how a culture of sustainability is created in the whole school, and the wider community. Teachers encourage students to tell their stories. My eyes were wet when I listened to the kids telling of their experiences or explaining how they care for their school garden. How they showed us the ‘worm juice’ from their worm farms, how they explained green house gasses to us, and showed us their projects. They were so confident. So brave, so expressive.
And I was wondering - why was it so different with my students at home? I never let my students speak in front of the class. I never asked my students whether or not they had had a good experience during the weekend; I never ask them to further explore their thoughts, how do they might do something, how do they solve problems... As teachers, we should be doing this.
Now we are back at home, and the teachers who attended the Skillshare are all very motivated. We are busy planning! We are preparing a book based on activities from the Skillshare program, which we will share with friends all over Indonesia. As with the Indian educators from the Skillshare, we are also working on education modules for students and teachers that can be integrated into school subjects. Ours are focused on coastal areas as the coast is a big part of our lives in North Sumatera. Hopefully these modules will be one of the ways to inspire other teachers toward better practice in climate change education.
I am proud to say that on June 15 we ran our very own Skillshare session. We invited 50 teachers from different districts of North Sumatera. Yagasu (NGO for Mangrove Conservation) hosted our Skillshare in the Mangrove Education Center - a marvellous place among Mangrove trees.
We asked our teachers to share with us the great work they have done over the years - a chance to learn from each other. Inspired by a common values session we had attended in Australia, we also made a tree that could be filled with the opinions of the listeners. We drew a tree on a big piece of paper and listeners could write their opinions on it - the differences among opinions made for a very beautiful and colorful tree, and was a good way for people to express their thoughts.
Next we ran a session on storytelling. I had learned a lot by listening to the stories of teachers in Australia – storytelling is a really important way of communicating. However, it is not really part of our culture in Indonesia. Many students and even teachers find it hard to express their thoughts and to speak it out. For example, I have a lot of ideas and experiences but I sometimes find it difficult to tell others. If we can start telling our stories, we can start to share our ideas.
For the storytelling session I presented Public Narrative training about “Self, Us and Now”, just like we did at the Skillshare in Melbourne. Suprisingly we found that participants like this kind of activity. I hoped that our teachers would understand the importance of using storytelling to communicate. I hope that this will lead teachers to change their teaching culture and behavior, and that they will teach students to tell their own stories.
We finished the day with a human graph. We put four options up – 1) story telling is boring, 2) Story telling is so-so (flat), 3) story telling is good, and 4) Story telling is very good and would like to do it again. Then people walked to the option they agreed with - we were very happy to see that almost everybody chose a corner with the sign “Story telling is very good and would like to do it again”. We were happy to see that the corner with the sign “Story telling is boring” was empty.
This was our first Skillshare. We plan to run many more.
Azizah Nasution works at the Regional Office of The Ministry of Religion Affairs North Sumatera (Students’ Development Division). Azizah is the head of Green Teachers Indonesia.