FOR many teachers, the thought of sacrificing your Christmas holidays to embark on a three-and-half week intensive study program in a foreign country would not rouse much enthusiasm.
Yet, for Jennifer Jurman-Hilton, Indonesian language teacher at Illawarra Sports High School in New South Wales, the decision was an easy one.
“It became a crunch decision … I just thought, ‘I need authentic resources, I really want to be the best teacher that I can be’,”she tells Australian Teacher Magazine.
A recipient of a National Asian Languages and Studies in School Program (NALSSP) scholarship, Jurman-Hilton was offered the opportunity to participate in an in-country language program in Lombok, Indonesia.
It was an experience she says that proved invaluable in terms of enriching both her knowledge of the language and her understanding of the Indonesian way of life.
“You come back with a whole new enthusiasm and passion for your subject area, and your students pick up on that and they really thrive on that.
“It has genuinely made such a difference to be able to go back into the classroom with authentic resources and stories — the kids are loving it,” she says.
And it’s not called an intensive language program for nothing.
“The study was rigorous, it was really difficult, we had assignments due every Thursday, and had an oral presentation and test every Friday.
“In a way it was good because it kept us so busy, that we didn’t have time to sit back and think ‘oh our Christmas holidays back home’,” she reflects.
But that’s not to say there wasn’t time to relax and absorb the intricacies of the culture. Indonesian dance workshops, excursions to local villages, basket making and traditional cooking classes broke up the intensity of the coursework and gave Jurman-Hilton the opportunity to create valuable classroom resources.
“The kids are creating iBooks with my photos and films … I love the fact that kids are now saying Indonesian is my favourite language,”she says.