Kem SKORlah!

Looking at my schedule for the next few months and years, looks like I’ll only have time to blog once a week now. But! Today’s post is realllllly exciting (for me at least) because it’s a summary of my extremely exciting and challenging week!

This is from last week:

Me with Jacintha and Oga. We were waiting to take pictures with Deborah Henry who was there with Joyce Tagal, Edmund Bon and Zain HD for a session on inspiring youth leaders, but everyone was trying to take pictures with her so we gave up and just took one of ourselves hahah.

This was on Sheau Wen’s birthday! Muzzie was singing Happy Birthday to her, it was so sweet!

I love everyone who’s here with me, all 49 other Fellows and 10+ staff members. We’re like one HUGE happy family and are always there for each other!

A session with Brett, the founder of Teach First UK! He flew in from London just to see us!

Jasmine, Victoria, Connie, Priscilla and Nina!

The day before the D Day, everyone was busy working on our posters for our classes!

Worked the entire day but it was so fun cause we could hear everyone going “eh pass me scissors!” “who got silver marker pen??” “wahhh your poster so nice!” and the team spirit was just so strong!

Karthik and I with our posters. The one he’s holding is of our motto in class “I want, I can and I will!” (we get them to say this quite often and believe it or not but they’ve actually begun to internalize it!) and our BIG goal for the class after 4 weeks: 30% increase in achievement! I’ll explain the fire poster later.

Golden tickets for students who participate in class! They got so excited when they saw us giving this out and participation rate increased dramatically, and this was even before they knew what these were for!! Hahahha

The tickets are for a raffle at the end of the week πŸ™‚

The amazing training team is beyond amazing. On Monday, our first day of school, they stuck quotes on our doors.

They also gave us free hugs and made a huge banner that said “GOOD LUCK transformational teachers!” and when we came back they held up one that said “Welcome Back, Teachers!”

On Tuesday, they gave us chocolates with more inspirational quotes. On Wednesday, we got individualized cards that say “Happy Wednesday! You’re halfway through your first week!”, on Thursday, more encouraging notes on doors and on Friday, a huge cheer for all of us.

I don’t think any of us would have made it through our first week without their support and love!

We have 6 vans that bring us to our two respective schools every morning and our journey to the schools takes 45 minutes each way.

We usually start the journey at 7am, teach till 12pm, get back and rest, continue training till 7pm and work on our lesson plans till 1 am. Repeat everyday. I’m exhausted!!!!

Before the kids got in!

Our amazing kids!!!!! We had a really fun ice-breaking game where they had to pass an orange around under 30 seconds. They were all sitting really far away at first and they had to figure out how to make the goal.

They got to 20 seconds, and we made it even shorter, and shorter.

To only 2 seconds!

We didn’t even tell them anything but they figured that they have to get closer…and closer..and finally put only their fingers together to “pass” the orange to everyone! We used this activity to show them that the goal may look ambitious but it’s definitely do-able with teamwork! (didn’t tell them that it also means there are shortcuts in life :P)

Our first day was quite bad because we had to give them their diagnostics to see their current level. They’re at about 10% for Math and 40% for English – failing both of them! They are failing Math primarily because they cannot understand the questions that are in English. The effects of PPMSI on real kids in somewhat more suburban-rural schools, which is about 70% of the schools in Malaysia!!

Lotsa work to do for us then!

This poster is part of our Classroom Management Plan. If a student misbehaves (talk when teacher is talking, not listen to instructions, defiant etc), we put them in the yellow part and give them a verbal warning. If they get to the orange part, they have to meet with us and if they get to the red part, we will call their parents.

No one got to the yellow part even, our kids were extremely well behaved! Which I really think is because of our other Classroom Management Plan:

We fully exercise our Classroom Policies: be courageous, be respectful and to have teamwork. We constantly explain this in great detail and point a lot of our objectives and activities back to this and it works!

But this is the one that worked the best! It’s a Happy-o-Meter, and when the whole class behaves really well and are really participative, we move the thermometer up one scale. When it gets to 10, we give them a reward! This week’s reward is a 2-minute dance party (which we just did today!!!) and next week’s is Game Party!

This week went so well. It was rough at first because they weren’t used to all this, but once they got invested in the classroom culture, everything went so smoothly! From 0% participation rate, they now fight to answer questions. We just had a dance party today and it was awesomeeee! They were so shy and didn’t know what to do at first when we blasted the music, but after teaching them the lightbulb and pet the dog dance wtf, everyone had so much fun! They all went back with a hugeeee smile πŸ˜€

Oh, we also have individual behavior log for every student, and they have to get us to rate their behavior and performance at the end of the day. It works like a charm because it shows that we have our eyes on every single one of them! We always forget to rate them but they will constantly remind us at the end of the day.

I love my kids, they’re so awesome *tear

I wanted to give them a sense of ownership of their class, so I asked them to name themselves. The Justin Bieber fan club in my class came up with “Never Say Never”, which I thought would be apt for our motto hahaha. But the rest of the class decided on Intelligent Geniuses! I greet them every morning with “Hello my intelligent geniuses!” and “Bye, have a nice day today geniuses!”

The view outside the school, beautiful!

Some of the kids in our school. Here, they were singing happy birthday to one of the Teach For Malaysia staff.

This is me, dead. from lesson plan preparation. It takes about 4-5 hours to plan and get the materials ready for each lesson T___T

Proud of our hardwork!

I have more pictures and stuff to talk and show you guys but I’m so tired! I just made a huge Shout Out Board in our class and the responses were crazy! I tell them to leave us notes and write anything they want on the board, and we’ve gotten so many “I love today’s class!” and “I want to learn more!”. I also got a “Tak suka duduk belakang la cikgu” hahaha. We change their seat arrangement everyday to get them used to working with different people everyday.

It was also through this board that I found out that one of my kids was having a very bad day, and we talked about it over lunch. It’s quite a depressing topic and very personal, so I won’t talk about it.

That’s all for now, will try to update more soon! I have so many stories to tell! In fact, I have one story for every single kid in my class because they’re all so unique and interesting. Actually lemme tell one story!

There’s this one kid who’s probably the 2nd weakest in the class. On the first day, he didn’t want to participate much and was very quiet. He didn’t come the next day but he came day after that and saw the change in the classroom. Other kids were already ahead in terms of points (we give kids points for participating) and I guess he wanted to be part of it too.

We also set up a one-on-one session with him to keep him updated about the previous lessons that he missed, and since then his change in behavior was so dramatic. He became a superstar in our class. Still shy and still weak in both English and Math, but he participated regularly and became extremely invested in wanting to learn more. I’m so proud of him *tear

There’s this other boy who is clearly the naughtiest kid in class. He has this very cheeky grin and would make jokes in class. We knew we had to get on this kid’s good side because he was clearly the “leader” here. I think the sweetest words I’ve heard from him was “teacher, I will see you tomorrow!” in perfect English. It means he’s coming the next day and it means I did something right today!

He comes 1 hour early to class everyday and would sit with me to go through our previous lessons. He also likes to make sure I don’t forget my bag.

Ok, for real, that’s all for now!


  1. Ming says:

    I went through the post with a grin on my face. I can’t agree more that, this is the kind of education Malaysia needs. There was too much anxiety and fear in the traditional system.
    What you’re doing is admirable and inspiring. I know it’s going to take time but I sincerely hope that it will be implemented in more schools, if not All, across the country in the future so that our future generation can benefit.

    PS: For more selfish reason, I would want to raise my kids in Malaysia, maybe 10 years down the road. heh.

  2. Tan Yee Hou says:

    Hor cheeky boy has teacher fantasies!

    Awesome Suet! I used to think: “this teacher sucks” until I worked in school as a substitute teacher way back in 2007.

    Man that was tough stuff. I’ll send my kids to you ok?

  3. janice says:

    i love reading your journey in teach for malaysia. it’s truly inspiring and what you are doing now is indeed laudable and commendable. there’s this saying that says ‘find a job you love and you’ll never have to work another day of your life’ and i can see that even though you have to work till 1am everyday you still enjoy doing it. do continue writing about your teaching journey and i look forward to reading more! jia you!

  4. Evelyn says:

    Suet Li!

    I’ve been a faithful follower of your blog since years ago and what you’re doing right now is really inspiring! it’s amazing to see how much a teacher can do to change the future of many kids, makes the whole effort really worthwhile πŸ™‚

    keep up the great work! we love you suet!!

  5. dandelion says:

    I wish I can say something more significant than ‘awesome’ but that’s pretty much how I felt reading through your post.

    I have always had this cita2 to be an inspiring teacher to these awkward, growing-up kids. So I taught for 2 months after my Form 6 and had a little taste of it. Tiring, but very meaningful because on my last day, my Form 1 boys salam with me and asked for forgiveness for their misdemeanour. It warmed my heart so much.

    Please keep up the good work, suet li! I hope Teach For Malaysia will come through for not only the 49 of you but the students whom you all touch πŸ™‚

  6. Atlantisian says:

    Kudos to you and the rest of the teachers. I never thought that we will have something like this for the rural school. Paid motivation camp for the urban school yes, but for these young children who was ignored by the society, what you guys have done for them were amazing. Keep up the good work!

  7. puff says:

    hey Suet, i love your Teach for Msia posts. keep it up! and don’t forget the photos! :p it’s so brave and courageous of you to be in this program, and it’s good to know that not only it’s a great experience, you are also happy there. πŸ™‚ you are doing great, Suet! πŸ™‚

  8. lv says:

    Always proud of you, Suet Li!! πŸ™‚ what you and your team is doing now is so admirable and inspiring. will share this to my teacher friends to pump their spirit especially those teaching in rural areas.

    Gambateh Teacher Suetli!! πŸ˜€

  9. autumn says:

    i like the part where the kids changed from from being all shy to kids eager to just do things! i’m a shy person myself, fear of people has stopped me from doing A LOT of things, thus lagging behind in so many areas. you’re doing meaningful work here, gah yao ah!

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