Saturday, April 27

I Was Cetak Rompak-ed

Check it out. Somebody totally cetak rompak-ed a few of my FB pictures & used it in his FB profile.

A friend of mine noticed this FB picture from the friend list of a friend of hers. This was an old picture of me back in 2008.
There's also my latest FB picture where I'm all wrapped up I could be Keanu Reaves.
Honestly, I don't feel offended at all. This is really flattering really. I've seen people who use pictures of celebrities/cartoon/professional photos of made-up girls but I had never in my wildest dreams imagined that someone would use MY photos. lol. They're not even that good!

The first photo was a photo of me pretending to pay attention to a lecture when I was actually sound asleep a few seconds before the photo was taken. lol.
The biker picture was taken by my mom before my maiden long distance voyage on my bike. Way to go, mom!

I would send him a message to thank him personally but, unfortunately, he has blocked me. So, FB being the shining beacon of privacy security, simply tells me that he does not exist.
Well, if you're reading this, Ting PS, whoever & wherever you are... Thanks. You made my day.

Update (29/4/2013): After several readers easily Googled the identity of the person who owns this FB profile, I decided to protect her identity (including deleting comments).
Ting PS, I apologise for not foreseeing this earlier. I took action as soon as I got back from Hari Kadet Polis this morning & a tiring weekend conducting the Prefect Leadership Camp.

Saturday, April 20

The Most Heartbreaking Thing In Teaching

When I'm heartbroken, I get more like this than teary or emotional. lol
When you read the title, you're probably thinking some colleague stabbed my back. Or, maybe an administrator shut down one of my programmes. Maybe the students played a prank on me. Or, maybe a parent came at me with a parang & blew sumpits at me.
Honestly, character attacks, criticism, backstabbing comes with the territory.

I am the nail that sticks out. Some people will feel like hammering me down. Some people will support me & learn from my experiences.
Either way, I've learned not to let it bother me & instead focus on what I want to achieve.
Achieving it, in itself, is a good enough reward to me. I don't need no appreciation. I ain't no kindergarten kid.

Also, let me say that I am not perfect. I do make mistakes & I do cut corners to get the job done because honestly there is just too much to do!
I really salute the person who can be a perfect teacher & do everything the ministry prescribes, fulfil all his/her obligations & materialise all his/her ideas inside & outside the classroom.
I wish to be like that one day... and then some.

Here it is.
The most heartbreaking thing in teaching is building something great the first time around, leaving it in the hands of another, coming back to it a few years later, seeing your work undone, and having to do it all over again.
THAT is the most HEARTBREAKING & DEMOTIVATING thing about teaching.

Yeah... Pussy gets me.
How many of you have experienced the same thing?
Do you feel like doing it all over again?
Of course, I can do way better the second time around. But, it just stabs really deep to see something you put in a lot of tender loving care to build, disappear.
What's the point of doing it so great again when it might just disappear again when I go?
Sad.

It's hard not to play the blame game. I wont go into that today because I have never walked a mile in their shoes.
I guess I'm a victim of my own success. I did well the first time around which makes it hard to fill my shoes & do something similar. So, very few try. They'll have 101 very rational reasons not to. Interior school. No resources. No support. Blah blah blah. So what did they do? They allowed themselves to be defeated before the war had begun.
THAT's just how I am feeling now... I guess I'll have to go through the 4 stages of how to survive teaching I wrote about recently. Talk about putting my money where my mouth is.

THE STORY

I was head of the English Panel (with it the head of the English Language Society advisers) & head of the Police Cadet advisers back in 2010. That was my best year ever because I could do so much within that 1 year. I will briefly list down what I've done so you get to compare & contrast.

English Language Panel: Resurrecting The English Language Society. Again the next yearStarting the Katibas Global newspaperBringing the English Language Week to a whole new level. Pushing it even further the next year. Joined a video competition with ELS members. Again the next year. Staying back during the August holidays & giving a talk about PMR English paper. And again the next year + SPMRewarding excellent English Language PMR results. And again. And again + Kuching trip for straight A studentsProducing the first ever wholly English school magazine. Amongst others.

Police Cadets: Field trip to the District Police Station (career talk + safety talk + gun display + bike ride), Police Cadet Day, Police talk in school, marching training, amongst others. Unfortunately, I did not blog about those. Will do so for my activities this year.

In 2011, I quit because I wanted to focus on being a good Chief Warden. With a laid-back leader, I had to play a bigger role in school discipline & academic performance. I organised an Earth Hour blackout. And again. Organised Hostel Open Day. And again. Organised Hostel Olympics. Got involved with almost every camp organised by the school because I was part of the discipline committee & representative of admin like this one. And this one. And this oneOrganised motivation programmes for PMR students. Organised programmes for at-risk studentsOrganised birthday celebrations. Organised merdeka celebrations. Blessed the lower level staffDefended the hostel allocation from buaya darat. Amongst others.
So you see, I wasn't just hanging around the canteen drinking coffee. I can't be a great Chief Warden if I still have to take care of a club or uniformed body.

This year, 2013, I quit as a Chief Warden because I feel that all my efforts to sustain school discipline & academic achievement has taken too big a toll on my body, personal time & well-being. I was almost doing the job of a principal albeit the power of a principal.
Now that I am no longer CW, admin wants me to do what I used to do. So, They made me head of the English Panel, head of the English Language Society advisers & adviser to the Police Cadet. I'm also a form teacher & I teach 5 English language classes: 1 Form 5 class, 3 Form 2 PBS classes & 1 Form 1 PBS class.
Yay to workload.

The English panel & English Language Society has become really simple under the previous head who was my junior & got transferred earlier than me. It has little or no impact on the school population like it used to in 2010 & 2011 like I designed it to be.
I'm still considering whether it is worth it to add it's re-resurrection to my workload.
We only have 4 English teachers. So, I'd rather not delegate unless they volunteer because the others are having an equally hard time with their involvements. And, who in the right mind would volunteer for more work except crazy baskets like ME?!

As for the Police Cadets, I was really disappointed when the uniforms I worked so hard to source were not taken cared of.
Back in 2010, after seeing how my students (all of them could not afford uniforms) looked really dejected for not having uniforms on Police Cadet Day, I wrote a letter to the Kapit MP for allocation to purchase uniforms to lend to the students. With some pulling of strings, I was successful. Then, I bargained with a tailor for top quality uniforms at a lower price. I obtained 27 uniforms.
In 2012, the ministry allocated some money for uniforms & a few more were added.

Today, there are only 18 uniforms left & all of them have missing accessories. The accessories can only be obtained in Sibu... 1 hour sampan ride & 2 hour express boat ride away.
The Police Cadet Day is on the 29th. I am involved in a Prefect Camp from the 26-28th so I have to purchase the missing accessories this weekend. However, this weekend has a school day replacement.
After teaching this morning, I rushed to Sibu & purchased all the accessories I needed. Tomorrow afternoon, I will make my journey back to school.

Why didn't I do this earlier? Well, I was only informed last weekend. I checked the uniforms on Monday assuming they'd be there with just a few missing. It hurt to find that more than 10 sets have gone missing as well as RM300 worth of accessories.
After this, I will never lend the uniforms for any parade, skit, etc unless it is a Police Cadet activity.

As a whole, the Police Cadets were much better off than the English language panel because the previous head adviser organised a lot of activities for them, like camps deep into the interiors.
This year, I am actually more motivated to do Police Cadet activities because I have a good partner. I plan to write a letter asking for uniforms or accessories as well as organise another field trip to the Police Station.

Also, I am going to build up Form 4 students to take over leadership of the English Language Society and the Police Cadets next year. I feel that the students are too dependent on teachers to spoon-feed them with activities.
Will attempt to train students to plan & execute their own activities.

At the moment, I have very little time to mourn. I guess I'll lick my wounds & soldier on.

Sunday, April 14

How To Survive Teaching

This is how most people view teaching. And oh, how the envy goes both ways.
As with other professions, teaching has its own set of challenges; namely a posting in the interiors, overbearing leaders, unbelievable targets, Emmy award-esque classroom performances, classroom control, marking, clerical chores, office politics, subordination, workload taichi, etc.
It also has it's perks, long holidays & an above market rate salary. But, there are times I have been so drained & alone that I wonder if it was worth it. I have, many times during the past few years, seriously wondered why I'm still working at the level I am now. It is just so tempting & easy to join the "backbenchers". I'm glad that I didn't.

Today, I want to share about how I survived as a teacher. I believe the same principles can be applied to other professions & many aspects of life.
I know that there are many people out there struggling with the teaching profession. We have & will probably continue to have ups & downs in this profession.
The truth is. Work is work. It is especially hard if you don't enjoy it or do not think that it is your thing.

I guess we were not prepared for a hard life. Most of us had it pretty easy during our studying days. School & university was a breeze. We could sleep all day & do our assignments at the last minute.
We were probably not that serious about our part time jobs too because we had a parent-chute to rescue us should we fall into financial trouble.

So, what are you going to do? Do you want to thrive? Or, do you want to merely survive?
The easy thing to do would be to quit. Honestly, if you quit before you've truly tired to fight for your survival, you're a coward.
Believe it or not, you are actually a professional. You've beaten millions of other candidates & gotten yourself into a premier civil service position. Also, you have a degree. That means that you have something in between your ears. Use it.

Teaching is not easy but it is also the most rewarding profession in the world. You get to shape lives & make a difference.
If you feel that this is not what you want to do, don't bother to continue reading.
If you are fed up with your circumstances & want to do something about it, read on & follow the 4 steps I took myself recently.

1. Allow Yourself To Grieve

We are humans & we have emotions for a reason. It is our greatest ally as teachers & also our greatest weakness.
When our expectations are not met or if we have been unfairly exploited, it will build up in our emotions. An extended period of overworked or suppressed emotions will lead to breakdowns or burnout.

Do whatever you need to do to vent your worn out emotions. Scream, cry, eat ice cream, dance, travel, take time off, do the Harlem shake. Whatever you want to do, do it. You cant use your head if your heart is in a mess.
Once you've taken an emotional dump, you can move on to the next stage.

2. Accept Your Circumstances

Whatever your situation, be it condescending colleagues, unsupportive superiors, unfair distribution of work, an assortment of knives sticking out of your back, uncooperative students, mischievous pranks, aggressive helicopter parents, etc, accept it for what it is.
Also, you might need to begin accepting your inability to change your circumstances.

Don't try to make your circumstances out to be what they are not, because, the reality is, they will NEVER be what they are not. Do NOT compare. The more you do, the worse you will feel. Look at your circumstances as they are & make peace with your misfortune.
The sooner you accept your circumstances for what they are, the sooner you can work on making things better for you.

3. Appreciate What You Do Have

The truth is every cloud has a silver lining. Admit it. There is something within your circumstances that you love & it adds to you. It could be the students who respond to you, the colleagues who support you, the parents who appreciate you, the unique opportunities you have, etc. Any little positive thing. Hold on to it.

Understand that in every circumstance there is a good side & a bad side. Unfortunately, we are usually too obsessed with the bad side that we often overlook all the good that is around us.
If we focus on what is bad, we will eventually become that which we despise. If we focus on what is good, we can build on from there.
Until you can begin to see good things about your situation & appreciate it, you are not ready to thrive.

4. Teach Like You're In The Best School Ever

It sounds crazy, doesn't it? There you are being spun around like Kylie Minogue & here I am some idiot in the jungle telling you to teach like you're in the best school ever when, in reality, you are not!
Well, until you have unloaded your emotional baggage, made peace with your circumstances & begun to see the good things around you, you can't teach like you're in the best school ever.
Honestly, what have you got to lose? Your only alternative is to continue dwelling in the depths of despair at a place you despise. Isn't it time you turned the sheet thrown at you into gold?

Let me give you a simple comparison. Imagine a teacher teaching in the best school ever. Now, imagine a teacher teaching in the worst school ever. Which one will do better?
The truth is it's all the in head. Best or worst is merely a matter of opinion. The same school could be the best to one & the worst to another.
But, there is a whole world of difference in the actions taken by a person who thinks that he's at an awesome place to serve compared to a person who thinks that he should be working elsewhere.

Imagine that you are in the best school ever. What kind of activities would you like to carry out? Make it big. Make it slightly beyond you. Bring other people in. Above all, make it happen.
This is probably the most important advice I can give you as a teacher: Make things happen instead of allowing things to happen to you.

Network. During the holidays, visit your PPD & JPN. Find out who is the officer in charge of your subject. Find ways to collaborate.
Build relationships with the teachers from other schools. Find ways to collaborate.
Keep an eye out for events by NGOs / GOs relevant to your subject matter. Attend. Build relationships. Collaborate.
Keep an eye out for conferences. Attend. Build relationships. Collaborate. At one point of your career, you should be a presenter during one of these conferences. Everybody has something unique worth sharing.

There are infinite possibilities on how to thrive as a teacher. There is no reason for you to be unable to top yourself each & every year.
The time for self-pity & excuses have passed.
It is now time to take control of your circumstances & make a difference.
Remember, your circumstances do not decide what kind of teacher you become. You do.

Saturday, April 6

What To Do When Facebook Rejects Your Legitimate Password

Serving at a school in the middle of a jungle where the internet is shared between 40+ teachers & 30+ staff, one can only expect ninja turtle slow speeds. School's paying for a 1Mbps VSAT connection from TMnet but most of the time it feels like a 28k dail-up connection. During working hours, we can forget about using the mega traffic-jammed internet.

The internet many of you enjoy with seamless Youtube steaming & snap-speed FB picture loading is a wet dream of sorts. The only time we can experience that kind of speeds is in the middle of the night (when everybody is asleep) or during the weekends (when everybody is not in school). The rest of the time, we'll have to hit the refresh button every 5 minutes. The internet is a luxury here.

So you can imagine how frustrated I was last night when I was rudely disowned by Facebook.
I didn't go online all day as I was giving extra classes to a class of low proficiency students during the afternoon & evening. After a long day at work, I poured myself a glass of wine, sat down on my couch, turned on my computer, loaded Facebook & attempted to log in.

Facebook took me to a failed login page with a notice 'Do not log in from 3rd party websites. Type your username & password only on the Facebook.com domain.' Helloooooooooooo, that's exactly what I was doing & I am on your bloody site!

After a few failed attempts, I thought that it would be a great idea to reset my password so I clicked "Forgot your password?". BAD IDEA. I changed my password & I still FAILED to login. I kept getting the same notice. Why is Facebook accusing me of using 3rd party websites?

I repeated the reset password process a few times until eventually, the Facebook gods decided to lock the gates. "You have entered too many (reset) codes. Please try again later."
Oh, later. Okay, that means 10 minutes, right? NOT! I could not login nor reset my password for the next 12 hours! I was perplexed & agitated.

It was horrifying to think of losing the social profile (friends, pictures, etc) which I have had since the beginning of Facebook. Back in the day, it was only open to varsity students & you had to have a university email address to use the site. It was pretty exclusive back then. Nowadays, even a newborn kid can have a profile.

Anyway, I did a little digging on Google & found out that I could not reset again until after 24 hours! I found out that lots of other people were having login problems too but none of theirs was like mine. I couldn't find a solution anywhere. Facebook's solution was to make sure my caps lock is off. But my brother had an effective solution all along...

He had experienced the same thing & advised me to log in via the moblie version of Facebook. Then, access the desktop version via a link illustrated below. Worked like a charm! Thanks, bro!

So now you know what to do when Facebook acts absent minded & rejects your legitimate password! Give it a slap, bend it over & enter the stubborn site from another door!

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