I’m getting married!

So I have no idea if anyone is even reading my blog anymore given the lack of activity in the past…6 months hahaha gosh I’m a horrible blogger. I’ve been meaning to blog about this proper on my blog but you know how it is…life just catches up with you. Also I Dayre quite a bit (it’s like blogging, but on mobile. Check out the app and follow me!).

Like the title suggests, yes I’m getting married! It doesn’t feel so shocking or jaw-dropping to me now that it’s been FIVE months since I got engaged haha. But I still want to post it here since my proper blog here works better as a journal than dayre, and I just want to make sure most of my important life moments are recorded in this platform that means so much to me.

I won’t be writing a detailed post of how everything went down, which you can read about it here: https://dayre.me/sweatlee/vhSydBOHpU. A LOT of things happened prior, during and after the proposal so do read it if you’d like some drama in your life hahah

Oh! You can also read the proposal story from HIS point of view too: Part 1, Part 2 – Quite nice and refreshing to read this from the guy’s POV cos it’s usually the girl who tells the story! But now I know how much work actually went into making the proposal a successful one 😀

So yeap, I’m now someone’s fiance (and have been for the last 5 months). It still feels a little strange at times cos I still feel like I’m so young, but in actual fact I’m in my late twenties now! It’s been more than a decade since I started blogging, and it’s quite weird to see how much of my life has been documented in here. All my ups and downs, all my joy and sadness, all my love stories with myself, others, with education, all of ME.

And now you’re going to see me become someone’s wife! And soon…someone’s mother! and soon…ok not so soon, someone’s grandmother! HAHA

But ok let’s rewind a little from the grandmother part. Now it’s the joyful challenge of wedding-planning T___T

Which to be honest, hasn’t progressed very far at all *weak laugh

It’s honestly such a PAIN! I mean, I do want to enjoy it as much as we can together, but it’s been quite stressful. If you google wedding planning, you’ll find crazy amount of resources and it gets overwhelming. Doesn’t help that Pinterest has soooo many beautiful pictures and you have this unrealistic expectation of what your wedding could look like.

And then..you talk to your parents..and things just start getting downhill from there.

As you can probably tell from the above picture, we’re both of different races, which makes the intercultural bit a nightmare! Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s beautiful and kinda nice and we’ll have very cute babies (hopefully lolololol). But let me give you an example why it’s a nightmare. My mom picked a few dates for us after consulting with a chinese fortune teller, and then now his mom will go consult with an indian fortune teller too to get a suitable date according to the indian calendar!

Which is why we STILL have not chosen a date yet hahahha..ha…ha *sad laugh

And this is just the date ok. Don’t get me started on the kinds of CEREMONIES we need to do, and what I need to WEAR and who we need to INVITE. *tears hair out

Anyway, I guess it is quite exciting lah. We’ve started planning slowly on our Excel sheet labeled “THE WEDDING”, have looked at a few venues, and I even have my own secret board on Pinterest! Heh

ISN’T THIS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BRIDE YOU’VE EVER SEEN?? I’m so happy I get to wear saree cos I love how it covers unflattering parts and still look so elegant and demure. Plus, the makeup and jewelry are beautiful <3

So…that’s all I have on my secret Pinterest Board HAHA. I’m the laziest and most unenthusiastic bride in the world. It’s funny because I think I’ve thought of how my wedding would be like before, but when it’s finally time to get married I just couldn’t be bothered. So much unnecessary work and effort and money!! for what? Ok I guess for the most important day in your life. No big deal wtf

I think I need a wedding planner, but I’m also determined to plan this wedding under very very low budget. Say, RM20,000 max? Is that even possible? I’ve asked around and the average price for weddings these days is anything from RM40,000-200,000!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11111 *FAINTS

Ok to redeem myself, I’m not that lazy la, I have been doing a bit of research. On some nights when I have trouble sleeping, I’d google for wedding venues and read reviews from people who’ve gotten married. Actually, you know what, I should totally blog about it cos it’s actually quite difficult to find a lot of blogs documenting their wedding-planning journey!

I need to find a way to hold myself accountable though cos what might happen is you’ll read my next blog post 6 months later and I’m already married wtf hahaha #lazybrideislazy

The once in a lifetime opportunity

Sorry I’ve been missing again! I went to Cambodia two weeks ago and had an AMAZING time, which I promise I’ll talk about soon cos it’s so amazing I want everyone to go there!

Anyway, while I was away, the documentary came out! THANK YOU SO MUCH to people who watched it that day!!!! But I know a lot of people will not have the opportunity to watch it since it’s on a weekday night so here’s the link to watch it online:

(It’ll probably link you to the homepage if you’re using your phone, so search for magseven and it’s titled “episode 39, magseven 2013”)

Unfortunately, I can’t upload the video on youtube due to copyright issues, so you’ll have to watch it on tonton.my. The sucky part is you’d have to sign in but you can use my account if you want! (username: sweatlee, pswrd: sweatlee)

Tell me what you think of it! Some parts’ voiceover are done in the studio so it sounds a bit different. And yes, don’t have to tell me I look fat and have a lot of pimples, I’m aware of that! For some reason, people think I don’t know and find it crucial to point them out wtf. I barely have time to put on makeup for this T___T REALLY not easy to be a teacher.

Alright I hope you’ll like it! And I’m really happy that all the students featured here did really well for their PMR too!! 😀

Rural living

I think when I decided to join Teach For Malaysia, it wasn’t really my biggest decision ever. My biggest decision was choosing to opt for a school that is located in the most rural area on the list. It was because I felt like if I’m already gonna do something so crazy, might as well go all out while I’m at it!

It was also because I don’t think I’d feel right serving underprivileged kids, only to drive the few minutes back to my comfortable suburbia house, back to the warmth of my welcoming comfort zone.

But…..barely a week into moving here, I’ve already started regretting it.

This place is perpetually filled with bugs, the water makes me sick and gives me rashes, I can’t sleep at night for fear of being eaten alive by spiders, there is practically NOTHING here but two rows of shops, the nearest civilization (KFC) is 45 minutes away, and the list goes on and on.

My stomach is filled with dread so heavy it sinks the entire universe every time I have to drive back here, so much so that I’ve chosen to just drive back every Monday morning instead (waking up at 4.30a.m has taken its toll on me).

I remember how I kept finding excuses to go back too, despite the crazy tiring drive. Whoops I left my charger at home teehee I guess I have no choice but to go back midweek and leave this horrible place for the night!
Whoops I brought one less baju kurung, time to go home now!! Whoops “accidentally” left my students’ books, must go get them!

And it went on like that for the rest of the year..

Along the way, I’ve completely forgotten why I chose to serve here. I’ve completely forgotten what I came here to see, to experience. And if I keep finding excuses to slide back into my bubble, I would have wasted my two years here.

I was reflecting on this as I was cycling around the paddy field the past few days, and truly for once, loving every moment of it. I came here to see and live the challenges the rest of Malaysia faces and I feel like I’ve failed myself by not gaining enough perspective before the year ends.

I realized that I can’t hate this place because then, it defeats the purpose of me trying to change the lives of the people here. If I can’t understand how they live, if I can’t empathize with them since I don’t try to live like them, then I’m in no position to decide what’s better for these kids.

Never thought the paddy field, the goats, the smiles of the farmers and the laughter of kids running barefoot would give me such a humbling experience.

I came here to teach, and I’m taught so much more in return 🙂

I have a dream

I’m such a lousy blogger!!!!

I posted this on my Facebook eons ago but here it is! I really like this post because it gives me so much hope, and it makes me love my kids more each day.


My journey as a teacher is a massive roller-coaster experience. Some days I feel like I’m wasting my time with these kids, but some days I truly feel so contented that I feel like I can do this forever. Thankfully, today is one of those days that trumps a million of the other bad days 🙂

I taught my Form 3 class about Martin Luther King a few days ago and told them about his “I have a dream” speech. I was supposed to move along the syllabus since I have to finish it by July but decided to screw it and took both periods today to get them to learn more about MLK instead. I watched his speech again the night before and got goosebumps all over, and thought I could inspire my kids with it as well.

In class, I wrote out quotes from his speech and pasted them all over the room. I briefly spoke about what some of those quotes meant and the kids got more and more excited about MLK. I think listening to stories beat doing more grammar exercises and writing boring essays anytime!

“I have a dream that one day, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as brothers and sisters”

I spoke about how bad the slavery condition was in America and how blacks couldn’t even board the same bus, use the same toilet or the same water fountains as whites. The kids were appalled and got riled up about it. They couldn’t believe how bad racism can get and we discussed the importance of civil rights and equality.

We then read out my favourite MLK quote: “I have a dream that one day, we will live in a nation where we will not be judged by the colour of our skin but by the content of our character”.

Before we watched the speech, I got the kids to write out their own dreams. They could write about anything they want, as long as those dreams are big enough that they seem impossible.

Then they pasted their dreams next to their tracker and we watched the speech together. They watched a few minutes of it, noisily commented on everything, before telling me that they couldn’t understand much of what MLK said.

I was a little sad that they couldn’t experience the same goosebumps I had but after the video ended, I asked if they would like to hear my dream now.

“I have a dream that one day, all 31 of you will be sitting in your university dorm room one day and will remember this moment. Then, you will go on youtube to rewatch this speech but this time, this time you’ll be able to understand every word in MLK’s speech and will be inspired by those words as well. I have a dream that one day, you too will fight for something you believe in, just like how MLK fought for his own rights”

Wah suddenly I’m like MLK hahaha.

I choked midway while saying that because I was so emotional about it, so emotional about the thought of my kids achieving that dream. The class was silent for a while, and one boy quietly said “Teacher, I want that dream to come true too..”

While they worked on their work after that, I read all their post-its in awe.

“I have a dream that one day, people who are stupid like me can be geniuses too”

“I have a dream that one day, I will fight for poor people like me and help change their fate forever”

“I have a dream that one day, everyone in this class will own expensive cars like Ferrari, Porsche, Audi, McLaren…” (he listed down like ten different cars, obviously written by a boy hahaha)

“I have a dream that one day, I can burn Rosmah’s ugly hair” (seriously…. a kid wrote this -____-, before I told her that her dream has to be beneficial to someone, so she changed it)

“I have a dream that one day, my village will be proud of me and will not look down on me or my family for being poor anymore”

“I have a dream that one day, Malaysia will be the best country in the world”

“I have a dream that one day, everyone in this class will be astronauts and we can live on the moon together”

One after another, big dreams, wonderful dreams, inspiring dreams.

We then spent a few minutes reading about the guy who shot MLK and the kids got extremely angry at him, which made me really happy because it shows how affected they are by what happened.

I’m thinking back at this moment and I realized that I don’t know if I will ever feel such a strong rewarding and fulfilling feeling again. You know how people use the term “once in a lifetime”? Why go bungee jumping, why go climb mount everest, why do a million other things that you can do once in a lifetime when you can teach, once in your lifetime? When you can change lives, once in your lifetime? When you can get kids to dream big, to want to achieve more, to want to succeed, once in your lifetime?

I have a dream that one day, …


Awesome kids are awesome

A few updates:

1. I’m making a more concerted effort to blog more again for several reasons. Firstly, it doesn’t actually take thaaat much time and I’m a lot more free these days (kids are having their exams next week!) so no excuse not to blog!

Secondly and more importantly but shamelessly, I need to start writing advertorials again to earn my side income so I have to blog more to maintain/increase my traffic. Recently, we TFM fellows got a pay cut. Seriously don’t ask why, I don’t even know why too. All I know is we had to resign a new contract, got a pay cut AND worst of all, have to pay back for the increment we got since January. It’s a heck lot of money, money I don’t have. So don’t mind me if I start putting ads again on my blog ok? A teacher’s gotta eat.. (though I’m trying to lose weight these days..)

2. I learned how to ride a motorcycle!!!!!!!

I’ve never really wanted to learn before but recently, I’ve been peer-pressured into it. Well, peer pressure is the wrong term to use because my kids are the one that influenced me, so it’ll be like…”student-pressured” into it? Haha. ALL the kids here can ride a bike, and they made fun of me for not being able to ride one!

“Hahhhh how can teacher? It’s soooo easy!”

“Teacher, you can’t be like us kampung people if you can’t ride one!”

“What?? Even a 10 year old can ride a motorbike!” (it’s true)

See, such bad influence!

Anyway, I’m actually pretty good at it now! And the worst part is, it’s super addictive! Hahaha this sounds like a vice already. But after learning how to ride one, I really get why my kids love to ride around the village “just for fun” because damn, it’s so freaking fun! The wind blowing in your hair, the adrenaline rush, the DANGER, the power in your hands…

So, I’ve been grabbing any motorbike I see and begging the owner to let me ride. They let me use it all the time cause I’m a teacher ma, and they respect me a lot here. Then, I’ll bring a random student to ride around the paddy fields and the village to sightsee, and we’ll talk about all sorts of profound and thought-provoking things like the latest gossip in school and how their lives are like.

It’s really moments like this that I will remember for the rest of my life once I leave this place.

Me, riding a motorbike around the village and in the woods, with teenagers, who would have thought?

3. Speaking of kids (am I not always talking about them anyway?), I’m really REALLY sad today. There are these two girls (who are sisters) whom I’ve been hanging out with everyday, playing badminton or basketball, or just talking about life. I know their whole family and I’m like the resident guest in their house. Their mom cooks for me and gossips with me, the baby of the house clings on to my leg when I visit, and they always fling the door open excitedly when they hear my car engine outside.

I found out today..that they are shifting away next month T____________T

I was so upset when I heard it because they’ve become my best friends here. They confide in me all the time and I would always talk about life with them. I’ve shown them my pictures overseas and shared with them all my experiences. They’re only 15 and 16, but seeing their excitement and love for me everyday makes my day.

And now they’re moving away forever T____________T

I was seriously going to cry when I heard it. I’m never supposed to invest my emotions so heavily on my kids but it’s hard when you live in a place where there’s no one you know with no family. They ARE my family.

I think I’m going to cry buckets later when I bid them goodbye. I HATE losing my kids, can’t imagine how I’d feel next year when I leave.

4. This is a bit of a good news to end the post. Recently, our school’s choral speaking team was invited to perform for the Teach For Malaysia 2013 Cohort’s opening dinner! When I told my kids, they were ecstatic!

“Teacher, we’re good enough to perform for people!”

YES you are! So proud of all of you 🙂

So we’ve been practising everyday with the script I wrote from scratch. It’s been quite tough because their exams are next week and the performance is in 3 weeks! But we still have to use a new script anyway cause half the team consists of new members who begged me to let them join in after seeing how fun it is.

The best part of my week today is when this boy (who joined the choral speaking team that won the district championship last time but didn’t want to join this time) came to me and said this: “Teacher, can I join the team? I told my dad that I didn’t join this time and he scolded me. He said I must join because I can improve my English!”

It completely makes my day because it means my effort to build relationships with the parents have been worth it! I’ve spoken to his dad before and have said many good things about his son, and how he should be proud to have a son like that and how he has done a good job raising him. So for him to actually tell his kid to join despite the exams shows that he really believes in me to help his kid’s English 😀 😀 😀 Can’t stop smiling!

The kids have also been working very hard. I’ve started putting my dictator face on again so every practice has been quite challenging for me and them. I need to be hard on them because I expect so much from everyone and I know they’ll do amazing.

Then, a girl who just joined the team told me today that choral practices are what make her days now. She’s having so much fun and although it’s tough but she loves it! These kids hardly speak a sentence of English in real life but they have to speak FIVE pages of English confidently and enthusiastically now.

Haih just talking about how awesome they are makes me want to weep like a baby now.

Sorry for this really long post but I hope you enjoyed reading about what I’ve been up to!

p.s: thanks for subscribing to my mailing list! Will definitely try to write more protected posts so you don’t sign up in vain 😛

Everyday is an exciting day

Hello after one month of absence!

This is a glorious month because it’s my birthday month! So I vow to keep my excitement as each day comes because we all know that an unexcited, passive, boring teacher is the worst teacher to have in a classroom. It’s good that I’m an easily excitable person so everything that happens everyday always keeps me genuinely happy anyway.

I have pictures to share and an exciting news at the end of the post! I think I’m using the many derivations of the word exciting too liberally haha. Going to start off with some teaching-unrelated pictures first.

This was taken two months ago at my best friend’s wedding. Can’t believe it’s been two months since that incredibly exciting (here I go again) day!

Me with Angie who flew from Canada just for that weekend. Angie is always an amazing company because she’s as easily excitable as I am! Everytime we see each other again after a long period of time, we always get along so well as if we never parted 🙂

I’m also overly tanned here because it was the weekend after my Sports Day where I got baked like crazy.

Seeing Audrey in her wedding dress the first time made me cry T___T I think I’ll cry like a baby when I see her first baby bump too T___T Can’t believe she’s all grown up now T__T

At the wedding dinner with the super cute Up house! I’m the one in white in case you have forgotten how I look like since I don’t post that many pictures of myself anymore haha. L-R: Tze, Jiameei, Angie, me, Huiwen, Jolene.

Ok that’s it, on to teaching pictures! Keep in mind that I can’t put too many personal pictures because I have a lot of students and teachers reading my blog.

Yes, I’m now an Arts teacher too! I have no idea what to teach them so I just teach them what I know best – how to draw humans/anime-looking people haha

This was taken during extra class one day. My extra class is super muhibbah one cause I have Chinese, Indian, Malay and orang asli students. This is a proud teacher moment, my kids teaching the other kids 🙂

Another super super proud teacher moment too! I had the kids write an essay and told them to be very creative with it. This is a boy reading another boy’s essay (really funny essay) to another boy and laughing about it. LOVE it when they have fun with English!

This is so logical I absolutely cannot find a flaw in her premise hahahaha I love my kids.

Another proud teacher moment! Maybe I should just name this post “Proud teacher moments”. These are my kids editing each other’s essays before sending them in. I gave them the criteria I use to edit their essays and they switched books and marked their friend’s essay.

After 40 minutes, none of them finished marking and complained “Teacher, it’s so hard to mark!” I used that opportunity to give them a lecture on why it’s important to read through their essay first before handing it in. Imagine 40 minutes per essay x 30 essays. And I have 5 classes’ essays to read so 150 essays x 40 minutes = 6000 minutes!

“Imagine I have to spend 100 hours to mark all your essays every month! That’s if I don’t sleep, eat, go toilet or take a break at all. It’s so sad ok, when my friends ask me out I have to say no. Do you want me to have no friends, no life and to die a lonely death by the river???!”

Kids: Noooo teacher!

“Yes! So pleaseeee check your essays first and please don’t make so many mistakes. Or I’ll haunt you forever”

Dramatic betul lah teacher ni.

One cheeky kid asked: kenapa nak mati tepi river teacher?

“Sebab macam kesian sikit hehe”

Class erupted into laugher. This class really knows how to feed my ego!

This is Jaya reading Peter and Jane Book 3A !!!! PROUD MAX! It took her 9 months to get here though but we’ll still soldier on! Target is Book 5 by the end of this year. Although she can read better now (can pronounce words), it’s still hard for her to comprehend what she’s reading. Slowly..slowly.

Anyone knows the Oh My English crew? If you can get me connected to them, my kids and I will be indebted to you forever!!

This is why I need more books! I’ve been buying them for some of them (they love love love the Wimpy Kid’s Diary series). This is from the best class so they can read higher level books. Please donate more books to me if you have some that you don’t want anymore! Not too high level please, my better kids can only read books like Wimpy Kid’s Diary, not even Enid Blyton yet.

To above and beyond! Misty drive back to my kampung.

Tyre suddenly erupted when I got into the highway on the way home last weekend. Thank god the ronda guy came to my rescue!

And I’m soooo thankful it happened at the highway. To get home, I have to go through 1-hour of isolated kampung roads before reaching the highway and if my tyre burst then, I wouldn’t know what to do. There’s no phone reception most of the journey and I don’t know how to replace my tyre too. Actually, I do but I’m a chicken and am always scared to get out of my car if anything happens.

Thank you again LEKAS ronda guy! Don’t know why so bad luck tyre burst for no reason 🙁

Amazing relaxing time with my abandoned 1Q84 and a cup of sweet potato latte and great company 🙂

Can’t wait for December holidays although TFM fellows only get about 3 weeks off. Lots of work to do before then, and lots of planning to do during holidays too but I can’t wait for not waking up at 6 a.m! I hate waking up so early can I just teach somewhere where I can wake up at a decent hour!

Anyway it’s late (11.30 pm GASP) so time to sleep. Thanks for reading!

OH YEAH. Almost forgot my exciting news! I just got invited to speak at TEDx youth KL. Say whaaaaat?

p.s: sorry for the liberal use of exclamation marks and sorry if it got annoying. It’s an exciting month so must punctuate with !!! to show how exciting everything is!

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 :)))

Worth every little thing

sorry for the lack of updates! i keep forgetting that i have a blog. this will be a quick post about something i just wrote on facebook (first sign of a bad blogger, post on facebook first then only remember to post on blog >.<)

i have so much to talk about, but blogging seems to be so time-consuming. whatever happened to me! i keep wanting to document every little thing but have been very bad at it. anyway, i’m actually pretty sick of teaching-related posts so the next post will be about me! finally! but you’ll have to bear with this one first.

if there’s one phrase i can use to describe teaching, it’ll be “it’s worth every damned thing”. here’s why:

i’m super proud of my 34 kids who have been practising everyday for the past month for the choral speaking competition. on the very first day of our practice, i told our principal that i will make sure we win the district championship if she allowed me to take school time to practise. i went to my kids after that, worried, because i just made a really big (seemingly impossible) promise. we are a kampung school, english is not their first or even second language, 90% of the kids had no experience with choral speaking, AND even I don’t have any experience with it, how are we gonna win the more elite schools??

but we kept working hard anyway. whenever they faltered, i pushed them further, sometimes to the point that i feel was quite evil. i told them that if we don’t do our best, we might as well not join the competition at all. what’s the point of joining for the sake of joining, if we’re only mediocre? i swear i heard them muttering angry words at me with their teeth gritted when i made them repeat the same stanza a million times until they got it nailed.

anyway, guess what? all the hard work paid off cos we won the district championship! to be honest, the competition was meh, but it’s still a huge milestone for all of us! our school has never won anything english-related before, so everyone was beyond ecstatic!

they screamed when we were announced as the champion and immediately hugged me. the conductor (who also won the best conductor award) counted “1,2,3” and everyone said “thank you teacher!!!” and bowed! wanted to cry then but have to maintain dictator face lol. most memorable moment of my teacher life so far T___T

this is a picture i took of them when they were on stage. i thought they did a pretty bad job (which i berated them for later, i’m so mean). now that we’re going to the state championship, we have been working twice as hard! my motto for them is: we might be village kids, but we can win too! hahaha so lame but they love it!

thought i’ll share this simple anecdote of pure unadulterated joy with all of you. things have been a huge roller-coaster in school, but i’ll take whatever small happiness i can get right now. i know we’ll not win the state championship for sure, but to see my kids speaking a hundred times more english than they have ever spoken in their entire lives, to see them screaming in joy and feeling confident for once, is worth every second, every drop of sweat, and every sigh of fatigue for me.

camwhore teacher.

being a teacher really makes me feel like a celebrity sometimes, cos the kids love to take pictures with and of me! whenever they bring their phones, i’ll sometimes catch them sneakily taking pictures of me (eating, talking, doing work etc). and these are 13 year old girls, not even some hormone-raging prepubescent boys! and they’ll shower me with compliments everyday! “teacher you’re so pretty” “teacher your eyes are shining beautifully” “teacher your hair looks so soft” and even “teacher your nails are so nice!” (in malay of course). this is a very ego-boosting job wtf

anyway, that’s all for now. wish us luck for the state championship!


Regaining hope

Posted this on Facebook a couple days ago, but thought I’d share it here too since I haven’t updated in a while.

(29 March 2012)

Today, I went into my weakest and most challenging class to teach them simple adjectives like sizes, colours, and shapes. Thirty minutes into the class, even with a lot of activities and drawing and colouring, my kids got me very frustrated for not knowing words like big, small, long, short. I mean, what did 6 years of primary school teach them??

So I did something irrational after I realized that it’s been almost four months of school and they still haven’t learned anything! These 25 kids need serious help. So I put them into groups based on where they live, and came up with 6 groups of 4-5 kids each. I told them that from now on, they’ll have extra class with me after school/at night and I’ll make sure they attend, even if it means I’ll have to get them and send them back.

They were shocked and immediately told me that some of them live deep in the jungle and there are ghosts everywhere at night. I’ve been to their houses before, they’re about 30 mins away and the road is actually quite scary even in the day. But I told them sternly that it’s ok, as long as they want to learn, I will make sure they get to learn.

“Teacher, betul ke ni? Banyak hantu tau?? Kat tepi sungai tu ada batu nisan tau??” (Teacher, are you sure? There are a lot of ghosts!! There are lots of tombstones near the river!)

But in my frustration and gungho-ness, not even ghosts can scare me wtf. Plus, I have to show my kids that I will do anything to help them and hopefully they’ll want to help themselves.

When I exited the class, I immediately regretted doing that. Am I out of my mind?? Here I am, struggling with everything as it is, and I have no idea if I am mentally or physically capable of pushing so far. They live pretty far away so I don’t know if I could drive when I’m already exhausted from teaching all day.

But I remember Rakis, my orang asli kid’s face and the conversation I had with him yesterday. He used to be a really happy kid, but the past few months he’s been very sullen and angry all the time. He said it’s cause he can’t understand anything, and I can’t give my attention to him cos everyone else is crying for help/running around beating people. Plus, on that day, he actually crumpled up the worksheet I gave out because he didn’t know how to do anything. Rakis needs help, and I’m at my wits’ end as to how to help him.

So I started with him and a few of my weakest but less misbehaving boys. I got them from their village and it was nice to see them waiting for me by the roadside in the darkness, with their backpacks and jeans and best shirts and eager smiles. We had a very productive night reading peter and jane and reviewing stuff learned in school. This pic is of rakis reading with utmost concentration, and he was SUPER focused the entire time I just wanted to hug him and tell him that he’s doing great. When the other kids were playing around, he continued reading out loud. When I asked them to come up with their own sentences with a verb and noun, they kept asking me for help but Rakis sat there and thought hard for his own sentences.


Iqmal, thinking how to read “Here”. Every page has the same few words but he still couldn’t read them, but he never gave up trying.

This was taken by my housemate, Angie, last month when I had the first extra class. We don’t have a table and can’t afford to get one, so we made one with cardbox and a broken cupboard door hahaha. It collapsed and we rebuilt it with tape again and again.

These kids are really really weak, but they are so eager to learn. After this first extra class, one of them asked me EVERYDAY if he could come again. But because things have been crazy for me the past month with assignments (for my diploma in edu) and lesson planning, I kept telling him maybe next week, maybe next week. After a while, he gave up asking 🙁 So I’m glad things got easier and I could have him over again a few days ago.

Anyway, when I sent them back, we listened to hitz fm and had a karaoke session in the car (mostly me singing haha). They were bickering about what was the singer singing, “cikgu itu “happy” kan?” “bukanlah “here” lah!” “bukan lah “him” lah!” (the word was “hero” but that’s beside the point). I told them to read any English books at home despite not understanding them and to listen to English radio stations.Then, I met some of their parents. Some were indifferent and didn’t care where their kid was, some were very appreciative. But they all had one similarity: they all came from homes that are very not conducive to learning. Dilapidated, noisy, dirty..

I drove home drained from the long day but I could still hear their voices in my car. It’s defining moments like this that made me realize that they’re worth pushing myself for, even if I have to start from scratch, from peter and jane book 1a.


I have so many more stories to tell! Some hopeful, some downright depressing, some frustrating, some angry, some happy, some really emotional. I’ll get to them slowly when I have time. Thanks for reading despite the lack of updates!


UPDATE: On Friday, the day after the extra class in my house, a teacher reported to me that he saw Rakis reading an ENGLISH BOOK during moral class. I shook him and begged him to tell me more, and he said Rakis was reading about simple body parts like eye, nose etc and seemed engrossed. I wanted to burst into tears, mostly because I was so touched at his determination. Then I told myself: one step at a time, one step at a time. Body parts now, Stephen King next.