This week was my first week of working. I work as a teacher assistant at special education department in Sekolah Cita Buana. For now, it's only a temporary job - only for three months. After that, I will have to make a decision whether to continue my study (if I get accepted) or postpone it for a while and stay at least for another year (if I have the chance to).
I will write about it, based on some questions that was usually asked by my acquaintances.
What does 'special education' means?
Special education means education program for kids with special needs, or in another term, kids with disability that makes it hard for them to do some activities like any other kid, so they need to be treated differently. Each of them need an individualized learning plan - a tailor-made one, because even when they have the same disability, they are very different from each other. They need extra attention from their teachers, because to make a good tailor-made plan, the teachers have to know every single details about them.
There are a whole lot of type of them, but most of the kids in my department are dealing with ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) or borderline (very mild) Intellectual Disability (the new term for Mental Retardation) - also known as Slow Learner (because they really need time to process something, that's why most of the mean laymen will just call them as 'stupid').
What's so great about them?
Autistic kids have problem in their social skill, besides the problem in behavior and communication skill. It's really hard for them to empathize or to see things from other people's point of view. It's hard for them to observe the situation and adjust themselves to suit that. That's why, one of the most important thing that might be taught to them is how to be polite to other people. How to act normal around people, how to say something nice, how to know what to say in every particular situation, how to stare at people while talking, and other things like that. They are also told to greet people they meet. It makes it easier for me to mingle when I had a teaching demonstration (as part of the selection process), because some of the kids came to me and asked bluntly, "who are you?", or "what's your name?", or "ibu siapa?", or "are you a new teacher?". It made things easier for me, because all I had to do is answer them and continue the conversation. And I'm so touched to know that two week after the teaching-demo (and after I was told that I got the job), I came back for my first day, and most of them still remember my name. I mean, they only met me for a day, and they remember my name the next two weeks before? How cool is that!
But, of course, that's not all.
I love them because they always struggle in school. They always work so hard, and they never stop trying. They have limited capacity, but the environment is pushing them to be like any other people, so yes, they are struggling real hard. Most of the times, they fail at first. But then the teacher push them, they struggle, they do their best, they fail again, they cry, they try again, and then finally succeed, and feel proud of themselves because they can prove their teacher that they can meet their expectation.
I love to help them do that. Helping them to perform to reach their potential level feels awesome. Beyond, awesome. Teaching an autistic kid about how to do subtraction or to count backward is more fun and challenging than teaching my sister about the most complicated math lesson for a student her grade. It is more challenging for them, because they have some problem with their mind - and more challenging for me (or any teacher), because I have to use the simplest word that I can find, and I have to be patient to wait and explain it to them all over again, until they can finally do it. But, once they can do it, the feeling of happiness I felt is just... priceless.
What is Sekolah Cita Buana?
It's a partial-inclusive school in Jakarta Selatan. It's a bilingual school (yet of course, english is used more often) with national plus curriculum, so the school is super-pricey and can only be afforded by those with filthy-rich parents. So yes, in our department, we deal with kids who come from a wealthy family, but has a disability. They were so lucky that they came from rich parents who can afford a school this good, yet this expensive.
The other school where I had my internship at, Sekolah Cikal, is also an inclusive school. But it's a full-inclusive one, so it has pretty different approach for the special needs kids. In my own opinion, Sekolah Cita Buana has a much better approach for the special needs kids. I really love the teaching techniques and tricks. Besides, most of the teachers in my department (Learning Center) were from faculty of psychology, Universitas Indonesia, too, so I trust them more, and I really like the fact that all of them are passionate about and crazy about the kids. These great teachers are not just teaching the kids, they're educating them.
So, Sekolah Cita Buana has three sub departments of the special education department: Special Need (SN) for primary students with moderate (or below) disability, Learning Center (LC) for primary students with mild until moderate disability, and TEC for middle and high school special needs students. As I wrote before, I work in LC.
So, how many kids are there?
They are 14 kids in LC: Fikri the train-maniac who is really good at playing gamelan, Joey the handsome one who told me that his dad has a Ferrari, Nicole the cutest one who is very friendly and lovable, Shakira who has a sweet smile and is super pretty, Rizqi who is also friendly and was made crying by me on my fourth day during Math, Owen who asks a lot of questions and very talkative, Gio the nice kid who is extremely shy, Sylvanna with the 'drama'-tone voice who is so obedient, Jordan the talented swimmer who likes to sit on the corner or the back, Adit who keep saying 'Bu Ayas marah?' when I prohibit him to do something, Callie the 'bule' who can't stop giggling and is going through puberty, Kenan the childish one who is obsessed with The Smurfs and has the kind of cheek that you'd want to pinch all day, Wilbert with the javanese-accent who only came to LC once in a while, and Raffi, who is also a chatter and likes to joke (he said "I should've been in prison, Bu" after he told me his name - because it's like Raffi Ahmad's name).
I will talk about them a lot for the last three months, that's for sure. But I think I won't write down their name when I wrote something detailed.
So you teach all of the 14 kids?
No, of course not, because as I wrote before, they need to be taught one-by-one, so the teacher can really know their ability, their progress, and their potentials. In the classroom, a teacher only teaches two until five kids at once, with different education plan for each of them - different lesson, different level. So, yes, it's very challenging for the teacher. As a teacher assistant, one of my job is to help the teacher by helping the kids to do some worksheets, or by teaching them something when the main teacher's busy teaching other kids.
So how was it, working with them?
It's amazing. A-MA-ZING! I can't really describe it with words, but you'll know that I won't write this long if I wasn't this excited. It feels awesome to finally interact with those who I only read about before. They have their own limitation, but they are still cute, lovely angels.
This week gave me a lot of lesson and experiences already, and I'm thrilled to spend more weeks with them, helping them to study and studying about them at the same time.
It is the greatest feeling ever, knowing that you have a very cool job. It feels great to know that what you do is what you are so passionate about!
It's been only a week, but I'm in love already.
I'm just in love with this job. I'm in love with those kids. Those special kids.