Giving Thanks to Our Unsung Heroes

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Our teachers are one of the reasons we are where we are today. Credits: iStock.

The ability to go overseas to continue our education is a privilege only afforded to those who have reasonable fluency in English and/or other foreign languages. However, have we ever stopped to think about who we should thank for their contribution in enabling us to have a high proficiency in English? In this month’s article, Djodi reflects on the important role English teachers play in creating generations of foreign-educated Indonesians and why we should be grateful for the teachers who make it possible for us to go abroad.

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The Thanksgiving holiday season is over, and so are the countrywide long weekend and a slew of festive parades. To mark the occasion, many splurged on lavish meals, had large get-togethers, and took trips with friends and family. On the occasion of Thanksgiving, which coincided with Indonesia’s National Teacher’s Day on November 25, 2022, I would like to invite all of us to thank a special figure: our English teacher.

Indonesia Mengglobal has a long history of recognizing and celebrating the accomplishments of Indonesians who go global and have taken their careers abroad. Successful Indonesian diasporas overseas owe a great deal to the efforts of unsung heroes: teachers of English and other international languages. I am aware that not all Indonesians acquire proficiency in foreign languages swiftly due to a particular teacher. However, many of us will be aided in some way by the presence of teachers of English and other international languages in our lives.

On this National Teacher’s Day, I would like to thank my English teachers in particular. I understand that because of English, I can study abroad and make friends from all over the world. My English skills are the result of English instruction in schools: opening textbooks, reading texts, doing exercises later, sometimes participating in role-plays in front of the class, and concluding with a short response test. Before a decade ago, there were no debate activities or English practices involving “bule” in schools, particularly in smaller cities. There were no English-learning YouTube channels or mobile apps. Never before in my life have I experienced what it was like to take an out-of-school English course because in the past there were few course providers in the cities I lived in and the costs were a bit expensive.

Teachers are the unsung heroes whose contribution to creating the next generations of leaders is often overlooked. Credits: Pixabay.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why society pays teachers so little: the fruits of their labor are not evident for years (another, perhaps more important reason: because society thinks everyone can teach). Because one student has been exposed to the contributions of others and his/her own experiences over the years, it is difficult to assess the teachers’ contributions. Therefore, it is hard to assert that his/her current skills and accomplishments are the result of his/her teacher’s past efforts.

Since I was in college/as an adult and able to consume my English content, such as books, movies, articles on the internet, etc., my English abilities may have grown significantly. But it is undeniable that the foundation was established by my English teachers during my school years. And most importantly, my enthusiasm for English classes that emerged over my school years has kept me motivated about understanding English and the global community. Unfortunately, there is no current system in place to formally recognize and verify the extent to which educators have succeeded in inspiring student interest and engagement in their subject areas.

Due to the difficulty of measuring the precise impact of a teacher on a student years later, one of the many facets of a teacher’s performance is judged merely by the students’ test scores in the class. It makes sense, so educators don’t have to go to extremes; they only need to ensure that their pupils progress from not grasping idea X to doing so by the end of the semester. This, however, has given many the false impression that teaching is an easy job that anybody can do in its place.

Despite all the shortcomings and limitations I experienced when learning English in school, I am very thankful for my English teachers, and I cordially invite us all to appreciate our teachers’ contributions to our international success for a short second. While fluency in a foreign language is no guarantee of success, it may certainly pave the way to exciting new experiences and the introduction to people we might never have met otherwise. Let’s all give thanks to the people who helped us learn a foreign language and then put that knowledge to good use in the world. Happy holidays to everyone!

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