Gives me hope

This is a video of two of my students reading Peter and Jane. They couldn’t read at all at the beginning of the year (one of them still can’t, actually). I thought I’ll record them reading so we can look back and see how much they’ve progressed over the months.

The girl, Jaya, could not read AT ALL 3-4 months ago. She does not know how the alphabets sound, much less read words. When she first came over for extra class at night, I was so shocked to find out that she couldn’t read the first few words in book 1A. Peter, Jane, and, here, the, dog. It has never crossed my mind that a child would not be able to read at all at age 13!

Thankfully, Jaya is a very determined girl. I started with alphabets with her, and she learned wholeheartedly. She wasn’t angry that we were doing something so “easy” and would constantly try her best. We then moved on to phonics and sound blends, before moving on to one-syllable words.

I gave her a kindergarten sticker activity book once, and she came back excitedly the next day with the whole book completed. She never fails to amaze me with her determination and persistence. When I gave her the Peter and Jane book to read at home, she copied the ENTIRE book in her exercise book so she could read it over and over again.

In the recent few months, she has been begging me for extra class almost every night. It’s a big commitment for me since I have tons of work to do at night so I often found myself telling her “maybe not tonight, next week ok?”. When I finally said she could come over, she would be very happy and would come 1-2 hours earlier than the time I’ve set.

Sometimes, I have about 6-7 kids over and can’t pay full attention to her, but she’s never whined nor asked for the attention. She would just sit and read out loud alone so I could hear her. I’m very sure whatever progress she has made thus far is 99% due to her own hard work and perseverance.

This is her, a few months later. When I first heard her reading one-syllable words independently, I was so excited I just wanted to cry and hug her. It’s been a long road for us to get to this point, and I’m sure she was as happy as I was!

Jaya gives me so much hope and she’s sending me a very strong message: to never give up on them. It took her 3 months to be able to read book 1A flawlessly, and god knows how long it’ll take for her to be able to actually be reading at her age-appropriate level.

But I need to remind myself that it’s not the duration that matters, but the fact that she can actually read now! I just need to start the motion for her, and hopefully she would be motivated enough and have enough basic knowledge to read more difficult words on her own later.

p.s: the video is a little long, but it’s worth it! at least for me it is :)))


  1. Ping Ping says:

    Hey Suet Li,
    I used to teach in this center and I used to have students who cannot pronounce certain words like ‘z’ sounds ‘j’ sounds ‘b’, ‘d’.. some have speech problems. One thing that is different is that they are all very young and their parents are rich. I’ll probably email you what we did in the center with all the students and see if you can benefit from it. I am not sure if it’s of any help since I don’t know the specifically the problems and needs of your students.

  2. Charlene.g says:

    Suet.. Words cannot describe how much I respect you and feel so proud of you as a fellow young aspiring educator in Msia for students who are in dire need for English language assistance. I’ve grown to salute you more everytime I come back to this blog. I wish this video that you have made will be spread virally, and strike the policy makers to do some solid efforts to improve your current helpless situation. We love you suet, stay strong, change is in the air.

  3. Ping Ping says:

    Thank you for doing what most of us are not brave enough to do..seeing you and ur effort is very touching…hope all your effort will not go in vain and that one day, one day they’ll get opportunities they probably missed if not for effort of people like you. 🙂 proud to be ur reader

  4. Anon says:

    Hi SuetLee, I am absolutely impressed by your effort with Jaya after watching the video, you seem assured & confident as a teacher & more importantly, serious. I am also pleasantly surprised to see that you are a world away from your famous close blog friends who just seem overly self absorbed. I’ve yet to see any of them put their fame to good use, such as genuinely contribute back to society, those that had done any & had mentioned it on their blog came nowhere close to your’s in magnitude & sacrifice to be worth a mention. I am very happy to see someone stepping away from the norm (from their circle of close friends) to pursue things that really matter.

    Clear minded enough to see that there is a pressing issue in our society, brave enough to take the first step & strong will enough to persevere until today, I suppose this is the real you, as if it wasn’t you, you would have surrendered looking at all the hardships you had to face, starting with the living conditions in a rural area is enough to send many city slickers packing. You have already earned my respect when you left your comfortable life (& a more financially secured one) & went against your parents’ wishes (it shows you have a mind of your own & know that your existence have a greater purpose, not merely born to please the parents) to do something great & meaningful like this. Don’t forget to give yourself a pat in the back for the amazing feat that no other teacher had achieved during Jaya’s 6 years in school(assuming she attended Primary 1~6), you’ll carry with you this & all the achievements of yours in Simpang Durian for the rest of your life. Apart from changing the lives for the better for some of the students whose path you’ve crossed, keep up your good work in raising the benchmark of the current teaching standard in Simpang Durian & Malaysia. 2 years fly fast.

  5. Amelia says:

    #SuetGivesMeHope wtf.

    Seeing what you do and how much effort you put in for the students is very inspiring and encouraging, indeed. Keep up the good work, Suet! I believe you’ll be able to make changes in the children’s lives sooner or later. 😀

  6. CG says:

    I echo exactly what anon said! I supposed in today’s day and time, it’s hard to find a young teacher like you so passionate about her work and dreams to make a change in the world today. A genuine person which such fiery dreams and good soul certainly does not come easy at all. If it ever comes along in fact.

    Keep up your good work! The children are blessed to have you as their teacher!

  7. Jo says:

    Hi Sweat, just a quick suggestion in terms of increasing the kids’ exposure to English, perhaps you could try routine screening of english cartoons or movies with BM subtitles during your extra help sessions? Would be interesting for the kids and they might pick up something subconsciously through all the listening 🙂 This will also be feasible for a large group too as you obviously can’t attend to all the kids at the same time! Keep up with the good work, you’ve definitely raised awareness to your readers about how much help is needed in rural/ suburban areas in Malaysia. You might not be there yet, but you’re one step closer than you were yesterday! Cheers 🙂

  8. John says:

    I agree with Jo; and English songs too.

    You could choose some easy English pop songs and pass them the lyrics. This may seem like a tall order considering they can’t even read alphabets but I believe it is more important to cultivate interest in the language, first.

    Case in point: JJ Lin picked up Chinese through singing.

    How about a fund for affordable MP3 players?

  9. don says:

    eh.. can u go replace the “liao zhong lai” or not? i think you can save entire Malaysia’s education system, if can pls go replace what is that fella name already ah, errr.. Muhiddin or something. Then you can save every student in Malaysia!!

    jia you~!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! come I give u virtual support.

  10. Amanda says:

    “You are a world away from your famous close blog friends who just seem overly self absorbed.” – Anon

    I can see the leader in you, Suet Li. You are a real gem in this world. So very few people have what it takes. I can’t help but come back to this blog again and again and be awed by what you are doing. You know what you want and you are not afraid of pursuing it. Your determination will bring you so far, girl.

    I used to read many (up to 10 and above) blogs (fashion, party, work etc.) and yours was one of them. After so many years, I find myself only coming back to 2 because the other blogs got tiring and as anonymous mentioned, overly self-absorbed. Your blog is one of the two. 🙂

  11. kreazi says:

    Suet, I’m going to stop coming over to your blog coz each time I read, I’m in tears! You moved me to tears and I do agree with Anon that you’re really giving something back to our society. I’ve been reading your blog for years and the change is so drastic, away from the “glamorous world” many ppl your age are still in and are proud of. Keep up the good work, and rest if you must, but please don’t quit (((HUGS))) p/s: the 1st sentence was a lie. Die die also must come back 😉

  12. Joanne says:

    Hi Suet,
    You are awesome. What you are doing is so meaningful both to the kids and the society. Making efforts to help handicapped students in the long run seems like a project in your teaching career, but you tried you best as you can every single day. All the best. Your student will be proud of you and your knowledge.

  13. Aimi Ho says:

    two of my ex- indian co-workers had trouble pronouncing ‘h’ such as in “truth”.

    Be careful not to allow this small matter of pronouncing “here” impede his interest in reading.
    Reading should be fun and meaningful, no drilling, no forcing. Keep in mind your end goal. Reading is only a mean to something bigger, live-long, independent based goal.

    Pick a book that he is interested in or the story has to BE interesting. Then work from there (develop your material from that book)

    The current school system has failed many because of its boring, meaningless lesson logistic. Teach for Malaysia Teachers have to find alternatives; merely repeating the same method won’t change anything much.

    Just my humble POV.


  14. ana says:


    Reading this and watching the video really moved me to tears. Keep up the amazing work! Hard work definitely pays. Your contribution to these kids will definitely be fruitful one fine day. Just one quick suggestion, reading does help a lot in terms of learning but my sister picked up english quite quickly through watching cartoons (without subtitles) and also by listening constantly to English songs. Hope this helps one way or another .:D

  15. Grace says:

    Wow Suet! you’re just simply the best! it’s scary how kids at 13 years old in Malaysia still can’t read simple english omg. Makes you think what the teachers have been teaching them for hte past 6 years. Don’t they learn any english at all from primary 1 to 6?? So sad to think about it..

    Thumbs up to Jaya for being so committed and hardworking! she’s gonna go far in life with her good atttidue 🙂 Please continue to inspire your students, Cikgu Suet!

  16. Sofia says:

    Hi, I have been reading your blog for a while now and you are truly an inspiration to those of us who are not able to volunteer.

    Keep up the good work- and if there are any TFM fundraisers in the future, please let me know. Keen to help as much as I can, albeit all the way from London.

  17. Sue says:

    Hi… What you have contributed to these kids impresses me! I respect you and I am happy to know that there are still people that concern about the needy and are willing to leave the comfort zone and reach out for others =)

  18. sweatlee says:

    ping, thanks, that’ll be useful!!

    charlene, thank you so much and i love all of you too!

    ping, eh why u comment twice wtf. i really hope my efforts will pay off too!

    anon, hi anon! thank you for watching the video and for your comments, they really made my day! you;’re really praising me too much, i’m just doing what i really love!

    jocelyn, haha suet without makeup leh! quite rare outside my kampung

    amelia, thanks!! awesome to know that it’s inspiring!

    ccc, haha thanks!

    cg, i guess in a way, the fact that this is somewhat short term (2 yrs) makes me want to try harder now..

    john, i’m not tired!!!! it’s in jelebu, negeri sembilan.

    jo, yeah that’ll help definitely! just that some kids live quite far away and i try to make extra class’ time super worth it. so i guess i feel merely showing cartoon will not be that worth it/substantial.

    john, i do use lotsa songs in class! but the mp3 player is an interesting proposition..

    felicia, haha nolahhhh!

    steve, thanks!

    tanya, i hope so too! though they don’t act grateful at all -__-

    don, hahaha! not that good la!!

    r, see how good u are first wtf

    efae, straight means what! got curvy teacher one meh? i’ve actually played bieber songs in class before *vomits

    amanda, thank you so much! it’s a really really nice compliment and i’m glad you like reading my blog!

    kreazi, hahaha just prepare a box of tissue next time when u click on my link okkk. is it really that drastic ah? i still feel like i’m the same person though..

    joanne, thanks !!

    hilo, it’s hard but i’m trying everyday

    aim, the problem is, we’ve been doing this for months now and he doesn’t take it seriously, so i get frustrated sometimes. we’ve played games, listen to songs, watched movies etc but he just hates learning. i need to find other ways for sure. thanks for your input!

    ana, thanks! i’ll try to get them to watch more english shows!

    nr, thanks!

    grace, i can write a longer post on scarier things like 16 year olds not being able to do simple math etc. i really hope she’ll go far too, she’s been so persistent!

    bass, checked it out, looks awesome! thanks!

    yvonne, thanks!! pls do, we need more people!

    nor ramli, thanks for your faith in me 😀

    sofia, thanks! do join my event page on fb! i posted the link a few posts down.

    sue, thank you!! i’m just doing what i love 🙂

  19. Stella says:

    This is my third posting. You have so many websites. Love,love jel bu. spent my school holidays there. I know every inch of that place. I miss the place. Wonderful childhood, ice kachang , kuih lady with basket over her shoulders, noodle stalls near theatre. If you know anybody from those times ask them about it. The market was in downtown. One street. Bridge connected town to village.

  20. Kit says:

    Great work! I do find it challenging to teach my kids to read and write. Moreover, i only get to see them in the weekends. It is hard to make progress. Being a bad parent, I really need to learn “kids teaching techniques” and fast!

  21. Beii says:

    Hi Suet, what you are doing is incredible! Please keep up all your effort and help them one at a time. Although as you mentioned, sometimes you get confused as to how else you could help them, i am sure they are all progressing even if it’s a small step at a time.

    Anyway I was wondering if this would help. As I am a mother to a two year old boy, I was thinking perhaps your students can also benefit from learning for the start again. I find nursery rhymes and shows like Hi-5 and barney does help plenty. My boy pronounce and talk in proper english and sometimes he would correct me when I am wrong. It also helps with the Karaoke videos where they get to read the words while singing to the nursery songs. My son just unknowingly absorbs the alphabets and words and can identify them himself.

    Hope your students will benefit from this, thank you for making Malaysia a better place!

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