Terrific Teachers – Mas Clinton Milroy

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My journey with Indonesian language education over the last twenty-plus years has been touched by some amazing people whose passion for Indonesian language, culture and travel have really inspired me. Some are current practising teachers, some are not, their life paths are all different but they all have one thing in common and that is; a special love for Indonesia. I’m very grateful that they are willing to share their stories and connections to Indonesia right here on the blog.

Selamat berkenal dengan Mas Clinton {aka Klinton} Milroy.

I first met Mas Klinton back in 2011 {or there abouts} when we both worked at the Department of Education, we worked in different Divisions, however we met whilst Mas Klinton was managing the first co-hort of Indonesian Language Assistants and I assisted Mas Klinton in whatever way I could in my role of Indonesian Language Advisor. Such a great initiative and the program had so many benefits for all involved. It was a great pleasure to work with Mas Klinton and to be involved in the Indonesian Language Assistants Program. I’ll be forever impressed with Mas Klinton’s work ethnics, being super organised, precise and ensuring that everything ran as smoothly as possible. Such a wealth of knowledge and you’ll see in the interview below that Mas Klinton has an interesting story to share, his journey in language learning and Languages Education has taken him far and on many varied paths.

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Tell us a bit about yourself. 

I was a Indonesian/ EALD teacher. Although I’m secondary trained most of my Indonesian teaching was in primary schools. I left teaching around ten years ago when I moved to London and worked for Transport for London teaching students about travel safety. Since then I’ve mostly worked in government and at one point managed the Victorian Department’s language assistants program which was great as I helped bring the first cohort of six assistants to work in Victorian schools. I now work at the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, focusing on how we recognise our best teachers and leverage their expertise.

Why Indonesian? When and what got you started to learn bahasa Indonesia?

Indonesian is a fascinating language, with the mix of not only Malay and local influences (Javanese, Sundanese…) but the Dutch, Arabic and Portuguese it’s picked up on it’s evolutionary journey to the language it is today. I was just reading ‘The Kite Runner’ the other day in which the author uses some Afghani words throughout the narrative and one of them was hadiah to refer to a gift. Up to that point I thought of it as being an Indonesian word, but now I know it must be from Arabic and it’s obviously flown into other languages. So Indonesian really is an international campuran of cultures.

I first studied Indonesian in Year 7 when we had to choose Japanese or Indonesian. I was scared off by the kanji of Japanese so I chose Indonesian instead. I did go on to study Japanese for a few years through my work, and even lived in Tokyo for a year. I stand by my decision- Indonesian was the better choice (though more Japanese would have made getting gas connected to my apartment a lot easier!).

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Why do you think Indonesian is so important for Australian students to learn?

People often reference the proximity of Indonesia and it’s a pretty compelling reason- they are our closest non-English speaking neighbour. But I’ve lived next door to some pretty annoying neighbours, people you can’t wait to move away from

Indonesian people (and I’m of course generalising here) are the warmest, friendliest, most welcoming people I have experienced in the world- and I’ve been lucky enough to travel to a lot of countries. They are always inviting you to mampir (drop in) so they can chat and will welcome you like they’ve known you for years. They have a cheeky and fun sense of humor and are generous and kind. On my most recent trip, riding a bike around some rice fields in North Lombok, a woman on a scooter zoomed past and then circled back around to check I wasn’t lost. So not only are they close neighbours, they are the best neighbours you could hope for, so why wouldn’t you want to get to know them better. 

If we sat in your Indonesian Language classroom, what are 3 things we would see or do?

I’ve been out of the classroom for almost ten years now so I’m a little rusty and probably out of date. But I used a lot of realia, puppets, books, even a Pizza Hutt menu in Indonesian. I also used a lot of games to get students talking and working together. If I was still in the classroom now I’d be using technology to find authentic ways for students to use the language.

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What has been your toughest obstacle in Languages education? How did you get past it?

Convincing Year 9 students why they should learn Indonesian and not feeling totally heart-broken when they had no interest. It’s part of the reason I couldn’t bring myself to teach Indonesian in high school for too long… so I have the upmost respect for teachers who tirelessly work to promote language learning at any level. Unfortunately it can be a tough sell but can change young people’s lives.

What is your biggest achievement in life so far?

In our third year of university, together with a couple of classmates we set up IndoInk as we saw there were no quality Indonesian teaching resources available. IndoInk has been around now for well over ten years, and is still going strong (though I’m not involved anymore as it’s a labour of love). Teachers were always so grateful to be able to access flashcards, puppets, traditional costumes- you name it we pretty much had it. The products we brought over also provided an income for small family businesses we worked with and they benefit directly from the sales of the their products.

What’s your favourite place in Indonesia? Why?

It’s hard to choose and unfortunately I’ve only been to Java, Bali and Lombok… so there are so many places still to see. But Yogyakarta will always top my list. It was the first place I visited in Indonesia and it stole my heart. The young student population gives it a great vibe, the breath-taking monuments like Borobudur, the Central Javanese culture, and of course the people.

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What’s your favourite Indonesian dish? And restaurant? {in Indonesia or in Australia}

I’m vegetarian and Indonesia is a paradise for vegetarians as there are so many choices. Tempe is the best as it’s so versatile (goreng, oseng2, bacem…) and for me nothing beats it. Second on my list would be the sweets and drinks- onde2, kueh dadar, es campur, es buah, es cendol… um I’d better stop.

If you were an Indonesian animal, what would you be? Why?

Ha, this is a good one. Definitely an orangutan. Just hanging out in the forest, wandering and looking for fruit. It’s a shame we have not done a better job at protecting them and their environment. 

If you could wag school {or work} for a day, what would be on your list to do?

Something outdoors, perhaps go for a ride or go to the beach… as long as there was no chance of being spotted by my boss!

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 Thanks so very much Mas Klinton for sharing a bit about yourself!

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