Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Under the microscope

"Cikgu, cikgu ada jerawat kat sini" *pointing to a spot above his brow*

"Cikgu bawak kereta lain ye hari ni?"

"Kenapa cikgu pakai kasut sama je tiap2 hari?"

You'd be surprised by how observant (and awfully frank) students are about your appearance, car, mood, eccentricities, etc.

You are observed by not only the students in your class, but the entire student population in your school. To prove my point, the above shoe comment was uttered by a student from a neighbouring class.

At times, the attention can be flattering. When Dayah, Nada and I frequented the Pasar Ramadan Sri Gombak last year (during our practicum at Hillcrest), we were always greeted by our students.

"Hi Cikgu"
"Cikgu beli apa cikgu?"
"Cikgu... belanja..."

Sampai penjual kat sana pun tahu kitaorang cikgu. When we paid for our food, they will say: "Saya jual ya Cikgu..."

Nada joked that we might develop "Celebrity-Complex" from all the attention.

But there are times that the attention is unwelcome. If I happened to have a HUGE pimple on my forehead, I would prefer not to have someone point out the obvious to me; I'm sure I must be feeling self-conscious as it is, thank you very much.

But these comments made me realise how important it is for teachers to display all the good qualities that they espouse. Actions do speak louder than words.

I've taken this snippet from Nisa's blog:

"We should not exact a higher standard of conduct in matters of punctuality, responsibility, and self control than what we ourselves possess"

Remember As-Saff, Verse 2-3?

"O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do? Most hateful it is with Allah that you say that which you do not do"

I remembered stressing about punctuality to the students involved in perbarisan Rumah Ungu. Then, I was late for the next meeting! Adoi... malunya. Though, I wasn't late by much, I know that the students noted my tardiness.

Though it can be a little stifling to live under the microscope, it does make you a better person. Billie Jean King, the legendary tennis player once said: Pressure is a Privilege. How true; pressure can be a tremendously effective impetus for improvement. If you're not pressured, if you are comfortably stuck in your comfort zone, then you'd have no motivation whatsoever to change right?

Here's another quotation about teaching that I really love:

I’ve come to a frightening conclusion
that I am the decisive element in the classroom.

It’s my personal approach that creates the climate.
It’s my daily mood that makes the weather.
As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous.
I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.
I can humiliate or heal.
In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated
and a child humanized or dehumanized

-Haim Ginott-

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Art of Integration - Islam in Britain

After missing out on the last exhibition (Divine Inspiration: 7 Principles of Islamic Architecture), I resolved to catch the current exhibition, depicting Islam in Britain, during this school holiday.

I managed to persuade Kakak to come with me. We brought along Damia as she unexpectedly turned up at our house today - She somehow managed to wiggle her way out from attending nursery.

So the three of us made our way to the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM) this morning (17-3-09). The place was not hard to find as it is just a stone's throw away from Masjid Negara.

We knew we found the right building when we spotted this picture below.

Taken from: http://www.iamm.org.my/

The picture is featured on the IAMM's website, publicizing the event. The woman is wearing the Union Flag as her scarf as if to emphasise the point that her identities as a Muslim and a British do not clash.

We entered Special Gallery 1 after paying the admission fee (RM12 for one adult). There were about 40 pictures on display (I couldn't be sure). All of them were beautiful. My favourites are of a man praying on a vast hay field and of Yusuf Islam holding his guitar.

They say that pictures tell their own stories. True - but I feel that a more elaborate caption/comments would have made more of an impact to the visitors.

Afterwards, we roamed the 12 other galleries on the subjects:
-Malay World
-Quran & Manuscript
-Coin & Seal
-Arms & Armour

I was really interested in the Architecture Gallery. It showcases scale models of famous mosques around the world. It was interesting to learn of the different architectural designs employed in different parts of the world in building the Muslim place of worship. I just had trouble understanding most of the architectural terms used.

As for the other galleries, I didn't really took the time to peruse each exhibit. Damia was getting a bit restless. So, we just walked through the galleries and only stop to examine a few items that caught our attention.

Lastly, we stopped at the museum shop. There were a lot of interesting items there as well. We probably stayed there longer than we did at any of the galleries (!). Due to budget constraint, I only bought a few postcards, bookmarks and a children storybook for Damia.

The postcards have pictures from a previous exhibition (from 23-4-03 until 31-9-03) entitled: Between Eden & Earth ~ Gardens of the Islamic World. The photographer was Ovidio Guaita. I bought the postcards because the pictures evoke a sense of calm and tranquility in me.

The bookmarks have Quranic verses printed on them. The verses are:

1) From Surah Al-Kahf (18:109)

"If the ocean were ink to write out the words of my Lord, sooner would the ocean be exhausted than the words of my Lord, even if we added another ocean like it, for its aid."

I was thinking of this verse when I was in Cherating last week.

2) From Surah Qaf (50:16-17)

"It was We who created man, and we know what dark suggestions his soul makes to him: for We are nearer to him than his jugular vein. Behold, two (guardian angels) appointed to learn his doings, one sitting on the right and one on the left."

For more info, visit http://www.iamm.org.my/

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Kawad Kaki

Today (14-3-09), my school held its annual Pertandingan Kawad Kaki Unit Beruniform. It's quite a big thing here; the students have been practising like mad for the last 2 weeks.

11 platoons participated in the competition. They were:
-Puteri Islam
-Pandu Puteri
-KRS (Lelaki)
-KRS (Perempuan)
-Kadet Polis (Lelaki)
-Kadet Polis (Perempuan)
-St. John Ambulance
-Pengakap (Lelaki)
-Pengakap (Perempuan)

It was very exciting at first. I have never been to a marching competition before - so I was a bit awestruck. Firstly, all the platoons assembled for the officiating ceremony. Then, the competition started.

Before taking the stage (read: dataran), each platoon had their costume inspected. Then, they performed basic routines like: ke kanan/kiri/belakang pusing, jalan perlahan, ke kanan/hadapan hormat, buka barisan, etc. Next, came the most exciting part: the formation routine. This was where they really had to impress the judges.

It became rather repetitive after 2-3 performances. Besides, Pandu Puteri raised the bar really high with their routine. The audience went "ooh" and "aah" over their performance. They were the first to perform. It sort of went downhill from there.

The competition heated up again when Kadet Polis (Lelaki) took the stage. They were the second-last team to perform. They seemed to be the favourites. The atmosphere was really electric.

smartest-looking bunch

They certainly made an impressive start. But several errors marred their routines. A few members of the platoon seemed visibly affected by some of the hostile crowd who picked up and celebrated their slightest mistake.

The audience were treated to a silat demonstration while waiting for the result.

Expectedly, Pandu Puteri was champion for the NGO category and Kadet Polis (Lelaki) for the GO category.

Kadet Polis also bagged the Johan Keseluruhan title.

I was surprised at that. To my untrained and biased eyes (I'm the Pandu Puteri advisor you see...) I really thought that Pandu Puteri deserved to be Johan Keseluruhan as their routine was more error-free than the Kadet Polis'. Oh, well...


I like what our principal said during the officiating ceremony. I'm paraphrasing here:

"Saya boleh lihat para pelajar berlatih dengan bersungguh-sungguh setiap hari. Dan para pelajar tidak kisah didenda oleh ketua platun jika melakukan kesalahan semasa berbaris. Denda yang dikenakan termasuk ketuk ketampi, pumping, dll. Para pelajar rela didenda atas kesalahan-kesalahan mereka.

Tetapi, jika guru yang melaksanakan denda yang sedemikian, para pelajar akan memberontak - perkara itu akan sampai ke pengetahuan ibu bapa, media dan mungkin juga Kementerian Pelajaran Malaysia.

Ingin saya tekankan di sini: jika para pelajar boleh berdisiplin semasa latihan kawad, maka cubalah amalkan disiplin yang telah dibina itu sepanjang masa"

I couldn't agree more. That's why it's so important for students to be involved in extra-curricular activities. Learning in the classroom is not sufficient. Academic excellence must go together with active extra-curricular participation.

I'm reminded of what Randy Pausch mentioned in his Last Lecture:

" When we send our kids to play organized sports - football, soccer, swimming, whatever - for most of us, it's not because we're desperate for them to learn the intricacies of the sport.

What we really want them to learn is far more important: teamwork, perseverance, sportsmanship, the value of hard work, an ability to deal with adversity."

So, let us mould individuals who are intellectually, physically, emotionally and spiritually harmonious, as stated in our Falsafah Pendidikan Kebangsaan.


This verse from the Quran was put in the programme book. I thought it was most befitting:

Taken from the Surah As-Saff (61:4):

"Verily, Allah loves those who fight in His Cause in rows (ranks) as if they were a solid structure"

"Sesungguhnya Allah mengasihi orang-orang yang berperang untuk membela Agama-Nya dalam barisan yang teratur rapi, seolah-olah mereka sebuah bangunan yang tersusun kukuh."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

NIE Workshop

Went for my first course today! It was an NIE (Newspaper in Education) workshop.

I get to skip school, library duty and mesyuarat penyelarasan to attend this course *glee*

The course was jointly-organised by the PPD (Pejabat Pelajaran Daerah) Gombak. All 34 schools in the Gombak district had to send one English teacher from the lower secondary to attend the course. I met Pn. S- from SMK Hillcrest there. Pn. S- was one the the cooperating teachers who supervised my practicum. So, it was a happy reunion.

The course was only for 3 hours (2pm-5pm). Firstly, we were briefed about the history of using newspapers in classrooms. Next, the instructor (sorry I couldn't remember her name!) explained why using newspapers in education is a good ELT (English Language Teaching) practice.

Then, we did some hands-on activities. All the resources were provided by the organisers (newspapers, A3 papers, scissors, glues).

Here are some of the activities that we did:

1) Model and Photographers

In groups, we cut out a picture of a person in action. One person from the group had to take a step away from the rest and be the "model". The model had to take directions from the photographers on how to pose. The model had to get into the exact same position as the person in the picture.

2) Collage of Ourselves

This was an individual task. Using letters, words, pictures from the newspapers, we had to create a collage of ourselves. We began by pasting our name on the paper. Then we had to paste these following items:
-an adjective that describes us
-our hobby
-our favourite possession
-a place we want to visit/a favourite place we've been to
-food we like
-our favorite television programme
-something we do well in/at
-something we would like to improve on

Later, a few volunteers explained their finished work to the class.

3) A picture that we love or hate

In groups, we cut out a picture that we love or hate. We had to give three reasons why we hated or loved the picture.

4) Making Up Stories

First, we had to find pictures of:
-a person/people
-an animal
-a place
-an object
-any picture of our own choice

Then, we had to write a story linking all of the pictures together.


Overall, it was a very well-organised and well-executed workshop. Kudos to the PPD Gombak and The Star NIE team!

A goody bag containing the Kuntum, Galaxie, and Flavours magazines courtesy of the Star Publications Berhad

Monday, March 09, 2009

Mereka Yang Tertewas di Cherating

I just got back from a 3D, 2N family trip to Terengganu. Lately, my family has been going on trips quite frequently. It probably has to do with having Damia and Irfan around. They like to swim in the sea or any pool, so the whole family obliges... memang macam mentang minyak yang penuh! haha

We left home on Saturday (7-3-09) at around 10am and we reached Rumbai Resort in Paka, Terengganu at around 3pm (after stopping twice at RnRs). There's not much to explore there, so I was getting a bit restless. I kept thinking: I should have brought my students' books along... I really could have gotten a lot of things done...

Rumbia Resort Villa

At 6pm, we took a drive to Kerteh, to visit my dad's youngest sister, whom we called Ucu. We stayed at her house until 9pm after having a delicious tea and dinner. On the way back to the resort, we made a short detour to the Kerteh oil refinery. In the resort's brochure, the refinery at nighttime is said to look like a brightly-lit, sci-fi city. Indeed, the description is most apt. The combination of bright lights, fog, and fiery towers makes for a bewitching sight.

On Sunday (8-3-09), we checked out of the resort at around 12pm. We had our lunch at the Mesra Mall. I couldn't remember we we reached our next destination - Holiday Villa, Cherating.

I rested for a while before joining the rest at the beach. I brought along the novel 'Mereka Yang Tertewas' after neglecting it for a long time (I've been reading the book since January!). Ever since I've started working, I hardly have any leisure time to read. So hopefully, I can finish the book during my stay here.

The book has had an amazing journey.
Remember the recent DBP Sale I wrote about? Well, while browsing the books there, I called my friend Majidah, who's a Malay-lit enthusiast, to share my excitement (read: to make her envious... haha).

Majidah asked me to look for the book "Mereka Yang Tertewas". The book was published by DBP a long time ago (1989), so it's no longer in circulation in bookstores. But perhaps I could find it at the sale.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find it. And after enquiring at the counter, I was told that DBP has ceased publishing the book for a long time. I relayed the bad news to Majidah. She took it well and said that she had expected as much.

Later when I googled the book to find out its author's name (Hasanuddin Md. Isa), I came across a review of the book. The review also features a cover of the book. Why does it look so familiar?

Taken from: http://bukuzaharah.blogspot.com

I rummaged through the BM section of the library at my home and lo and behold, I found the book there! It's still in good condition, albeit a little bit dusty. There's even the receipt of the book tucked in between the book's pages. There's no date in the receipt but it has a DBP logo on it. I guess it must have been bought in the early 90s at a DBP sale like the one I had just been to.

I'm just amazed by this serendipity. The book has just been lying there for years waiting for me to read it up. Coupled with Majidah's recommendations (which I highly value) and the internet review, I needed no further promptings to start reading the book straightaway. But my progress has been thwarted by work.

Once, I brought the book to school when I was supposed to supervise Rumah Ungu's marching practise. I didn't get to read much but a fellow teacher saw the book and said that she has read it when she was in school. Apparently, it was the textbook for the subject Malay Literature (which is not to be confused with the komponen sastera of the subject Bahasa Melayu).

At last, 2 months later, at Cherating, I finally came close to finishing it (tapi masih belum betul2 habis lagi... huhu). It was a most scenic setting for reading: sitting on the sandy beach, facing the vast sea, hearing the sounds of the ocean... :-)

I had too many distractions to be able to write a review that will do justice to the book. So I won't try. I will just say that though the book didn't really "hook" me in, it did leave an impression on me.

The story is about Lebai Pa and his wife Jamilah (aka Mak Milah), who tried to bring a change to their villagers' corrupted way of living. Such effort is sure to be met with resistance in the forms of suspicions, direct oppositions, and character assassination. So this book chronicles how Lebai Pa, Mak Milah and their small band of friends face those resistance. Quite a simple storyline really, but it can really resonates with a lot of people. Especially those trying to bring about a similar change.

So, If there's anybody who's interested in reading the book, I can post it to you (since it's no longer in circulation).

Good things are best shared :-)

Monday, March 02, 2009

Earth Hour 2009

Earth Hour 2009 is coming up.

So guys, let's switch off our lights this 28th March from 8.30pm-9.30pm.

The event, as can be seen from this video, started in Sydney, in 2007.

I can still remember what we did at that time.

Ana, Durra and I switched off all our lights and lighted candles instead.

Nisa was not around as she had a DRAMAC event. They too observed the Earth Hour at the Lighthouse Theatre, Nisa told us.

I remembered the three of us huddling in the living room with candles on. We were watching the DVD "Love Story", which Durra has just bought due to my enthusiastic review of the book which the movie is based on.

The movie, however, was not so engaging. It was quite slow-moving. Ana gave up about 30 minutes into the movie. Durra and I persisted. I'm not quite sure why... hahaha

The movie's haunting soundtrack stayed with us for several more days because Durra kept on singing it... hahaha. I really miss you Durra.

I miss all Unit 82 occupants.
I miss Macquarie.
I miss Sydney.

Love Story - Love Story