For those students accepted into tertiary education studies, being able to contribute to the education world as a proactive and effective teacher is the ultimate dream. When Suci Fatmawanti started her career in 2008 as a Non-Permanent Teacher in Praya, Central Lombok, this is exactly what she had in mind. With a degree in primary school teaching under her belt, she dedicated herself as a teacher in Central Lombok for six years, before moving to North Lombok.
In North Lombok, Suci began work as a civil servant teacher in Dusun Tangga. After seeing the condition of educational quality in the village, she was motivated to try and use her position as a teacher to improve learning outcomes. After four years, Suci was assigned to teach at primary school SD Pemenang Barat – North Lombok where she was responsible for teaching grade one . Since she used to teach higher grades, this was certainly a new experience, especially when she suddenly found herself teaching students who were unable to grasp basic reading and writing skills. In addition, some of the students in her class had special learning needs. Feeling quite challenged, Suci was glad to attend a mentoring program led by INOVASI, as part of its Foundational Literacy (PELITA) pilot in North Lombok.
So far while teaching early grade literacy, Suci found a key challenge to be lack of student understanding, especially in the first semester. There were still students in the class who could not recognise basic letters, or do basic spelling and reading. Suci also admitted that teachers tend to be fixated on the curriculum, without noticing the real strengths and weaknesses of their students, and tools to improve their learning style.
“We were too focused on the curriculum, so we cannot develop our skills and creativity as a teacher in the class. The effect, children became bored, chatted with a friend although a teacher was explaining. Children sometimes got sleepy and want to go home quickly,” Suci said.
Before participating in the PELITA pilot, Suci faced many challenges as a teacher. She explained that there can often be a lack of interaction between teachers and students, and the tendency for teachers to apply lecture style methods. According to Suci, special methods are needed that can encourage students to be more prepared to absorb knowledge during classroom lessons. Teachers are still focused on the material in the book without developing the intent of the material, or ways to better deliver the material. In fact, students also need to play, so the method of learning while playing can be further developed.
Since joining PELITA, Suci has been learning how to better teach basic literacy skills for her early grade students. By using new teaching methods and tools, her students are benefiting. For example, an active learning component known as MIKIR (Experiencing, Interaction, Communication, and Reflection) has been helping her improve the teaching and learning process. In addition, Suci has also learnt how to identify the root causes of literacy learning problems faced by the students in the classroom, then identifying alternative solutions that can be applied to early-grade students who need guidance.
“After I used the new media and methods of teaching, the kids were more active and faster at understanding the letters. They also showed interest to follow the lessons I gave.”
One new idea that Suci has worked to implement in her classroom has been the development of the ‘Big Book’. This learning tool is a simplified story with large pictures for students so they can more easily understand the sentences. To further enhance the use of the ‘Big Book’, Suci also made a ‘literacy floor’, which has different words and syllables written on it. Papers that have been cut out in sequence are also affixed to the floor. Children are then asked to jump from the exact syllable or word according to the direction of Suci. Suci uses the floor to not only help students absorb foundational literacy concepts, but also uses it to assess student reading ability in an informal way.
Suci’s principal, Principal, H. Syafrudin Arsyad, S.Pd, spoke of the positive changes happening in the classroom.
“After being involved in an INOVASI pilot, classes that were initially deserted and unorganized, are now neat and clean,” said Syafrudin.
After experiencing positive changes in her own classroom, Suci is hopeful that PELITA can be scaled out to other schools in North Lombok. She also hopes that the support provided by INOVASI in North Lombok can also target children with special needs.
“After we attended Foundational Literacy training, one of the challenges we identified was related to children with special needs. If possible, INOVASI should provide training to teachers in public schools to deal with children with special needs. Because public schools cannot reject students, be it children with special needs or children with disabilities,” she said.
Suci also hopes that her students can learn to value books more. She found that the lack of interest in reading can also be caused by a lack of parental engagement and involvement at home – parents often don’t read with their child.
“Parents are too liberal for their children to play handphones instead of giving them books to read, whereas at school children were guided to the library to read books. That’s one way to increase interest in reading,” said Suci.
“Teachers are the heroes who educate the next generation of the nation. I aim to help those students in NTB, especially in North Lombok”.