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Interview with Santo Kurniawan

This article originally appeared in IB Global News Vol. 1, Issue 6, which provides an array of news and information about IB programmes, professional development and research.

Santo Kurniawan

Santo Kurniawan, Changchun American International School, China

Q: After graduating as an industrial engineer in Indonesia, what motivated you to pursue a career in teaching?

Teaching was not a new thing to me. I had been teaching in a music school [while in] college but chose to work in other fields after graduating. When I was later given the opportunity to be a teacher at an IB school—teaching economics, business management and theory of knowledge at Sekolah Pelita

Harapan International and then at Global Jaya International School, both in Indonesia—my initial motivations were very practical and revolved around the kind of lifestyle that I thought teaching would offer me. What other job gives you so many days off?! But once I was in the role, I discovered that teaching is my passion. I have to admit that I am addicted to it. It is the one thing I can do with continued enthusiasm despite it often being exhausting. When we see the results reflected in our students, it makes all the efforts worthwhile.

Q: Describe how your current job in China compares with your first teaching experience.

As an IB teacher, there is no way you can just do ‘chalk and talk’ in class, no matter what kind of school or where you are in the world. Apart from the obvious cultural differences I have experienced by teaching in a new country, it is perhaps the interactions, between me as teacher and my students and also between the students themselves, which mark the biggest difference between my first teaching experience in a small local school in Indonesia and here at Changchun American International School in China. Interactions here are more intense and dynamic. It is great to see these lively discussions in class even though I have to work harder to cover all topics in the IB syllabus by the final examination in May. As coordinator, there are fewer differences between this school and the others I have worked at. The most significant difference is the size. My current school is growing fast but is much smaller than what I was used to and this makes things less bureaucratic. In Changchun, we are a bit more like a family: I like it.

Q: Do you remember your favourite teacher at school and why?

I have one teacher in my mind. During my childhood it was not common to ask questions in class, but this teacher was different. Pak Alex made us all feel empowered to ask questions, and he amazed me with the care and patience that he took to answer us. There was no such thing as a stupid question. He also transformed history class for me, taking it from a subject that I found boring to something that interested and engaged me because he always connected the subject matter to the current context of our lives. It is interesting that I am now in his position as a teacher and I hope I can inspire my students as he did.