Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Exam Season

Invigilating 1 Belatuk is like hosting a twisted talent competition.
I Belatuk sat for their history paper today, and had to contain their otherwise relentless energy to conform to the numbing silence of the exam atmosphere. Under these dreary circumstances, they still showed tremendous effort to entertain and put up a great show. Bless them.
s A: *makes whistling sound through his teeth to the crippled tune of "baby shark doo doo"
me: Viknes! ....
s A: Oh!hiiii *waves*
s B : Rocks his chair so far back that his head lands on table behind. knocks his head on that table.
me: Sharen! Stop that *through gritted teeth*
s B: *does a Tamil movie-star salute* (ask me for a demonstration anytime)
s C: pulls up t-shirt over his head to form a tudung, rocks back and forth and stares at me....blinking
SUDDEN THOUGHT!: Oh God, they're taking turns!
Nope, NOT this time. I will NOT react.
s C : *starts singing a Malay song and wraps t-shirt-tudung tighter around his head.
me: Norman!! Sleep! Now!
s C: Sorry teacher.
-eerie scraping sound begins-
me *what now? searches wildly around the room.
s D: Using a pair of scissors to carve up the notice boards on the side. making a bloody mess of confetti.
me: Chuan Sze...what is wrong with your head. (mental note: make him clean it up, without a broom)
s D : *stops for a blessed second*
s E: seeing all the drama, decides to stretch and make a loud BURRRRPP sound. (then says oops and acts like it was a mistake)
*class giggles madly*
s F: has been suspiciously quiet all the while *decides this is the best time to test his catapult (ruler over three erasers to launch little paper balls, one of which hits the teeth whistler on the forhead) *SMACKK*
s A: Hoi! Cikgu kacau cikgu...*throws paper back* misses *hits tudung boy* who jumps and shrieks because he scares easily.
Teeth whistler, truly an accomplished musician, begins with a round of percussion. *plays imaginary tabla under his desk* -war drums in the Blackboard Jungle.
*class erupts* "WE ARE ENTERTAINED," their eyes scream, because their mouths can't
Some who were blissfully asleep, stir from their slumber.
No no nooooooo...
me: Suppresses aggressive language with Herculean effort.
"One more word, and you all go for recess late.
That's it. Silence. Recess always wins.
Encore! Encore!

Friday, 8 September 2017


Currently listening to: Bravado by Lorde.
          I can’t identify what it is that makes me nervous. Perhaps this is why I don’t travel anywhere alone. The idea of solo travel is a romantic one but I know the minute I get off the plane, I would regret going. Who would help me? Who would I talk to when I’m not exploring amazing architecture. Who would I eat with? Strangers? You mean I have to *shudder* socialise? I want to shake off those shudders and approach strangers to ask for help without feeling judged, stupid, pitiful, lost and beyond help. I want to get over that feeling of hopelessness in unfamiliar territory.
               I sometimes imagine myself exploring unknown places, foreign lands without a plan or care in the world, but then I realise I’m just replaying a scene from a random movie or travel programme, where the hero always bumps into someone willing to take them around to explore the colourful street life of Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines.
              I digress. I realise I fear being vulnerable, being in a position where I have to admit I am lost, in order to get help. I fear new train ticket machines because using them entails putting yourself in a clueless position to ask for instructions. I fear getting on a plane because it involves checking in and boarding and a hundred other terms I’ve read about but never experienced.
I fear the unknown.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Breathe in.Your chest experiences a sudden tightness as if it's making a last desperate attempt to stick a band aid on and hold itself together. Breathe out. The band aid snaps off. Shocked/angry/hurt/embarrassed tears well up, which you will furiously blink back because they who hurt you cannot know it. Your fists curl up, not to punch a wall, or pound a table but just to contain the trembles. Truth is, you don't know how to react. There's always a first time.

TEACHER HEARTBREAK. So I know the picture seems trivial enough, (not to mention badly drawn) but this is one of many teeny tiny heartbreaks that happen along the way. It's easier to post the funny faces but it's not always a Mary poppins kinda day, I'm afraid.
Here's to teachers everywhere who breathe in, breathe out and move on! 💝💝💝

OKAY, kids, copy this down!

Me unintentionally starting a dialogue on coffee...again.

A week after the holidays

Image may contain: drawing

Unflattering Candids

This look is called "Sigh.Not againn" When I try to explain the words "DESperate" "DESpite" or "DEStination" or "DEScribe" and you shout "DESPACITOOO", I'm not paid enough to laugh, kid.

The look I'm wearing: "Mildly annoyed" with a touch of "Smelt something bad".

One of my go-to facial expressions when 30 sweaty buffaloes charge in 10 minutes late after an hour of football and start congregating under the fans, making loud tired sighs, asking for a further 10 minute break..when here I am with my roll of mahjong papers ready to go! 

Some days we see marvellous things

My eyes must be deceiving me. Peralihan students NOT running around? NOT SPLASHING WATER on each other? Instead, READING? QUIETLY?
Respect to the comic book writers who have these kids so captivated that they are so effectively out of mischief.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Subtle Racism in the Malaysian Classroom

Hello reader hope you're conquering mountains this weekend.. Literal or figurative!

A while ago, R.A.G.E posted  a video about how racism was rampant in the property market, and I was suddenly reminded of how teachers shoulder such an enormous role in shaping human beings of tomorrow. Everything we complain about in the attitude of grownup Malaysians today are traits that were not checked or corrected by a teacher 20 years ago!
As teachers, we are a pretty huge, if not biggest influence on a child's formative years. We build good habits, and character traits. It goes without saying therefore, that we should practise what we preach. What if we don't realise when we're being hypocrites?

I was having a delightful conversation over kuaci and coffee with some of my most treasured comrades, and was quite surprised to hear a story related by one of them, regarding an officer in the the education dept who, while demonstrating a poetry lesson, had used a large fair boy to represent an Albino buffalo, and a dark skinned boy to represent a regular buffalo. Although it was done in good humour, and the kids who were compared to the beasts, took it lightly, it made me think about some of the subtle messages that we give off through the simplest of actions in the classroom.

A few months back, I was having a conversation with a fellow teacher on what we could do to quieten some of the hyperactive ones in class. Quite frankly, I was at my wits end on how to deal with him! And something she said took me by surprise. She would make the misbehaving Chinese student sit among the Indians as punishment. This, she told me, was a sure way of getting him to zip it, because "the Chinese students don't mix with the Indians."
Why make it a punishment then? Aren't we only justifying their hatred towards the other race by forcing them to sit there only when they misbehave? She had no answer. It was, after-all a quick-fix and no one was ready to give that up.
 But what do we get in return? "Quiet" kids who grow up with a roaring disgust towards their brother from another mother.
 We speak of a 21st century education system, and as terms like "open minded" and "modern thinking" are bandied about and used to describe generation Y, teachers too try to separate themselves from our rather "narrow-minded"  grandparents. But honestly how different are we from the old aunties who used to say "I will let the Keling man catch you if you are naughty"?

I have always thought about her actions and wondered why it would be considered okay to anyone. In fact, today, many complain about the kids who never mingle with other races in their vernacular schools. But what about the teachers who studied exactly the same way and had not experienced living and interacting with different races till they reached the tertiary level of education? What are they bringing to the table...or rather the classroom? How equipped are they to handle the multiracial adolescent learning environment, never having tasted it themselves?

At this point my head usually starts to hurt.

In another incident, I had accompanied my school track and field team for the district level sporting event, and during the closing ceremony, I overheard two teachers talking loudly... Apparently one was speaking too fast, because the other said "cakap slow sikit, macam keling betul ko cakap" (speak slowly, you're speaking like a real keling). Now don't even try to tell me that Keling isn't a derogatory term, because just the context of this teacher's dialogue proves otherwise. The other immediately hushed her and they sheepishly glanced around to see an Indian teacher from my school sitting close by. Fortunately for them, he hadn't seemed to hear, and they burst into a fit of relieved giggles. But we haven't come to the saddest part of this story. Sitting and gaping at their teachers banter, were at least 5 students who then proceeded to laugh and share in this disgusting brand of humour endorsed by none other than their mentors and educators. And THAT, my dear reader, is simply heartbreaking.

We don't realise that as we sit and laugh, we are educating, as we talk and tell stories we are educating, as we chide, scold, and punish, we are also educating. So, it is a constant reminder to be mindful of what we impart every second of the day. As my afternoon school supervisor once very aptly put; in all our actions, we are being watched not by one, but eight hundred pairs of eyes. Eyes that remember, and eyes that learn.
Every day I am  humbled by this profession, in the weight it carries in shaping the biggest assets of the future!

"Nasty littering adults, were once grimy littering, snot-nosed children, who were not checked because their parents and teachers were nasty litter bugs as well."

Saturday, 4 February 2017

That time in Taman Rakyat

For a couple of non planners, I would say this trip was a pretty huge success.  I hadn't been to Taman Rakyat in ages! So based on severely warped memories of my childhood, I insisted and lowkey bragged about the great hiking trails and jungle landscapes that Taman Rakyat had to offer.
"Peak? of course there's a peak!" I nodded enthusiastically

But alas,  as we ambled up the flat and quite safe tarred and sometimes cement-paved road, I realised that this was quite literally "a walk in the park." We passed Taichi enthusiasts along the way and ran into the same uncles and aunties multiple times, as we made our way up the docile and unchallenging terrain. It wasn't all bad. The cool morning air was refreshing though, and it also guaranteed that we didn't break a sweat throughout the morning exercise, if we could call it that.

Anyway, it's the last day of the holidays for me. The relaxation was tremendously fun and I will hopefully take on the rest of the year with a rejuvenated spirit.ho ho ho.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Hoomanising hoomans

I was talking to a friend over banana leaf rice (getting in shape for Christmas) about how our ages were getting closer to the third decade, and how I felt like an underachieving piece of ..Plasticine (because plasticine has potential). We went home, and I thought about the year, and what it had taught me.

Lesson 1
Breaking down in public.

I've broken down in the classroom more times last year than when I first arrived at school. Each experience  unique, whether it was a quiver in my voice, or tears welling up or yelling at them through wretched ragged sobs, I've categorised them all as breakdowns; big or small.

The question is 'Is this an unmistakable sign of weakness?', a teaching faux pas? Are we forbidden to do so? Am I the only exception to the rule, "It's okay to cry sometimes"?

While showing emotion is so often negatively translated as being delicate, frail, powerless and feeble,   I believe it should be embraced as being fearlessly, courageously vulnerable. I believe being vulnerable is exposing yourself  to criticism or judgement but with the aim to achieve a deeper connection and understanding.

Having said that, I must stress, that  did not do it with an ulterior purpose. My voice may have quivered just because, at that point, I couldn't expertly handle the situation and I believe it is perfectly alright, that in those few seconds, they got a glimpse of the feeling and emotional person I am underneath all the Verbs, Nouns and adjectives I preach every day. Soon one's breaking point will cease to be a breaking point anymore. One will learn to reprove students in a meaningful way, to admonish artfully.

The subject of vulnerability, is often discussed in terms of a relationship, or potential partner but what about looking at it through a different lens. As a relatively new teacher I was always told from the get go, to build an emotional wall and never let students see that you are scared, that you are hurt, that you feel confused or amused because that was giving them a psychological upper hand. But in all seriousness, how then, would they know that we were human and not robots. Instead of a psychological upper hand what if they were merely making connections, understanding and feeling compassion, closeness, brotherhood and belonging. What if seeing their teacher tear up stirred a sense of remorse and compassion? was that such a cringe-worthy effect?

By all means, I'm not saying I bawl on every stressful classroom experience, you too will soon be able to withstand greater challenges, but I refrain from advocating the NO EMOTION rule. I believe it grinds us into unfeeling moulds, that we force onto our students, who in turn learn never to share problems, never to admit defeat, never to show sadness.

I'm still on the road of self discovery, and the road is a long, winding and well worn path.

The Art of Saying No

Hello reader, How is your weekend going? Off hiking? Building an arm chair? Travelling to New Zealand? Food hunting? Good for you!

My ideal weekend involves actively doing nothing, in my room, with Spotify turned up, some form of junkfood, (and if my internet is being nice) a movie.  Nothing tops this. So if I am out and about on a friday and/or Saturday, its either obligation or a case of me not being able to say no.

Saying no is extremely hard for some, and an especially arduous task for me. It is NOT because I have a heart of gold; neither does saying YES give me a deep sense of fulfilment. I say yes, because the alternative seems like a socially gargantuan task. 

What my brain is thinking : 

"No, I don't feel like it"
"No, I'd rather not"
"No way, I'd spend my afternoon doing that"
"Hell no!"

What my mouth says:

"oh OKay"
"yea sure"
"yea can"
"yes Im okay with that"
"yay, sounds like a plan"

So at the end of the day, I’m left with nothing but a shitty sense of you-tricked-me.


A few times, my brain wins! And I end up declining an offer to hang out. But then I do this absurd thing where I try to make up for meet ups I’m unable to/ don't want to attend... and...sigh.   Let me illustrate, 
In the picture above, I have very expertly dodged a lunch. Alas, somehow I end up planning a raincheck meet up, and  even recommending a place! ARgH!!!

This has occurred an uncountable number of times! 

But the real question is, "why can't I say no"??

1. Too concerned with what people think 
People talk, they come to conclusions, and they infer from situations, I do it all the time. So I get really nervous about what people would think of me if I were to reject an invite. 

I wonder if anyone out there feels remotely the same. 

Having said all this, I do enjoy going out sometimes. Not a total weirdo. Hanging out with yourself doesn't allow for much conversation. 

So if anyone is struggling with this predicament, just remember, you are not alone. We'll figure it out soon enough.