Sunday, June 21

Motivate Your Students To Write Longer & Better: The Pen Pal Project

A simple yet powerful writing programme: the Pen Pal Project.

How do you feel when you ask your students to do a writing assignment? For me, it's less than pleasant. Even with the "better" classes, I have to flex my teacher muscles just to get my students to hand in their work &, most of the time, I get half-hearted work which is hastily done, short &, after reading a few of them, repetitive.

I spent my early teaching years pondering & experimenting to pique my students' interest in writing & motivate them to write more. I started by asking what would motivate ME to write?
1) An authentic audience
2) Social interaction
3) Novel experience

With these 3 factors, I experimented with all sorts of programmes like getting my students to make their own big books because we didn't have big books at that time, getting students to tell stories to other students, & show & tell. None worked as well as the Pen Pal Project which I started experimenting with since 2010 & recently found out that I've only blogged about it once in 2011.


What is the Pen Pal Project?

Connecting a group of students from my school with another group of students from another school somewhere in Malaysia & exchanging letters once a month. Over the years, my students have exchanged letters with students from all over Malaysia!


What is the Outcome of the Programme?

If you've never seen a student light up at a writing assignment, you've got to try this one. This is when many of my students first discover that they can write for school AND enjoy it at the same time. Also, over time I've had students surprise me with beautifully decorated letters & also letters which are longer & more elaborate than I'd usually get from a regular assignment. Which is why this is one of my staple programmes run every year.

Not convinced? Read the following feedback from teachers I've collaborated with.

Monday, June 15

A Brief Timeline of the Power Outage

Imagine using candles every night for 3 weeks.
We'll find a way to carry on despite our circumstances. Nonetheless, do continue to pray for us.


This is not the first time we've had electricity or water problems at school. We've had them since my first year here. Back then, outages rarely lasted more than a few days. Last year was when things started to get worse. We had 2 lengthy power outages for up to a cumulative 2 weeks. Long-term solutions should have been implemented then.

The best thing is, every time something happens to the water or electric supply, ALL the teachers, students & staff will band together to make things better & soldier through the extremely difficult circumstances instead of pointing fingers or merely complaining. We always have teachers who are willing to step up.

I'm eternally thankful to be part of this family so early in my teaching career. It is only in difficult times do we learn the true meaning of esprit de corps & berat sama dipikul ringan sama dijinjing. A bond forged in fire. This powerful bond which transcends race & religion is what I aspire to recreate in whatever organisations I lead in the future.

In this blog post, I want to share a brief timeline of the recent power outage that went viral. We have been waiting for 2 months now & the situation is still not fully resolved. As described by the most senior staff at school, this power outage is the worst in his entire career of 20+ years at this school!

Read the timeline below & you'll find out why.
Bear in mind that it is written from an eyewitness's fallible memory. I'm not sharing this to condemn anyone. I'm sharing so that we can all learn & improve. If you feel uncomfortable by what is shared here (as candid as I possibly could), then perhaps you should have done more for us.

**I will continue to update this post as the days go by until there is an adequate resolution.**

Sunday, June 7

School Power Outage: Who The True Heroes Are

See that trolley? See those portable generators?
Early every morning, they would put the portable generators on the trolley & push them to the office where they ran the generators so that we could do some basic office work on limited devices.
Every evening, they would move those generators to the hostels & quarters to light up corridors & the school hall so students could study at night.
Imagine the same people doing it every day for weeks without fail.
Imagine students running away from helping because of the trouble it took to bathe after the hard work!

If this isn't heroism, I don't know what is.
They could have just as easily stayed at home & done nothing but complain about the situation.
I'm sure that you are well-aware of the power outage at my school. You might also be aware that, because I was the one who appealed to the public for help, I am bestowed with an abundant halo effect which resulted in me being thought of as some sort of a Ghandi-like teacher as evidenced here.
Honestly, I've done nothing for the school during the power outage & I'm not a hero.

True heroes rarely show themselves.
They quietly do the work required to make everyone's lives better. They don't need to be publicly lauded.
Those who like to blow their own horns & talk about their achievements don't always tell the full story of how countless others worked so hard to get them to where they are today.

I want to set the record straight.
I'm going to tell you who the real heroes are & tell you what they did which made life so much better at school during the power outage when we didn't have electricity or water at school for weeks.
I'll reveal who the heroes are at the end of this post. Their identities will surprise you.

Monday, June 1

I Signed Up To Get Windows 10 For Free

My first thoughts were: What? Is this a virus? Scam?
Still, I clicked on it to find out what it was about.
Today, I turned on my laptop & found this peculiar icon on my taskbar. I wondered for a moment whether my laptop was infected with a virus but I'm really careful with viruses & "free" toolbars so it was likely that this was a legit icon from Microsoft.

So, I clicked to find out what it was about & unveiled a wonderful present from uncle Bill & co.

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