Friday, March 22

Always Use Protection

In a previous blog post, I wrote about how I met my girlfriend & got together with her. We've been together for 3 months now &, even though we only meet once a fortnight, our relationship is still going strong. Being away from each other for such long periods only makes the eventual embrace even more passionate & euphoric.

Having a girlfriend may be the unrealised dream of many men, but it must be taken very seriously as it is truly dangerous business. Girlfriends like mine have taken the lives of many single men & those of married men. So you really have to be careful if you want to ride one.

This type of protection is important too. Unfortunately, it's not what I'm going to talk about.
Every time I ride my girlfriend, I make sure that I always use protection. There is no such thing as too much protection. Especially when I take my girlfriend on looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong rides to distant lands.

Sturdy Full-Face Helmet
Obviously the most important piece of protection & you should have it on at all times.
Do not be shy about spending money on a good helmet. Make sure it is SIRIM approved.
Make sure it is a snug fit. You wouldn't want it to come off in the middle of the road now, do you?
Make sure it is COMFORTABLE. There are plenty of choices. Shop around & try before you buy.
Mine is a Zeus modular helmet which means I can actually lift up the front of the helmet. RM800.

Reinforced Gloves
I think gloves are the second most important piece of protection for a biker.
Gloves are not just cosmetic. Although, I had to admit, they do make me look badass. They also protect my knuckles.
The hands of bikers are totally exposed as they ride their bikes. Imagine a car door opening suddenly. Yeah, ouch.
Mine have reinforced plastic over the knuckles from Furygan. RM400.

Biker Jacket
A leather biker jacket looks bloody good, doesn't it? Check me out in full gear. I'll even let you touch me.
When you do, you'll notice that there are parts of my jacket with built-in plates protecting major joints & an aerodynamic turtle shell for the back. That's why REAL biker jackets are so expensive. It's practically body armour.
Mine is a Komine leather jacket with pores to allow air to circulate under the jacket. RM1300.

Knee & Shin Pads
Besides the knuckles, the legs of a rider are also completely exposed when riding. If a rider falls, the first part of his body to touch the ground is his feet. At high speed, imagine what the friction between flesh & asphalt would do.
I use mine on long distance rides as an alternative to padded biker pants.
Mine are from Fox. RM300.

Biker Shoes
If you have the extra cash, get some biker shoes for your long distance rides. Biker shoes are unlike conventional shoes (such as the sneakers in the picture). They provide additional protection & support to your ankles.
Good ones will set you back around RM1000.
I'll get one as soon as I can find a real girlfriend to pay for them.

Lots of Rest
Don't be a hero. When you feel tired, and you will, REST!
You will feel tired after just 30 minutes of riding. Yup, it's that difficult. Imagine sitting in the same position for an hour with only a small part of your groin to support your body weight. Also, imagine the heat down there!
Have some iced coffee to boost your senses. RM2. Hydrate often too.

Suited Up & Ready To Roll!
My girlfriend, the Kawasaki ER-6f. Isn't she beautiful?
A knapsack fits perfectly at the back & supported by the elevated pillion seat. A hot chick would fit perfectly too.
I rode all the way from Kuching to Sibu for 8 hours in this gear. There was discomfort & some circulation obstruction. I compensated by resting often.
Getting to the destination in one piece. Priceless.
Biking is a lot of fun. Esp when you bike has more than enough power for your speed fix. Honestly, I overtook every car on the road with total ease!
However, riding a bike is serious business. It's extremely dangerous & there are a lot of risks.
I'm sure you're family (just like mine) will give you a full time course on its dangers. They do that because they care for you. Appreciate their concerns & address them.

Honestly, we cannot live life avoiding all risks. That is no way to live. We would not have done anything worthwhile in our lives if we were so afraid of the risks. Every single thing in the world has its risks! Some things in life are worth risking it all for.
Neither is it a recipe for success. Imagine if the successful people you knew ran away from all the risks in their lives. They'd probably become a teacher. lol.
What we should do is manage risk. Use our God given intellect & exercise wisdom.

Don't be a moron. You can embrace risk & act stupid. You might actually get away with it for a long long time. But remember, it only takes 1 accident to rob you of your life; or even worse.
Be smart. Suit up. Always use protection.

Monday, March 11

Meaningful Rewards In Sibu

We're gonna have a blast & we don't care who's watchin'.
push my students hard so it's only right that I reward them well.
This is the 3rd consecutive time I've rewarded my school's PMR students who have scored A in the English paper. I started this in 2011 & did another in 2012. I also rewarded straight A PMR students with a trip to Kuching earlier this year.
All with the same purpose: To give my students a reward big enough (students rarely get to go to Sibu due to a poor socio-economic background) to jolt them out of their comfort zones & entice them to aim higher & work harder in the exams (English can be considered a near useless foreign language here where the Iban language is the lingua franca).

Obtaining great exams results is really important for my students who do not have the money or connections to catapult them in life. They are dependent on government/private sector grants & scholarships.
This is why I really push them hard to do well in their exams. Even if it is just PMR, A lesser exam if compared to SPM. However, I think it sets a great foundation for their studies in the upper form & gives them insights into SPM.

Also, I reward them with trips to open up their minds & expose them to glimpses of the world outside of the wilderness. During the whole duration of the trip I discuss social issues relevant to their area, share with them my ideals & brainstorm solutions. I try my best to convince them that they are capable of success & I tell them that success is supposed to be shared so that, in the end, the whole community benefits.

Anyway, enough of the philosophy lesson. Time for some pictures of what we were up to in Sibu.

It's clean, comfortable, affordable & within walking distance of everything in town.
8 students obtained an A in the 2012 PMR English language exam. I was overjoyed. This was a group I have taught since they were in Form 1. Our school had never had that many students scoring As in English before. Also, we have never had so many straight As.
3 of them were straight A students whom I have already rewarded with a trip to Kuching. Therefore, I decided not to take them along for this trip because gaji cikgu sikit saja mah. 8-3=5. A trip for 5 students would not be cheap but it'll be money well invested.

I put them up at SanYong Inn. I am a regular there so I got a great deal for our 3 rooms. 2 Twin Single rooms & 1 single room with a queen bed. The boys were in 1 Twin Single room while my brother & I were in another. The girls had a single room with a queen bed to themselves.

Believe it or not, 3D movies are available in Sibu!
I love watching movies at the cinema so I'd always catch a movie whenever I can. Anyway, it'll be a wonderful treat for my students.
That night, we watched Jack the Giant Slayer. Unfortunately, it was all in 3D. I hesitated because tickets for 7 people costed A LOT. In the end, I decided to splurge a little bit & paid for everyone's movie. It was worth it!
My students had an absolute blast! They ooed & wowed at the 3D effects. We left the cinema smiling that night.

Students are really good at pretending for the camera.
One of the places I wanted to take them to was a bookstore so that they could enjoy my teacher discount. I usually go to Academy Book Centre so the staff recognised me & gave us all a generous discount.
I also took them to a stationary store for their stationery supplies. It's a stationery store I regular too so they got a teacher discount as well. See how kind I am?

at the Sibu Heritage Centre
I also took them to the Sibu Heritage Centre & we visited the Cultural & Heritage Museum on the second floor. This museum is really well done. It's worth a visit if you are in Sibu just to learn about the rich history of this town.
This place is also one of the most photogenic parts of Sibu town.

We also went to the market, the night market & I let my students explore on their own while I settled some bills & bought my groceries.
One afternoon, I gave each of them a ride on my girlfriend, the powerful Kawasaki ER-6f. They loved it! And, I loved scaring the living daylights out of them. LOL!

Roti canai, roti telur, murtabak, tosei & teh tarik at New Nur Islamic Cafe.
Sibu is a really good place for food.
Here's a picture of us at the best roti place in town IMHO, New Nur Islamic Cafe. There is an Indian man there who will make the roti fresh at your request. It's got relatively cheap Muslim food too. (Muslim food is ridiculously expensive in Sarawak. I have no idea why.)

at Noodle House
We had lunch at Noodle House. It's a non-Halal cafe with the best & cheapest mille crepes in Malaysia! My favourite dish here is the Sizzling Beef with Rice with a glass of hot Black Tea. They've got really great filled Kompia too.

at Nice House Restaurant
I had to have a Chinese dinner before I went back to the jungle so we visited Nice House Restaurant. It's got one of the tastiest Chinese cuisine in town & also one of the cheapest! Cheap & good! The perfect combo!
We ate until we could not eat no more literally. We left with bulging bellies. LOL.

We had dinner at Pizza Hut with a few super cool teachers from my school. The teachers & I split the bill between us like real men & found out that we didn't have to pay much actually. We could have ordered more food. haha~~~
Surprisingly, I discovered that some of my students disliked mushrooms & wouldn't finish the mushroom soup. Strange. I thought everybody loved mushrooms.

McD is a happy place for many children so I took them to McDonalds for lunch. Cheaper mah from 12pm-3pm.
I haven't been to McD for a while. I've actually outgrown fast food & am now seeking healthier alternatives. Anyway, is it me or have the burgers shrunk? Nonetheless, we had a good time enjoying each other's company.

3rd of March was my brother's birthday so we surprised him with a cake a midnight. He was in his boxers. LOL.
Finally, I'm sure you're asking: how much? It's actually not much.
I spent a little over RM1000 on 7 people for transportation, 2 nights accommodation, food & entertainment.
For such a small amount of money, I'm sure I gave 5 of them a memory they will cherish for the rest of their lives. Hopefully, just hopefully, this memory contributes to their success in the future. May their success bring sustainable growth to their beautiful unknown & humble home.

View all the pictures here on my FB Page.

Tuesday, March 5

How To Break Teachers

What we should all aspire to do, no?
Have you ever wondered where do GOOD teachers come from?
You know, those who are committed & motivated. They have a purpose & know what they want.
Are they born? Or, are they made?
If they were born, then is there any hope for common people like you & I?
If they were made, how?

Push some to the left. Push some to the right. Push all the work away!
On the other hand, where do BAD teachers come from?
Those who are Tai Chi experts & who consistently produce sub-standard or half-hearted work.
Do they make a conscious decision every morning to be the way they are?
Or, are they merely victims of consequence & external factors acting upon them?

How can we prevent ourselves from descending into such depths?
Is it possible for those of us who have fallen into the pit to claw our way back out?

I like to think that 90% of teachers start out with the best of intentions. They want to do a good job & provide a halal income for their family. They try to do what they can & we should not expect more from them.
As time goes by, what happens to these 90% of teachers? After decades of teaching, what's left of the 90%? Why do the best always leave? Why are so many burnt out, demotivated & deluded?

This is my 5th year as a teacher. Let me be honest with you. Some day I feel like I'm going nuts.
I may seem like some kind of magic teacher unicorn who seems motivated & committed all the time with all my silly activities & unrealistic ideals.
But, believe me, I have my ups & I've had more than my fair share of downs.

Still hanging in there!
Some days I hold on to my sanity at the ends of my teeth. Holding on for dear life lest I tire & fall off the edge into the abyss of selfishness & indifference.
There have been countless times where I have considered greener pastures of different professions or teaching in a different country.
You cannot imagine how strong is the temptation of following in the footsteps of colleagues who have it extremely easy & still receive favourable annual reviews & promotions.

Trying to be a good teacher is bloody hard & it's not because of nosy parents who bring up lawyers at every sentence or students who have invisible horns. Most of the time, it's the system itself.

Factor #3: Mismatched Priorities


I understand that we are called to develop individuals holistically. At the same time, we have to be accountable to our country & its people which makes documentation & publicity stunts necessary.
However, I do feel that sometimes our superiors are too focused on building accountability that it takes away a large chunk of time & effort which can be put into the actual nitty-gritty of student development.

Sometimes I feel that we gather a museum full of plans, reports & other types of paperwork nobody reads, just because we are paranoid. We are afraid that our results won't be good enough & we'll get audited. Or, we're afraid that some Nazir dude will come & go through everything in our museum. Or, our boss is striving for Pengetua Cemerlang & he'll grill us if we do not angkat him/her.

Why do we have to put in so much effort into something that does not directly benefit our students?
Are we actually paid to write glowing reports, carry out publicity stunts & compose plans with ever more ridiculous slogans?
Why are our rewards (Guru Cemerlang, LMPT, promotion, et cetera) so dependent on the above?
If we can write up glorious paperwork & come up with activities that have snazzy names, is it okay to be mediocre teachers in the classroom?

The ideal thing would be to trust teachers again.
They should not be drowning in paperwork or fenced in by policy, bureaucracy or tradition.
They should be set free to do what they think is right with or without the paperwork.
Give them goals & targets. Give them the resources, authority & moral support they need to do what they need to do. Back them up for God's sake.
Let them bend the rules or tradition a bit. Besides, aren't we preparing our students for the FUTURE?

Factor #2: Work Environment


They say a new broom sweeps cleaner.
When new teachers are posted to a school, it's a frenzy. The seniors climbs over one another to be the first to use the broom to sweep away their burdens.
New teachers tend to inherit all the worst or unwanted duties at school.
Honestly, teachers are not brooms. We are supposed to build them up to be leaders & beacons of inspiration.

Remember the story of the Little Red Hen?
When new teachers are given a task, they tend to have a go at it wholeheartedly. Sadly, all too often, they are abandoned with the task. They ask for help but get very little in return. Eventually, when they get the job done, they are left to feel unappreciated or, if they win something, everybody wants a piece of the cake. What's worse is, if they ever make a mistake along the way, they are belittled & humiliated.

No matter how we have been treated in the past when we were juniors, we are still capable of generous acts of consideration for the greater good of developing these young teachers to be better than we are. That is the only way for our education system to progress.
I just cannot imagine a system that deliberately sabotages it's successors. What will happen to a system if the new generation gets worse & worse over time?

When duties are assigned to juniors, our attitudes as seniors matter a lot more than we think.
If we see the job as dumb & worthless, do you think that the juniors will think differently? Can we blame them for performing poorly or feeling demotivated?
We need to help them see how what they do fits into the whole machinery of the school. In actual fact, every part is essential to the functioning of the school. From the top man to the groundsman. They should be made to feel proud & appreciated even if they were, say, Head Stamp Licker.


Factor #1: Leadership


If a school has a good leader, there would be very little problems in the school. Well, except too much work or a lot of pressure to perform. But, if you wanted to get something done, your leader will make it as easy as he can for you. And, most importantly, he has your back any time something bad happens or if you do not meet your targets.
Sadly, I do not hear of many leaders like this.

I often hear about leaders who take the lead in... taking things easy.
They don't get their hands dirty with the school, student discipline or student achievement.
They want to be away from school as much as possible. Joining every meeting or event possible.
The school has no direction & everything is pretty much laissez-faire.

There are also the tyrants who want everything done in their way.
They could be chasing after titles like Pengetua Cemerlang or Sekolah Kluster & cracking whips without due consideration for the minions who move brick after brick to build their pyramids.
They make their teachers do the most meaningless & menial tasks because THEY SAID SO.

There are also leaders who take advantage of their position to make money off the school or their position. Cuti, claim, purchases, you name it they've maximised it. Costs are inflated & quality of work is questionable.
You want to buy teaching aids or photocopy exam questions? Tough luck. School's got no money for you. Do it at your own expense. Then, school pays for expensive stuff that nobody uses.

Now, imagine if new teachers were to work under these leaders. What kind of teachers would they become under such leadership?
We need good leaders in schools. Not those who are old or near retirement. Not those who are power crazy or steps on other people to get promoted. Not those who are clearly looking to line their pockets. And especially not those who have consistently shown that they are incompetent as teachers or are untrustworthy.

We need leaders who want to take the school to another level.
Leaders who care about their students, teachers & staff. Leaders who are not afraid to get their hands dirty & work hard. Leaders who walk the talk.
If we put good leaders in schools, everything else takes care of itself.

Do any of the descriptions above reflect your workplace? What have you done to cope?
Have I missed any factors worth mentioning? How do these factors affect your ability to perform?
Do you think that I'm full of it or am I totally wrong? Do let me know.

Let's discuss in the comments section below.

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