Author Archives: Dr. Peter Darmawan

A Heartfelt Thank You Letter for Stamford School

Original article in Chinese can be found here.

Author: Miss Ou Zhuobin

Dear Ibu Florentina, Ms MJ, Ms Carolyn, Mr Jay and colleagues:

Hello everyone! I’m Ou Zhuobin, a volunteer teacher from China. Thank you very much for the chance to meet at the beautiful, lush and vibrant Stamford School. It has been almost a year since I arrived at Stamford on the 6th of October. It seems as though I reached just yesterday and within a blink of an eye, it is time for us to part.

Parting is always sad, but when you transform farewell into good memories, then it can be sweet and happy.

Being immersed in a new environment and with a foreign language is always a challenge for new teachers in the  Chinese department. However, my warm and friendly colleagues are always around to help me, which not only reduce the unfamiliarity of the environment but also helps me adapt to the work as soon as possible.

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During IDP activities, following the footsteps Cao Laoshi and Fan Laoshi, I have successfully helped students to complete their Chinese activities, introduce and teach them how to play Chinese chess, started the Chinese Language sharing activities, and increased the confidence in teaching.

On the United Nations Day, Mr Still had helped me write the English translation of the Chinese Guqin’s three thousand years’ history beautifully, and this has led me to discover the other beautiful aspect of the Guqin here in Stamford.

The first ever Halloween party of my life was truly unforgettable! I was terrified and screamed exaggeratedly, and I think it was my exaggerated screams that scares the courageous Miss MJ who was in my group. Until now I can still remember how I made Miss MJ terrified. I still feel guilty afterwards because my screams are usually loud enough to make a rat’s heart stop beating. I was also touched and was determined to work harder when I learnt that Ibu Florentina and Miss MJ, after their work trip to Jakarta, immediately helped out in the Halloween event even though they have not had their dinner yet.

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I remember the “Happy Friday” activity before the end of the second term. Miss Carolyn ran over and asked me if I could go over to the teacher’s lounge to help prepare the food for the students to barbeque. I feel so at home and particularly close. It was the first time in my teaching career to meet a vice-principal who is still so busy thinking about the welfare of the students. It may be the norm in Stamford and my heartfelt emotion at that time was perhaps difficult to understand. I believe that sincere love is the essence of education. I want to let you know that in my long journey as an educator, I have met the right people at Stamford.

Near Chinese New Year celebration performances, Mr Michael who is one of the school managers bought the fabric for the peacock dance. The beautiful Miss Wina painted the pattern of the peacock on the fabric for the dress. Miss Syifa the librarian and Miss Melly helped to sew it on the dress.  It can be said that without the help of these people, there will not be a peacock dance. The completion of the peacock dance also helped a lot in my regular teaching work.

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When Liu Laoshi called me to go over to Mr Anto’s desk to see the Mongolian dance background effect picture, I said to myself these teachers are so amazing! What I wanted and what I have not thought of were already rendered so beautifully in the life-like picture. I really admire them!

The serious working attitude of the teachers also made me more earnest in my work. Liu Laoshi, a senior, was responsible for running the Spring Festival activities this year. She not only had to organise and schedule students’ performance, but she also managed to arrange parents rehearsals. The students in her class took on two performances. Even the young Ye Laoshi and Yaya Laoshi with their very young students were able to step up to the task and contributed two performances. It was not easy, and I think everyone here would agree because, in Stamford, students activities are still heavily dependent on the teacher.

When I went to preschool class to help out in the rehearsal, I did not expect Miss Carolyn and Mr Watson to come in and help too. They followed the practice of these little children patiently and exchanged views and suggestions with the teacher-in-charge. I was very impressed by the respectful and serious attitude that the teachers have towards work because they do not need to be serious, but they were really serious!

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The rehearsal for the musical “The Legend of Mulan” has led me to meet with those teachers who are willing to learn, trust their colleagues and have a high spirit of cooperation. Miss Feny had asked me to train her students in Dragon Dance. Miss Angel and Miss Capa requested for my help in training the students in martial arts. Without their trust in me, I would not have the confidence to do all these things because I am not a professional teacher in these areas because my major is in teaching the Chinese Language. Later on, when I thought of using weapons to make up for the apparent young age of our students as soldiers, the ancient Chinese shield that Mr Deni has made enabled to visualise my idea better and thus I was able to make the correct decision. I was truly amazed and impressed! Mr Deni, unfortunately, had fallen sick and was only able to return to school after he recovered. I wanted very much to talk to him and express my thanks in the past, but due to the language barrier, I was only able to greet and say thank you in my heart. But today, I want to say to him directly, “Thank you, Mr Deni!”.

At this point, I would like to talk specifically about this dragon. I am very grateful to Miss Feny for giving me the opportunity to come into contact with this dragon. This dragon is the teaching aid that Li Laoshi applied for to the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office in Guandong Province for Stamford School. Miss Feny and I, the volunteer teacher, taught the dragon dance together to the students and was able to put up a performance in the English version of “The Legend of Mulan” and it was such a remarkable cooperation.

In the fourth term, Miss Yessy came and looked for me. In the “Fun Fit Friday” that she is in charge of, Miss Carolyn would like me to share and teach the school community Chinese Tai Chi. During this process, she continued to give me advice. Liu Laoshi and Dr Peter also supported her. Because of that, I was able to complete the task better. I am genuinely impressed by the recognition of traditional Chinese culture and the attitude and leadership of teachers and students in learning.

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Beginning in March, I trained local Chinese teachers in the Chinese Language. It was “training” only in words because the fact is I learned together with the teachers. In the process, I continued to strengthen my Overseas Chinese Education teaching ability and also my teaching profession. In particular, two of my seniors, Ibu Florentina and Liu Laoshi, did not set aside their daily jobs and responsibilities and attend this training only after working hours. This attitude is rare in today’s society. In fact, their role model has become the source of my motivation.

I taught in two Chinese FM classes. The students and I have established a good teacher-student relationship. Without their form teachers: Miss Shanty and Mr Watson who helped me solve my problems in the background, I think I would have a very difficult time. During the Spring Festival performance, when I danced the peacock dance on stage, I unintentionally saw the form teacher Miss Shanty admiring her form students performing on stage, watching intently and encouragingly. It truly warms my heart.  Every time I saw Mr Watson and his Primary 6 students playing around and the Primary 5 students greeted him excitedly at the door of the classroom even before the period is supposed to start, I can feel the affinity, connection and the blessings of the students. As educators, we must have a warm and peaceful love. At Stamford School, I can genuinely feel these simple love in many teachers, and it touched me from time to time.

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Even after work, I can also feel the love and care of my colleagues. Every morning, my neighbour, Miss Maya, would greet me a simple “Good morning!” or “Goodbye!” and even though we sometimes are busy, we still manage to give each other warm greetings. During the weekends, Cao Laoshi and Wang Laoshi would take me to see the sights of Bandung even though we have visited it many times. I can still remember when I first arrived; Miss Maila cooked a meal for me so that I would feel at home and less nervous. Mr Will somehow was always able to understand what I am trying to say. Every time we met, we always manage to have a good laugh together. There was once I was not able to come to work during school hours to settle my documents, and after school, Mr Jay, Miss Angel, Miss Capa and Mr Rully invited me to play badminton with them. When I arrived at the court, they applauded and joked with me. Their warmth and friendliness helped me to calm my heart and made me less worried about my problems. I feel that whenever I have a problem, I was never alone to face it. Even though their presence may seem insignificant, it is, in fact, very important to me, especially at that time when I had just arrived.

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In March, I went for a trip to Belitung island. Based on that trip, I wrote an article with more than 10,000 words to record my experience at Belitung island. I thought the Chinese newspaper would not want to publish such a long article, but it turns out that my piece was accepted and serialised into a three-part series. I think, apart from the scenery of the Southeast Asian islands, it is more important for me to record carefully the precious fascinating friendships that I gained during this trip. I am very grateful to Mr Ebora and Yaya Laoshi the husband and wife teachers, who invited me for this tour together with Miss Angel, Miss Capa and Miss Juvy. All of you have given me a very romantic and wonderful trip on top of your precious friendship! I think in the future, the delicious crabs and your graceful poses in front of the camera will surely appear in my dreams again.

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At Stamford, the security guards and I greeted each other warmly every morning. The help at the residence would hand me my ironed and neatly folded clothes. The greenery at the school is so eye-catching and relaxing. They made me feel very warm inside because it truly is a home.

 

When I made mistakes at work, I was not blamed and criticised. Instead, we discussed to understand the cause of the problem and work together to solve the problems. This kind of people-oriented and care can only be available in schools that embody the spirit of learning.

In Stamford School, we treat one another with respect, and in her broad and inclusive heart, we can genuinely feel a warm love. I  felt this respect and love wholeheartedly in the school, and so it is only natural that I gave Stamford School my love and respect too. I sincerely think that Stamford School deserves our love and respect.

At Stamford, the reason why I work hard is for you, my dear colleagues, let’s work hard together! Another reason is that I treat my students here like my students in China. They are all my precious students.

Stamford colleagues, in my heart, you are all very outstanding and caring. This experience is my first so far in my life, and possibly my only one. The sincere help and warm love you have given me have made this experience unforgettable in my life. This friendship is truly precious. Thank you very much!

I wish my dear colleagues good health, may your wishes come true! I wish Stamford School to get better and better and continue to walk the path of love.

Once again, thank you Ibu Florentina, thank you, dear Stamford School, and thank you, my dear colleagues!

8 June 2018

 

Primary Year-End Pool Party

Water never fails to induce excitement among our Primary students. Encouraged by how much our students enjoyed last year’s pool party, Miss Sulaeman decided to hold another pool party for our Primary students.

Playing water with your friends is really really fun! This time around, a number of our upper primary students tested their courage and took a leap of faith from the diving platform. The water slide added a new dimension to the exciting morning!

Dominick from Primary 1 remarked “The pool party was great fun! I enjoyed the slide the most. At first, I was a little afraid, but Cici Memel (Melissa, Primary 5) was there to guide me, so I was not so afraid.”

It was indeed an enjoyable and lively morning with friends and teachers.

 

 

Secondary Year-End Camp

Keeping with tradition, we usually plan something fun for our secondary students at the end of the academic year. True to the adventurous spirit running through his veins, Mr Jay organised an outdoor year-end camp this year for the secondary students.

It is a “one night only” camp in Cikole packed with fun activities where our students strengthened their bonds of friendship, develop new skills and interests.

Miss Yessy and Mr Jay had worked tirelessly to plan activities that were not only fun but develop their teamwork and leadership as well. Not forgetting that being away from their family, students have to do things on their own, and almost all of them rise to the challenge and learn to be independent. Moreover, camping outdoors enables our students to develop a keen awareness of the environment, develop their outdoor skills and appreciate nature better.

Evident from their happy faces, they had great fun at the camp!

Special thanks to the teachers: Miss Yessy, Miss Feny, Mr Gabol, Mr Deni and Mr Jay for taking good care of the students at the camp!

World View: A Brief Introduction to Buddhism

Buddhism is one of the world’s leading religion, and it has significant influence in shaping the Asian civilisation for the past 2,500 years. Buddhism is based on the teachings of Siddartha Gautama, who was born in a park in Lumbini (currently located in modern-day Nepal).

Siddhartha’s father is a wealthy and powerful Sakyan tribe leader who doted on his son. Therefore, Siddhartha led a very sheltered and pampered life within the palace where he enjoyed luxury, married a princess and had a son. Then, he did not know or understand the word suffering.

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Photo by imagesthai.com on Pexels.com

It is only when he ventured out of the palace that he witnessed disturbing sights that he had not witnessed before. Outside the palace grounds, he saw people experiencing pain from sickness, old age and death. He also saw a holy man and one of his minders explained that the holy man renounced the world and seek the release from the human fear of death and suffering.

What Siddartha witnessed and experienced outside the palace grounds gave such a deep and profound impression on him.  Soon after, he left his tribe, wife and son to lead an ascetic life and find a way to end universal suffering. And so, for the next six years, he experimented and practised with various religious leaders as his guide. Some of the ways that he tried were so extreme that he nearly died. On the other hand, before he became an ascetic, he was so obscured by the luxurious lifestyle of the palace that he failed to see the existence of suffering. Having experienced the two extremes of indulgence and severe fasting, he then realised that spiritual liberation/understanding or enlightenment cannot be achieved by extreme means. One has to follow a balanced path, and he called this path the Middle Way.

One day, after a long session of meditation, Siddhartha managed to attain enlightenment, and he was henceforth known as the Buddha, which means, “He who is awake”. He is also sometimes referred to as Shakyamuni, the sage of the Shakya clan.

The central teaching of the Buddha is known as the Four Noble Truths. These are:

  • The truth of suffering
  • The truth of the cause of suffering
  • The truth of the end of suffering
  • The truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering.

In simpler terms, it is merely that there suffering exist; it has a cause; it has an end; there is a way to end it. The teachings of the Buddha is collectively known as the Dhamma, and the monastic community of the Buddha is known as the sangha. The Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha are known as the triple gems of Buddhism.

So there you go, a very brief introduction to Buddhism and hope it helps to widen your view of the world and enables you to appreciate your Buddhist schoolmates/teachers/friends a little better.

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What is fasting? Why do Muslims fast during Ramadan?

“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may (learn)  self-restraint “-Quran 2:183

Ramadan is the ninth month, an important time in the Islamic calendar when Muslims all over the world perform fasting (also known as Sawn) to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad. Fasting means abstaining from all kind of food and drink from dusk to dawn. During fasting, Muslims must also refrain from engaging in sinful behaviour that may negate the reward of fasting such as false speech (lying, insulting, cursing, spreading rumours, spreading fake news, etc) and fighting (except in self-defence).

This act of fasting itself is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam and it lasted between a period of 29 to 30 days. The dates change annually as they are determined by the sighting of a new moon. As we have learnt in Science classes, it takes about 29.5 days for the moon to complete one cycle of phases (from new Moon to new Moon). Through fasting, Muslims practised self-discipline, self-reflection, self-control, sacrifice and empathy for those who are less fortunate. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims also engage in increased prayer and charity.

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Typically, each day before dawn, Muslims observe a pre-fast meal called suhur (sahur in Indonesia) and stopping a short time before dawn. This is followed by the first prayer of the day. At sunset, families break the fast by a meal called iftar. Dates are usually the first food they ate to break the fast. According to tradition, Muhammad broke fast with three dates. Subsequently, they will generally perform the Maghrib prayer, after which the main meal is served.

Non-Muslims can also join in the fast if they want to. Interestingly, there are many studies that suggest benefits to fasting. One study suggests that fasting can make us feel energetic and focused. This is due to the triggering of the survival instinct of the brain where it needs to figure out how to find food.

Other studies reported that people who fast for 12 hours will enter a state called ketosis, when the body starts to derive energy from fat. The more the body enters this state, the more the body will get used to using fat as fuel. In other words, there is a good chance for weight loss for people who fast regularly.

Entering ketosis not only help you to lose weight but it also triggers the release of a molecule called BDNF, which strengthens neurons and brains connections linked to learning and memory.

Naturally, fasting may also help with diabetes. Some scientific reports suggest that certain forms of fasting can improve the body’s response to sugar.

In closing, Muslims or Non-Muslims alike can benefit a lot from fasting. The benefits of self-restraint, self-control and empathy are universal and make a person a better man. Not forgetting that there are many health benefits that can be derived from fasting such as weight loss that I could really benefit from!

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The Stamford Organic Garden

It all started in July 2016 in the Primary 5 classroom. The very first chapter of their science topic is on “The Life Cycle of Plants”. Quite naturally, it involved a series of experiments that the students have to run in order to verify facts and hypotheses. One fine afternoon, their science teacher (that’s me) decided to prepare several plant samples that they will need for the experiments.  Read more

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