Friday, April 24, 2009


The Israeli bombardment of Gaza lasted for 22 days.

The Palestinian people were cornered, unable to flee anywhere and were subjected to relentless air strikes.

The total number of casualties is estimated to be around 1300 people.

Throughout, and after the war, we read and learned of the unspeakable horrors inflicted on the Gazan people: the use of white phosphorous, the bombing of schools and other supposedly-safe areas, the killing of civilians, and the blockade of aid, humanitarian, and rescue efforts.

Back then, all of us were enraged by these reports. We felt helpless to help our fellow brothers and sisters there. So, donations poured in for the funds specially set-up in aid of them. Many people even started to boycott Zionist products.

What about now?

Many of us have moved on.

Have stopped donating, stopped boycotting...

Have we stopped caring too?

If we haven't, let's converged at PWTC this 9 May 2009.

There will be a convention entitled: Berakhirnya Agenda Zionis (The End of the Zionist Agenda). The convention aims to give another perspective on the Palestinian issue; that the Gaza's misery is not a few weeks' old, and it has certainly not ended following the ceasefire.

The convention also aims to discuss the roles we all have to play in bringing an end to the Zionist's agenda.

The talk will be in English. And the registration fee is RM10.

The hall could only accommodate 3000 people, so do register early. You can pay later, on the day itself (walk-in is allowed but preference will of course be given to: 1) those who have registered and paid, 2) those who have registered but haven't paid).

Lastly, don't forget to visit: to learn about the panellists and the title of the presentations. Feel free to promote the event in your respective blog, facebook, friendster, twitter, YM, etc.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Vicious cycle

I have "good" classes as well as "challenging" ones.

When lessons go well, I feel so elated and can't wait to do it again.

But when my students gave a lacklustre response, I feel so demotivated.

So, the next time I'm racking my brains, to plan a lesson for that class, I can't help but think: "Why bother? The students won't appreciate it anyhow..."

Thus, I'll end up with a half-baked, uninteresting, ineffective lesson plan.

The lesson will of course disinterest the students further.

Thus, I'll get MORE demotivated.

Get the picture? It's a vicious cycle. One that is essential for me to break.

It isn't an easy thing to do, I tell you.

Each time I'm ill-prepared for a lesson, I just pray really hard that it will go well.
And I try to portray my enthusiasm as best I can... never mind that sometimes the enthusiasm has to be faked.


That's my mechanism for survival.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Then and Now

Then, I taught only 2 classes, now I teach 5.

Then, I taught 10 periods per week. Now, it's 25.

Then, I knew all my students' name (85 students). Now, after three months with my students, I wonder if I will ever be able to remember all 209 names.

Then, I gave instant feedback to my students. Now, my students' exercise books are gathering dust on my workstation.

Then, I rarely used the textbook, relying more on handouts adapted from various sources. Now, I think I rely on the textbook too much. There's nothing wrong with the textbook, but I don't put in as much effort in finding current, interesting materials anymore. Plus, to make copies of handouts for 5 classes is not really financially viable for me.

Then, I always had a set induction for each lesson plan (a set induction is meant to attract the students' attention - to hook them into the lesson). Now, I've dispensed with it because of time constraint especially during single-period lessons. Many times, I went into class and straightaway wrote on the whiteboard without any introductory address.

Reflecting on my past and current practice, is it any wonder that students seem to love practicum teachers more?

Why am I employing a different approach? Suffice to say that full-fledged teachers are simply SWAMPED with a multitude of tasks (which practicum teachers are unencumbered with). And rarely do these tasks have anything to do with teaching.


I feel bad because it seems like I'm shortchanging my students...

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Star Power

In educational theory, we learned about the effectiveness of a reward system. Students will be motivated to do better if they are given a reward for their effort. So, teachers can give out small presents (such as chocolates and sweets) to students for this purpose. Alternatively, teachers can give them stars in the form of a sticker or a stamp. The theory notes that this reward system is more effective with younger learners (i.e. primary-school children). It might not work with older students.

I've been using a star stamp since my practicum days and I can vouch that it WORKS with secondary students too. The students can get pretty competitive with regards to how many stars they get. It creates funny situations such as this one:

Aiman: Cikgu, kenapa Azfar dapat 2 bintang?
Ms. Syada: Sebab dia dapat highest.
Aiman: Saya dapat 100% dalam paper Maths tak dapat bintang pun...
Ms. Syada: Saya bukan cikgu Maths awak.
Aiman: *looking dejected*
Ms. Syada: Aiman, awak nak bintang ke? Awak ada bawak kertas Maths awak?
Aiman: Ada. Kejap ye Cikgu... saya pergi ambil.
Ms. Syada: Berapa bintang awak nak?
Aiman: Bagi 3 la Cikgu...

Several minutes later, Azfar held up his hand to ask a question. I didn't notice. Aiman, who sat next to Azfar, made himself useful by saying this loudly:

"Cikgu, budak 2 bintang nak tanya soalan"

Besides using stars, I also write "GOOD!" in my students' exercise books. To avoid redundancy, I sometimes write "Well Done!" or "Excellent!" instead.

I could never have told that it would create a contentious issue:

"Cikgu, GOOD lagi baik ke, Well done lagi baik?"

How are you to answer that?

One student, not to be outdone, added something to my remark so that the end product became:



Moral of the story is: Never underestimate the power of a small reward/a nice comment!

Sunday, April 05, 2009


Met up with my cohort 3 juniors: Amrien, Syikin, Fina and Riza today (5-4-09). After parting ways more than 1 year ago, we finally got to see each other again.

It was a happy occasion. We traded stories about Macquarie, teaching, mutual acquaintances and IPBA.

They are finishing their Year 4 Sem 1, and are about to embark on their practicum in the next semester.

The conversations about Macquarie; Macquarie Centre, Easyway, our lecturers, the Macquarie University Village, etc - made me feel that I've left Macquarie yearssss ago.

Working has aged me prematurely I think... hahaha


Yesterday (4-4-09), I went to SMK Seri Kundang for the Pertandingan Kawad Kaki Badan Beruniform Sekolah-sekolah Menengah Daerah Gombak. My school represented the Pandu Puteri Unit for the competition.

I left home at 6.30am and only came back at 3pm! It was an exhausting Saturday which was supposed to be my off day!

Tapi, takpe since I got to meet my former students and the teachers from Hillcrest. They represented the Pengakap outfit.

I think all my students have grown 2 inches taller! Rasa terharu that they still remember me.


Last Thursday (9-4-09) was a bad day.

My day started well enough. But everything changed after the staff meeting. I hate it when the "higher-up" people place unreasonable demands on teachers.

Today, we had a briefing about how to keep the class register. It's tedious enough to write (by hand) the students' FULL name on a monthly basis to record their daily attendance. As Najib has pointed out: today's kids have very long names!

"If I ever have kids their name will only be 1 word and 6 letters tops" (Najib, 2009)

I'm with you Najib.

Then, at the end of each month, we have to do numerous statistical calculations. Fine - I can live with that.

Now, the "higher-up" people are splitting hairs about the students' data at the back of the register. For Tempat Lahir, we have to be more specific: we mustn't write KL or Selangor only. We have to include the Daerah as well (e.g. Gombak, Selangor). Oh, and we mustn't write in short form: not PJ but Petaling Jaya please...

And for rumah sukan, we musn't put Biru/Merah/Hijau/Kuning/Ungu. It should be Panglima/Pendekar/Perkasa/Pahlawan/Perwira instead.


Teachers are swamped with a lot of tasks as it is. Creating further unnecessary work and stress is not really a good idea. And please stop from threatening us with Surat Tunjuk Sebab to make us toe the line.

We work very, very hard. It would be nice to get a pat on the back once in a while instead of the unrelenting pressure. A good manager is someone who knows how to bring out the best out of each of his/her team members right?

I'm so going to take Educational Management for my Master.

After the meeting, I felt like I was ready to explode. Coincidentally, my first class for the day was 1N a.k.a. Kelas Yang Paling Mencabar Iman.

They were supposed to have their Ujian Pendidikan Seni Visual but many turned up late to class; Many did not bring their test questions to class (which were given a week earlier); Many did not bring the necessary equipment to do the test (e.g. pencil colours, geometry set, water colours, paint brush, etc).

The class was very noisy despite it being a test because the students were sharing test questions, equipment and even basic items like erasers!

So, my patience was wearing VERY thin. I scolded the offenders but at the back of my mind I kept thinking: Was I reprimanding them or was I taking out my anger at them?

Deep down I had to admit that the latter was true. Though the students deserved to be reprimanded, my words were harsher than usual. The realisation hit me hard. I was immensely regretful.