Tuesday, January 20, 2015

2014: The Fault in My Starry-Eyed Journey

At this very moment, I am thankful that I’m alive, blessed and inspired.

             2014 is such an eventful and unforgettable year. I expected a roller-coaster journey as a first-year teacher. Never did I know how emotion could fluctuate so much in a day. Kids frustrate you in the morning but the next couple of hours the others came all genuinely motivated and determined. Some of these attributes last for the rest of the year. Some need to be ignited at times. Some desired values lost in the dark abyss. After all, this career is mentally taxing and soul consuming for me, at least.
              I hold strongly to my principle of optimism, relentlessly believe in potential and kindness of humankind. Passion and patience will win over any aggressive strategy.

            I glanced at each eyes of theirs, I see hope and dream. My students did not know the life beyond their comfort zone or what the world has to offer. 
            I’ve stopped Facebook postings mostly because I’m worried I’ll end up romanticizing this profession. We often filtered the unpleasant things and shared our best moment with the students. I’m afraid I will be emotionally attached with the kids. Well, I think you can’t forget amongst your first students. I love them like a love song. But,..

         Hakikatnya, bukan mudah untuk menyentuh hati dan memanusiakan manusia.

         I started my first three months with all tips-and-tricks, being all strict and scary. It didn’t stay for long because I tend to forget to apply the sanction and gave them second chance (or more perhaps). Two important things I want them to remember are ‘’respect’’ and ‘’try your best’’. The ‘’Scholar Dollar’’ system was applied to motivate them. They were given a printed dollar note for abiding the class rule and winning the game activities. At the end of the month, they would trade the scholar dollars for a few stationaries, snacks and book vouchers.
         I intended to do this for the first semester and beyond that, they would already instill the motivation within themselves without these tangible (and costly) rewards. This will also be my vision for this academic year (with a couple of budget-cutting plans).
         So, let’s remind myself of why I want inspire the kids of Malaysia. Let’s remind myself the joy of giving to others. Remind me of their struggles and their smiles. Only by giving you are able to receive more than what you already have.

1.       This is 16-year-old Arif. A very nice young boy who respects his teachers and speaks only good. This is him working during post-final-exam schooldays. Lifelong learner, huh?

           He struggled through my math class because he is slow reader and unable to differentiate between 9+9 and 9x9. I wanted to get him diagnosed for dyslexia but I was swamped with work, too bad. As you might guess, he was teased by his classmates and friends.  Numeracy and language proficiency in this class are extremely low. They were called the last, the worst and the lost. A few boys are slow-readers.  Knowing education inequity and experiencing the environment are two different things, really.

         At first, I felt sad, helpless and poignant for this kid. He might not able to write a resume. How would he estimate his money when he received his paycheck? However, my biggest fear is how he will thrive in the future.  Would he end up in the low-entry job? My academic track record has never seen anything like this before.

         So I used LINUS literacy and numeracy book for him and a few others. I got the resources from my mom and they were designed for primary school students. Arif will always try his best to solve the questions in the book. He is quite passive and hesitates to ask if I stand beside him while he works on it. Knowing this, I tried to give him some space and check once a while. Thus, his friends  would not focus on him alone and reduce the peer pressure surrounds.

        All I said was ‘’Good, cuba lagi’’ or
‘’Bukannya tak boleh buat, kena usaha lebih sket’’

        One cheeky guy in the class often said;
‘’Hang dah terlepas kereta api la, ni buku budak-budak hoi’’

       But it did not get on his nerves and he keeps on working.  

This is his diagnostic scores in March 2014.

He did the same test in October 2014. 

          He made incremental improvement but it is just NOT ENOUGH. The passing grade is still far. Many factors must be taken into consideration including the student’s preparation and surrounding.    I did the best I could to help, with whatever resources I can get, to whoever I can, whenever and wherever I could.  Could I do better this year?

          At the end I have come to realization that I just want them to be a human of dignity and bring good to the others around them. I want them to be the best version of themselves, be it a mechanic, an international chef, a lecturer or an entrepreneur. After all, is it not what the education over-arching goal is about? 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Sharing Session (TFM Leadership Seminar 4)

    Sharing Session In Regent International School, Sungai Petani.
    ( Teach For Malaysia Leadership Seminar 4)

    Our school is in small town of Padang Serai, where I grew up in but spent many years of schooling outside. This is the school I passed through for the last 24 years but never step my foot into the school's compound. This sport school has nearly 2,000 students with average multicultural tolerance.

        I know a former student of this school who is not willing to further his post-SPM study. He lost his motivation and has settled for less. He was offered to several public and private universities but decided not to go. ''I could not survive through English classes'' he said. Another time, he said he prefer working rather than going to college.  His excuses went on and on. Now he is working in one of Penang's local councils. This 20-year-old boy is my brother and he is the reason I Teach for Malaysia. I realized that as much as I want to help him, he must first help himself. After four months of working, reality hits him hard and now he said he aims to be in college one fine day. I was relieved to able to hear his 'one day' mission.

       Being posted to my hometown and my brother's previous school, I believe I am in a perfect place for a significant change.

          Each teacher can recount numerous highs and lows in their teaching career. There were days when I ended so happy and enthusiastic that I knew I had selected the right profession. On the other hand, I had days where I definitely questioned teaching as a career. These were days where the students seemed uninterested, too talkative, or even worse a blow up occurred and nothing got accomplished. Thankfully the average combined with the positive days outshine my negative days.
          A boy from my aspiring class was loud and obnoxious. Let's call him Amin. His class is the 12th streamed class. The first three months into the year, I was beating my head against the wall trying to connect with him. I could at least get his friends to be involved or at the very least to sit quietly. He sat in the back row. I would ask questions of students, picking up some names. Unfortunately, every time i called on him he would respond with a flip answer. If he got an answer wrong, he would get angry. He also called me as his girlfriend, trying to win me over, left lot of missed calls, returned his scholar dollars because a friend accused him of stealing them and explore through my personal stuff and handbag. One day, he was shouting to me during lesson and when failed to get my attention, he kicked chairs and tables and disrupted the whole lesson. I sent him to the discipline teacher. His anger and mumbled words were almost too much for me.

      He missed class for two days and we got a lot accomplished during his hiatus but I began dreading for his return. On the day of his return, I met him in the staff room. I told him that I care about him but not him alone. The other 31 students still need me and they want to learn. I gave him permission that if he felt like he was going to lose control in class he could step right outside the door for a moment to collect himself.

      From that point on, Amin was a changed student in my classroom. He listened, he participated. I could finally get to see the creative side in him. His math solving skill is unique. He is very happy to get a LINUS numeracy workbook I took from my mom, to work on his own. He never, ever used the privilege I had given him to leave the class for a moment. I believe that just giving him the power to decide for himself made all the difference. The irony is this boy, Amin shared the same first name as my brother.

      In the end, this experience touched me as a teacher. Students are people who have feelings and who don't want to feel cornered. They want to learn but they also want to feel as if they have some control over themselves. I tried not to make assumptions again about a student before going into their class. Every student is different; no two students react in the same way. It is our tasks as teachers to find not only what motivates each student to learn but also what motivates them to misbehave. If we can meet them at that point and take away that motivation, we can go a long way towards a more effective classroom and learning experience. Fellow friends, teachers are like band aid, that sometimes we do more than teach, that we help heal hurt feelings, broken dreams, and lend an ear to a problem.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

TEACH. Be that ONE.

Not because you HAVE TO,
But because you know you WANT TO. 

Be INSPIRED by what you understand,
And be DRIVEN by you do not.

Use your mind to REALIZE who you are
And to help mankind reach its POTENTIAL


And above all,
Never be afraid of the TRUTH.

Every child deserves a teacher who BELIEVES in them.
Be that ONE.

APPLY now at http://www.teachformalaysia.org/

Monday, June 16, 2014

So, happy first day of fellowship's second quarter!

What I think happen and what I didn’t expect to happen in this near-3-week-school-holiday.

First day of the second quarter in school, I was still in post-holiday blues but I miss to look into the eyes of my precious kids.

T  : I hope you all have a good holiday. Sapa nak share pengalaman menarik waktu cuti?
S : Makan KFC dengan cikgu haritu!
T : Tu kan sehari sebelum cuti, 3 minggu lepas. Apa lagi yang best waktu cuti kamu?
S : ha!, cikgu belanja kami makan KFC haritu.
T : *sigh*
Ss: pergi air terjun cikgu.., naik m
otor, jatuh motor…

At the end of the lesson, this boy Ash approached me and spent time telling stories about his vacation.
Ash : sebenarnya saya p lagkawi cikgu, dengan adik, pakcik saya. Best la naik cabel car, naik kuda, naik jetski dengan jalan-jalan kat Pantai Chenang. Cikgu besa (pernah) p langkawi dak? Best woo.

Me : Pernah. Best kalau p island hopping jgk. Bagus, tula yang cikgu nak kamu share dengan kawan-kawan tadi.

I am genuinely contented that he had fun and spent quality time with his family. He was saddened by his father's death several weeks ago and I honestly don’t have the right words to ask him how he was feeling or how he cope with the loss. #HappyFather'sDay
In another class, I had brief discussion with the kids and welcomed them to school.
T : Cikgu try buat lagi banyak aktiviti dan 'math game' untuk kamu semua.  Sempena World Cup season ni, kamu kena imagine kelas kamu macam padang bola dan cikgu sebagai pengadil. TAPI, kita takkan main bola, kita akan main 'games' lain. Sapa tak ikut arahan, kena kad merah, keluar padang!
S: Cikgu, kami mai sekolah nak belajaq bukan nak main game.
T : kamµ boleh boleh main game untuk belajar dan belajar melalui game.
S: eh, apa yang cikgu merepek ni..

In the spirit of student-centered learning and hoping to spark the students interest through engaging purposeful activities, they should learn how learning process can take place through math game and puzzles. Today, they also learned the flying disc Frisbee is not 'pinggan'.

My 16-year-old are struggling with basic operation '8-12', let alone solving single-step equation 'x-12= -40 '.

 I used to feel sad. The sad-indignant-hopeless-apathetic emotional cycle of mine was such a roller coaster ride and mental exhausting, really. At one point, I learned that we should learn how to hold on to some and let some go. Just doing whatever which helps them best, doing the best I can, wherever I am, with whatever I have, to whoever I can.

Walking down towards the staff room, Alia, my student assistant of the day, enlighten me with new information.  

Alia : Cikgu, nak nombor telefon boleh?!
Me :  Nak buat apa?
Alia : Cikgu, ingat dak haritu cikgu hantaq saya balik rum
ah. Abang saya dok gila kat cikgu,sepanjang cuti ni dok tanya pasai cikgu.
Me : ………….. *I remember it was 2-second-eye-contact from 10ft away for God's sake*
Alia : Abang saya askar cikgu..interview bulan 10 nanti…ru
mah cikgu kat tepi sekolah tu kan..
And she goes on and on.

I was hoping to build healthy relationships with my students and their parents, not finding love.
So, happy first day of fellowship's second quarter!
Hope we all rejuvenated and start rocking again! J
A change is possible.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Last week, I am thankful for..

Last week, I am thankful for a lot of things J

1)      Special shoutout to my superb collabs, who are always amazingly supportive and reminds me we're all in this together. A simple ''How are you?'' and ''Are you okay?'' means a lot. Teaching in two different sessions making it hard for us to bump into each other Vani. Last week, I am thankful for my sbm's advices and guidance in improvising my math lesson. Thanks Joseph for the reflections in class and conversation over lunch. I remember the look on the computer center's staff when you went into the café (with teacher's nametag) checking out for your students. *snaps* for effort to get to know the community.

2)      I've been staying at school from 7am to 7pm. The previous week was a busy one. A lot of sports trainings in the evening. Got back home exhausted, sleep all the way 9pm to 430am. If maintaining my sanity means I have to sleep early and spend less time preparing fancy teaching aids, I'll do it. Next week's aim, make sure to have breakfast every single day.

3)      Grandfather just got out from the hospital today. Alhamdulillah. He had a fever since last week. A lot of relatives visiting and gather at my house. Since I have to juggle with my personal and professional life well, I do my best to balance the two. Sometimes I just prepare the drinks, serve them and chitchat for a while, the next minute I'm already in my room lesson planning. Glad everyone understands that I have to work ten times harder and be more efficient. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Of love and hope

The past few days at school has been tough. Especially on Thursday when I entered two classes,which 11 out of 32 students were absent. I wondered if there's a special occasion that day,but couldn't think of any.There are only 9 souls at the beginning of the class, 7 skipped the class and the rest were late to come in. How on earth am I going to conduct the lesson? We then had group activity and did some revision.

Again, I have to gave them warning and send them to the PK. I don't like to nag and I hate to scold them over and over again. But still, they said ''Ala, tak sakit pun kena rotan,cikgu'' -.- They had gone through the consequences several times and it didn't mean anything anymore. I really wanted them to know what they did wrong and how it can affect themselves in the future. Thus, I need to find another strategy that didn't involves 'the magic stick'.

Today, right after the last lesson ended,a girl from the next class approached me. She was the same student who came to me earlier last week and admitted that she skipped my class on purpose. She promised not to repeat it again. Today she said she wasn't in my class again last week. I have my straight face and about to give her a final warning,but managed to hold it in. I asked her.''Why?'' and she humbly told me '' My mom passed away on Thursday. She suffered from stroke and paralyzed since I was 10.'' I was genuinely touched and wasn't expecting that answer. We had a short pep talk to inject determination in her. At the end,I saw tears welled in her eyes and she said '' Kalau ada apa-apa yang saya nak share or tak faham dalam kelas, boleh sentiasa cari cikgu kan?'' ''Yes dear, always.''I replied. Husna is one strong-hearted girl.

You're strong hearted when you don't give up, you fight for what you believe is right, your not intimidated, and you let nothing get in your way. I am the one who need the motivation at the moment. Today I've learned from her more than she has learned from me.

p/s Inspiring words fromy former lecturer, Prof Siti Nubailah. :)

Trials and Challenges

One of three incidents and trials this week,which happened in 24-hour time frame.
(1) My 20-year-old cousin has passed away on Wednesday. He was found drowned in a river. The boy brought home some fishes and asked his mom to cook him 'gulai ikan' but never come back since then. I visited my aunt and already have some encouraging words to say to her,but then I was speechless and all I did was to hug her tightly.

Innalillahiwainnailahiraji'un. Allah lebih menyayangi dia. Dan sesungguhnya kematian sebaik-baik peringatan. Bergetar hati-hati ini. Setiap yang bernyawa pasti akan menemui kematian.

Firman Allah SWT yang bermaksud: “Dan (tiap-tiap) makhluk yang bernyawa tidak akan mati melainkan dengan izin Allah, iaitu ketetapan (ajal) yang tertentu masanya (yang telah ditetapkan oleh Allah). Dan (dengan yang demikian) sesiapa yang mengehendaki balasan dunia, kami berikan bahagiannya daripada balasan dunia itu dan sesiapa yang mengehendaki balasan akhirat, kami berikan bahagiannya daripada balasan akhirat itu dan Kami pula akan beri balasan pahala kepada orang-orang yang bersyukur. (Surah Ali Imran, ayat 145)

On Thursday,we're having a majlis tahlil at the mosque near my aunt's house area. I was late and while rushed into the mosque, I bumped into two little boys playing outside. I'm not sure what was on my mind at the moment,but I quickly put my bag and joined them. After the prayer, some of the women realized their handbags went missing. Looked for mine but yes, I share the same fate too. 

It was the only night I didn't put my handbag up front while praying. Silly me.
It was the only night I put all my valuables in one bag.
It was the only night my dad asked me to keep his wallet, hoping it will be safe under my supervision.
It was the only night I put two smartphones and all kind of cards (and all of mom's bank cards too) in the bag.

The kid said there's a white car came and a guy sneaked into the women prayer side and stole the handbags. He threatened the kid to stay silent. And they just vanished in the dark.

After I made the police report at the IPD, the Sergeant asked me a few times,''Are you sure your total loss is this much?'' -.-' Another Indian police officer said,'' Dah banyak kes macam ni,orang sekarang dah tak takut Tuhan''.

Mom keep repeating ''Who would carry a nice handbag to the mosque anyway?'' ''Kak,kak kat Malaysia sekarang, kena berjaga-jaga''. She's implying 'Please be extra careful, increase your sense of insecurity to level 900''. Now I'm in the midst of renewing important documents and SIM card. Sorry if you can't reach me at the moment.

Allah bagi ujian ambil sikit harta dunia, baru manusia belajar erti syukur