English Workshop for SPM

on Thursday, 29 September 2011
Today, the students from SMK Bukit Garam II were given a special treat with the arrival of one of Sandakan's English gems by the name of Madam Santhi - who was kind enough to spare some of her precious time to give our SPM students a hint or two about their upcoming exam.

I thought her session was beneficial and students who were focused on her lecture would have definitely benefited a great deal just by noting down the things that she has said. She focused on Paper 1 (techniques of identifying and writing out certain formats that were targeted to come out) and literature. Unfortunately, we needed more time as how English teachers will always tell you how they do not have enough time once they get things rolling but I'm just glad with this short session with the students.

Thanks a lot.

Enjoy the pictures!

Zurinah Hassan's Guilty Song

on Tuesday, 27 September 2011
So, the SPM examination is creeping near and we're all busy trying to get the students to remember back all the literature components. Trust me, they know the stories, poems, and novels but getting them to actually embrace the content is a whole different story. Almost every kid I know taking their SPM would be lining up to get those Memory Trainer Guide to Literature or Top Ten Literature Questions or You Got Literature Problems? We Have It Translated into Malay!

Being a traditionalist, I ain't gonna fall for all those. So I had to have a different approach in how to get these fellas to remember the gist of Zurinah Hassan's poem.

What I told them to do was to find a song. Since Zurinah felt guilty and was longing for the artist's song, it is only natural that I told them to find a song that they thought gave them the same sense of guilt and longing for something. It could be a Malay song or even a Hindi one (which they are required to translate into English) and write down the lines of the lyrics that they thought had the same meaning as guilt or the sense of longing for something.

Even the naughty notorious ones actually rose to the occasion. I think songs do speak to these Sabahan kids. They seem to love the idea that songs are part of their classroom tasks. Is it really that interesting? Maybe they just like to express themselves in the form of music... well, they should know that music and poetry aren't that far off. Melodious, rhythmic and lyrical with a hidden message in between - these characteristics are the embodiment of both song and poetry.

Literature-singing... anyone?

The Life Teacher

on Monday, 26 September 2011
First of all, if you were wondering how come I went AWOL or somehow went on a sabbatical or something, rest assured that it wasn't THAT cool....

Being a teacher IS taxing. Work will bog you down and you can't blog NOT because you don't have any free time, but because free time becomes so valuable, you tend to want to spend time doing other things rather than blogging.

Finally a breather this week from many other things that I could not possibly blog here because they are completely unrelated to English. That's right. I'm an English teacher and for the past 1-2 months, most of my work is completely unrelated to English. Har Har Har.

I hate to start of the blog after such a long time by saying something negative but I think that the students have started to deteriorate - not in their English per se but they have started to degenerate altogether. I can understand if the notorious or rowdier ones are giving me an attitude but now even the best classes are starting to show lack of enthusiasm. I can only count a small handful who are still exuberant and full of initiative to improve themselves.

After teaching for awhile, especially these 2 months of non-English related work, I've come to realise that I am not primarily an English teacher. I think teachers are never primarily their major subject teachers anymore. It's important to review back what the word teacher means. It is not about teaching subject matter and everything else revolves around that... instead, it's more of like being a teacher has many revolving things around you, and your subject matter is part of it only.

This is the part that probably I'm not exactly good at. I'm not that good in doing many other things in life. I might be good at certain things but to me, it doesn't feel like I'm qualified to teach 'life' to kids. It's something that I feel so daunting and so responsible that I find it almost impossible to teach without having a small smirk in my mind saying "Yeah right Adrian, as if..."

Could this sense of self-righteous-irony be my downfall? Is it really hard to teach life to kids? How does one start? How does one correct life? Is discipline life? Is manners or studying life? Maybe I should break it down.

Life is about lessons. Lessons also means something or a situation that prompts us to try and in trying, we improve no matter what the end result is. These lessons do not teach us, they train us to identify options and weigh the consequences - not to necessarily make the right decisions but to understand that we learn no matter which decision we take at the end of the day.

Life is about rules. Written rules are only a tangible object that reflects our innermost common sense. It is not because it's a rule not to kill that we choose not to kill. It's because inside of us we know that it is wrong to kill and that's why we choose not to kill. These rules do not have to be written and we follow them inside our minds and our hearts which what makes us human. People who are mindless in obeying rules just because they are written are nothing more than advanced computers.

Now how am I going to get my students to embody those?