Ayu Ridho Saraswati / Blitar – East Java
“Art Teacher: Learning While Teaching”
“Art Teacher: Learning While Teaching”
Written by Ayu Ridho Saraswati
Translated by Davinna Anggita Putri Zulkarnain
A dream is a hope
Hope is a beautiful prayer
And a beautiful prayer will always be granted”
That’s what she always says and it remains unchanged until now.
When I wake up, I am always asked this question, “What did you dream last night?” then simplified to “Mbak, what do you want?”, that’s the cycle. A dream in real life is declared through efforts, and that’s what makes it come true.
She loves to tell stories, any stories. About drawing water from a well when she was little, preparing offerings for the corner of an old house, playing hide-and-seek to the neighbouring village, doing karate as a teenager, camping in the woods, how she met my father, writing words, composing prose, studying literature.
Those stories are what created fantasies brought into dreams. “It’s okay, just write down your dream and it will come true eventually.” She loves to put motivational words, print them, laminate them, then stick them on the wall. “So that people in the house will always remember,” she said.
“Don’t easily get angry. Those who are patient are loved by God. Those who get angry are the Devil’s friends.”
Therefore I wrote: “I want to travel all around the world with my dance shawl and my own efforts”. This is actually a spiteful sentence over my inability to become what other people expect of me. I should have become a doctor or a banker, I should have taken economics or physics… But she said, “Do what you love, be the master of it and take hold of your dreams.”
One more thing: Wherever you are, be polite, listen to other people, and speak gently. This is what my mother said.
“My dear Da Ayu…” that is how Mas Lupi likes to call me, while approaching, then hugging me. Mas Lupi is my uncle. Mas Lupi doesn’t like to stay still. Whenever he returns home in the village, he likes to plough, build gates, help to wake the family members up, plant cassava, search for bamboo, wake people up for suhoor at 2 AM.
Whenever he gets back in the city, he always has something that he wants to do related to social activities. He likes to put a whistle around his neck, then walks to the city square and there he turns into a parking attendant. Doesn’t that also count as helping people?
Mas Lupi’s thoughts often go in reverse. ‘To close’ means ‘to open’, ‘not yet’ means ‘already’, and ‘front’ means ‘back’. Although we’ve spent a long time with him, there is always a time when we fail to understand his words. Sometimes we wonder, are we actually the ones who think in reverse, or is it Mas Lupi’s? Such a paradox.
He thinks like a 6-or-7-year-old kid, no wonder he always has childish things in his conduct. When his mother got angry for his delinquency, for example, he would respond “It’s okay, Yu, be patient, it’s okay, alright,” as if it was me who got told off when in fact, it was him being scolded.
We have been used to it, so it’s never a problem for us. What bugs me sometimes are those who don’t know how to deal with it. Once, when I was a second-grade student of elementary school, he came from the neighbouring village to pick me up after school. The road we took passed a crowded junior high schoolers since it was time for students to go home. Suddenly, the students shouted “Hey, hey, hey… That’s the crazy man…!” and, by reflex, I reached Mas Lupi’s hand and held it tight, while hugging him, too, HE IS MY LOVE!
He made a baby box to welcome the birth of my daughter. He had prepared a cardboard box, leftover wood from the gates he built, and calendar papers. The baby box seems like sort of an incubator for a chick, while he said it’s for my baby to stay warm. He truly understands the concept of love. He’s good at making kenthongan (wooden slit gong). He was skilful at assembling radio cables. He has amazing potential.
I later perceive that inclusivity is not about what’s lacking but the visible goodness. We understand and accept each other with love.
There are no differences in this world, diversity is what makes us stronger.
“Free yourself from any ties and have a pure heart, and let’s be the servant for The Child…”
Do you know who said that sentence? Previously, it never crossed my mind that a child’s world can distract me from the ego for praise.
I try to recall when art first touched my heart. I started an activity to pour the expression through movements back then. It was a dream at first, then I tried to make it come true with all my efforts. I experienced various events that have trained my soul and intention. The line “I want to travel the world by my dance shawl and the sweat of my hard work,” was a trigger for self-proving.
The journey of my body began to be recorded. I threw myself into dance events with delight. My heart was overjoyed when I gained recognition through my dance activities, and in the end, I became known in my neighbourhood as “the child who danced on the independence day.“
At that point, I saw achievement as the ability to precisely mimic any move demonstrated by the trainer, make it look the same, even with the same glint of the eye. Being same is what matters most. It’s okay and I had no objections. Until I was involved in a process that accommodates various personalities in expressing energy. These teenagers were asked to work based on their cheeriness. Like a child who meets his best friend and then tells a story: What are you doing today? All are told with motion. Hey… This is fun! We share ideas, feelings, enthusiasm, complaints and grief!
This kind of kinesthetic form has given me hopes that I will continue to fight for. My love for dance is getting stronger. With full determination, I continued to pursue further study in the art education program. I had wandered until I found Bandung, a city with strong local and urban cultures. As I continue to learn pedagogy in the field of dance education, I try to include dance into teaching and learning activities. There comes to comfort in a different form. For a moment I gasped. Ah! I think I have done this before.
When I was living in wetan (eastern part of Java), I used to go from school to school to teach, including in elementary schools, junior high schools, high schools, and special schools. I enjoyed learning from them, but it passed like a wind.
Maybe teaching is a part of my nature. From teaching I learned. My students and I fill and share with each other. Diverse ecosystems, children with various potentials, miscellaneous things, and other various realities and phenomena I found in the field which completely differ from one to another.
Many places in Bandung metaphorically provide stoves that maintain and boost the flame. One of them is Semesta Tari, a children’s dance community that actively teaches dance with creative methods, and carries the essence of “freedom of expression” based on individual potential. It’s process-oriented learning, not a mere product.
I have been involved and working in this field for four years. I greatly enjoyed the whole interaction process with my students, as well as meeting many friends across disciplines who shared their enthusiasm with me to promote children’s education. Above all the existing differences, we mutually initiate, experience, feel, discover, cultivate and create works together. I see that dance teachers, in the end, must not only have the ability to set an example but also motivate each potential individual.
Ngerti-Ngroso-Nglakoni (Understand, Feel, Practice) is a teaching perspective of Ki Hadjar Dewantara (Indonesian education pioneer, Ed.) which deepens my understanding of kinesthetic abilities, that is an ability of children to absorb and apply knowledge in activities created by their bodies. This is the basic idea that art education can be powerful in the process of child development by applying creative methods. Such creativity comes from playing, having fun, being free and happy. Take & give through creative art media can serve as a bridge as it is carried out through fun activities for an adjustment process that goes along with the development of children’s character. This is a form of the elasticity of creative arts education. Like rubber, it can be stretched out to reach more, or it can be widened to function as an umbrella.
I fell in love with all of this. When I dance, I no longer care about my impression towards audiences. On the contrary, I’m trying to convey the message of the games my students are doing. Dealing with their snot, sweat, tears, and many unexpected miscellaneous things. Especially when it comes to the negotiation with ‘Ma’am, what is this’, ‘how’, who, ‘may I’ and ‘can I’ questions. Now I can talk with them intimately about their dreams.
Kak Ayu, Bu Ayu, Miss Ayu, Mbak Ayu, Bun, etc, that’s how they call me in different names and I like to hear it whatever it is.
In 2019 I decided to return to my hometown in Blitar. Leaving Bandung and my students. Deciding to continue my path in the art career by continuing to teach children while nurturing my sweet baby Langen.
I take the experience of giving birth as a gift. Learning from its process, now I have a better understanding of a concept precisely similar to the elasticity of art education. Like the womb, there is life in there, also a cycle: Growing (potential embryo) – taking care (civilization) – giving birth (person) – strengthening (character). My dream now is to continue to develop creative classes to be as elastic as the uterus.
I am so grateful for all stages of my life. Suddenly I felt blessed for all my mother’s sweet messages and the warmth of Mas Lupi’s special presence. I am grateful that from an early age I have been used to dealing with the diversity around me. I will keep my optimism about spreading the education pattern and continue to fight for it. Read a concept to make it relate. Read nature to develop. Read taste to touch. Read events and make your move. At the end of each class, I’m always excited to share this chant with my students:
(prepare to move forward, and … walk!).