Tuesday, July 26, 2011

IDC2011 Dinner

While I was tucking in at the IDC 2011 (Inter-School Debating Championship) Grand Dinner, I spotted a familiar face. There was this waiter who looked exactly like my student. I only caught a glimpse of him but I brushed it off as coincidence. Pelanduk dua serupa kot...

Not long after that, I saw two other waiters who looked like students of mine too. Then, it dawned on me, they are all my students working part-time with the catering company.

The 2 boys said 'Hi' and confirmed that I did saw S earlier. Two more students showed up, smiled shyly, all 5 offering to replenish the dishes on my table ("Teacher nak tambah apa2 lagi?").

I don't know why but I felt a bit sad. I'm not implying that waitressing is demeaning or anything like that. In fact, it's probably good that they're learning the value of hardwork and how hard it is to earn a living in the real world.

Maybe I was too pampered when I was growing up and thus it saddens me that some kids have to work at the ages of 15/16 to earn some extra pocket money or to help with their family's financial situation.

In an ideal world, kids shouldn't have to worry about money. It's their parents' job to provide for them.

Further, ideally, kids should be shielded from as much unpleasantness for as long as possible.

The encounter made me realise that I had no idea about the lives that my kids are leading and what they go through on a daily basis.

The 5 boys that I saw often test my patience in class, each in their own unique way.

Seeing them that night made me see them in a different light:
No wonder they are not interested in learning.
No wonder I had such trouble getting them to do any work in class ---> They just have too many things on their plate that education is no longer a priority.

I think teachers should realise that our kids come from various backgrounds, and most of the time, those backgrounds are vastly different from our own upbringing.

As the saying goes, "You'll never understand a person until you walk a mile in their shoes"

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What does fasting mean to you?

We all know the many benefits of fasting (it is good for our health, it teaches us to be more compassionate to the poor, etc) but does it hold a special significance to us? Or is it just an annual religious ritual that we perform?

If you type "fasting is..." in a Google search box, a number of phrases will be displayed (courtesy of the search-as-you-type feature):
fasting is good
...is bad
...is good for your health
...is bad for you
...is hard
...is dangerous
...is stupid

This whole debate on whether fasting is good or bad is perplexing to me (and to all Muslims too, I reckon). We Muslims know that it is good for us. This deep conviction stems from years of experiencing it first-hand.

We love and look forward to Ramadan, not fear and dread it.

Coming back to the question 'What does fasting mean to you?', this is my answer:

I read somewhere that we now live in the Age of Instant Gratification. Our society has become more materialistic and hedonistic. People just want to indulge in their every desire at every chance they get. We shop impulsively, backbite unthinkingly, react inappropriately, eat, sleep and entertain ourselves excessively.

For me, fasting teaches us to push the "PAUSE" button. We abstain from eating and drinking from the break of dawn to sunset despite the acute feelings of hunger and thirst. We also have to watch over our words and actions.
“Whoever does not give up false speech and acting upon it and offensive speech and behaviour, Allah has no need of his giving up his food and drink" (Reported by Bukhari)
All these train us to delay or abstain from instant gratifications. We learn to exercise self-control in the face of temptations. Instead of obeying each and every desire that we have, we take the high road and choose the better alternatives.

It is when we stop obeying our desires that we can start obeying Allah and submit to His Design.

Read this excellent article by Khalid Baig (which is the inspiration behind this entry) and this Ramadan blog post by Faisal Abdul Latif to get you into the right Ramadan-frame-of-mind.

Happy reading! :)

Saturday, July 02, 2011

KID BP 2011 Diaries

It normally takes me 20-25 minutes to get to Damansara (by car). But last Monday, it took me 3 hours!

My students and I boarded the LRT at 7.30am to avoid the office-bound crowd. The coach we boarded was crowded but it wasn't filled to the brim - so that part of our plan worked out.

Everything fell apart when we arrived at the Kelana Jaya Terminal. It had been raining all morning so the typical Monday jam was exacerbated. Taxis were scarce and after 40 minutes of waiting, we decided to give up and wait for the crowd to subside.

But even after 10am, certain taxis refused to take us to our destination (which is less than 3 km away) because the road leading to that place was still choked.

Finally, we arrived at KDU University College (Damansara Jaya Campus) at 10.20am - hours after we left Gombak.

The whole misadventure made me appreciate my trusty Kelisa in a way that I never did before. I made a mental note to give my car a great big hug once I got home and I vowed to have it cleaned more regularly from now on.


I went to KDU from June 24-27 for the KDU Inter-School British Parliamentary Debate 2011. I drove the students for the first 2 days but we took the LRT on Sunday and Monday.

A traumatic thing happened which made me swear off driving for a while.

My car brake became unresponsive (even when I jammed both feet on the brake pedal) and I nearly rammed into the car in front of me. My students in the backseat lurched forward and I panicked.

An accident was averted but I was too traumatised to keep on driving. I felt like I had endangered the lives of the students in my care and that thought just paralysed me. I stopped at the nearest petrol station and asked them to call their parents to come and pick them up.

While waiting for the men in our lives to come and rescue us, we bought RM40 worth of snacks from the Mesra Shop.

I felt much better and calmer after performing Maghrib prayer. I was just so thankful that none of us got hurt.

Once my dad and brother finally arrived, they peeked under the hood but couldn't find anything wrong. They tested the car and the brake was working fine.

I was bewildered. How is that possible? Do mechanical things become faulty selectively? Do they have something against women drivers?!

I drove home in my Kelisa while my dad and brother drove the sexist car.

I drove slowly, not willing to take any risk. Even on DUKE Highway, I was only averaging 60km/h.

When I finally got home, I texted my students: "Guys, tomorrow, we're taking the LRT".


The KID BP 2011 ran for 4 days. 4 tiring, debate-packed days. At first, I was excited to skip school on Friday but in the end, I ended up working longer hours instead.

Throughout the tournament, I think I was averaging 12 hours a day. I was so tired and I missed Kak Safrina.

Kak Safrina & I usually go to these things together and whenever we are bored, we will go off and drink teh tarik, or eat out at nearby restaurants, or just chat with each other.

But since Kak Safrina was away, attending a course, I was left to stave off boredom all by myself.

Thank God for the Nescafe vending machine. It dispenses a cup of hot, aromatic coffee for only 90 cents. A cup managed to keep me awake for at least one more round of debates.

When I caught myself thinking about how I could have spent the weekend, I reminded myself of this saying: "Deeds without sincerity are like a traveller who carries dirt in his water-jug. The carrying of it burdens him and it brings no benefits" (Ibn Al-Qayyim).

The beautiful parable clearly illustrates that complaining derives no benefits. On the contrary, it erodes the good deeds we're accumulating.

This is something that I have to constantly remind myself as my sister complains that I complain too much (^_^')


Despite all the drama encountered, I quite enjoyed my KID BP experience.

When you invest time, money, attention in your students, you can clearly see the payoff (the teacher-student bond is strengthen and consolidated). The ROI is quite immediate.

Further, my students' speaking skills improved significantly. The shy student adjudicators whom I brought along became very talkative by the end of the 4-day event.

All that debating also enhanced their critical thinking skills. Every remark that was less than accurate became points of contention.

For example, when Aina refused to eat her lunch because the chicken wasn't cooked properly, she complained, "Teacher, it's raw!"

Afif jumped right in and corrected her, "It's not raw. It's medium rare".

And when we were discussing when and where to meet up, they would digress and argue about the correct prepositions of time to use instead.

"Should we be on time, in time or by certain time?"

I think I need to reopen my Grammar book in order to solve this one...