Saturday, June 21

TFM Connect_ED 2014

Connect_ED 2014 by Teach For Malaysia
There is one time in a year when I feel a little less crazy for being the way I am.
There is one time in a year when I recharge my soul & spirit without having to do anything.
There is one time in a year when I feel hopeful for the future of my country.
There is one time in a year when I feel really old because of the fresh young new faces.

Many new teachers come up to me & express a desire to do what I am doing. No, they don't mean working in the jungle with low proficiency students for half a decade. All they see is the fluff. My travelling around to attend all sorts of ministry meetings, conferences, speaking & giving talks. That is what they want.
What they do not see is the process of getting from where I was, an obscure teacher working his butt off in the middle of nowhere where nobody cares, to a still obscure teacher known & appreciated by those who care.

Doing what I'm doing is a lonely road. Believing the best in my students. Doing my best to provide them with what they need to succeed. Burning fingers & stepping on toes to bulldoze my way to doing what I think is right.
For a long time, I have been working in isolation in the middle of nowhere. I dare not speak of my ideals lest I be branded a madman. During my darkest days, I wonder to myself whether I am crazy. I wonder to myself whether it is worth it. I wonder to myself whether any of this will ever make a difference in the long run.

This cycle of slaving, doubting, salving, wondering, slaving, crying, slaving, hurting, went on & on for years. Those were my darkest years where I tasted the deep dagger of betrayal & being abandoned. Amazing thing was I kept fighting & believing. Great colleagues joined me in my quest. I hung on to whatever hope I could find like my life depended on it. All in the name of doing what I thought was right & honourable.

I shared Remedial Instruction with a full house of 26 participants.
It was really a short 75 minute sneak-peak of the 2 day course I did with the teachers in Song & Kapit.
Curious? I have conveniently shared the complete PowerPoint slides below!
Then, I was discovered by Sarah Lasung of Teach For Malaysia. She ran a programme at my school. She involved me with her organisation. The first time I worked with them was like discovering a new home for my heart. There was actually an organisation which brings in highly qualified Malaysian graduates to do more than dream & put in 2 years of their lives at a challenging school so that all children in Malaysia to have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.

We worked together again last year. And, this year, I was ecstatic at the opportunity to join them for their Connect_ED education conference. Also, they'll be coming to Sarawak next year so I foresee that I will be working with them again in the very near future.

The best thing about being at Connect_ED is knowing that the hundreds gathered there are people actively DOING something every single day to make a difference in the classrooms. Talk to any fellow & you will feel their passion & enthusiasm. You can also relate to their frustrations. Many of them are in worse situations than I am. When they ask me for advice, I am at times flabbergasted because I honestly wouldn't know what to do. But, they are constantly finding new ways to reach out & never giving up. That is what every teacher needs to do & I am reminded of this each time I work with TFM.

Some of the people I know & love working towards similar goals.
I wish I was shameless enough to ask more people to take selfies with me. Something to work on next year.
There are many idealistic teachers like me (who are not from TFM) in our education system who are not as fortunate as I am to be discovered & given the opportunity to collaborate with like-minded people. Many are still working in isolation & thinking that they are crazy. Some have probably burnt out & given up. Some have already resigned from teaching & taken up successful careers in other fields. This is a loss to our system & to our children.

If you know a good teacher or even a BAD one, send them a message of encouragement today. You might change their lives. How can you expect them to change the lives of their students if you are not willing to support them with a simple message of encouragement? You'll be surprised. Even the best ones get very few of these.
But when we make a small mistake, it's like we've become the devil incarnate. This is why I had to respond to a certain over the top open letter. Teachers need to be defended & trusted to do what is best in their situation. Constructive criticism is always helpful & it must always be done thoughtfully & tactfully.

If you are already a teacher, I can't thank you enough. You are doing our country & people a great service.
If you know a teacher doing outstanding work but is not being recognised, contact me. I would love to feature them on my blog. Although I do not have a large readership, I would love to have the honour of giving them a simple small gesture of thanks.

If you want to make a real difference in our country, you're in luck. Teach For Malaysia is always looking for quality people to join their fellowship & be a person who WALKS the talk. Honestly, TFM's programme is both rigourous, empowering & energising at the same time. Much much more exciting & challenging than the ministry's way of preparing teachers.


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