Sunday, July 19, 2009

TIMES Warehouse Sale

I've abstained from buying books for a few months now. I vowed to finish reading the titles that I have already before buying yet another book.

My reading list and my 'books read' list are embarrassingly disproportionate.

Yet, today I felt like breaking my vow. I just have to buy some new books. Not just a new book, but some.

So I headed down to CapSquare to take advantage of TIMES' warehouse sale. It felt so good to peruse all the books, with all the nice covers and inviting titles.

One title made me laugh out loud: Portrait of a burger as a young calf.

And the venue's nice too. It's well-lighted and airy.

The crowd wasn't too big, so I took my own sweet time to check out the books systematically, row by row :-)

After an hour or so, I have 5 books in my hand. Chucked one out and proceeded to buy the other 4. They are:
-Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri,
-The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler,
-Teacher Man by Frank McCourt, and
-The Hapless Teacher's Handbook by Phil Ball (I just love the title!)

All 4 books cost RM77.75

I bought the first 2 books because I love Jhumpa Lahiri's writing and anything that has got to do with Jane Austen.

I bought the last 2 books because... well it's pretty obvious isn't it?

I said in my last entry that my students live in an insulated world. I'm now convinced that so am I. I've written little else apart from teaching ever since I've started working.

Like now, even though the entry is supposed to be about the books I've just bought, I'm going to tie it to teaching.

In today's and yesterday's newspapers, I happened to read articles criticising teachers. I couldn't help but take the affront personally.

I really hate it when people say that those who took to teaching did it because it was their "last resort"

In my case, and in many, many other teachers, it's NOT.

And to those who think that teaching is such an easy job, read this extract from an interview with Frank McCourt:

Interviewer: You describe teaching as the 'downstairs maid of professions'. Why do you think that many parents, pupils and social commentators have so little respect for it?

Frank McCourt: People in general look down on teachers the way they regard members of their own family: they think they know what teaching is all about when the fact is they don't have a clue, any more than they know what surgery is all about. Also, many people think teaching is easy. Oh, you simply walk into a classroom and blather and the kids sit and listen. Hell, no.


Hear Hear!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Wanita Insan Istimewa

The above title is actually Topic 25 in the Form 3 Pendidikan Moral textbook.

To get the students to recognise the many achievements/contributions by women around the world, I asked them to list as many famous women as they can according to these categories:
-corporate figures
-NGO workers

I was appalled by their lack of knowledge on general issues.

Most of them could only name Nicol David in the athletes' category. When pressed to name other female athletes, they went blank.

They were clueless about the other categories (excluding celebrities) as well.

Here are snippets of what happened:

Student A: Teacher, I don't know what to put for politicians.
Me: Well, who's the Minister for Women Affairs in Malaysia?
Student A: *blank*
Me: Er... Minister of Tourism?
Student A: I don't know la Teacher...
Me: Okay, she doesn't have to be a Malaysian... Who ran against Obama in the Democratic Presidential Election?
Student A: McCain!
Me: No, before that. Obama went against...?
Student A: I don't know la Teacher... I only know Obama
Me: *pressing on* She's very famous. Her husband used to be the former president. Before George Bush.
Student A: Really? Before Bush?
Me: Yes. Have you heard of Bill Clinton?
Student A: Ooo
Me: What's his wife's name?
Student A: *exasperated+trying to get me to back off* Megan Fox!

Yes, people. Megan Fox ran for presidency (!).

They students couldn't name/didn't know: Dato' Sri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, Dato' Sri Ng Yen Yen, Marie Curie (one student exclaimed: "hey, it rhymes!"), Tan Sri Dato' Sri Dr. Zeti Akhtar Aziz, J.K. Rowling, Aung Suu Kyi, etc

And they didn't know what NGO stands for. And when I gave MERCY as an example of an NGO, they said they had never heard of it....

I think today's students live in such an insulated world of school, tuition centres and the latest Hollywood movies.

I don't think they read the newspapers or keep in touch with what's going on in the world. Which is a pity since life is so much bigger than their PMR, SPM and Megan Fox.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Howard Gardner

How many times have you quoted/cited/referred to Howard Gardner when doing your EDUC assignments?

Today, there's an article about him in The Star newspaper. You can read the online version here.

Here are my favourite bits of the interview:

“I want my children to understand the world, but not just because the world is fascinating and the human mind is curious. I want them to understand it so that they will be positioned to make it a better place. Knowledge is not the same as morality, but we need to understand if we are to avoid past mistakes and move in productive directions.”

"...if you are trying to change somebody’s mind, try to listen and understand the other person. That is an important way to change their mind... But there are instances when it is difficult to move the other person. This may be because they have been holding a certain point of view for a long time, they have an emotional connection about it and they have spoken publicly about it. So if you are a leader, you try to convince those who are sitting on the fence, rather than the extreme." <--- This quote reminded me of the unending PPSMI debate

“A person may be intelligent in various aspects, but have poor people skills. Today, this is known as emotional intelligence. There are other forms of intelligences; linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, bodily kinesthetic and so on. This means there is more than one way to teach, just as there are many ways to learn.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

melentur buluh biarlah dari rebungnya

A huge fight broke up in my school yesterday. A group of Form 5 students fought with a group of Form 3 students. The situation got out of control so the police had to be called in. All the other students got excited and they rushed out of class to watch the spectacle from the balcony. We teachers had a hard time shooing them back into the class and keeping them seated at their place.

It was a total chaos.

Until today, it was the only topic discussed when teachers get together in the staff room, the canteen, the corridors, etc. Information concerning what started the fight and who were involved was gathered and shared. Teachers who happen to teach these students would then share what they know about them.

Amidst all these goings-on, one teacher's comment caught my attention. She said:
"Ada budak yang nakal, tapi hati dia lembut lagi... you can still reach out to them. Tapi ada budak yang nakal dan hati diaorang memang evil... and there's nothing you can do about it."

That gave me food for thought. I agree with what the teacher had said. I've encountered many problematic students, and you can sense whether the students are "reform-able" or not.

And when I've experienced teaching in both the morning and the afternoon sessions, I can certainly say that younger students are easier to mould. They are more impressionable and they actually listen to what you have to say. Thus, it's easier to put sense into their head, teach them right from wrong, and inculcate good values in them.

But once they are older, it's much more difficult to do so.

So I think that teachers should grab the chance to reach out to their students before the window of opportunity closes. Identifying the "potentially" problematic students is not really difficult, is it?

If we can "reform" them when they are still young, then, we'll save ourselves a lot of trouble later on.

When I think about today's kids in general (and the students in my school specifically), I shudder at the kind of people we're letting out into society.

For two days in a row now, after the last bell has rung and my students have left the class, I would stay back, slumped over my desk, feeling utterly defeated.

But I guess the moral of the story is to not give up on your students (even though their actions may at times cause you to have murderous thoughts about them). Try your best to reach out to them, to love them, to think well of them and to pray for their well-being. Avoid hurting them with your menyampah glance, comments and actions.

"In all situations, it is [your] response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated; and a child humanized or dehumanized" -Haim Ginott-