Insta-frenzy

I bought a new phone cause my blackberry died on me in India, and I’ve been going on an Instagram frenzy! I’ve been posting on Facebook a lot more and Audrey thinks I should post those pictures up here too, since I’ve obviously been neglecting my blog lately.

So in an effort to win back my readers, I’m going to blog as often as I put pictures on instagram!! *cheers

Well I’m going to TRY my best since it’s actually quite a lot of hassle to post at so many different places, but I will cos I’m still a blogger at heart 🙂

For this post, I’ll post up a few of those I’ve already posted on fb with the same captions too.

March 5
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“I try and try to no avail everyday, but I’ll get up, dust the hurt and frustrations off my knees and try again.”

Wrote this after a TERRIBLE class and I needed to motivate myself to get back up again.

March 6

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“You can destroy the posters all you want, but I’m just gonna make some more #nevergivingup”

After the terrible class, I made a new poster of the rules/policies of our class since they tore down the previous one.

March 7

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“I don’t know what it was that made this super challenging class so amazing today – maybe cos I called the naughty ones out in assembly yesterday and they’re all scared now, or the change in seat arrangement to sitting in groups and giving group points (they could never do this before), or the fairly interesting activities, or maybe just their current mood, OR even a combination of all the above – but I’ll take whatever little or small successes I can get right now 🙂 #smallsteps”

Tried out a few new things and surprisingly, that same crazy class went REALLY well that day!

March 8

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“So glad that all the preparation for these centers paid off 🙂 but still need to find ways to push my kids further and not rely on me too much!

Today I took the role of a cameraman in class, and told them that I’m not a teacher so they can’t ask me questions and they will have to figure out the answers among themselves.
Still need lotsa work to get them to be more independent, but they really did try hard today *proud”

This was another class. Remember I spoke about incorporating values in class? This was me trying to instill the values of independence and teamwork in the lesson.

Okay these are just the teasers, I’ll post more in a few days! (che wah got teasers some more hahah)

#hardworkingblogger

Reflections on India

Hello! I think this is my current trend now, blogging once a month. I always feel the urge to blog more when that specific time rolls around so here’s a good long post about what I’ve been up to! (+tons of pictures)

So last month, I had the amazing opportunity to attend a really awesome conference in India! It was a conference under Teach For All, so we got to meet all the other teachers under the Teach For programs from close to 26 different countries!!!

India was an eye-opening, heartwarming, breathtaking experience for me. Before I went, my boyfriend warned me that I will see and learn so much from India, and I’ll experience the best and the worst of humanity there, so I was definitely quite prepared for it. I was very cautious with my food and drinks, and survived on trying to refrain from street food as much as possible (which was super hard for me).

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we were very very fortunate to be able to stay in a REALLY awesome hotel. This hotel (Kempinski) just opened, and gave us a really good rate so it was truly a blessing 🙂

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This is an autorickshaw, and was my absolute favourite thing ever! They don’t really have taxis there, and the streets are packed with these. You can fit up to 4 people in here (sometimes even more, people will sit on laps etc) and it moves really dangerously on the streets, but definitely an incredible experience.

I was in the auto late one night, zipping around the streets of India with the wind blowing in my hair and the cacophony of chaos around me, and I looked up and saw the full moon shining brightly on to the messy landscape down below. That was when I realized that I’ve truly fallen in love with this country.

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and all its amazing children!

I met some of the most wonderful children on this trip; all of them so bright-eyed and eager, so enthusiastic and full of live despite all the challenges they face.

This kid was explaining to me a project they did in the classroom, and he was so SO full of energy! I was just walking around when he came to shake my hand and to introduce himself *impressed

Teach For India has done such amazing things with their classes and is definitely an inspiration for all of us here too 🙂

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and this is the ugly part of the country, which I was not quite prepared to see. Children begging everywhere on the streets, slums and slums painting the sidewalks, poverty staring blatantly at everyone.

It was hard to train myself to ignore the beggars but it was so hard when they are very young children with huge sorrowful eyes.

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This is one of the classrooms we visited and it was amazing to see how possible it is to really change lives with a really good strong teacher.

And on our final day, we visited…..

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The Taj Mahal!

What an incredible sight!

I mean, I’ve seen so many pictures of it before, but to see it with my eyes is a whole different experience. It was majestic and soooo beautiful too!

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And the whole Malaysian delegate wore sarees that night! 😀 (i’m the one in light blue in case you’ve forgotten how I look like T__T)

I was really inspired by my India trip, and I came back feeling like I’ve definitely NOT worked hard enough to ensure success for my kids. There are just so much we can do and I really want to go all out before my year ends!

(this bit might bore readers who are not teachers)

I realized one of the most important things we have to instill in our daily lesson plans is the concept of values. Not just using the term “values” as a catchphrase, but truly internalizing it and getting the students to embody it with their actions.

I’ve been trying to do that more now because I believe that teachers, especially those of us who teach kids from underprivileged and more chaotic and challenging backgrounds, have the biggest responsibility to ensure that our kids turn out to be good people.

Sure, grades are important but I need to make sure that when I leave after 2 years, my kids are on the path to be successful people with strong values, not just A-churning robots.

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Trying to internalize the concept of values in my classes is really not an easy task, but completely do-able. For example, we were learning about road safety and I got the students to stand on both sides of the “road”.

They closed their eyes while I played them a video of a horrific car crash (with super dramatic sound effect – idea taken from my other awesome Teach For Malaysia fellows). Then I read them an excerpt of a news report on an accident, and we stood in silence for a while mourning the death of the people in the accident.

We spoke about the fragility of life, about the real importance of taking good care of ourselves and people around us. I don’t want my kids to just learn about road safety because it’s a topic in the textbook, but because they truly think it’s an important issue to discuss.

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(this was another class but we were learning the same objective)

After all that seriousness, we took a 5-minute break at the end of class to play “On the line”, a game inspired by the movie “Dangerous Minds”

So basically students will be on both sides and there’ll be a line in the middle (the road drawn in the beginning of class). I will read out statements and if anyone agrees, they’ll come forward and stand on the line for a few seconds, then move back for the next statement.

The statements got deeper each time and I encouraged the students to be honest but it’s really up to them if they want to walk forward.

“I have many friends in school”

All of them came forward.

“I like coming to school”

All of them came forward too. This is a pretty good class so it’s not surprising.

I love learning English”

Threw this in just for fun and immediately they all RAN to the line (*heart leaps in joy!)

“I have a boyfriend/girlfriend”

Hehe I’m so sneaky. A very small handful came forward.

“I’ve lost one parent”

About ten kids came forward.

“I’ve seen my mother/father cry”

Half the class came forward.

“Sometimes I cry myself to sleep”

This was a tough one but I was surprised to see about fifteen kids come forward. The other kids (boys especially) started laughing at the fifteen kids. Good, because this is exactly what our lesson is about.

I told the fifteen kids that I cannot believe how brave they are to admit something supposedly so shameful as this, and only the strongest people admit their weaknesses. The other kids stopped laughing.

Now this is where it gets tougher.

“I get abused at home”

Half the class came forward.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m a useless person”

Almost ALL the kids came forward.

“Sometimes I feel like I have no hope for a better future”

A handful came forward, some on the verge of tears.

“Sometimes I feel like killing myself”

This was the most surprising one for me. More than half came forward and my heart stopped. These are 13 year olds! It breaks my heart knowing this but I took mental note of this, definitely something that needs to be addressed.

When the game ended, the kids told me how much they loved it because they got to know more about their friends and about themselves too. Though it wasn’t super explicit, the objective of it was to get the kids to realize that despite all their physical differences, beneath everything, they’re all made up of the same thing: flesh and blood. They all experience happiness, heartaches, sadness and pain, and should learn to be there for each other.
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The value that I love the MOST is definitely perseverance. Last week, I went on a Bollywood binge a little and sang “We Shall Overcome” (the song in My Name Is Khan) with the kids.

This week, I gave them the reading diagnostics and it has five levels and it gets harder with each level. I was expecting this class to only reach level 3 or 4 before they give up, so I didn’t print level 5 for them. But they surpassed my expectations and almost all of them asked for level 5!

Although maybe 1 or 2 of them managed to actually do it, the rest worked relentlessly to finish the questions. One boy had his head bowed, brows furrowed, and started singing “we shall overcome..we shall overcome..” while doing the paper.

Amazing. My kids give me so much hope to push on everyday!

Wow ok this has been a crazy long post, but I hope you enjoy a short glimpse of my classes!

Will blog again in a month hahaha (ok joking ha ha ha)

 

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.

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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, …

 

Just another day

Last year, I used to come back to this village the day before school since it takes 2 hours to drive here and driving 140km of rural roads can be really tiring. But I used to dread coming back so much that I started coming back in the morning instead.

WHICH MEANS! I wake up at 5 am every Monday to drive back to school T_____T It’s hell seriously, especially when I’m so not a morning person. Why can’t school start at 9am or something??

Anyway, I was REALLY dreading the drive here this morning. I’ve been listening to podcasts on my drive here (a little digression. PODCASTS ARE THE MOST AMAZING THING IN THE WORLD! I’m so mad at myself that I wasted the whole of last year driving countless hours listening to crap music on the radio. I’ve been listening to podcasts on education, philosophy, health, politics, current issues, humor, you name it! They’re so amazing and best part is it’s free! It makes me get a little more excited about driving now 🙂 My ultimate favourites are This American Life, Risk, TED, The Moth. Seriously check them out, if you find yourself bored with our national radio stations on your sucky drive to work/when you’re stuck in a horrendous traffic jam)/end of digression

Where was I?

Oh yeah so it was a sucky morning. I was beginning to feel so lazy after the long weekend that I dreaded coming to see my students, especially when I had class with the most challenging class today *grumpy

And we all know a grumpy teacher is not a great teacher, so I tried to make myself feel happier before going to class. My first class was really good. Kids were angels, they did my work so quickly, they were enthusiastic, they worked hard in class despite being weak in English, absolute joy for me!

My second class was great too! I played them soothing relaxing music while they worked on their essays. I spent the whole of Sunday marking their essays and marking every mistake, so I told them that I’ll be really sad if they don’t rewrite their essays with the corrections. Don’t know if this guilt-tripping worked, or if it was the music, or both, but they worked on their essays so diligently the whole class! T______T <– tears of joy

Then…it came to the class I dreaded going in the most. I know it’s mostly psychological as well. The more I dread the class, the worst it’ll be for me. I’ve tried being positive about it, but that class always kills me. It doesn’t help that it’s the last freaking two periods of the day. Kids were tired, hungry, angry, irritable. I can’t blame them, it was 1.20pm and they’ve had a long day.

So anyway, I went in super confident and determined. I delivered my lesson the best I could with this class, with half of them walking around restlessly, fidgeting in their seats, playing around. They do that all the time and I’ve tried EVERYTHING I could think of (giving consequences, getting help from discipline teachers, calling parents, motivation, being firm etc) but I’ve given up on trying to get them to sit still. As long as they do my work, I’ll have to live with it.

And they always do my work, although they don’t always master the lesson objective of the day.

But today, this…really challenging kid, who had been behaving SOOO well lately and whom I’ve praised to his father a few weeks ago, started getting restless. We already finished the exciting activities and now it was time to sit and write a REALLY short paragraph. He was the only one who did a sloppy job on his work, so I wasn’t satisfied with it. I told him to rewrite it but he ignored me a few times. I was pissed cause he’s been so good and I know he can do it!

So I did what anyone would do: I held his bag hostage.

No cop out in my class. You WILL do my work to my standards, or I’ll keep your bag in the darkest of all dark dungeons and not feed it for days. I might even shred it to pieces, depending on how you behave the next few days.

So this kid, who is one freaking menace-looking kid (he seriously looks like he can harm me real bad), stared at me angrily and threw his book at my face.

The whole class stopped moving and breathing (everyone is terrified of this kid) and stared at me. I know that look, they were anticipating my next move. I know I have to play my cards well now, cause if I don’t, I’ll lose the entire class.

So I calmly looked at him and said I want him to take the book now and finish my work.

The whole class moved their heads to look at what his next move would be.

He stomped out of his chair angrily, grabbed the hostage (his bag) from my hand, and went back to his seat. He sat still for a while, then eventually took out a pen to finish his work.

I don’t know what it was that made him do his work. Maybe he felt bad for me since he clearly had been very nice to me before this, especially after knowing that I praised him to his very fierce dad, or maybe because I held my grounds and he knew he’d have to do it eventually.

The class then turned to look at me again and I tried my best to mask my anger and fear. My legs were shaking a little (dude I’m really terrified of this kid) and my face kinda hurts from being thrown with a book. The class then erupted into its usual noisy chatter again (I always ask them to stop behaving like zoo animals, cause they literally behave like that. Some kids actually crawl around just for fun, some kids climb up their friends’ legs, some walk around making animal noises)

I waited a few minutes, then walked to that kid and told him I know he can do this. I watched him a little, corrected some mistakes, then told him that I do not want him to behave like that again. It’s unacceptable and I know he can be better than that. I asked him to promise me that he WILL be better.

He looked at me for one brief milisecond, stood up, and walked away.

“I’m taking that as a yes” I said to him. If anything I was just trying to comfort myself; he was already far gone by then.

When the bell rang, they ran helter skelter out of class and I sat down to compose myself. I know many of these kids have really rough childhood. I can’t begin to imagine the lives they live. I’ve been to their houses, spoken to their parents, and I can’t imagine growing up in that condition.

But still, it’s not an excuse to behave badly in my class. I will be compassionate, I will be loving, but I can’t let you have your way because I know if you try harder, you’ll do wonders. Even if you don’t know it yet.

While I was sitting down thinking of my kids, Jaya came in and caught me sitting alone. She asked if I was ok, and I asked her to read out the work we did in class today. She still couldn’t read. She struggled at every word, she read “tell” as “past” (she was just guessing the words) but when she was done reading (painfully), I told her she did well and asked her to correct some grammar mistakes.

I have absolutely no idea if she learned anything today. I have no idea if she could read by the end of this year. We tried whole of last year but now she’s back at square one again, and I don’t know what I’ve imparted on her, or if I’ve made a difference in her life at all.

But I’d like to think that if I continue trying, it will make a difference someday. Maybe not now, but someday, one day.

Visiting Chengdu

Hello!

It’s the third week of school and things have settled down a little so I have time to do a lot of things these days. For example, yesterday I spent all night on youtube watching random videos for fun. Yes, for fun…Everytime I do something for fun, I feel extremely guilty because MY STUDENTS ARE STILL WEAK, THEY STILL CAN’T READ, THEY STILL FAIL AND I’M WATCHING VIDEOS FOR FUN?!?!?!

*breathes in and out furiously

But I figured, I MUST not burn out so soon like last year. Last year, when March rolled around, I was ready to pack my stuff and leave this place because I was sooooo burnt out! I was sleeping 4 hours every night, printing worksheets till the wee hours of the morning, planning and thinking about my kids all night. But nope, this year, I figured I gotta work hard but I have to relax a little more too. I’m running a marathon here, so can’t compromise my sanity so soon!

Ok so blogging is part of my strategy to maintain sanity, especially blogging about something other than teaching. Yay!

Last month, I visited my best friend in China! We haven’t seen each other since we graduated 1.5 years ago so it was really good to know that we still haven’t really changed much (though admittedly we’re more serious and boring now cos we’re both teachers and we spent half the time talking about teaching strategies -_- )

Chengdu was really cold since it’s winter now and I spent 6 days there wrapped in at least 5 layers of clothing T___T

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Ok I’m a lousy tourist cause I don’t remember names of places so this is umm..a fashion street in the city. Lots of people just like in Hong Kong!

You know what I can’t get used to here?

Not the rude people, they’re not that bad here. But the toilets. I CAN’T stand squatting toilets, despite coming from a country where we have them too. But in China, there are NO sitting toilets except in very fancy hotels. It’s really gross cause when they have sitting toilets, people squat on them and leave shoe stains!
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This is Li and me. She’s Shanshan’s cousin’s girlfriend who is super chatty and cute. We’re eating icecream in this freezing weather cause we’re cool like that. I think some of my brain cells froze to death that day.

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We ate at this tea house that has Sichuan opera! Crazy amount of food (people eat like crazy here but I’ve not seen a single fat person)

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The famous face-changing performance! Basically they will change their masks just by turning their faces slightly, or using a fan to cover their face for literally 0.1 second. It’s a secret technique that noone outside their clans would know, super amazing to see it in person!

AND!

THE MOST AMAZING THING I SAW ON THIS TRIP!

BEHOLD LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!

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PANDASSSSSSSSSSSSS
(Well, a panda here)

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it! It’s such a surreal feeling to see something you’ve never seen in real life before, like seeing a unicorn or a flying pig!

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More pandas! Everyone there was just aww-ing and ahh-ing at everything the pandas do. Pandas eating bamboo, AWWWWW! Pandas got up to get another bamboo, OMG CUTEEEE! Pandas playing with their bamboo, AWW *heart melts

Seriously, life is good as a panda.

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Shanshan and I! and a random angry lady behind us wtf

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MOAR PANDAS FOR YOU!

All they do is eat and eat. They don’t move or do anything cute also!! Feels a bit cheated wtf

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Intermission: here’s your favourite beautiful Shanshan! As beautiful as ever. And she’s single now! She lives in the States though so if you’re ready for a long distance relationship, apply within wtf

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Baby pandas sunbathing AWW
We thought they were dead though cause they didn’t move AT ALL hahaha

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Oops I ate too much teehee I’m so cute no matter what I do cause I have black patches around my eyes teehee

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Baby panda sho cuteee

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The end of panda pictures, here’s me eating some street food. All I do is eat and eat, cause it’s so cold must keep warm ma!

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Chengdu’s favourite past time: have your ears dug by professionals on the street! HAHAHA not even kidding. Shanshan said it apparently feels REALLY good cause they got skillzz

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Some old street #lousytourist

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Some sign I can’t read. By the way, my Mandarin improved by like 2384910826 times in that trip cause NOBODY SPEAKS ENGLISH in that entire city.

When we spoke English on the train, some guy actually approached us to say how admirable it is to see two chinese girls speak English. At first it was flattering but he kept standing really close to listen in on our conversation -____-
Seriously, out of all the places I’ve been to, China has the least amount of people who can understand and speak English. Maybe it’s because I didn’t go to major cities like Beijing or Shanghai though.

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Starbucks in the middle of ancient town, a sign of modern capitalism. It costs a bomb though, everything there costs wayyy more than in Malaysia to my surprise.

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Reminds me of the very beautiful Lijiang 🙂

I think there are more pictures (mostly camwhore pictures) but I think that’s it for today! Must maintain the suspense so if you don’t see my pictures too often and when you do see it, you’ll feel like how I felt when I saw the pandas wtf *perasan

When I told my kids I went to China and Thailand during the holidays, they were like “yer teacher you’re so rich!!”. I think I’ve been very lucky to be able to travel so often. Tickets to Thailand was ridiculously affordable even on my meagre teacher salary, and Shanshan sponsored half my ticket to China! (and I didn’t spend a single cent there :P)

Another good news is I got selected to represent Teach For Malaysia to a conference in New Delhi, India! It’s fully sponsored too, so I’m counting my lucky stars again 😀 I’ve always wanted to visit India, despite the new outrage, so I’m quite excited about the trip!

That’s all for today. Long day tomorrow since we are having our annual Merentas Desa run (cross-country run) and I’m stationed at the paddy field checkpoint (my favourite place here).

I can’t help smiling when I see the kids running past me with their eyes furrowed intensely, shirt drenched in sweat, pleading for water. Most, if not all of them, even greet me midst run. “Good afternoon teacher!” So cute lah cannot tahan. I don’t think I’ll have the energy to even look at people during a run, much less greet them!

The cutest of the lot are the small tiny ones running with so much enthusiasm. The young ones are always the most enthusiastic about everything and always have so much zest and happiness. I love kids so much. I love interacting with them, I love watching them get excited about things, I love getting all this positive energy from them! Though some of them are real devils, but I couldn’t have asked for better clients to work for everyday 🙂

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.

Year 2

OMG I cannot believe how nervous I am feeling about tomorrow! Tomorrow is the first day of school and signifies the start of my 2nd year as a teacher! Incredibly excited about meeting my students again, and getting new students too, but I can’t help dreading for the day to come.

I feel like I’m absolutely not prepared at all, no matter how much I’ve prepared for it! GAHHHHH *flails arms wildly and screams for help

I am panicking and I don’t know why?!?!?!?!?? I’ve done this before, so I can do this…right?

Wrong.

I’m panicking because I know how it’s going to be like. This time last year, I was crazily excited and not nervous at all because I didn’t know how bad things could be. But now that I know how challenging being in school is, how nerve-wrecking it is to stand in front of 40 kids who clearly don’t care about you, how daunting it is to know that these kids’ future lie in your own hands, it feels a lot scarier to face my first day of school.

I CAN DO THIS! I just need to walk in a lot stricter this time, maintain better structure for the class, be a lot more prepared, be consistent with my rules and consequences, and I’ll be fine. I hope..

I’m entering my year 2 of teaching but I’m still going to say this again: teaching IS rocket science.

This is possibly going to be the craziest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but I know I’ll miss it so much when everything is over. Bring it on, 2013! You are scaring me out of my wits, but I know that whatever happens, there’s no way I’m going to do worse than I did in 2012. It’s only going to get better from now on! No harm being optimistic about it 🙂

 

 

Before the year ends..

Hello! I’m back! From nowhere wtf. I’ve been here all along, but haven’t blogged because looking at my blog is an extremely depressing task for me. Everytime I click on it I’m reminded of my lousy blogger self, and looking at all the missing pictures make me want to cry.

I was using Zooomr for a while but now that they decided to go private, they took all my pictures with them too T_____T And I’m too busy/lazy to reupload them elsewhere and put them back up again.

Fear not though because today I woke up with this sudden spurt of energy and suddenly felt like blogging! Though I have no idea what to blog about…but one thing I do know is it’s NOT going to be about teaching woot!

To be honest, this holiday has given me some time to reflect on things and I realize that I’ve spent 80% of it thinking and doing things that are teaching/student-related. Talk about being married to the job! Even when I’m sitting in the car on a long drive, or when I’m reading an unrelated book, or when I’m talking to friends, my mind is perpetually on my kids. How to be a better teacher next year? How do I ensure success for my kids? How do I make sure we reach our goal blablabla

I am actually so sick of it. So utterly sick of being so passionate about something that I eat, breathe, sleep with the cause in my mind every single waking moment of the day. As of now, I have the next EIGHT days before my first school meeting, and I’m making it a point to only think about school for a maximum of TWO hours a day (only because I have so much stuff to do before next year). That’s my pact to myself so I remain sane. And I’ll spend the other twenty two hours not being a teacher for once.

See, don’t want to talk about teaching and yet..

Anywayyyy, I went to Phuket last week! We saw that Expedia had an amazing offer of RM500 for flights AND accommodation for 4D3N so we jumped on it. 9 of us went and had a very interesting time at probably one of the dodgiest places I’ve ever been to.

It was a well-deserved holiday and despite the fact that all 9 of us are teachers, we surprisingly did not talk about teaching too much! We spent most of our time walking around the town, getting cheap massages, reading at the beach and eating.

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In the tuktuk with Aishah and Karthik

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The crazy cables all over the island

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Our awesome ride back to the hotel. The driver blasted out party songs and turned on disco lights for us to dance!

Oh!!! I almost forgot. I got into an accident the second day in Phuket. You know how I’m super proud that I can now ride a motorbike thanks to my students right? Yeah, so we rented a bike and wanted to ride around the island with it. The bike was only RM20 a day and I was super confident I could ride it, no problemo.

So I went to test the bike on my own and barely FIVE minutes after renting it, I got into an accident -_______- I tried going up a really steep hill to practice (stupidity point 1), and when I fell, I picked the bike up without turning it off first (stupidity point 2). So I accidentally rammed the handle and the bike dragged me into a drain where I almost broke my neck (thank god I was wearing my helmet).

Luckily, I only suffered minor injuries but on many parts of my body 🙁

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In the end, I had to pay RM300 for the bike damage, had to spend an hour cleaning up my wounds and couldn’t go for full body massages and swim at the sea. Blessing in disguise somewhat, cause who knows I might have gotten into a bigger accident if I had gone around the island with it AND my friends had someone to take care of their things while they swam (aka bag-caretaker).

I’m going to China in two days! Shanshan, my best friend in college, invited me over and offered to pay half of my flight ticket so I thought I’ll grab the chance! Not everyday that you have someone who want to see you so bad they’ll pay for you wtf

I’ll try to be more my old self and try taking more pictures and blog more! The thing about not blogging often is after a long period of time, you just forget what you want to talk about entirely. And after a while, even if you remember what you want to talk about, those things seem so unimportant and boring in retrospect that you don’t feel like talking about them. Le sigh, for the umpteenth time, I MUST blog more often!

 

Post event: School of Tomorrow

As I’d mentioned in my previous post, I had the opportunity to attend the Beaconhouse School of Tomorrow Conference last week! It was really eye-opening to meet so many committed educationists and passionate thinkers, especially when I share the same ideals too. A lot of interesting discussions went on but I thought I’ll share very briefly some of the things I took note of:

1. The message of the entire two-day conference was clear: we NEED to reconsider the role of school leadership and think of students’ learning experiences. We can no longer adopt the traditional “I teach, you learn” mentality and we should move towards empowering students to take responsibility for their learning instead.

I really like this idea because 90% of my students are hardly responsible for their own learning, not because they don’t want to but because they are just so used to being fed information. So it was definitely good to learn other innovative methods I can use to cater for individual needs in the classroom.


Kasim Kasuri, CEO Beaconhouse, speaking at the School of Tomorrow Conference

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Truth and Hope

My life in a nutshell right now, the reason why I haven’t been blogging religiously lately (not like I ever did this past one year ha ha):

So basically right after our school holidays started, we had to spend days organizing our data of our students’ achievement (in my part, lack of achievement T____T makes me question whether if what I did this entire one year was even worth it) and reporting them on an online portal. It was excruciatingly tedious so I haven’t had much time for anything else.

The week after that, our postgraduate diploma in education’s classes started and life has been crazy since. We have to attend classes five days a week, from 8-5, and we have TONS of assignments to work on just like any other college student. Presentations, reflections, papers to write, readings to read and generally just no time for anything else.

I’m not complaining, since technically I’m getting my second degree but I just really realllllllllly need a break. I need time to plan for my next year and it’s absolutely crucial I enter my classrooms next year very well prepared, but I have NO time now to even think about next year. Not only that, every TFM fellow, in their second year, will have to run a community project and we’ve been up nights thinking about what we want to do next year that can help change the school and community.

I’ll talk about my project later but if you went to my TEDx talk, you’d know!

Speaking of next year, I’ve been feeling really stressed out for a multitude of reasons.

1. My last one year in school has been somewhat….wasted. I mean, I’ve worked extremely hard but it’s so painful to see almost no improvement in my students. I know what I’m doing is not going to be successful overnight, but it’s been a YEAR! A WHOLE freaking year, and what did I do? Absolutely nothing. My best class’ results increased…by 2%. TWO percent.

Lately, I’ve been trying to adopt a more positive way to think of things. I’m going to look at things and compartmentalize them into two categories: TRUTH and HOPE.

So here it is. The TRUTH is, I did not transform my students’ lives. There was little to no progress, and my illiterate students are still illiterate. I’ve failed to be an effective teacher to my students.

But here’s the HOPE part. I’m still going to go back to school next year and I still truly believe in this mission to end education inequity. I still believe that my students can achieve so much more, if I find better ways to help them. I know there are so many of them just waiting for me to help unleash their potential in them. Their hope is me, and my hope is them.

Which is exactly why I’m feeling so stressed, cause I know I can do so much more for them but I don’t know how to. I need to plan plan plan PLAN better for next year to make sure our goals are achieved this time! I need to because it’s my last and only chance. And I hate to think this, but it might even be their last and only chance.

2. It might seem like it’s too early to think about it, but I’m really thinking of what I want to do after the fellowship. I know when next year comes, we will not have time for anything else. I need to think about what I want to do after next year and start planning towards it. I want to continue teaching, but at the same time I want to try out sooooo many things as well. I want my Masters, I want to work in a corporate firm, I want to get all kinds of experiences, I want to be challenged in ways I cannot comprehend, I want to do so much, and yet I don’t even know what I want.

These thoughts are seriously driving me crazy! I have a stack of articles to read and papers to write, but my mind is so occupied by all these worries that I can’t even focus on anything. I’ve spoken to people about career options, but the more I talk to people, the more I realize that I want to do everything!

So here it is again:

Truth: thinking about all this is making me go crazy.

Hope: my enthusiasm is what fuels me. I realize that despite all this stress and worries, this is potentially the most exciting part of my life right now! Here it goes, one more year to change lives.

p.s: I want to take this opportunity to thank all my readers for going through this journey with me. I started this post feeling so overwhelmed, but writing about my hopes and dreams make me feel so energized and enthusiastic about everything. Now I feel like anything is possible!

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