At the dentist

I was sitting on the uncomfortably hard dentist chair, staring deep into the soul of the bright white light above me. It has been a while since I was last in this exact position, staring at the depths of the almost exact white light.

You know, I hate going to the dentist with a passion. I hate everything to do with it. My stomach churns when I smell the sterility of the tools and equipment. I feel a lump in my throat when I see the dentists motioning for me to sit on that horrid hard dentist chair. The only warmth from this place are those little crinkles in the corners of the dentists’s eyes as they presumably smile at me, voice muffled by the mask they’re wearing.

Everytime as they probe and dig deep into my mouth and as I stare hard at the white light, my thoughts always wander to this exact slice of memory from my childhood.

My earliest memory of going to the dentist is when I was 6 or 7. I was clutching tightly to my grandpa’s shirt from behind as we rode his old motorcycle to the dentist in town. I lived with my grandparents in a small town called Teluk Intan when I was young, and most of my childhood memory of travelling to places revolves around this rugged bike and clutching to someone’s shirt from behind.

So I was clutching to his shirt, and I could hear my grandma yelling from the house as we rode down the tarred road. “Remember to not let her come back until the teeth are removed!” she’d yelled in Hokkien, loud and fierce. I was terrified of my grandma; we all were. She was the iron matron of the household. She was strong, big and abusive. She held the order that was much needed in a household of 5 young children.

I remember one time when I was 8, I had fallen down in school and my right knee was scraped quite badly. I wrapped it with tissue and hid it for days from my grandma, for I knew she would punish me if she’d known that I wasn’t careful. My wound ended up terribly infected and is now a permanent 50-cents-sized scar on my knee.

If you thought the Tiger Mom was bad, you clearly have not met my grandma. She would cane us if we got anything less than 90% in school. She threw me out of the house once and I had to sleep in the darkness of the porch cos I was quarreling with my sister. My sister had it worse though, she was thrown into the dark alleyway behind the house instead. That was probably how she’d developed her fear for rats and roaches. We were no older than 5 or 6 at this point.

So I was at the back of the bike, choking back tears for I knew if my grandma had given such clear instructions, there was no way in hell that I could have escaped this. I contemplated jumping down from the bike and running into the abyss of the palm oil plantation, but I was scared of snakes and I was too much of a coward to make that jump. I would’ve survived though, since I was quite a chubby kid and my fats would’ve been quite a good buffer.

The remaining ride to town was painful and I felt that awful knot in my stomach tightening with each second. At the traffic light, I nudged my grandpa and told him I needed to poop. He either didn’t hear me or had chosen to ignore me as he stared ahead, waiting for the light to turn green.

The butterflies in my stomach intensified as the big black and white sign of the clinic appeared in the horizon. I remember vividly how the interior of the clinic was lined with wooden linings on the walls, a typical decor in old 80s and 90s clinics in small towns. I would come to really hate this sight for the next 3 times I visited this clinic again.

We sat on the wooden bench in silence, my hands clasped nervously together. My grandpa’s face remained stoic as I tried pleading one last time right outside the dentist’s door as the nurse called me in. My grandpa is a man of few words and is often quite a grump, so I knew this would go nowhere.

That same bright light, that same uncomfortable chair. Blinking back tears, I stared deep into the light’s soul as the dentist extracted 3 teeth. I could feel the blood oozing out before he jammed cotton pads wrapped with gauze in my mouth.

My grandpa patted my head when I came out and offered a slight smile, a rare gesture from a man that emotionless. The ride back home was a complete contrast to the one barely an hour prior. I didn’t have to poop anymore and the knots in my stomach were gone, replaced with an overwhelming sense of pride for having gone through the worst ordeal of my 7 years of life. As the wind grazed my face and hair, I smiled and winced at the pain and smiled some more.

My grandma was very nice to me for days after that. She would cook porridge for me and diligently added Marmite into it for taste. She allowed me to stay 30 mins past bedtime so I could watch the TVB drama with her while my siblings and cousins had to go to bed. I remember thinking to myself, wow this is what being a grownup feels like.

This particular memory came back to me as I sat staring at the white light last week. This time, however, this memory was laced with bitterness and sadness. I’d received a picture from my mom last month of my grandparents. My grandad had to amputate both his legs last year and my grandma had to take care of him since. That big, strong person I’d once feared had disappeared completely, replaced with a sullen, pale -looking stranger with sunken cheeks, much skinnier and much older. Age is catching up with both of them, and I felt that griping pain in my chest when I thought of that man who’d patted my head, and that woman who’d fed me Marmite porridge.

20 years later, I’m still on that damned dentist chair, still fighting back tears but for a different reason now. I guess some things don’t change… and some things do.

2013, the year that was

I don’t know why it took me 3 days into 2014 to write this post but here it is!

2013 had been an amazing year, and I dare say, the best year I’ve ever had in my 25 years of life. I went through a tremendous amount of ups and downs in that one year alone, and I feel like I’ve overcome and accomplished the most in that year. I’ve dug out a lot of pictures to talk about my 2013!


I started cooking a lot last year cause I found out that I have high cholesterol (7.6 – normal is below 5.0, this is considered dangerously high). I had a shock of my life when the doctor said I will get my first heart attack when I’m 40 if I don’t take care of myself. So yeah I started cooking, eating healthier and exercising. The latter has failed miserably though T___T


In March, my choral speakers showed me that determination and passion were more important than the trophy. This year we didn’t win the championship despite working crazily hard but we went home very happy indeed. My kids never ceased to make me very proud 🙂


I found ways to better manage my challenging class. I started reading to them story books and they really enjoyed it!


Voted for the first time 😀 😀 😀


Had my second teacher’s day where this kid who never paid attention in class surprised me with a gift. He also told me that he came that day just so he could give me the gift, and that he wrote the note himself.


Wept in class for the first time in 2013 and it was the hardest I’ve ever cried in class/school. A kid I’ve put a lot of effort and faith in told me to go to hell after a particularly difficult day in class. I lost my cool and punished everyone by making them write essays after essays. I later said sorry to a few good students and a girl wrote this back to me.

I feel like I failed this particular student though, since shortly after she left school and never came back. She’d lost interest because she kept falling further and further behind and I couldn’t do anything to help her. I lost a lot of my kids this way and it made me lose faith in a lot of things.


Sat in class alone for hours just thinking of the fate of my students and thinking and rethinking of different ways to help them. This is the place where I’ve learned the art of reflection.


Started a reading program where I fundraised RM 10,000 to get thousands of books for my students!


Found little joys that continued to give me strength to go to school with zest and optimism everyday.


Wore a saree for the first time!


Wore a tudung for the first time too! Haha


Met the most beautiful baby in the world and discovered how much this tiny being has changed my best friend’s life.


Also discovered how much my boyfriend loves babies 😀


For my birthday this year, my students pretended to ignore me THE ENTIRE DAY and got me so sad before they surprised me with a cake during extra class!


We also worked really really hard, for days and nights, for their PMR.


Brought my kids to KL for the weekend and was so humbled by their genuine appreciation for everything in life.


Fighter grew to become a happy chubby healthy baby 😀


Was given the opportunity to be featured in a documentary on my life as a teacher!!!!


Did a play with my kids, which was the most strenuous and challenging thing ever especially when the kids don’t speak English AT ALL. But they did it!! Super duper proud of them!


My kids helped me pack and I bade farewell to them and the school, the people and place that had taught me so much more than I’d expected.


Also said goodbye to the books that all my readers have donated to me. THANK YOU FOR THE SUPPORT GUYS!!!! <3


Said a very difficult goodbye to a student I’ve had the privilege to work with (he was the conductor in my choral speaking team and was the sole reason why we’d won so many times). I’m mocking him here for crying cause I don’t want to cry myself haha. He sobbed really hard when saying goodbye to me and my heart broke and I knew I’d be in such a gooey mess too.


Went to the paddy field for the last time ever and teared thinking of my two years here. I never knew how attached I’d grow to this place and how much I’d love a place so different from what I’m used to and so far from my own comfort zone.


Went to Cambodia for the first time and really loved it!

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Saw myself crying on TV hahaha not very flattering!


Went back to school to see my kids when they get their PMR results. They did really well!! (though we didn’t reach our big goal, but we really did aim for the stars!) This year, we got the most number of As in English in the history of my school, ever!!!

That’s all for my 2013. It’s been an amazing year and I have so many people to thank for making it so awesome.
Thank you to my parents and friends for believing in me, thank you to Karthik for without him I couldn’t have gone through these two difficult years, to my students for showing me how to love unconditionally, to my readers for the constant encouragement, to everyone out there who had donated me books, stationery, printer, projector, postcards and money and had strengthened my faith in humanity, to Teach For Malaysia and my school for the opportunity to make a difference, and to all teachers out there who continue to persevere and labor their love day after day for years!

I’m so thankful I chose to start this chapter in my life and although I will no longer be teaching as of now, I know for a fact that this is a chapter I will never close and will get back to writing in the near future.

Happy new year everyone!

My kids’ first trip to KL


I miss my blog! And my readers! (anyone still reading? haha)

Truth is I really really want to start blogging actively again but you know what happens when someone stops exercising for a long time, they just get super lazy. Even when I’m relatively free now because of the school holidays, I much prefer just posting on facebook/instagram instead.

BUT! I want to blog more often again since having them on here is a much better archive than on other social media platforms. So here goes!

It’s been a pretty crazy month since I last blogged. In fact it’s been a SUPER crazy two years since I last blogged actively (a post a month doesn’t quite summarize how it had been). I’ve fallen so much that my knees are all scraped and bruised now, but I’ve also been picked up by numerous people along the way that has made this journey more tolerable for me.

So let’s see, where do I begin? I think I’ll start slowly, by posting bit by bit on things I’ve been wanting to talk about. I’ve even thought of writing more personal stuff so I’ll put them in protected posts and send the passwords to those who subscribed last time! But scared they don’t read my blog anymore and I’ll be spamming people >.>


I started the above three days ago and got distracted by things and forgot to continue T___T HOW lah like this.

I was mainly distracted by this:

photo (1)

Haih so cute how to abandon him to blog instead?? Since I’m so free, I’ve been camping at Aud’s place to help take care of baby Jude (aka Fighter) and he’s become soooo adorableeeee! He now knows how to stare at you with big round adoring eyes and knows how to smile to melt all your worries away!

Speaking of adorable, let me tell you about the time I brought two of my students home for the weekend! Actually I feel so lazy talking about it on my blog cause I’ve already talked about it on my facebook/instagram/twitter. How to feel semangat to blog with the existence of bite-sized social media??

Anywayyyy, so I’ve always wanted to do this before I stop teaching. Early in the year, I told the kids that one of the rewards for doing well and showing improvement in class is a trip to KL and I’m glad that my mentor, Sawittri, organized an outing for us so that I finally have a reason to bring the kids back!

Honestly, I REALLY didn’t want to do so at first. Of course it’ll be nice for the kids but at the same time, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to mix my kampung cikgu and my urban city girl’s lives together. I’d have to bring them back to stay in my house for 3 days and they’d follow me everywhere you know!

But I’m so glad I did it because I know for a fact that they will remember this for life.

First of all, it’s because I chose the two students who have NEVER been to any city before, much less KL. They both come from challenging backgrounds and are still one of my best students ever. One of the girls’ family cannot even afford spending RM 46 for school trips so all 7 siblings have never been to KL before. When I told them about this trip, they couldn’t sleep for nights (reported by their families hahaha) and were so excited!


This is when they got to my house and I gave them ice cream. They spent the next 30 mins or so just watching the pool and commenting on everything that’s happening. SO ADORABLE LIKE CRAZY!

You know, coming from the city and from a more privileged background, I don’t think I’ve met anyone quite like these kids. Not just these two girls but most of my kids in general. They are extremely extremely respectful, caring, helpful and humble. Everytime I think about them, I always feel like I’m the one who is so incredibly lucky to have met them.


We went to 1utama that night with my family and walked around!

The next day, we went to FRIM for jungle trekking! Not really anything new for them since the jungle to them is like a “kebun” behind their houses hahaha


Then we had scrumptious food at Hotel Armada! It’s their first time at a buffet so it was really overwhelming at first. Doesn’t help that I forced them to try food like pasta (hated it), sushi and wasabi (they almost puked lollll), and mint ice cream (TEACHER why the ice cream got angin?? HAHAHA)


But I think they did enjoy getting to eat as much as they want 🙂 I know I did *glutton wtf


Then we went to the TFM office in KL Sentral!


“WOW teacher, your office can see the whole city! We want to work here when we are adults too!”

You have no idea how much I want you to be able to do that too when you grow up..


We went to KLCC next using the LRT and it was my kids’ first time on a train. They were very very impressed and it made me feel sad a little that I hardly use the train now and always resorted to driving instead.


I’m like their paparazzi lol.

Made them order the drinks on their own (in English!) if they want me to pay for it.


Finally, the magnificent KLCC!


We had dinner at the food court (cause I’m quite broke haha) but wow, I didn’t expect my kids to enjoy it that much. They couldn’t stop raving about the sizzling noodle and the variety of food and it just made me feel like I’ve really taken things for granted these days.

Heck, the whole trip was such a humbling experience for me honestly.

When I asked the kids how was their sleep, the first thing they said was how comfortable and nice the mattress is.

When I asked them what their favourite part of the trip was, they said they loved walking around the mall and eating ice cream with my family.

When I offered to buy them gifts, the first things they bought are all for their families first. And then they didn’t want to get anything for themselves to help me save money.

Where to find kids like this these days??


Around 10 pm, after 14 hours of being out, I asked the kids if they were tired.

“No lah teacher, I usually sleep at 1 am!”

“Yeah I sometimes sleep at 3 am you know!”

Barely 3 minutes into our car ride home, they fell into a deep slumber all the way till we reached home hahahha

The next day when we had to leave to go back to our village, they were SO SO SO sad and promised they’ll come back here again and will study really hard. I have complete faith that they will not let me (and themselves) down 🙂


In my next post, I’ll talk about my last trip to my village and the whole week of farewell with my kids (super emotional one haha). Stay tuned wtf

Monday Blues

Behold, a sight never before seen in the history of this class and for as long as I’ve taught them (2 yrs). They were all seated, participated in the activities and completed all the work on the board! I told them I’ll take a picture to keep as proof that they too can be successful.


They felt happy that they are now “good” students, but what they don’t know is how incredibly far they are from where they need to be. Two years on, I’m still using standard 3 exercises for them and they STILL can’t do them. No amount of colorful posters, engaging activities, interesting teaching aids, house visits or incentives have helped push them forward. 

I now have a month left with them and though I still have hope that I can still push them a little tiny bit more (if they continue to behave), I know realistically that I’ve failed to close the gap for them. 

I know Rome was not built in a day, but I had no idea coming in that it would be this incredibly difficult. We’re constantly working in an environment where there are just so so so many factors preventing these kids from succeeding. 

Feels like i’m trying to get birds to learn how to swim, upstream, with sharks and crocs everywhere, only to realize that I too, don’t know how to swim myself. 

I’m so close to the end, and yet I’m still an eternity away from any real success with them.


p.s: I know this post is a little depressing, but I wanted to paint the most accurate picture of how I feel/how things are. Things are not always inspiring and hopeful, in fact, I feel mostly useless and unaccomplished most times. Le sigh.

Is Okey

I wrote this on my Facebook a while ago and completely forgot to put it here too!

I never thought I’ll face this moment again this year, but…today, I crumbled. Every part of me shattered into a million pieces at the start of class and I couldn’t glue them back even till after the bell rang.

I entered my challenging class today with so much enthusiasm because I’ve prepared hard for it and I know that despite it being the last two periods, I WILL succeed today.

Barely 10 mins in, everything started falling apart. They kept talking and interrupting my lesson and after I told them that we will do some fun activities with the newspaper, they said they don’t want to do anything but sleep. I was mad but tried encouraging them further anyway.

“Ala teacher leave us alone! stop making us do anything!”

That was the last straw for me.

I took all the newspapers, walked out and threw them in the trash can. Students stopped talking and stared at me nervously. I took my mahjong paper filled with pictures and colorful papers out from the board very dramatically, folded them slowly and put them back in my box *dramaqueen

Then, what transpired next was probably the longest hour of our lives. I just wrote and wrote essays after essays on the board for them to copy. My chalk finished and I went to the next class to borrow some and continued writing. That’s what other teachers do and if they don’t want to enjoy my class filled with simple fun activities then I’ll do the same too.

Kids began complaining and whenever they did, I wrote their names under WARNING and they immediately kept quiet. All 28 kids wrote three 200-word essays in silence till the bell rang, all but one boy.
Before letting them go, I’ve calmed down so I told them that if they don’t want to learn the nice way next time, it’ll be essay time again. Most of them apologized for their behaviors and left.

I told that boy who slept through the class to stay behind to do the essays. He said no he won’t. I pulled a chair and sat next to him “I won’t leave till you do”. Then, nonchalantly, he took his bag from me and walked out of class while muttering “don’t waste my time”.

Dumbfounded, I choked back angry tears and just sat and stared at his empty book for 30 mins, wondering what else can I do with this boy whom I’ve put SO much effort in for months cause he’s always been difficult. I started tearing because I know I’ve completely lost the battle with him. I give up, you win.

Then, I went to pack my things and saw this on a girl’s desk. During the whole dictatorial copy-this-down stint, I’d slipped this note to students who were good and who wanted to learn. I felt so bad that they had to endure this because they didn’t do anything wrong. She wrote this in reply and left it on her table for me to see.


When I saw it I just broke down like crazy and started crying and crying. I’ve already taught this class for almost two years and I’m leaving soon and I have no idea if they’ve learned anything from me. There are so many of them who wanted to learn but I’ve completely disappointed them today. Tears were just streaming down my face. Angry tears for my failures, sad tears for my kids’ future, frustrated tears for my wasted efforts, and relieved tears for this girl who did not give up on me.

Seriously, how the hell did movies like Dangerous Minds and Freedom Writers make things look soooo easy??
Thank you Rekka, I will get through this for kids like you. ‪#‎isokey‬

UPDATE: At 8pm the night after this incident, I had my first night reading session. Guess who showed up?
Yes. The boy who told me not to waste his time. He lives pretty far away and got his dad to send him anyway. He said he was just too tired in school and that he wants to learn now.


First week of school

So….I just finished Day 2 of Year 2..and I have to say that it didn’t go as well as I’d hoped for it to be.

Ah what the hell, it was terrible!!!! T_____T *bawls eyes out *wipes mucous all over failed lesson plans

To be honest, my heart did drop when I found out that I will be teaching the weakest and most challenging class in Form 2 (I know it’s terrible to feel this way but I taught them last year and they caused so much misery for me). I expected them to be tough on me, but they were beyond tough, they were BRUTAL.

The first day of school, I entered the class with my pretty solid classroom management plan and had my game face on since I want to be a lot more firm this year. They slaughtered me alive within the first ten minutes. They started acting out, being rude, couldn’t pay a single ounce of attention, running around, wounding my pride as a teacher who practically stood there and waited for them to settle down. I never believe in shouting, yelling or resorting to violence (which a lot of teachers do to command respect and fear) so I just spoke really firmly about working together this year.

After what seemed like an eternity (40 mins), the bell rang and they all ran home. I called out a few names to stay back but guess what? They all ran away on me *flails arms and cries harder

I was heartbroken, dejected, demotivated and honestly just wanted to call it quits. I teach a total of 5 classes and my other 4 classes are pretty awesome. I don’t have to try that hard with this class since they clearly don’t want to learn anyway.

But I remembered the few pairs of eyes who stared back at me with sadness when they saw that I couldn’t control the class. There are 31 kids in that class, and about 11 of them are really disruptive. The other innocent 20 kids couldn’t do anything and stared back at me helplessly, pleading for me to start imparting knowledge on them, which I obviously couldn’t since those crazy 11 kids were belting out songs at the top of their lungs, hitting each other and running around.

I really felt like I’ve failed my students and I felt so much anger for those kids who took learning away from the “good” students. They don’t respect me because they said I’m “not fierce at all” and they think they can bully me.

Today, before I entered their class again, I was honestly extremely nervous. Can you believe it? These are 14 year olds, and are barely taller than me, and yet they can cause such a deep gut wrenching feeling in the pits of my stomach. But I had faith in my management plan that I’d spent 3 hours the night before preparing. I had faith that if I continue persisting, they WILL yield one day. A part of me felt silly for having so much faith, because it was almost exactly the same last year and I had failed.

But I wasn’t going to let those days of humiliation and pain last year go to waste. I’ve reflected and reflected thoroughly and I know what I need to do to fix things. I need to persist, I need to be consistent, I need to show them that I mean business, and I need to be firm. Last year I was too emotional, and they knew they could get to me easily.

The class went a lot better today, but towards the end the kids got crazy again. I felt so angry because the other innocent kids were again, staring at me with those sad eyes. They need help so badly but I’m failing them yet again with my inability to control the class. I’ve tried everything I could; I was firm, I was prepared, I had consequences, I used everything I know! And yet..

There goes another day of failing.

I just called one of my disruptive kids’ parent, like I said I would in class. I was telling his mom that I will try everything I can to make her son learn and after she thanked me, she sighed a painful sigh. The same sad sigh I’ve heard from all the challenging kids’ parents. I know they need help too, and there must be some ways that we can work together.

I need to be better and I need to do more because I don’t want to end up at the end of my teaching stint, wishing that I had tried harder to help all my students. I still have hope.. and my hope is now.

A teacher’s worst nightmare

These are some of the updates I posted on Facebook recently so thought I’d just put them here too.

Last week, something horrifying and traumatizing happened, and it’s especially scarier now that i’m a teacher so i feel like a parent to all my kids.

After choral speaking practice, the kids left and went back home. I drove out to get lunch and I saw a crowd a little further down the road from school. I rolled my window down to ask if anyone needs a ride, and the sight that greeted me back shocked me so much my heart stopped.

Lying on the road, was my student. There was blood all over his face and arms and legs. Someone carried him into my car and we immediately rushed him to the clinic. When we were there, I held on to his hand while we waited for the doctor. His face was in an UTTER mess. His lips were split, there was thick red blood all over. On his eyelids, on his nose, on my hands, on my baju kurung. He was semi conscious and was slipping into unconsciousness, so I had to keep telling him to WAKE UP! Don’t sleep, please hold on! I’m here look at me! while maintaining eye contact. It was hard because I’m really not a fan of gory films but I need him to know that I’m there.The doctor took over after that and his friends (all kids from my class) helped me clean the blood off my car. There were stains all over. Splotches on my seat, on my badminton racket, on my shoes, on my books, on my dumbbells. But we cleaned and cleaned in silence.

He was then rushed to the hospital in a further town because he suffered memory loss as well. He was riding his bike when he lost control, and he was flung out of it and hit his head on the lamp post.

I will never forget the look of fear and pain in his eyes, the blood on his long eyelashes, him softly saying “tolong…tolong…tolong” despite us being in the clinic already. Just thinking about it gives me the lump in my throat. I really hope he gets well soon!

This was my initial post. Two days later, we heard that this boy had been discharged from the hospital so we went to visit after choral practice!

Before I went in the house, all my kids who were already there rushed out to warn me of how gory his face was. I cringed but rushed in to see him, and found him sitting sadly on the couch. His face was indeed a mess – he had seven stitches on his forehead, three on his lips. His lips were swollen to three times its size and he’d lost a few teeth. His whole body was covered with wounds as well, and he can’t walk nor move much. He also broke a rib.

He was clearly very very down and sad. The first thing he said to me was “Teacher, sorry saya tak dapat pergi choral speaking (sorry I couldn’t go choral speaking)”

When I heard that I was so freaking sad!!! This kid just went through a really bad time and all he thought of was upsetting me. The conversation moved on to his accident, to road safety etc but then he said again:

“Teacher how was the choral practice?”
“Teacher, I’m sure everyone will perform well”
“Teacher, I wish I could join choral”

Again and again. I was so touched I wanted to cry. Even thinking about it again makes me want to cry. I told him that the spot is still open for him but he doesn’t have to perform, I just want him to go and see his friends perform, provided of course if he’s healthy enough. His mom who was there was happy and said she gives her consent for me to bring him out. His eyes lighted up and he said he really wants to go. Everyone who was there clapped and cheered. It was such a joyous moment T__T

“Teacher, do you think people at the event will laugh at my face?”

“No way, I’ll laugh at THEIR face if they do” (I know I’m such a bad role model hahah)

Then after a while, he said: “Teacher, thank you for saving me. I heard you asking me to wake up wake up don’t sleep. I couldn’t remember whose voice was that but now I remember”

T______________T I had to tahan macho cos so many students were there but I was really touched. I kept looking at him and smiling cause he looked SOOO sad but then he started tearing so I teared too wtf *weak

Then I remembered that I’m a teacher and I should be stern and all so I gave him (and other kids) a good lecture on road safety and how he’s been given another chance at life and how he should appreciate it and how hard his mom raised him and so on. After being a teacher, I’ve learned to spin a ton of moral values out of any situation. If I take SPM Moral again, I’d have gotten A1 for sure this time!

Reset, Go!

Another aspect of being a teacher that has become more essential these days is my ability to adapt and to be flexible when the time comes. Unfortunately for me, I was given practically overnight to suddenly acquire this skill of adapting to changes so adapt I will!

Last week, we were told of a new system to be carried out in 1000 schools almost immediately. All Form 1 students will take an English diagnostic test and will be placed in different classes based on their level of English. They will no longer be in the same conventional setting in existing classrooms but will move to different classes based on their English proficiency. I loved the system when I first heard it cause I have classrooms of kids from varying levels so it’s hard to teach sometimes.

But as usual, all the great changes with our education system come with their million challenges in tow. First of all, there was only ONE English teacher in the entire Form 1, and that teacher was me. We are incredibly short of English teachers and this system will not work because we need 4-5 teachers to teach all the classes concurrently. But since this is an order from the ministry, we have to roll out the system by nook or by crook. In the end, they took away all but 2 of my Form 1 classes and I was given a Form 4 class and two Art classes to teach.

So, almost overnight, I went from a Form 1 and 2 English teacher to a Form 1, 2 and 4 English teacher and a Form 2 Art teacher. Talk about flexibility!

Worst of all, I was given one weekend to prepare for my new classes and I’ve not seen the syllabus before so it was quite tough for me at first. Anyway, I’m not here to complain since I’ve resolved to work with whatever I can within my capacity so here are some pictures! It’s been a while since I last posted pictures and my past two months have been quite eventful so lots to talk about 🙂

This is a picture of the river near my school, and I go here sometimes after a really tough day teaching. It’s nice to just stand there, think and reflect a little and calm down before I go back to lesson planning 🙂

This if my favourite quote from Dr Seuss so I made a poster to put in the reading corner of my class!

Kids reading at the reading corner. Thanks to all the books donation (from UBS and you guys who donated through my FB page!), we’ve gotten enough books to fill a whole cupboard! Would definitely love to have more, ESPECIALLY low level kids’ books with interesting pictures. Do let me know if you have some stowed away at home and you don’t need them anymore!

My goal is not to have kids who can suddenly speak, read and write English, but all I really want to start from is to instill the habit of reading English books first. The more you read, the more things you’ll know!

This is one of the fellows, Aishah’s idea! Spent the whole day making the poster but didn’t laminate so now it’s a bit worn out 🙁 It’s been working well in my classes though. I use it so my students know exactly what is the accepted voice level for each activity in class.

I’ve been using this to cold-call students too and it’s been quite useful. Their names are on the ends of the sticks and I’ll randomly pick them to answer questions in class/read out loud. I also call them out very dramatically like I’m calling the winner of the grand prize of a lucky draw (drama queen teacher haha) and they love it!

Our place is not called Simpang Durian for nothing hahah. Durian season is here so here we are, enjoying some of them in between classes. There’s a sack of at least 20-30 durians for all teachers to eat for free. AWESOME!

Sports Day! I loved Sports Day when I was young cause it’s so exciting! I was probably the most gungho teacher that day, screaming and cheering till my throat was sore but it was all so worth it cause Blue House won!!! wooooot. And the best part is, the girl I coached got Sportswoman Of The Year!

Everything about being a teacher is so incredibly rewarding you have no idea.

Except this…………..

I forgot my sunblock (what travesty!) so here is my two-toned arm. My face is also as black as coal now -___-

Went to class the day after Sports Day and everybody was too tired to learn, so I took these kids out and read to them for two hours. They have never ever been read to before so they really enjoyed the simple books on classic fairy tales. Thanks for the book donation again guys!

Students from the weakest class getting really excited about finding meanings of words from the dictionary! I was so happy when they were genuinely interested in finding the words and some of them are actually opening the dictionary for the first time. The kid on the far left is Rakis, I’ve blogged about him before 🙂 Really happy to see him so invested in the activity!

By the way, see the kid on the far right being disturbed by another kid? Here’s a story I’d like to share about him.

Let’s call him B. He’s one kid I’ve been having a hard time with lately and there’s no happy ending to the story, unfortunately. He’s one of the weakest kids in the class because he cannot read at all and I’ve been giving him extra classes at night for the past 4 months or so. At first, he was doing ok but after a while, he began to lose interest and started disturbing other kids. I told him off and said that I’m not going to allow him to come anymore if he’s not going to take this seriously. Bad move, because he started hating me since.

He stopped coming to extra class and started losing focus in class. It doesn’t help that he’s been bullied so much in class too because he’s the really quiet kind. I’ve sat him down about 3 times after that, asking him what’s wrong and telling him how I want to help him.

This week, they took away this weakest class from me so I don’t have to teach them anymore. The kids in this class were very very upset (some begged me to teach them back, some so upset that they started cussing at me and telling me that I was a bad teacher anyway. Some were also very rude to me and said they want to beat me up. These are kids I’ve invested in the most and I know they’re angry because it seems like I’ve abandoned them despite me explaining the reason of the change)

Anyway I went to the class and said that I’d still continue giving them extra class at night cause these are my kids and they will always be, although I won’t be their English teacher anymore. (The rude ones immediately said “who cares, go away!” It broke my heart but I don’t blame them for their hostility.)

This boy, B, came that night. There were 8 other kids who came and we all had dinner together. One of them cooked for us as gratitude for giving her extra class. Anyway, B came into my house smelling like smoke and we knew he was smoking before so I talked to him about it (very nicely). We let him in after that, of course, but he got really upset since. When I sent him back, he refused to speak to me the entire car ride and he hasn’t spoken to me since then. I saw him again yesterday and brought him out to lunch before sending him back. Again, he refused to speak to me.

That’s him, walking back to his house.

I really don’t know how to get to him, especially now that I don’t teach him anymore. He’s so weak that he has shut off in class for every subject and I’m so so so afraid for him. I’ll keep trying because I know if I give up now, then nobody is going to care for him that much anymore and I’ll live in regret forever for not “saving” him. He’s so quiet and invisible in class that a lot of teachers don’t know much about him, especially when they have to pay attention to the really naughty ones in class.

This is his friend, C, who is also very weak but he’s been showing progress in extra class. I gave him some Peter and Jane books to read at home and he actually copies the entire book in his exercise book so he could read it later!

Over lunch one day, C asked me a lot of questions about KL. He then told me that he’s never been to KL and the furthest place he’s been to is Seremban. I made him a deal after that – if he does better in his English class and if his English teacher says he’s improving, I’ll bring him to KL with me. He was overjoyed at that proposal and nodded vigorously, saying that his parents would be fine with it for sure!

I’ve already decided where I’m going to bring him to, and I know it’ll be a trip he’ll never forget 🙂 I just wish I can bring alllll of them with me!

The kids came for extra class that day and I surprised them with a movie night!!! We used the projector to project onto mahjong paper and had a really good time 🙂

I thought of adding some teaching-unrelated pictures, but this post is already heavy enough as it is so that’s all for today. Thanks for reading and thanks for all the donations!

p.s: watched batman yesterday and it was SO GOOD. watch it!

One day..

Posted this on facebook so thought I’d post it here. Will edit this post tomorrow, have so much to update! Broke down AGAIN this week. This job is getting a little too emotional, I have to learn to detach a bit while maintaining the passion 🙁

As I plan my lessons for tomorrow after a very tiring long day, I ask myself what I actually want for my kids. All I want them to do is to be able to read Harry Potter, Enid Blyton, Stephen King and all the amazing novels I grew up with. I want them to read so they can imagine a world beyond where they live in now. I want them to read Frost, Poe, Shakespeare and Kipling and be inspired. I want them to watch movies without having to miss all the nice parts because their eyes were fixated on the subtitle.

I want them to challenge what they read and to think critically about everything. I want them to have an opinion and to not be afraid to stand by it. I want them to truly enjoy learning, to tell me that I’m not teaching them enough and that they want to know more! more! more! I want their eyes to light up when they recognize a difficult word they just learned in the book they’re reading. I want them to yearn, to want, to be so hungry for knowledge that I have to placate them with more books. “Nah take them, take them all you educated monsters, you!”

I want SO MUCH for my kids but right now progress is so excruciatingly slow that I begin to doubt if I can ever achieve that. One day…

The ones left behind

I’ve been talking about really positive stories of kids inspiring me everyday, so I thought I’d like to share something else I see in school. I’d like to paint a more..realistic picture of the kinds of challenges plaguing schools like mine (and many more in this country).

I teach Form 1 and 2 kids so they’re 13 to 14 years old. My kids are still young and very should I say this..they’re more untainted. Although some of my Form 1 kids are very very naughty and they have the potential to go on to be terrible troublemakers a few years later, they’re still manageable now and I can still control them.

However, I definitely can’t say the same for the older kids. I enter Form 4 and 5 classes all the time as a substitute teacher, and I teach if they want me to but most of the time I end up just sitting down to chat with some of the kids. I always ask them how they feel about school, what they want to do after finishing school, what are their aspirations, their family background etc. Most of their stories are quite sad but I do try to maintain a certain degree of skepticism too with their sob stories cause they could lie sometimes.

Anyway, there are these two kids that stood out to me. One of them was A. He is the older brother of one of my students (who’s a pretty good student) and this A is in the “last” class. He told me he used to be as smart as his younger brother too but as the years go by, his results got worse and worse and he’s now in the last class and labelled as someone who can’t study anymore. In fact he himself told me that he can’t study anymore. He skips school all the time because he has to work to support his brother, his grandmother and himself since their parents had left them. He gets RM35 a day from working 10 hours in the farm.

A is a really funny kid actually and I love talking to him. He likes singing to the latest English songs and I was surprised that he could understand me perfectly even if I speak English with him. He said he wants to do so many things after finishing school, but he just doesn’t know if he can with his results (he usually fails all his subjects except English).

Then there’s this other kid, B. B is in the last class in Form Five and has always been in the last class for many years. When I spoke to him about his aspirations, he doesn’t have any because he told me he just “doesn’t know how or what to do”. He said he wants to study, but he doesn’t know how since he has never studied before all his life! He lives with his grandparents and nobody cares if he studies or not, so he just…doesn’t. He’s 17 now and realizes that he probably will fail all his subjects in SPM, but there’s nothing he could do because all his friends are in similar predicament as well and it doesn’t really matter anyway in this village.

I talked to him about many things, about having bigger goals and doing something bigger and going beyond the village etc, but he seemed really pessimistic. I can’t blame him at all, because that’s all he has ever been exposed to.

I’m sharing these two stories because they have been running in my head for a while. I’m glad I’m teaching Form 1 because I feel like I can still change things for them, I can still help them. For the older kids, they seem so resigned to their fate and the teachers around them have also subconsciously stopped trying with them. I can’t blame neither of them because I HAVE tried teaching them and it’s just really really hard. They have fallen so deep into the cracks of the failure of the system, and I think it takes a lot more than a teacher who cares to help them get out.

I walked into a form 5 class who’s having their exam today and I see half of them sleeping and half of them trying to do their papers but to no avail. The average passing rate for this class is 40%. 40%! Only 40% of them pass their papers! Not even an A but pass. What is going to happen to them when they finish school only with a pass? What is going to happen to the OTHER 60%?

All this makes me so upset! How did these kids got to where they are today without anyone noticing? Without anyone caring? There are tons and tons of them in my school, and this is such a prevalent issue in all schools in this country, especially in areas outside klang valley.  What does it take to help them? Can they even be helped anymore?

Honestly, I feel so helpless for them. I want to help, but I have my own kids to worry about first. I don’t want my kids to end up in that deep dark abyss and I want to get them out of the rut as soon as possible but even that is proving to be very difficult. So I guess in a way, these older kids’ stories, despite making me feel really sad and helpless, are inspiring me to help my younger kids.

But what’s going to happen to the older kids?

I guess they are just left with the way they have been for many years. They become the faceless part of the society, uncared for, uninspired, and life for them is just waking up each day and trying to make ends meet. They’re victims of the circumstances they were born in and the whole cycle just repeats itself with every generation.

This realization made me really sad today.