Sunday, July 22

My Cambridge Placement Test

They weren't joking about the computer giving you tasks according to your ability.
     I took the Cambridge Placement Test at the ungodly hour of 1am because that was the only time of the day the internet at my school was guaranteed to be speedy. Yes, you need a good internet connection for the large audio files & the flash application you need to download.
     I wanted to be the first to take it so I could share it with my fellow kiasu teachers. Admit it. You want to get an A just like what you preach to your students every day. Therefore, let me share my experience & tips with you. With that, I hope that you'll do better than I did.

Basic Requirements
#1 YOU MUST USE IE (Internet Explorer). The test requires scripts to be run through IE on your computer to block off your clipboard & who knows what else. Cut & paste is such a powerful tool for cheating. They wouldn't want people to cheat on messengers now, would they?

#2 Make sure you've got Flash Player & Java. This is the OS the test will be running on so please make sure you've got the latest updates.
     Your computer should be able to run the test but, if you are using a dinosaur or just incredibly paranoid, you can run a technical requirements diagnostic test here.
     You can also check your bandwidth or Internet speed here.

Tip #1: Take the Demo Test
     Familiarise yourself with the test software & the way it functions. It is not the most user friendly or visually stimulating, but it does what it needs to do.
     You can take the demo test here. Use this token: DEMCPTE1

Tip #2: Do Not Be Overconfident!
     DO NOT BE FOOLED. The demo test will be a walk in the park in the shoes of Godzilla but THE REAL TEST WILL REALLY CHALLENGE YOU.
     During the real test, the computer continually measures your ability & upgrades the questions accordingly.
     By the time I got to the long reading passages, I stopped smiling. Very tricky questions with 2 highly possible options for every question. I started to seriously ponder the questions & I even doubled back to check them after I was done which was a BIG WASTE OF TIME.
     Select your answer, check, get it right the first time & move on. DO NOT MAKE STUPID MISTAKES.

Tip #3: Do Not Be Fooled by the Progress Meter
     The progress meter is there to give you a general idea of the amount of questions you have to answer to receive a grade beyond the lowest grade. However, it is not an indicator of time or difficulty. I spent the most time in the final part of the progress meter because it was also the most challenging.
     Make sure that you save up enough time from before. DO NOT BE COCKY from the earlier easy as pie questions.

Tip #4: Listen with Jumbo's Ears!!!
     Ah, the British accent. They talk like they've got balls in their mouths. All suave & sexy. Dream on. NOT IN THIS TEST, THEY DONT!
     Expect to hear authentic British chatter in less than perfect intonations & pleasing tones. After a while, I got really annoyed with the piercing nasally cockney-ish accent in most of the recordings. The speed of the speech was inconsistent too. Some actors spoke really quick while others allowed breathing space. Vocabulary used was somewhat complex but manageable.
     Turn your volume on high & make the best of the first play-through because you may not have time to listen to the same conversation twice. Esp the long ones.

Tip #5: There is no BACK button
Finish one section before going to the next one because you can NOT return to a previous section again.

Tip #6: The test loops
Just like a Winamp player, when I got to the end of the progress meter, the test did not end. Instead, it gives me another listening comprehension question to answer. It does this until you time is up.

If you're ready. Begin your own test by clicking here.
**Note**: Candidate Number = IC Number
     Don't ask me how you'll know your results because I don't know. It doesn't show at the end of the test. I'm guessing we may receive a letter about it or never find out. They really know how to push our kiasu buttons.

Saturday, July 21

Taklimat Pelaksanaan KOMSAS BI Ting 3 @ Song District

the moment you realise you're not going to have it easy after all
     Last Friday morning, I conducted the "Taklimat Pelaksanaan KOMSAS BI Ting 3" for the Song district. My first outside my school! It's basically a briefing for the new Form 3 literature component freshly implemented this year. I attended a similar briefing in November last year in preparation for this.
     I know it's a little late. Actually, very late because PMR is only just around the corner. I was supposed to conduct this workshop after receiving a letter from the PPD but the letter never came. Either the orders did not arrive from JPN or... you know la.
    So I decided to be proactive & I made arrangements with the PPD more than a month ago to have this workshop organised. After waiting a month & not receiving a confirmation letter or calling letter for my colleagues, I was alarmed & I immediately followed up. Not once. Not twice. But 3 times.
     Finally, last Monday, I went to the PPD & settled everything within an hour. I even found out the names of the Form 3 teachers in Song & delivered the calling letters personally. You know what they say about doing things yourself.
     Still, the acting officer provided a venue, the necessary stationary & lunch. The nasi lemak was good. She promised certificates for the teachers too so we'll see if that materialises. I will not be following up on that though.

Teachers from SMK Katibas: George & Royston
    5 teachers attended the workshop. I see very promising things from them because they were already very familiar with the subject matter & they had good English proficiency. They understood all the poems & novels so I had an easy time glossing through my slides & only stopping to ensure that we were on the same page when it came to the meaning of the text & how we present it to our students.
     We spent most of our time coming up with creative pre/while/post-reading activities. The teachers were positive & very willing to share. I had a good time with them.

Teachers from SMK Song: Raymond, Juliana & Gan
    I have placed my slides online. Feel free to download them & share them with your teachers:

Saturday, July 14

Single & Desperate

     That is the cold hard truth. I have been single for 2 years & counting. Not enjoying it though. Honestly, I would love to have an attractive woman wrapped around my arms to share my most intimate thoughts. I do want to be married & I do want to have children.
     It's especially hard to accept your-single-self when your friends are getting married & having kids or you see people 'happily' married with kids on FB. The worst part of all is when you're out with your best buds & they are too busy with their girls to pay any attention to you. Seriously, bros before hos! Leave the beech at home!

     Even for men, age does matter esp when it comes to how you are viewed socially. I do feel the pressure of society. I've had old ladies breathing down my neck about getting married & raising an eyelid whenever I say no when asked if I have a girlfriend. I love you & I know you're doing this because you love me but back off!! I am not about to get married & spawn just because of you & your simplistic ideas. In case you haven't read, divorce rates are rising in Malaysia. Marriage doesn't solve problems.
     I don't want to be rushed & end up as a statistic. This is what I want:

     I want someone to live for. Not someone to be my companion; she's not a dog. Not someone to silence my fear of loneliness; I don't want to dread her presence. Not someone to warm my bed; there will be always be hotter & younger women to shag. And most definitely not because of peer, parental or societal pressure; once that pressure is gone, what next? Children? Gosh~~ Think for yourselves & decide for yourselves. YOU ARE NOT A ROBOT!

     I want someone I can connect with at a deeper level. Someone who is similar to me but with enough differences to keep things interesting.
Physically: someone who likes the outdoors & takes care of nutrition & health.
Emotionally: someone who has a big heart & passionate about what she loves.
Spiritually: someone who loves God & wants to raise her family in a Godly way. Someone who is able to accept all the very silly & stupid things I do for my God.
Intellectually: someone who can see where I'm coming from & be smarter than me yet smart enough to make me think that I'm smarter. Yes, brainy chicks turn me on.
Socially: Someone who compliments me socially & is willing to stand by me through the ups & downs of my social/public life.

     I know that not every relationship is perfect & there needs to be mutual commitment & work to make it pass the test of time. However, it wouldn't hurt to be driven by something more than fear. Fear of loneliness. Fear of old age. Fear of dying alone. Fear of not having kids. Fear of society's views. Humans should never be driven or enslaved by fear. Instead of addressing one fear after another, why not address one goal after another? Why can't we be driven by our dreams & desires? Are we too afraid of getting disappointed? Again, fear.
     Even though I have to wait, I don't mind. Good things come to those who wait.

     I tried to but I found out that I am not able to fool around with women. If I'm not attracted to you, I'm not attracted to you. You may have a hot bod but, if the conditions aren't right, I still won't shag you. I'm around women who expect a long-term relationship instead of a short-term fling. When I don't see a future with her, this mismatch of expectations are really a turn off. I don't know how some guys can easily take advantage of women & pull the disappearing act after a shag.
     I can't do it. I tried... very hard but I just can't get myself to touch let alone consume a fruit without the intention of paying for it.

     I haven't paid for sex but I'm open to the idea. There will be no mismatch of expectations. It's a transaction. However, I just don't want to spoil my virginal concept of sex as a bonding agent between two people in love. I don't want to make paying for sex a habit lest I continue to do it after I have a wife. Just like smoking, doing it again will get easier with every puff. So I shouldn't start. Maybe if I'm old & still single, I'll pay younger women for their time. Meanwhile, I'll just use my charms.

 I guess the #1 reason why I am still single is:
     I work in the middle of the jungle. Literally, IN THE MIDDLE OF A FREAKING JUNGLE! I have to take a boat to get out of that prison. If I try to swim or hike to get out, I will die trying. Just like in prison, there isn't much tail to choose from.
     I am surrounded by hundreds of girls. Every day. But they are all too young for me. Besides, I wouldn't want to cross the student/teacher boundary.
     Female teachers are rare & are guaranteed to have rings on their fingers. The same for female staff. Besides, I'm not a fan of workplace romance. I do not mix work with sex. There will be terrible terrible unforeseen circumstances.
     Local women my age are out of town pursuing studies or working in urban areas. Those who stay behind are either very old, very young or not very bright.

     Being single is not all bad. It frees up a lot of my time, energy, creativity & love for other things. I have poured all of it into my work. I married myself to my work & I adopted the children of the Katibas river as my own. I work with passion, drive & vision towards achieving my goals at work. I have a long list of achievements & I can confidently say that I have left a huge impact in the school & in the lives of the children. They will never be the same again. I might not be able to pour myself into my work so much if I had a woman constantly demanding for my attention. I might even use my woman or family as an excuse to do less work like too many teachers do too often.

     As an individual, I am constantly changing & growing from my experiences. As I progress, my priorities & the general direction of my life change. A relationship requires stability or at least you need the consent of the other party to change. Being single frees me to do anything I want with my life & the possibilities are endless. At this moment, I'm working on a grand plan. One that I probably wouldn't even discover if I was too busy going goo goo gaga over a woman. You cannot imagine how much my grand plan has evolved throughout the years. If a woman were with me throughout the process, she would have been totally frustrated with me.

     I am single & desperate but I am willing to wait. I am definitely not willing to go out of my way to find a woman. If I go out of my way to find one, I'd have to go out of my way to keep that one too, get it? I'm sorry but no woman is worth giving up my soul for. I will continue on the path I have chosen for my life & I shall see who I meet along the way. Who knows? Maybe I'll meet someone special? The important thing is, when I'm with her, I'm a better man. No shopping list of wants can ever produce that. She is not a Christmas present. She is designed by God for me. Two imperfections made perfect in each other.

     However, with age, I will have become more established, more renowned, more successful & making more money. With age, if I'm looking for true love, I do have to be wary of this:

Sunday, July 8

Simple Yet Significant: Birthdays

The First Batch: Dont look like much but smells good, tastes good &, most importantly,  students love it.
     I am always on the lookout for simple solutions to complex problems. Not because I'm lazy but because I want to be effective & efficient. I also realise that when it comes to people, complex problems require a combination of simple solutions.
     Are you a popular teacher: liked by many but followed by none? Are you a dreaded teacher: liked by none but followed by many? Is it possible to have the best of both worlds? I believe it is. One is only limited to one's imagination.

     I am a firm believer of Karmic law: reaping what I sow or investing for long term returns. As a Chief Warden, I constantly depend on the students to get things done: cleaning, gardening, studying, not destroying anything, et cetera. When a command exits a teacher's mouth, its ability to influence compliance can be measured by his/her ability to 'pull'.

     I can pull with threats of punishment. I can pull with promises of rewards. Both leaning heavily on how intense the punishment or reward & the credibility to execute.
     Another way is to pull their heart strings by pre-investing in them with no strings attached. How hypocritical! But, it's the best way to pull!

    Find a way that bypasses all defences & strikes right at the heart. One of the ways I gather 'pull' (like a resource) is by appreciating the students for what they are & what they have added to me. If you want to be appreciated, you need to appreciate your target FIRST.

     In my situation, I do this is by celebrating the constantly overlooked single most significant day in the lives of my students: birthdays.
     They live away from their families. They are mostly from the low-income group. They need love & attention. Nobody celebrates birthdays in the school.

     I saw an opportunity & I took it. Since February this year, I have been celebrating birthdays with my students once every fortnight. I gather them together according to birthday month & paid a member of the staff to bake simple RM2 cupcakes for each of them.

     We have around 450 students so it will cost me RM900 to celebrate all their birthdays. It might seem like a large sum of money but it's worth it. It equals 450 memories, 450 feeling that somebody remembers them, 450 lives touched &, hopefully, 450 lives transformed. If you want to get mathy, I spend RM2 to celebrate 1 day & motivate them to work for me for 365 days. On top of that, they have to satisfy my every whim & fancy on any of those 365 days. How is that for a return on investment?

     The celebrations are short & sweet. I gather them in the hall after the final self-study session at night. I distribute the cakes. I give a speech about how important they are to me & how I want them to be better than they were last year. We light the candles, sing, make a wish/prayer & blow out the candles at the count of 3.

November Babies
December Babies
January Babies
February Babies
March Babies
April Babies
     Like I said, simple yet significant. Anyone could do it. But why didn't anyone do it before?
     As an effect of a combination of such simple solutions, the students are ever increasingly under my 'pull'. I believe every teacher needs 'pull'. If the students are not drawn to you, they will not listen to you nor will they want to learn anything from you.
     I am constantly seeking simple yet significant ways to achieve my goals at school. Perhaps there is something similar you could do at your school/workplace?

Sunday, July 1

2012 MELTA Conference in Kuching

    Last month I had the privilege of attending the 21st MELTA Conference in Kuching. MELTA = Malaysian English Language Teaching Association.
    Since it was held in Kuching, I was seriously contemplating paying to join the conference as a participant (a fancy name for the type of attendee who sits there & pretends to be listening) when the ELO from JPNS sent me a message on FB enquiring if I'd be interested in attending the MELTA conference sponsored by the JPN & other private entities. What did you think my answer was? hahaha~~~
    For this, I would like to thank him. He has always been inspiring, supportive & ever helpful in my professional development. Mr Sariee Minan. =)
    Looking forward to collaborating with him even more in the future!

MELTA Conference Kuching was held at the spacious Four Points Sheraton Hotel.
    Ladies & gentlemen, this was my first ever teacher's conference in my 4 year career! I attended all the sessions & took notes! I was so hungry to learn! Many many years of missed conferences to catch up with!
    A majority of the sessions did not add much to me. Most of them were presentations of studies which have little relevance to the classroom. Perhaps the one in KL was better.

    With that in mind, I challenged myself to come up with a study that is relevant to classroom practice & finish it in time to be presented at next year's MELTA & CAMTESOL conference.
    Dont expect anything bombastic la. I'm looking at something simple & practical to add to my learning experience & professional development.

    Last Saturday, during a long car ride to Mukah where I had Sago Worms & Umai, I had a stroke of brilliance in between naps head-banging on the rough roads...
    I came up with an idea for a study of something that teachers could adopt easily in their classrooms, improve exam results, motivate students, improve proficiency & was backed by research. Talk about killing 2 birds with 1 stone! Whoever said that siestas were unproductive?
    Don't ask me what it is because I will not tell you... unless, of course, you're really hot.

    Even though most of the sessions did not add much to me, the people I met there really rekindled a fire in me to continue striving & innovating in the jungle. Speaking to teachers dripping with ideas & experience added a lot to me. Being in the presence of teachers who were near retirement but still passionate & creative really give me something to look forward to in the future. Let me end with some of the great people I've had the pleasure to spend time with:

    The most inspirational figure I have met at the conference has got to be Mr Marcus Raja of SMK Lopeng Tengah. He began his career as an English teacher &, even though he is a principal now, he is front lining innovative teaching techniques in his school. His mind is as active as a young teachers with plenty of ideas & he is also very clear about what he wants to achieve. Learned so much from the short time I spent with him.
    I could see that he is a good leader. He is the kind of principal I want to work with. He may work me hard but all my efforts will be worth it because I'm contributing towards a larger grand purpose. He will be retiring very soon & it is sad that I have only met 4 other such principals in my entire career.

Dr John Newton, Victoria University of Wellington.
He was the coordinator for my overseas link programme in Wellington. Had the opportunity to have several coffees with him  before MELTA. We brainstormed & talked about the Malaysian education system.
He is a man with a big heart as well as a big brain. Picked his brains, gained fresh new insights & relearned lots of ideas!
Mdm Anis Abdullah, IPG Batu Lintang.
My English teacher back in SMK Batu Lintang. It was very refreshing that she treated me as an equal & asked for my insights on certain issues with teacher training. Seeing her so eager to improve herself at that level really encouraged me & gave me hope that there will be many great English teachers from IPG BL.
We decided to hold each other accountable to attending & producing a paper each for the 2013 CAMTESOL Conference.
Mohana Ram, SMK Bintulu, & Gilbert Chung, SMK Green Road.
Mohana is one of the most creative teachers I know. SMK Bintulu is really blessed to have him there. He really loves his students & talks about them fondly all the time.
He writes a blog too with lots of tips, ideas & examples for English teachers to adapt. Check it!
Jimmy Then, SMK Bintulu, & Kenneth Chong, SMK Kota Samarahan.
I just met Jimmy but I really like his ideas for the classroom.
Another great teacher from SMK Bintulu. Must be an awesome environment for teachers to thrive there! Should I transfer to SMK Bintulu?
Norfarhana Abdullah, SMK Lawas.
Norfarhana is a teacher with a great passion for what she is doing. You can sense it from the way she talks about what she does. She is also very frank & down to earth.
Basically, the people in the last 3 pictures are part of a group of excited English teachers who were brought together by a common desire to excel & have a great time doing it. I was very blessed to have spent time with them.
Just looking at them encouraged me & made me feel that I was not alone in the struggle. There are still many greats working tirelessly with me all over Malaysia!

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