Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I meant to write this sooner but hadn't had the time to do so...

Weeks ago, as grammar practice, I had my class write 3 sentences using the past tense to describe a famous personality. Even though I told them that their famous personality can be anyone; a politician/an athlete/an author/a historical figure/etc, most of them chose to describe their favourite celebrities.

Thus, when they were writing their sentences/clues on the board, I felt like I was the host of E! News because I was reading tidbits of one celebrity after another. I came to know when the celebrities were born, what expensive things they got for their birthdays, how they got their big break, whom they used to date, etc.

I was pretty down by the end of the lesson. The exercise really reveals what preoccupies the students' minds and it's sad to know that they're so engrossed with such trivial stuff. [And can you blame them? They're only consuming what gets aired on TV...]

A few weeks later, we had an activity which overturned my previously negative impression of Generation Z. After viewing the documentary 'The Cove', the students had to (in groups) present about an activist that they admire. They tested my patience somewhat when they kept asking for the presentation to be postponed ("We're not ready yet Teacher!"). I was bewildered; Why are they taking such a long time? Everything is readily available on Wikipedia after all...

On the day of presentation, I finally knew why. Several groups did an exceptional job and I was completely wowed.

Instead of just "dumping" all the information that they had gathered on mahjung papers, they arranged it to produce a well-scripted performance that's engaging, spirited & humorous. Phrases/pictures/drawings that are significant to their stories were pasted on the board bit by bit so that the board was gradually filled up.

The pieces of papers were done so beautifully (I could imagine the painstaking work that went into producing them) and together, they formed a stunning collage. Their polished performances also indicated that they had spent a lot of time perfecting their routines. I was just wowed by their effort+creativity+enthusiasm.

The cherry on top was when Joy delivered this inspiring speech about the youth not being the leaders of tomorrow; but are the leaders of TODAY and her call to action for all youths to stand up and be counted. She delivered her speech with such conviction and confidence that her classmates voted her the "Best Presenter".

My heart just swelled with pride after that lesson :')

Conclusion: It is possible to get the kids to talk about Aung San Suu Kyi, Rachel Corrie & Mohamed Bouazizi in place of Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber & Barney Stinson.
Kids are by nature inquisitive and full of energy. It is up to us teachers to harness/redirect these qualities towards more beneficial endeavours.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Productive Muslim Seminar Malaysia

I think I started subscribing to the Productive Muslim newsletter during Ramadan last year. Being productive when you're tired, hungry and thirsty might seem impossible to many. Thus the PM team shared tips on how to make the most out of the blessed month of Ramadan through their newsletters and videos. I benefited greatly from the input and thus had no hesitation signing up for the seminar when I got to know about it.

The seminar was held on 25 & 26 Feb 2012 at the main hall of the ICT faculty of IIUM. Around 500 people attended the seminar with some coming all the way from Indonesia, Singapore and even India! The main speaker was Mohammed Faris a.k.a Abu Productive, the founder & CEO of Productive Muslim.

Throughout the 2-day course, I had 2 major questions that I wanted answered. The first question was: How can you be productive in all facets of your life? I mean I think I'm quite productive at work, working long hours & sometimes even bringing home work. But because I over-exert myself at the workplace, I become so unproductive once I reach home. I only want to unwind, relax and sleep. Thus, I'm not doing my fair share of the housework. So, how do one become productive round the clock? Is it even possible?

My second question was: How do you strike a balance between not 'biting off more than you can chew' and not doing too little that you're not contributing much to the society? (Because sometimes we start off with all these good intentions & we sign up for a lot of things. But later we discover that we cannot be consistent & end up disappointing people when we can't commit.)

My first question was answered when the speaker talked about the 'minimum performance level' concept. What's a minimum performance level you say? Well, imagine a simple bar chart that has 5-7 bars indicating the roles that you play (e.g. a Muslim, daughter, wife, mother, sister, employee, neighbour, etc). Now, the length of these bars indicates your performance level. Ideally, all bars should be above the minimum level but most often than not, we have some bars lingering below the critical threshold.

So what should we do to address the imbalance? The answer is simple enough: We scale back on the things we are over-performing in to give due attention to the areas we've been neglecting. But the answer's easier said than done because we live in a society where achievements at the workplace is the ultimate barometer of success. We look up to millionaires and people with important positions, not those who lead balanced lives and have great relationships with their families & friends. So we may not be willing to cut down on work because of the recognition that comes with it plus the validation that we derive from it.

However, as Muslims, we have to remember that our parents, children, siblings, friends and neighbours have rights over us & that we are accountable for our actions (or the lack thereof).

This particular input was a wake-up call for me. Much as I love my parents, I do take them for granted at times. Parents are the people most forbearing of your faults & shortcomings. Therefore, you tend to "slip" in your filial duties, knowing that they'll love you regardless.

It's high time that we stop taking the people in our lives for granted and be more conscientious in discharging our responsibilities. Let's keep all our "bars" at or above the minimum level!

I didn't get to ask my second question but there was a whole session on being socially engaged. Maybe I'll write about it in my next entry (or you can subscribe to the newsletter and follow the ongoing series on social productivity). The second option is highly-recommended ;)

If all the input from the 2-day seminar can be condensed in one phrase, it would be: Have sincere intentions & work hard. For more "gems" or bite-sized wisdom, do read the tweets from the event #ProMMalaysia.