Thursday, December 23, 2010

PMR

School will reopen in 12 days. *sigh*

Just when you thought that you can get used to having a relaxing and mundane life, the real world comes knocking back.

Yesterday (22-12-10), SMKTM teachers had their 1st meeting for the 2011 school session. This 1st meeting is also the most important because we will get to know what responsibilities we'll be assigned to next year and which classes we'll be teaching.

Most of what I am put in-charge-of aren't so bad except for BSMM (the Red Cross Society). I mean, what do I know about providing medical aid except for perhaps how to apply a band-aid?

Though the tasks given were fair (everyone got an equal share), I still feel a bit scared. Can I do the jobs well? Will I survive another year of teaching? Belum apa2 lagi dah kecut perut...

Anyway, yesterday's anxiety was somewhat subdued by today's excitement; The PMR results were announced this morning (23-12-2010)!

The PMR slips arrived at around 11am. The class teachers took around 30 minutes to sort them out. The slips needed to be clipped together with the candidates' PEKA certs and a handout detailing the Form 4 elective subjects.

By the time we, the class teachers, went to the hall, it was already packed. The students sat on the floor while their parents were anxiously waiting at the sides. Tables for the class teachers were arranged at both sides of the hall.

Before the students can collect their slips, our Penolong Kanan announced the school's result. Our overall pass percentage increased but the number of straight-A students took a dip. The pass percentage for most subjects (including English) also increased! :)

The students clapped wildly at the good news. Then, our principal gave out the slips to the 67 straight-A students. Loud applause and cheers accompanied each name but you could see some faces grew more and more anxious with each passing name.

After the ceremony was over, the class teachers started to hand out the rest of the slips. A few of my students cried upon seeing theirs. And no, they weren't tears of happiness. I was at a lost of what to do. Tried to comfort them but what could I have said?

After the slips were handed out, I finally got to mingle with my students. Absence does make the heart grow fonder and after weeks of not seeing them, I was surprised at how much I had missed those brats :p

They thanked me and gave me a hug/shook my hand. Chatted with them a bit. I asked them what they plan to do next year; whether they want to move to SBP/MRSM/Teknik or stay put at Melawati. The students also have to seriously start thinking about the electives that they want to take next year and whether or not they are eligible for the stream that they've opted for.

I felt bad about a few students who would've gotten straight As if it weren't for English. N told me that it wasn't my fault; "Memang saya yang tak buat kerja Teacher". But I felt bad nonetheless like I had failed them somehow...

X X X

Congrats to all who did well. We are all very proud of you. But those who didn't, do not be so devastated. You still have a long journey ahead of you. Learn from this experience so that SPM will be a different story altogether.

I like this article published in The Star 3 years ago.

A small stop in the journey
Comment by SOO EWE JIN
The Star Online
Friday December 28, 2007

The results for the PMR are out today. Sometimes we forget that the Form 3 students come from the length and breadth of the country.

Not every student will have the privilege of being ferried to the school in a nice car, accompanied by an equally anxious parent, to see how many As will show up on that slip of paper. Not every student will have the privilege of being featured in the newspapers or TV station jumping for joy. Or being interviewed about their study techniques or the rewards that await them.

The majority of the PMR students, if you put things in their proper perspective, will quietly collect their results and prepare for Form 4. Some may not even be able to collect their results because of the floods, but life still goes on.

The obsession with As is primarily an urban phenomenon. It used to be crucial only at the pre-university stage, but over the years has crept downwards so that even 12-year-old children sitting for the UPSR are subjected to unnecessary tension.

I am reminded today by what my Form 3 teacher advised all of us in her message in our class magazine.

She wrote:

Put in total dedication in your studies,
Pursue learning with real interest
It is such spirit which will carry you
Far deep into fields of knowledge
Be humble in your achievements
The truly great man is never puffed up
Rather he stands in awe
In realisation that there's still so much
To know which is beyond him
Never be discouraged by failure
Not all are born great
But many achieve greatness
Through sheer industry, determination and perseverance
School time is also the time to build up
Precious, meaningful, lasting relationships
Be interested in the world around you
Be intelligently informed
Don't develop into scientific recluses
Remember sports, music, literature and the arts
Have much to offer to help build you up into well-balanced individuals
Able to understand, know, enjoy, better
The world you are living in

This teacher has touched many lives. She has helped produce her fair share of multiple-A students but she also knew that the ordinary students without the As can go on to lead meaningful, rich lives, if they are well-rounded caring individuals who recognise that results are not the be-all and end-all of the school journey.

To all students taking the PMR results today, by all means rejoice in your distinctions, but do not despair over your credits and passes.

Life is a journey, and the PMR is just a little stop along the way for you to pause and reflect, and to move on.

X X X

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

F1 Technology Challenge

After spending 3 days and 2 nights at Brisdale Hotel, KL, I am finally back home.

Was there as the team advisor for Avanzanto-R, who qualified for The F1 Technology Challenge, Petronas National Finals 2010.

When my colleagues found out that I had to be away for the challenge, they all seemed bewildered.

"But why?", they would ask.

Cikgu Hisyam is normally in-charge of anything F1-related. And even if he's unavailable, there are other more suitable teachers who know a thing or two about aerodynamics, drag coefficiency and what-not.

I mean, what do I (as an English teacher) know about such things except for perhaps how to spell them?

But since I've always had a hard time saying 'NO', Liau, Samuel, Hakim & Diana managed to get me to agree to be their team advisor.



So that was how I found myself in Brisdale Hotel last Friday. The competition spanned 3 days (Nov 14-16, 2010) but the bulk of the work began weeks ago.

In a nutshell, the challenge requires the students to: 1) design, 2) analyse, 3) make, 4) test and 5) race miniature F1 cars. A more detailed description of the challenge can be found here.

But manufacturing the cars is only part of the challenge. The students are also tasked to find sponsors to fund their various expenses. They need custom-made tyres, axles, bearings, lubricants, lacquer and paint for the cars. Further, they also need banners, buntings and various merchandise for their display booth. And not forgetting the all-important crew uniform.

Thus, the students have to find companies willing to either sponsor the said items or donate some cold, hard cash.

Besides the cars and booth, the students also have to produce a portfolio and give an oral presentation on their project.

To mount this multi-disciplinary challenge, each team member is given a specific role. The roles are: Manufacturing Engineer, Design Engineer, Graphic Designer and Resource Manager. The 4-member team also has to choose a Team Leader from among their ranks.

The F1-in-Schools Challenge is conducted in over 30 countries. The various national champions will then battle it out at the World Finals/Championship. In the 2006 World Finals, the team Aerobreaker from our school won the Fastest Car title. We have never scaled those heights again since...

DAY 1 (NOV 15)

We had an inauspicious start. You see, our cars didn't look sleek and smooth like our competitors' cars. We ran into all sorts of problem while manufacturing our cars. It was a last minute job. We sent the cars for airbrushing on Friday night with just one day to spare before the competition day!

The painting job was horrible (through no fault of the airbrushing company). Since we didn't have time to sand-paper the cars adequately + apply wood filler + sand-paper the cars again + apply lacquer, the end product looked really pitiful.

During the oral presentation, one judge even laughed when he saw our display car (ouch!). He asked whether we had sand-papered the car. When the students replied in the affirmative, he asked again; "Are you sure?" (double ouch!)

But the students took it all in their stride. They were a bit down but not completely demoralised. We were still hopeful that the car would perform well. Who knows? Maybe what the car lacked in aesthetics, it made up for in speed.

DAY 2 (NOV 15)

Today's the race day! All the cars were lined up beside the 20-metre race track. You can easily spot ours - the roughest looking ones of the batch. Haha.



Before the racing started, the students were given exactly 1 hour to set up their booth.



There were 2 types of race: The Time Trial one and the Reaction Race (I'm not sure what's the difference though).

We were up against the team 'Flash Infinity' from Malay College Kuala Kangsar. We won one race but were later knocked-out. Our car clocked 1.17sec which was quite respectable. We felt sort of vindicated; Our car may not look like a racing car but it sure performed like one! :)

That night, we went to Pavilion. The students belanja-ed me Old Town because it was my birthday. Hazelnut White Coffee and Kaya+Butter Toast had never tasted so good :)

DAY 3 (NOV 16)

The final day of the competition. VIPs came to see the final race, inspect the booths and give away the prizes.

There were many categories -some of which have really funny names- but we didn't win any of them. I wished my team had won something. Didn't even care if it were one of the funnier-sounding ones!

But we didn't. Samuel put in all in perspective: "Takpe Teacher, we may not win any prizes, but we've won many friends".

"And many hearts", Hakim quipped. I wasn't sure whether he meant the judges' hearts or some female ones...

Here's the list of winners:

Overall Champion: Team Velospeed F1 (SM Sains Hulu Selangor)

The team also won these subsidiary titles:
-Best Newcomer Award
-Best Team Portfolio Award
-Petronas Knock-Out Champion

1st Runner-Up: Team Adroit (SMK Aminuddin Baki)

Adroit also won Best Verbal Presentation Award.

2nd Runner-Up: Team Celeritas F1 (SM Datuk Abdul Razak)

Celeritas also took the coveted Best Engineered Car Award.

Team Excel Vision from SMK Batu Lintang was also a big winner, grabbing 3 titles which are:
-Innovative Thinking Award
-Fastest Car Award
-Best Team Sponsorship & Marketing Award

To round it off, Team Extreme Flash (from SMK Kuala Kubu Bharu) took home the 1Malaysia Best Team Collaboration Award while Team Shockwave (from Kolej Sultan Abdul Hamid) won the Perseverance in the Face of Adversity Award.

CONCLUSION

Though we lost, I think the students have learnt a lot from the challenge. They've learnt to be more resourceful, creative, patient, persuasive and cooperative (at least that's what they had written in their feedback forms!).

I really think that this challenge yields many benefits. The students learn things they wouldn't have experienced in a normal classroom - things that would serve them well in the real world.

So, any form 3 students who are interested to join the challenge next year, do your preparations early! You can consult your seniors for any assistance. They'll be m0re than happy to help because on our way back to school the team vowed; "Kita mesti bersihkan balik nama baik sekolah kita".

It's a gruelling challenge, but you'll enjoy it, I promise. Just find yourselves a more qualified team advisor, not some clueless English teacher.

Oh, and I'd like to thank Avanzanto-R's sponsors for their generosity:

Thank you KPS for your cash contribution, Proseeska for our crew uniform, Wang Display Solution for the banner and buntings, THT Mould Engineering for our nylon tyres and Advanco for the 50% off printing. We would never have made it to the Finals without your support!

Monday, November 01, 2010

The Essential 55

Have you ever seen the movie The Ron Clark Story/The Triumph? It was one of those inspiring teacher movies. In the movie, Ron Clark transformed his "difficult" students into high-achievers by introducing a set rules.

Creating rules in order to manage students' discipline might not be a particularly novel and groundbreaking idea. But as a teacher, I know that creating rules and successfully implementing them are two completely different things.

In his book, The Essential 55, Mr. Clark shares with readers his tried-and-tested rules and how they work in his classroom.



For me, the rules themselves are not the main attraction of the book. But the stories behind them are. My favourite chapter is Rule 11: "Surprise others by performing random acts of kindness. Go out of your way to do something surprisingly kind and generous for someone at least once a month". Coincidentally, it is the longest chapter in the book. The chapter details one of the most amazing projects Mr. Clark's students were involved in and how going out of your way to do something wonderful for others is oh-so worth it.

As evident with Rule 11, the set of rules does not only concern classroom dos and don'ts (e.g. Rule 19: "When homework is assigned, do not moan or complain"). They also encompass eating etiquette, good manners, kind acts and living you life to the fullest.

It always annoys me when my students litter, forget to say 'Thank you', cheat during exams, curse, etc. But I haven't really done anything about it other than verbally reprimanding them.

Sometimes, I even choose to ignore the acts. I mean, if I had to reprimand each and every misbehaviour, I would never get to classes on time. I would have to stop every 2 metres or so to ask students to tuck in their shirts/use the boys' staircase/ pick up the trash/etc. I figured that I need to choose my battles, no?

My lack of action maintains the status quo or may have even exacerbated it.

Therefore, I was really impressed with what Mr. Clark has achieved. I concur with him that "kids need and like structure" but I guess, sometimes I'm just not strong-willed and steadfast enough to implement one.

Oftentimes, when I grew frustrated, I just complained; "Don't their parents teach them these things at home?"

Now I realise that though parents are ultimately responsible for instilling good values in their children, teachers should do their bit too.

Another major thing that I got from reading the book is how dedicated a teacher should be. Ron Clark is an award-winning teacher and it's not hard to see why. He typically spends hundreds of dollars a month on books/contest prizes/other items for his students, take them on 25-30 small trips a year, bake them cookies, learned to double-Dutch, etc.

Wow. My effort seems meagre when compared to his and yet I often complain about burnout and tiredness.

Lastly, I was struck by his teaching philosophy. When he was about to take over his first class, the teacher before him said; "As long as you can affect the life of one child, you've been a success".

He disagreed with that stand. "[He approaches] each year with the knowledge that [he has] only one year to make a life's worth of difference in each child in that classroom, and [he gives] it everything [he's] got".

Feeling inspired already? Then, do get hold of the book and read it! :)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mighty Minds National Finals 2010


Last weekend (Oct 15-17), Kak Saf & I accompanied our students, Aiman, Kaif and Ghavinaash to the RHB-The Star Mighty Minds 2010 National Finals. We entered the state level competition last August and won first place! Besides pocketing a cool RM3k prize money, the students also won the rights to represent Selangor at the National Finals.

The Finals were held at the Swiss Garden Hotel, Jalan Pudu. Prior to the competition, the students met daily after they had completed their SPM Trial to prepare for it. The competition tested the students on their maths, science & general knowledge. Since Kak Saf & I are both English teachers, we couldn't help the students much in the first 2 areas. We just quizzed the students on some general knowledge stuff and oversaw their mock-oral presentation. Oftentimes, it was us who got stumped when the students presented us with questions/puzzles such as this one called the Einstein Puzzle (try it, it's really fun!).

At the state challenge, the win came as a surprise. I wasn't really expecting it. But this one's different. I really thought that they stood a good chance of being crowned the champions. Not only did they work well as a team with each person having their own specialised set of abilities, they were also quite well-prepared for the competition.



The Finals comprised of 5 challenges:
1) The Hand-on Challenge
2) The Minds-on Challenge
3) The MCQ Challenge (multiple-choice questions)
4) The Oral Presentation
5) The Buzzer Round

The first challenge required the students to create a more practical clothes stand. The boys came up with a great model that put them in first place!



But after the second and third challenge, we dropped to number 3. Nevertheless, we were ecstatic that we had made the cut (only the top 5 teams out of the 14 states would proceed to the next round)!

Being in the top 5 was already an achievement but we were all aiming for the first spot. That night, the students stayed up late to prepare for the oral presentation. They prepared their scripts, the PowerPoint slides, practised their lines and timed their presentation until they got really tired and cranky. Haha.

The next day, the boys looked really smart in their blazers, all ready to do the oral presentation. The lower-secondary finalists went on stage first. Each team was only given 3 minutes. Then, it was the upper-secondary students' turn.



Aiman, Kaif & Ghavinaash did really well. Their confident performance may have put them as the front runner coming into the last round: the buzzer quiz.

It was a nail-biting final. The KL and Sarawak teams monopolised that round. KL was in a particularly devastating form. They positively blitzed through that round.

Kak Saf, Kak JC and I made a quick calculation. It's going to be either us, KL or Sarawak who were going to be champs.

When the result was announced, we got third place, Sarawak second and KL first. We lost to KL by a mere 0.45 marks!

Takpelah, they still walked way with RM2k and got their picture plastered in the news. They gave it their best shot. And I was so proud of them :)

I've really enjoyed the whole experience not just because I got to stay in a nice hotel and eat sumptuous hotel food (though these were good enough reasons ;))



I've learnt a lot from my students which reminds me of the book I'm currently reading, The Essential 55, by Ron Clark. The book was dedicated to his parents and students. He wrote, "To my students, thank you for teaching me more about life than I could ever teach you".

And later in the acknowledgements, he wrote, "...to all of my former students, every day I spent with you was magic. I learned, I laughed, and I had the time of my life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you."

Actually, I was planning to write a whole other entry on The Essential 55 book, but what I'm getting at now is, teaching can be so much fun. Once in while you do come across that magical teaching moment/experience. And you realise that sometimes your students teach you more about life's lessons than you can ever teach them about the English Grammar or what not.

I've learned from these students about working hard to achieve your goals. It's humbling to see the hard work that these students put in (even though they are already really, really smart).



They are also very independent, proactive and resourceful. Kak Saf and I needn't do much. They really do deserve the bulk the credit.

So thanks RHB and The Star for organising a great competition. The competition really does challenge the students' creativity and mental prowess in a way that's different from the typical pen-and-paper tests.

X X X

Btw, catch them on NTV7 on Nov 3, at 7.00pm!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

QNAIB

Yesterday (Oct4) was spent getting the Block C Hall ready for PMR. 160 candidates are to sit for their lower-secondary examination in that hall. So, a good 3 hours was spent arranging the tables and chairs, sweeping the floors, taking down the curtains and things pasted on the bulletin boards, scrubbing the graffiti off the tables, emptying their drawers, pasting the exam slips on each table and lastly, hanging a big clock in front of the hall.

After all that hard work, the students were allowed to go home. As was tradition, many chose to look for their teachers instead to ask for forgiveness and blessings. So the staff room was packed with students surrounding their teachers. Some students were more dramatic than others. Haha. Some giggled when they confessed to their wrongdoings ("Saya tahu saya tak buat kerja Teacher"), some even shed a few tears.

Looking back on 2010, I couldn't believe I had survived another year of teaching. Though schools will officially end on Nov 19, my core job is basically finished. After 9 months of teaching 185 15-year-olds, I can finally let out a sigh of relief.

I've had my fair share of ups and downs. Here are my 2010 memories according to the classes that I teach:

3 QUDUS



My favourite class. I know I'm not supposed to play favourites, but I'm human after all. I taught 3 Qudus for a semester in 2009, so we were already familiar with each other. I could implement any sort of lesson in this class and they would participate in the tasks enthusiastically. That reciprocity spurred me on.

We sang songs, did presentations, acted a play, watched a movie and even held a lesson outdoors (though this one turned out to be bad idea because we were bitten mercilessly by mosquitoes).

The students offered me footballing updates without my asking. And regularly named characters in their essays after Arsenal footballers/manager. They probably thought that they'd get extra marks for that. They didn't.

3 NEKAD



The class that took the longest time to warm up to me. Most of them are already proficient in English, so they didn't take the subject seriously. But they loved playing Hangman, target puzzles and other language games. Thus, each time I entered the class, the students would collectively shout, "GAMES!". They made me feel like a game show host. Haha.

My most unforgettable memory with them was when I was observed by by another teacher. The class was very quiet. They were on their best behaviour. When the teacher left, the class erupted in a rapturous applause. They were congratulating themselves for their impeccable "performance". I hadn't told/bribe them to act nice. They did so of their own accord.

3 AMANAH



The most quiet class I have ever taught. Seriously. You could hear a pin drop. But all that undivided attention and obedience lasted for... 2 months?

Then a transformation began. And it proved to be irreversible, mirroring the novel we were studying for literature, "Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde". From good, well-behaved students, they turned into something completely different. I still wonder how on earth did I squander my absolute authority over that class.

But despite their misbehaviour, I still love them. Teachers are like that. We forgive easily. But students have to remember that saying sorry is not an excuse to commit more mistakes.

3 INTELEK



Besides teaching them English, I'm also their class teacher. They're okay I guess. They don't have major disciplinary problems so I'm grateful for that. They're just noisy. And malas (<---that was a bit harsh but it's really hard getting them to do any work).

I often received complaints from other subject teachers about them but what could I do? I'm a lousy disciplinarian. The only teacher that they don't dare mess with is their Ustaz. I happened to pass by the class one day when Ustaz was teaching. And I was amazed by what I saw: The students were all seated in their seats; Everybody was quiet and paying attention; All eyes were on Ustaz while he was delivering his lesson.

Wow. It was like witnessing a miracle.

3 BAKTI

My weakest class in terms of proficiency. Half of the boys have chronic avoidance of work. They often came late to class after the assembly. They took a detour to the toilet for their ciggy break but they claimed that they were stopped by the discipline teacher instead (or any other excuses that they had concocted and perfected).

Once, when I pointed out that they smelled of cigarettes, Hadi replied with mock-innocence, "Macam ni ke bau rokok? Saya tak tahu cikgu sebab saya tak pernah hisap rokok".

The whole class burst into laughter and I just gritted my teeth. Had to admit that that was a funny answer. Despite all the disciplinary problems that the class posed, I still enjoyed teaching them. They are a handful to manage but they are not disrespectful. Most of them are just craving for attention.

X X X

I like teaching 15-year-olds. They are at that stage where they're not so childish anymore yet they are still malleable compared to the fourth and fifth-formers.

I don't know whether I'll be teaching them again next year but for the record, I had a great 2010.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sirah Muzikal


The idea of an Islamic musical theatre is not a new one. Erma Fatima presented her "Sirah Junjungan" back in 2008. It was well-received which prompted a 2nd season a year later.

It wasn't that long ago but I've forgotten how the theatre ended. Was it during Fathul Makkah (the conquest of Makkah), Haji Wida' (the Farewell Pilgrimage) or the passing way of the Prophet Muhammad SAW?

It was a tall order to summarise the eventful life of our beloved Prophet SAW in a 3-hour theatre. So, understandably a lot of important events had to be cut out.

PEMBINA's latest effort is far more ambitious. Instead of chronicling the life of Prophet Muhammad SAW, it aims to chart the rise and fall of the Islamic Civilisation. Right from the first revealed verse of the Quran, to the glory of the Umayyad and Abbasid Empire, to the demise of the caliphate system in 1924.

It's impossible to condense hundreds of years of history in just a few hours, but the show, Sirah Muzikal, is really worth watching because:

1) We all need to learn/be reminded of our history. I watched 7 Wonders of the Muslim World on Discovery Channel the other day. And one of the commentators, Ziauddin Sardar, said something about the Blue Mosque that really struck me:

"When I think of mosques, the mosque that comes to mind is the Blue Mosque because I think it symbolises the zenith of the Muslim Civilisation. To me, it speaks volumes about the Muslim thoughts and learning, sophistication, the architecture that we developed... and I see it as a symbol of HOPE. Perhaps what we achieve in the past, we can also achieve in the future.

So, the Blue Mosque for me is not just a beautiful, sublime building -an awe-inspiring building- it is also a structure of hope, a structure with a very deep past and hopefully also a very vibrant future"

Maybe this theatre will do the same? May we be inspired by the great things Muslims have achieved in the past and be spurred on to emulate their acts in the present and in the future.

2)History can teach us many things. Okay, this second point is very similar to the first but I just cannot stress it enough! ;)

Henry Steele Commager, a historian once remarked;

" For a people to be without History, or to be ignorant of its history, is as for a man to be without memory-condemned forever to make the same discoveries that have been made in the past, invent the same techniques, wrestle with the same problems, commit the same errors; and condemned, too, to forfeit the rich pleasures of recollections."

1924 seems like aeons ago but it's not. It's just 86 years ago. We can learn lot from what made the once-mighty Islamic Empire fall.

3) It's hard to find good and halal (Islamically-permissible) entertainment nowadays. And those who strive to provide us with one, should be given our support.

4) It's for a good cause. The proceeds from the ticket sales will be channeled to Sekolah Tahfiz Bayu Syahadah in Kampung Bitoon, Ranau, Sabah, which is chaired by Nazrey Johani (formerly of Raihan). So let's 'berhibur sambil beramal!' :)

5) There are many other prominent nasheed performers around. Besides Nazrey Johari, there will also be Far East, Muadz and Now See Heart.

Coincidentally, one of Now See Heart's members, went to my school the other day to give a talk on Ramadan. Kids can be rude and inattentive at times but they loved the talk! They were very attentive and involved (which was very uncharacteristic of them! Haha). I couldn't remember the name of the speaker though...

So, get your tickets now and I'll see you there?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Syawal 1431

My Eid celebration was kind of muted this year. I guess Raya becomes gradually less fun as you grow older. Especially in the year you stopped receiving the green packets (!).

This year's muted celebration was due to 2 reasons: I didn't get to join the Eid prayer and the absence of Abewan & family.

When they finally returned to KL on the 3rd day of Raya, and when we were playing bunga api at Pak Yan's, did I feel the Raya spirit.


Irfan came back with a bandaged left hand. He twisted his wrist when he was up to some mischief. He was given the VIP treatment when he arrived. Everyone was concerned and asked, "Irfan sakit ke?". He quickly learned to take advantage of the situation and milked it for all it's worth. When we went to Pak Yan's, he wore his bandage proudly like a wounded soldier.



Now that life is slowly returning to normal (people have started to work, cars are clogging the roads once more, mamak stalls are full, etc), I'm amazed at how easy it is to fall back into my pre-Ramadan routines. I have started to eat, sleep and watch TV excessively again.

Hadith of the Day posted this status on the eve of Eid:
"In a matter of hours or days (The Devil) will be released from Hell with his evil army with their guns blazing & their evil intentions. Let's all pray Allah protects us from the evils of Iblis and that we continue our good deeds outside of Ramadan. May Allah allow us to increase our Imaan, even if it's just a little every single day."

How sad is it that our behaviour hasn't improved significantly after undergoing Madrasah Ramadan? That Shaytan came out and were utterly unimpressed with the quality of (some of) this year's graduates?

For me, it's hard to keep the Ramadan momentum going. Just take food for example. It's hard not to overeat when you have free food in abundance and when your grandma and aunties cannot stop from feeding you ("tambah lagi Syada, tambah lagi").

When I read this hadith I feel so guilty because obviously I did not adhere to the one-third rule:
“No human ever filled a vessel worse than the stomach. Sufficient for any son of Adam are some morsels to keep his back straight. But if it must be, then one third for his food, one third for his drink and one third for breath.” (Ahmad & At-Tirmidhi)

Aside from eating less, we can also strive to make the spirit of Ramadan last throughout year by following these 40 tips (taken from emel, a Muslim lifestyle magazine). The tips are broken into 8 categories which are: Ibadat, Intentions, Connections, Discipline, Patient Perseverance, Developing Focus, Health, and Want Less.

Remember that “the deeds most loved by God are those done regularly, even if they are small” (Bukhari and Muslim).

My favourite tip is #31:
God’s delays are not necessarily His denials. Maybe you have to learn something before the adversity will be removed. List what lessons you are learning from the current adversity and how it is benefiting your character.

May we all become full-time Muslims, and not seasonal ones. Ameen...

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Blessings

Today was the last day of school before the mid-sem 2 break. It was an incredibly challenging day. I was so thirsty. More so than usual. My throat was completely parched. How I wished I could sip a drop of ice-cold water!

Today was the 24th day of Ramadan and you would have thought that I had the fasting routine down pat. My body has adjusted to it but certain days are just more challenging than others.

Somehow I survived. That's the amazing thing about Ramadan: You achieve things that you never thought possible. It reminds you of the fact that Allah is your Sustainer.

We Malaysians only fast for 13.5 hours. That's easy peasy compared to our brothers and sisters in the UK and US who have to fast for 17-19 hours (!). I really couldn't imagine how they could fast from 2 am until 9 pm for 30 continuous days in the heat of summer! MashaAllah! Could we do so if we were in their shoes?

I've been reading accounts of 14 Muslims from all over the globe (Pakistan, Brazil, France, USA, UAE, UK, Palestine & Kenya). They share what Ramadan means to them. The accounts are very fascinating. Do have a read of them yourselves.

Though we celebrate Ramadan in different parts of the world, there are certain things that are common to every culture.

Below are my favourite excerpts from the accounts and the things that I can relate to:

-"[Ramadan] demonstrates the capacity of each person to surpass normal limits". -Rachid Nekkaz, Paris, France-

We all can relate to this. Like I had mentioned before, despite the adversities, we all survived somehow. It's amazing. We realise how we are far stronger than we thought, both physically and mentally. And at the end of the day, our Iman is greatly strengthen by the whole exercise (inshaAllah).

-"As clich├ęd as it may sound, Ramadan to me is a time to spend with family. It’s the only month in the year where my parents, siblings and I eat together (we have different work schedules during the rest of the year which makes it difficult to share meals). So during Ramadan I cherish these moments and I have been feeling more strongly about this the older I get." -Hind Mezaina, Dubai, UAE-

I love breaking fast with all the members of my family! We don't get to this often because of everyone's work commitments. But last weekend when we did managed to have all 8 people sitting on the same table, it was really nice. We felt really blessed.

-"[Ramadan brings forth] many fruits; the poor are fed and the orphans clothed, worshippers flood the mosques and the whole town blossoms with goodness." -Mohamed Azhar, Ayub Mombasa, Kenya-

We automatically become the best version of ourselves during Ramadan. We are more conscientious about our prayers, we give to charity more, we are kinder to people, etc. Ramadan truly is the Month of Blessings!

-"We are always a little nostalgic when [Ramadan]'s over." -Mariame Tighanimine, Paris, France-

-"Ramadan, I feel, proves to us that if we sincerely wish it, we can bring the change to our lives that we as Muslims desire – the ability to balance worship with work, carrying on with our everyday activities but altering them in a way to fulfil our spiritual duties in a deeper manner. Despite the difficulties it poses, we long for the month of Ramadan to return and bless our lives." -Mohamed Azhar, Ayub Mombasa, Kenya-

*sigh* 6 days of Ramadan left and you start to feel that tinge of sadness. You reflect on your unfulfilled Ramadan Resolutions and regret not having utilised the month optimally. You fervently hope you will experience Ramadan again next year.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Festive Air

You know Raya is coming because...

-The students' attendance has been gradually declining.

- You've grown accustomed to the sounds of fireworks. (Although today, there was one which was particularly loud. The students rushed out of their classes to locate the source and to sibuk. Haha. One student remarked to me, "Seriously Teacher, that one was like a nuclear bomb!")

-The desks in the staff room are littered with Raya cookies, kerepek, rempeyek, baju raya, tudung raya, etc. It resembles a mini-Jalan TAR :p

-These lines are oft-repeated: "Raya ni, balik mana?" and "Boleh kami Raya rumah Teacher?"

-People are generally happier :)

How is your Raya atmosphere? Is it similar to mine?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Neonatricide

In yesterday's front page: "So far this year, 66 babies, including 25 girls and 15 foetuses, were dumped."

Another headline reads: "Total of 472 babies discarded since 2005"

What is happening to the world? :(

How could a mother dump her baby so cruelly? A baby that she has carried within her for 9 months?

Have you read Mitch Albom's For One More Day?

I haven't (!). But I've seen the movie. It tells of how a mother's love can heal a person.

And I guess everyone can relate to that. Though we may not be suicidal like the book's protagonist, all of us have experienced our mother's unconditional love.

Below are quotations from the book which sum it up nicely:

-"[My mother] wasn't easy on me, don't get me wrong. She smacked me. She scolded me. She punished me. But she loved. She really did. She loved me falling off a swing set. She loved me stepping on her floors with muddy shoes. She loved me through vomit and snot and bloody knees. She loved me coming and going, at my worst and my best. She had a bottomless well of love for me."

-“I saw in her expression that old, unshakable mountain of concern. And I realized when you look at your mother, you are looking at the purest love you will ever know.”

So how could a mother (who's supposed to have this boundless love for her baby) discard her newborn like it's worth nothing?

Instead of loving, cherishing and protecting their babies, a growing number of teenage mothers inhumanely dump them instead.

How can we solve this problem?

Is meting out the death sentence the answer?

On one hand you want to punish the perpetrators for taking away a precious life.

On the other, the punishment seems too harsh for girls of incredibly young age who made very poor judgements out of sheer desperation.

A book by Amy Efaw entitled 'After' explores this very issue (read the review here).

The book deals with these matters:

-"How can one tiny event, one mistake, spin a life out of control..."
-"What drives a young mother to carry out such a drastic, terrifying act?"
-"...the extent of consequences, and how in life, there are never any easy ways out"

Personally, I feel that today's teenagers are bombarded with sexually-explicit content from the media that they consume (TV, movies, music, magazines, the internet). The images and innuendos are everywhere.

But while they are overexposed to the images, they are woefully ignorant of the consequences of engaging in the risque behaviours.

How do we make them see the whole point behind the command: La takrabu zina?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hebatnya Ramadan

I can't stress this enough: I LOVE RAMADAN! :)

Ramadan is amazing, isn't it? I read this article and its opening paragraph really struck me:
"Berbicara tentang Ramadan, kebiasaannya itulah detik-detik terbaik seorang muslim dalam setahun. Selama hampir 30 hari ia akan habiskan sebahagian masanya untuk beribadah kepada Allah SWT. Rela atau terpaksa. Musim is mengingati Tuhannya, Penciptanya, Pemberi rezeki dan nyawanya. Sedangkan ia seringkali lalai mengingatinya di bulan-bulan lain. Hebatnya Ramadan."

I kept rereading the paragraph while nodding, "YES!"

I am deliriously happy for reasons I couldn't quite put my finger on. You know when sometimes you get stressed, anxious, sad and out of sorts? Well, I don't anymore since the start of Ramadan. Maybe it has to do with the combination of the following things:

-I love waking up early for sahur. And since I started the day early, I reached school earlier than usual too. Thus, I don't get stuck in a traffic jam which usually leaves me ruffled by the end of it.

-When I step out of the car, I needn't rush to sign in and have my breakfast. I can take my own sweet time to breathe in the fresh air and take in the beautiful morning sight.

-My students seem nicer during the fasting month. Perhaps they are too tired to get into any major mischief during the day? Haha

-I love breaking fast with my family. I've yet to go to any Pasar Ramadan this year. Why would I? Mum's cooking is the best!

-Oh, and the feeling of anticipation when it's nearly time to break fast! After setting the table, I cannot help but salivate over all the good food and glance at the clock every few minutes.

-I love the simple dua: "KeranaMu aku berpuasa, dengan rezekiMu aku berbuka". It puts everything into perspective. You're not fasting because of culture or tradition. You're doing this for Allah SWT. And all the good food on your table is from Him. His reward for your perseverance. It reminds people that "for every hardship, there is relief".

-And when in other months you struggle/are content with the absolute minimal (the 5 daily prayers), Ramadan makes you realise you're capable of so much more. After Isyak, you can now do 8 or even 20 extra rakaats! Isn't that amazing?

Ramadan really is the month of barakah. You can feel it, can't you?

So tell me, what do you love about Ramadan?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Home Stretch

My students are still playful and taking it easy even though their PMR is just 52 days away. I tried to mobilise them into action by illustrating how Oct 5 is fast approaching.



-They have just completed their Ala PMR 1 exam (Aug 2-6).
-Their PMR Trial is next (Aug 16-20).
-Followed by Ala PMR 2 (Sept 20-24)

In between the Trial and Ala PMR 2, they'll have a 2-week holiday for their mid-sem and Eid-ul-Fitr break.

PMR will commence on Oct 5.

But the tactic only worked on some students. For most of them, the reality and sense of urgency still haven't sunk in yet.

Since I teach five Form 3 classes, these past (and following) weeks have been (and will be) very hectic. For each exam I have to mark 186 exam scripts which always drive me to the edge of insanity... haha. I would groan/moan; "Weren't they listening to what I had been teaching in class?!" and other soliloquies teachers usually indulge in.

Is having a lot of exams a boon for students? In an exam-oriented system like ours, the answer is a resounding YES. But as a teacher, I disagree. Students cheat all the time. Not just those from the weak classes but those from the front classes as well. I guess they share the same goal: "I have to do well at any cost".

And some tried to cheat AFTER the exam as well. They doctored their exam papers and claimed that teachers had overlooked their "correct" answers.

When such things happened, I just couldn't help but support the decision to abolish PMR. What's the use of producing straight 'A' students if no meaningful learning has taken place or when their integrity has been compromised?

Plus, scheduling exams so close to one another made it hard for teachers to provide good feedback and for the students to learn from their mistakes. Are we having exams just for the sake of having exams?

I don't aim for all 186 students of mine to achieve A in PMR. What's more important is that they become highly-competent English-language users in the future. I mean if they can use the language with ease, then the 'A's will come automatically. So I try not to teach to the test.

I also hope that my students will stop cheating. Yes, very few got caught. But "it is impossible for us to break the law. We can only break ourselves against the law". Your good result would mean very little if you had gained it dishonestly.

I guess the point of this whole entry is to nag at my students because I don't do it very well in real life... haha

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thank you Astro!

2 days ago, my school received the Kampus Astro set. The set comprises a flat-screen TV and an ASTRO decoder with PVR (personal video recording) features. There are about a dozen channels to choose from, notably The Discovery Channel, Discovery Science, Animal Planet, National Geographic, History & Disney.

I was so psyched to try it out! I hardly do any listening activity in class. It's such a hassle to bring your own radio from home. I think I only did it once this year and even then the listening activity couldn't be carried out because the power socket in the particular classroom was faulty. If I downloaded something from the internet, then I had to carry my laptop, speakers and extension wire as well. I didn't mind it so much before, but after 2 sets of speakers were damaged from all the carrying to and fro, I do mind... hahaha

So, having neglected listening activities for a long time, I was really excited to utilise Kampus Astro. A teacher has recorded the show, "Don't Tell My Mother That I am in Iran". A few of us teachers watched it yesterday and enjoyed it. I decided to show it to my students later so I drafted some questions while I was viewing the programme.

The show runs for an hour. But since you can fast forward the ad breaks, you can watch the whole show in around 45 minutes. So (theoretically), in a double-period lesson, you can watch the whole show and still have time for other tasks. You can get your students to copy the questions first, provide them with some background info on the show, hold discussions after viewing, or elicit their feedback on the lesson.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to do any of the tasks. My double-period was spilt into 2 with recess time in the middle. So 10 minutes was wasted waiting for them to arrive at the Multimedia Room and another 10 wasted waiting for them to come back from recess.


I guess the lesson could only work if the show was interesting enough and this one is. The host managed to showcase fascinating things about the country which challenge the commonly-held view of many. You really have to see it for yourself! The show features a mullah and his rapper son, an American basketball player who plays in the local league, women taxi drivers, a Tilawah competition, Iranian Jews, and paintings by Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock.

The show also got the students to ask about the Islamic Revolution in Iran, why Iran is in conflict with Israel, what are mullahs and synagogues, etc.

When time is up, the students requested to see more.

That's nice, isn't it? Hopefully, that's an indication that they had enjoyed the lesson :)

So I'll end this post with my heartfelt thanks to ASTRO.

Errr, is it possible for us to have another set?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

22 Days to Ramadan

Ramadan is fast approaching. So, why am I not feeling the "vibe"?

I haven't fasted for a while and thought today would be a good day for a "warm-up" fast. A trial run before the actual fasting period.

As always, when you haven't done something for some time, the first step is always the most difficult. I kept thinking, "Does it have to be today?" "Will I survive the whole day?" "You know, teaching can be exhausting, am I sure about this?"

Nobody has ever died of fasting, so I wasn't sure what I was worried about. hahaha

Alhamdulillah, I made it to the end but the day was full of temptations. Time seemed to be passing sooo slowly. I kept referring to my watch, thinking "When will this class end?!"

Then, Wee Na offered her Tat Nenas. My favourite Raya cookies! I declined with a heavy heart. Then Kak Paridah offered her Kuih Sepit. They looked delicious too... (Why do they have to bring the Raya cookies today??!!)

Right about then, my stomach started to growl. The funniest thing was I was seriously contemplating whether or not to break fast. It was a puasa sunat after all. But common sense prevailed. I stuck to it and completed my first fast in this month of Sya'ban.

The whole ordeal reminded me of a tazkirah I heard a few years back. The topic was "Ramadan Warriors". The speaker talked about how people get over-ambitious in Ramadan. There's nothing with that of course. Without a doubt, we SHOULD strive to make the best out of the holy month. We should set targets with regards to Terawikh prayers, Quran recitation, Sedeqah, Iktikaf, etc.

But what's wrong with these "Ramadan Warriors" is that they want to completely change their habit/practice overnight. This is of course impossible. An example was given: High-performance athletes will spend around 30 minutes doing warm-ups alone before they delve into their actual training.

Likewise, if we want to make the most out of Ramadan, we should start way before the 1st day of the month. That way, we can get used to waking up early for sahur, fighting the lethargy while working, reciting at least 1 juzu' a day, waking up for qiamullail, etc.

If we don't start now, then we'll waste precious time getting adjusted in Ramadan itself (which is such a waste).

It's also good to keep a Ramadan journal like this one which I found in school. I have no idea who it belongs to. A bunch of them were lying around in the office last year.


The journal is meant for school-going children but I really like it because it's so cute and practical. There's a page for each day of the month. There's a checklist of 13 items that should be completed daily:

1) I am fasting
2) I prayed Fajr
3) I prayed Zohor
4) I finished my schoolwork
5) I read the Quran
6) I prayed Tarawikh
7) I gave charity
8) I prayed Asar
9) I did not gossip
10) I prayed Maghrib
11) I smiled
12) I helped someone
13) I prayed Isya'

There's also a section where you can reflect on the good and bad things you have done on that day:

"Alhamdulillah, I had good day because ____________________. But I shouldn't have ____________________. O Allah, forgive me.

And each day, there's a reminder at the bottom of the page in the form of a Quranic verse or a hadith.

I'm not sure who the publisher is but this address was printed at the back: Muslim Professionals Forum.

I guess it's time to set our Ramadan resolutions for this year and start planning how we are going to achieve those lofty targets!

"Whoever fast during Ramadan with purity of belief and with expectation of a reward (from Allah SWT) will have his previous sins forgiven" [Bukhari, Hadith 37]

Monday, July 05, 2010

Creative Group Writing

My students seem to be allergic to writing. Whenever I set a writing task, very few would actually hand in their work. I tried to encourage them to write by writing a sample essay on the board. But, in the end, most would only copy the sample essay without even attempting to write their own piece.

I tried this activity (from TeachingEnglish) recently and was surprised by how well it worked. I managed to get EVERYONE to write something and that feat alone is amazing. Admittedly, this activity will work better with higher-proficiency students. But weaker students can be coaxed into writing something as well. They will be reluctant at first but once they start, they will enjoy it :)

Basically, these are the steps:
1) Give a blank A4 paper to each student.
2) Get them to fold the paper into 6 sections.
3) They should write their name on the top right corner of the paper.
4) Explain that they are going to write a story entitled: An Alien Encounter/My Unforgettable Holiday/Meeting Someone Famous.
5) In the first section, they should write a story based on the question given (Q1: When did you see the alien and where were you?).
6) Write a sample answer. Remind them not to write a one-liner (i.e. I saw an alien at my backyard yesterday). Rather, they should bear in mind that they are writing a story. So, they should make the opening paragraph as interesting as possible (i.e. I slept early last night even though I had a lot of homework to do. I set my alarm to 3am hoping that I would wake up feeling refreshed in order to complete all the work piled on my desk. Around 2.30am, I heard a strange buzzing sound like the vuvuzela...)
7) After the students have written the first paragraph, get them to fold the paper and pass it to the person sitting next to them. That person will continue the story based on Question #2 (Who were you with?), without reading what was previously written.
8) This step will be repeated until all 6 paragraphs are completed. The last person will return the paper to its original owner (the one whose name is written in the top right corner of the paper).
9) The students read how their story had turned out.

You can measure the activity's success by how excited the students are when the stories are completed. They will be sharing the stories eagerly with their friends. They will be like, "Hey, read mine, it's funny!" or "Have you read Farah's? It's really nice".

So, in the end, you will have conducted writing AND reading activities.

Below is one of the stories written by my students.

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One fateful night, the clouds covering the snow-white moon, distant howls from the horizon piercing the silent night, I was busy finishing E.T. The Movie. I thought to myself, how wonderful it would be if Earth isn't the only planet inhabited by creatures. With my imagination running wild, I stared at the black starless night, when suddenly I saw a glimmer of light shining from the dark clouds, like a star breaking into a million pieces...

I decided to step outside to see what had landed in my backyard. My first thought was that; if it was a high school prank, I WANTED TO SUE! Anyhow, as I stepped onto the soft green grass, I saw a little pink figure standing in front of me. It had large blue fangs. It wore sweat pants and a tank top. This alien really did not have a sense of fashion... just like my neighbour.

The alien told me to get something to eat for him. It didn't speak in English, but I could understand him. So then I got him some cereal with milk, but he didn't want any. So I went back in the house and got him some ham. He ate it like he never ate anything before. It was such a shocking and at the same time cool moment!

I was shocked with the things that he asked me to do, but anyhow I did it with an honest heart. In a way, I pretty much thought I was dreaming talking to an alien.

His spaceship looked like a Frisbee with stickers full of werewolf logos, symbols and so on. And "love Bella" stickers. What a weird-in-love guy or a shirtless werewolf guy.

I looked for something hard to grab and assault the alien. I grabbed a nearby plank of wood and ran towards the alien. It took one of its guns and shot me, knocking me out cold. When I woke up, I looked around and found out I was on the alien's planet, locked up in a cage.


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The word count for the above essay is 340 (which is quite commendable). Weaker students will of course write less but that's okay. I'm satisfied if I managed to get them to write anything at all.

Afterwards, you can set a "real" writing task for them. And you will find them more receptive to the idea. More students will hand in their work and they'll write more too! One student even wrote a 1000-word essay!

Just give them a fun task and you'll be surprised with their creative and imaginative stories.

The task that I gave them:

End your story with:

"And that's how I ended up sitting on top of a tree in my backyard at 1 o'clock in the morning, singing Happy Birthday to You"

Monday, June 28, 2010

Practicum Reflection

I found my Practicum Reflection when rummaging through my undergraduate assignment papers.

The assignment asked us to: "Write a reflective report based on an issue/experience that [we] have encountered during practicum".

We were told to be honest in our report. There's no need write "academically" (i.e. an essay littered with citations). We were just expected to share our most meaningful experience.

I chose to write about 2 Cekal.

Reading the report reminded me of all the trials and tribulations of a practicum teacher.

It also reminded me of why I want to be a teacher in the first place.

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Teaching was not a last-resort choice for me. I really thought that I would make a good teacher; I love working with children/adolescents, and I love the idea of making a positive impact on someone else's life. I was inspired to be a teacher by my former English Language teacher: Ms. Suhaila Hani. She made English lessons so interesting and enjoyable. Further, she was also approachable and likable. I guess my teaching style is greatly influenced by her.

Having had this natural enthusiasm for teaching, I thought practicum would be a breeze. There were reports that the school we were going to is "tough". Pn. N, a teacher from the school, even told us to "prepare for the worst". I was a bit alarmed by the news but my optimism was still undiminished. Surely, I would be able to win the students over.

On my first day, I only met 2 Amal. They were not a difficult crowd to handle. They were willing participants and made me feel welcome. My fears were assuaged. But my first meeting with 2 Cekal was another story altogether. The class was extremely chaotic. I failed to control the class; the students would not keep still in their seat and were extremely noisy. I had trouble making myself heard and the lesson was basically a disaster. Further, the students could not understand what I was saying. One student remarked after some time had passed: "Cikgu cakap apa? Kami tak faham la". So, besides disciplinary problems, I also had to contend with teaching low-proficiency students.

Pn. M, my cooperating teacher, told me to be very strict with 2 Cekal ("jangan bagi muka pun"). She said that I had to look fierce when entering the class. I wanted to heed Pn. M's advice but it was hard to change one's personality completely. I am not naturally a terrifying person and to have to project that image was quite impossible.

Not everyone in the class was problematic. The majority were rather cooperative. But due to the misbehaviours of a few, the whole learning process was disrupted. The troublemakers were the boys sitting at the back. These boys often exhibited disruptive and off-task behaviours in class. They talked loudly, tossed objects, exchanged verbal insults, dawdled, walked around the classroom, defaced the school's desks, were tardy to class, displayed overt disinterest in learning, and demonstrated chronic avoidance of work. Each lesson was like a battlefield that left me feeling spent by the end of the lesson.


My failure to control the class made me feel that I am not cut out to be a teacher. My supervisor told me that I was patient and that this was a good quality for a beginning teacher. However, I feel that my temperament is not suited for this profession. Since I could not control the class, little learning could take place. I feel that I have let my students down. I read a journal where researchers interviewed several teachers to find out what they think about their role in inculcating values. One teacher said that he did not think himself as a "proper" teacher. When asked why he thought so, he replied, "I don't know, but I can remember when I first started teaching at school, there were solemn rebukes that did the job. Nobody is frightened of me. I feel that you have got to have a few missiles to carry around to be a proper teacher and I haven't got any". That reply pretty much sums up what I am feeling myself.

Besides feelings of inadequacies, I also suffered from stress and demotivation. Preparing good lesson plans and their worksheets on a daily basis was extremely stressful. There were so many factors to consider: whether the topic is interesting, the level is right, and whether or not it is achievable in the given time. When you put in so much effort, you could not help but feel demotivated when students did not reciprocate. Their indifference/resistance to learning made me just want to throw in the towel. I caught myself thinking "why bother?" a few times when I was in the midst of preparing lessons. I knew that they would not appreciate it - that a few students would not even care to attempt the exercises that I had prepared.


Talking to my fellow practicum-mates really helped me persevere. We often shared our problems and helped each other with suggestions and encouragements. Since I could not be severe and as authoritative as the situation demanded, I had implemented other strategies to tackle the problems with 2 Cekal.

I tried not to be judgemental. Being judgemental only propagates the vicious cycle: When teachers EXPECT difficult behaviour from problematic students, the students will likely to respond as such.

My strategies worked to a certain extent. I managed to reach out to some students. One student in particular, used to do other homework during my lesson. She would quickly hide her books when I came to check on her. But she later, she turned into one of my most hardworking students. She would complete all the exercises I gave and often asked for clarifications. Most of the girls showed similar improvement.


The boys' improvement was not so significant. Those seated in front were quite conscientious in doing their work. Not so for the boys seated at the back. They still created disruptions though they grew more respectful of me. They became more compliant when I asked them to keep quiet. When my supervisor observed me with 2 Cekal for the first time, they were relatively quiet. They sat still in their seat and did their work. But when I checked each group, turned out most of them did not understand my instructions. They were just pretending to do the work! I was touched by their actions. They were giving me their "cooperation" without me asking.

Towards the end of practicum, I still struggled to teach 2 Cekal. Some students still caused me a lot of grief. Hz, in particular, liked to talk back to me. But I could now handle such misbehaviours better. The other boys were still as playful as ever. They still dawdled and tried to avoid doing any work, but they were not disrespectful to me. The students' behaviour could be best described as being inconsistent. Just when I thought I had gotten through to them, they relapsed to their former selves. Aq, for example, began to show improvement by doing and submitting his work. But that did not last long. He was too easily influenced and distracted by his immediate friends. The class was relatively quiet during my supervisor's first visit. But during the second time round, the students showed their true colours and this shocked my supervisor. My supervisor told me afterwards that she had to restraint herself from coming to the front and give the class a proper "shelling". Then, during my final observation, they gave their cooperation by being relatively quiet once again. Their inconsistencies mystified me but some improvements (albeit temporary) are better than none I suppose.

2 Cekal has taught me a lot about teaching. I no longer have the romantic notion of the profession. That does not mean that I no longer love teaching - I do - but I am no longer naive about it. The five years of academic training have not prepared me for the realities of teaching. I realise that I have to be firmer and more authoritative (something that I am still working on). I also realise that I need to possess a certain degree of emotional detachment. I should not let students' rudeness or misbehaviours affect me greatly - I need to show more composure. I also think that the teacher training programme should do more to prepare students to deal with problematic students. I feel that the bulk of my training has been geared towards teaching the highly-motivated, intelligent, "ideal" students and not the "real" students one finds in actual classrooms.

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All the best to my cohort 4 juniors who are undergoing their practicum now. The next 12 weeks are going to be very very emotionally & physically draining. But it will all be worth it in the end.

:)

Monday, June 07, 2010

Universal Plan of Allah

Ever been in a difficult situation? a confused state? Ever been anxious about something and suddenly when you read the Quran- bang! The answer hit you right in the eye?

I'm sure many of you have experienced it. My latest of such moments came a few days ago. I read Surah Al-Qasas the night of the Mavi Marmara attack. Feeling utterly incensed about the whole thing, I read the Quran to calm myself down. The Surah tells of how Musa's mother was inspired to cast him into the river and how he came to be adopted by Pharaoh.

[Verse 9] The wife of Pharaoh said: "(Here is) a joy of the eye, for me and for thee. Slay him not. It may be that he will be of use to us, or we may adopt him as a son." And they perceived not (what they were doing)!

The footnote (Abdullah Yusuf Ali translation) which accompanied this verse explains: In all life Providence so orders things that Evil is defeated by its own weapon. Not only is it defeated, but it actually, though unwittingly, advances the cause of Good! In non-religious language this is called the work of Ironic Fates... or as we should prefer to call it, the working Universal Plan of Allah.

I doubt then that any good could come out of this tragic event. But the verse gave me hope nonetheless.

Then, tonight, I read a recount of the Malaysian LL4G activists' experience. Certain excerpts from the recount reminded me of the verse above and strengthen my faith in Allah's Universal Plan:

1) [During Q&A session] Soalan 3: Setelah gagalnya misi kita kali ini, apakah ada misi akan datang akan berjaya? Atau hanya akan menerima nasib yang sebegini? Atau mungkin akan ubah taktik penghantaran?

Pada Encik Muhammad Nizam, misi LL4G tidak pernah gagal. Mungkin dari segi misi hendak memberikan bantuan barangan mungkin belum tercapai. Tetapi bantuan ke Gaza akan sampai juga dalam bentuk-bentuk yang lain. Hakikatnya, mereka telah mendapat kejayaan yang besar, kerana daripada persitiwa inilah dunia telah tersentak dengan hebatnya. Hakikatnya, kesyahidan itu adalah bayaran untuk kesedaran dunia.

2)
Berkenaan soalan jika perkara ini berlaku di perairan Gaza pula, Ustaz Jamaluddin menyatakan bahawa, rancangan asal mereka adalah mereka akan berhenti di sempadan. Kalau tak dibenarkan, mereka akan duduk di sempadan perairan Gaza selama mana bekalan makanan bertahan. Sekiranya habis makanan, bantuan makanan akan diatur untuk datang agar mereka boleh terus menunjukkan protes. Mereka hakikatnya tidak tahu berapa bulan hendak berada di atas laut. Tetapi penyusunan Allah itu sangat baik dan cantik. Allah susun mereka diserang, dan ia nampaknya lebih membuka mata dunia dari rancangan asal. Hakikatnya, mereka tidak akan merentasi sempadan Gaza tanpa kebenaran agar tidak ada konsikuensi yang buruk.

3)
Sempat Dr Syed Muhammad Halim menceritakan keadaan apabila konvoi diserang oleh tentera Israel. Hakikatnya, Mavi Marmara adalah yang terakhir ditawan. Jika benar Israel hendak bertindak, maka sepatutnya amaran diberikan terlebih dahulu. Atau sekadar menarik Kapal Mavi Marmara untuk diberikan hukuman. Tetapi mereka nampaknya telah tergesa-gesa dengan melakukan tindakan menyerang. Itulah susunan Allah yang cantik. Akhirnya kecaman diberikan oleh seluruh dunia. Syahid, dibayar oleh Allah dalam keadaan yang cantik sekali.


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Cantik sungguh percaturan Allah...

Do read the the full account and pay extra attention to the Conclusion!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Flotilla

Can't sleep after following the news about the flotilla.

Feeling outrage about the whole thing. Thing is, though the whole world is condemning the attack, I have a sickening feeling that Israel will get away with it. They managed to do so with the 08/09 war on Gaza (and other atrocities), didn't they?

As put forward by an Al-Jazeera blogger, will the international community actually do something now instead of the usual "empty indignation and paralysed condemnations"?

The following responses are compiled from Twitter. They mirrored what I feel but couldn't quite express:
-Its not about being Jewish, Christian or Muslim! It's about humanity! Protest Israel!

-Why is the United States so quiet today? Where is Mr. Nobel peace prize winner?

-I'm sorry, but if you rappel onto someone's ship from a helicopter, nothing you subsequently do can be called "self defense"

-Killing aid workers in 'self defense'? Really Israel? Today the world sees you for what you really are.

-"your blood reached the shores of Gaza before your aid"

-If this is what Israel does while the world is watching, what have they done while our backs were turned?

-The world awaits Obama's response to Israel's provocation. Hello?

-
If you let someone get away with murder every time, you can't act surprised when it kills again.

-What Would Happen If Iran Attacked an Aid Flotilla, Like Israel?

The last tweet was spot on. This was what came out from the White House and the EU:
"The President expressed deep regret at the loss of life in today's incident, and concern for the wounded, many of whom are being treated in Israeli hospitals. The President also expressed the importance of learning all the facts and circumstances around this morning's tragic events as soon as possible."

"The EU strongly condemns any acts of violence and deplores any excessive use of force. In this regard, on behalf of the EU, the High Representative is requesting a full immediate enquiry by the Israeli authorities."

Such hypocrisy!
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After reading all the outpourings of rage, I was soothed by these words by Ismail Haniyya: "We say to those heroes that the essence of your honourable blood has reached us before the aids you are carrying to us. We salute everyone on board the Freedom ships."

Let us pray for the safety of all the flotilla activists...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Anak Murid Idaman Cikgu

Last Monday was the second time I celebrated Teachers' Day.

While World Teachers' Day falls on Oct 5 every year, Malaysia's Hari Guru falls on May 16. According to Wikipedia, May 16 was chosen as the Penyata Razak was endorsed on that day in the year 1956. As we all know, the Razak Report "became the basis of education in Malaysia ever since".

Teachers' Day always makes me feel glad to be a teacher. It's not just about the presents (though I like receiving them... hehe). It's the little, little things that make you feel appreciated.

For examples:

1) J surprised me with a bouquet of white roses very early on in the morning. He asked to make sure, "Saya orang pertama yg bagi hadiah kat Teacher ke?"

2) Students wishing you "Happy Teachers' Day" with their bright smiles and gave you hugs and kisses.

3) The students put up wonderful performances for their teachers. My favourite performance had to be the Dikir Barat. The slightly mad "Enjit-enjit Semut" was a close second. I knew the students put in a lot of effort practising for the performances. That made us teachers feel celebrated and special :)

4) Dakshan & Paul played me a song with their ukulele. Sgt comel.

5) Received a very personalized gift from R. A lot of thought went into it so I love it a lot!

6) I also received Happy Mothers' Day wishes. The sweetest SMS came from Atiqah:

"Teacher,atiqah's here,i just want to say happy mothers day to u!i know sounds strange right?but u're like our real mther..the way u teach us!mmg mcm our mther,even though,u x kawen lg,hahah!thanks for everythng!sorry because im not a good studnt in your clss!!i love u!"

One student even combined the two celebrations together and wished me: Selamat Hari GuruIbu!"

7) Four days after the celebration, D said, "Teacher tak pakai pun lagi tudung yang saya bagi" *Err...*

8) Another teacher told me this: A student of hers came to see her to wish Happy Teachers' Day. He said something like, "Saya doakan Cikgu diberkati Allah selalu. Cikgu tolong doakan kejayaan saya. Terima kasih atas segala pengorbanan Cikgu"

His heartfelt wish made her cry along with 2 other teachers who were in the staff room, listening. Her story made me teary-eyed as well.

I remembered H asking me a few days before Teachers' Day, "Cikgu cakap je nak APA, nak BERAPA?"

I replied, "I don't mind. Surprise me".

Now (and though this sounds cheesy) I would have replied, "Your prayers would have sufficed".

This year's celebration also reminded me of the following poem. It's written by my beloved former principal, Dr. Fatanah Mohamed. She read out the poem during the 2001 Teachers' Day celebration (if I'm not mistaken) at MRSM Jasin. I was a fourth-former then. The poem was later published the the school's mag.

Being a teacher has made me appreciate the poem's content better. Hopefully, my students would aspire to be such an Anak Murid.

Anak Murid Idaman Cikgu

(Aspek Minda)
Mindanya positif tidak bercelaru
cerdas otaknya, tidak mudah ditipu,
bersinar matanya mendengar kuliah guru
tidak hanyut atau layu
baik dan buruk dia tahu
membaca bahan bernilai ilmu,
menuntut ilmu tiada jemu
mempunyai wawasan
memikirkan masa depan
mindanya aktif, luas fikiran.

(Aspek Jasmani/Fizikal)
Anak didik idaman cikgu menjaga kesihatan diri
sihat jasmaninya bersarapan pagi
membuat senaman setiap hari -
berjalan, berjogging serta berlari,
memilih makanan dan minuman
rokok, air bergas dijauhkan,
atau apa saja yang menjejaskan kesihatan
asrama dan kelas dijaga kebersihan
tidak membuang sampah merata-rata
menjaga kebersihan alam sekitar kita

(Aspek Rohani)
Hidup bersemangat, percaya, reda pada Allah
berjiwa besar, tidak mudah mengaku kalah
bertanggungjawab, kerja sungguh-sungguh
segalanya beres tak pernah bertangguh
jujur dan sentiasa benar pada kata-kata
sentiasa mempamerkan akhlak mulia
tidak haloba tiada buruk sangka

(Aspek Emosi)
Jiwanya besar, berbudi bahasa
berasa dirinya berharga,
kebolehan diri dia percaya
potensi dirinya tidak dipersia,
yakin diri, berpaksikan agama,
tenang, sabar, tidak putus asa
dia berusaha dan terus mencuba.
Mematuhi perintah, tabah, berfikiran terbuka,
barlapang dada, suka bekerjasama
sentiasa berazam memperbaiki diri
stabil emosi, unggul peribadi,
tidak bersedih dengan kekurangan sendiri.

(Aspek Sosial)
Hati yang lain tidak disakiti
benar ucapan dan memenuhi janji
bersopan santun, tidak mengutuk, tidak memaki
tidak menghasut, tidak membenci
manis wajahnya riang berseri
tiada hasad tiada dengki,
mengasihi dan murkai kerana Ilahi
ibu bapa, guru, dan rakan dihormati dan disayangi,
menjaga maruah dan harga diri.
Pemaaf, bertimbang rasa, luhur hati dan budi.
memberi pertolongan dan berbesar hati.
Tidak membiar rakan hidup susah dan sepi
mendahulukan orang lain daripada kepentingan sendiri,
tanpa menjejaskan kesejahteraan diri.

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HAPPY TEACHERS' DAY TO ALL THE AMAZING EDUCATIONAL ARTISTS OUT THERE!! :)