2019 TJ Comics: Monthly English Comics

When I found out that the students at my school: (1) read at levels several years below their current age, (2) don’t read in English, & (3) don’t have English language reading materials easily available. I decided to print essays from students for students every month & have them pasted in every class.

What if I have students who can barely read due to years of academic neglect & literacy drought? My students hail from all over Sarawak, including rural areas and low-income communities. Unlike SMS/MRSM/Kolej, our sports school does not turn away students who perform poorly in their studies. We have accepted and kept students with straight Es as long as they have good discipline & they show commitment to their sport. Where they come from does not determine where they will be in the future. I believe my students have the ability to face their fears, improve, and win.

What kind of reading material would such students be able to comprehend & benefit from? After …

What To Do When Your Unifi Service Suddenly Drops

After finally putting my kid to sleep, I was about to settle into the couch with my wife & stream a movie, when my Unifi fiber optic internet connection suddenly dropped. When it didn't come back after 1 hour, I realized that I had to do something. Considering that I pay my bills promptly every month, it must be a technical issue. Here's what I did to fix the problem. It look me less than 20 minutes.

1. First, I checked my modem (the white machine). I checked the lights on the modem. When the modem is functioning properly, lights will be on for POWER, PON, LAN1 & TEL1. If the red light for LOS lights up, call 100 to resolve the issue. Also, I made sure that all the wire connections were tight.

2. Next, I checked my router (the black machine). Again, I checked the lights. When the router is functioning properly, lights will be on for POWER, GLOBE, WIFI, LAN1. My POWER light was blinking, so that means that there was no internet connection. Again, I made sure that all th…

2019 TJ Writes: Monthly English Bulletin

As a teacher, what do you do when you find that the students at your school: (1) read at levels several years below their current age, (2) don’t read in English, & (3) don’t have English language reading materials easily available.

After some consideration, I decided on a monthly English bulletin with contributions from the student population. These contributions come in the form of essays of any topic of any length. The bulletin will be printed & posted in each classroom.

Why? Besides addressing the problems described in the first paragraph, I wanted students to (1) have both short & long model essays easily available to the students, (2) see their peers write in English & think that it's possible for them too, (3) celebrate students' writing in English, (4) flood the school with English, & (5) provide an avenue for the critical & creative use of English. [I was so happy when Jessie Abbygil submitted the only critical essay of the year expressing her …

2019 Pen-Pals From Sarawak With Love (And One Nightmare!)

As a teacher, what would you do when you find out that a staggering majority of your students lack basic writing skills & would rather copy from their friends who have copied some random essay in the textbook? Do you, (1) call them names & blame them/their circumstances/their grandfathers, or (2) figure out how to make writing more relevant to their lives? The answer is kind of obvious, right?

In this day & age, what kind of long-form writing do people still perform? For most people, it’s emails. I could do an email exchange program for my students, but I don’t like how I’m unable to vet every reply to ensure that (1) respect was shown to the recipient, (2) effort was put into the reply, and (3) content is appropriate. The best equivalent to emails is snail mail letters. Since this was my first year at the school, I did a pilot program to see how pen-pal exchanges would work in my current context, since it worked spectacularly for my previous school in rural Sarawak.

Pulai Baru: Finding Myself At SMK Katibas Again

I left SMK Katibas in late 2015. Although I really miss SMK Katibas & the children there, I never expected to be able to return so soon after having a kid. Therefore, I was extremely grateful when MESTR wanted to involve me in a Parental & Community Engagement Program in Song, Sarawak. I was engaged to conduct a breakout session for SPM students of Song with one of their "killer" subjects, English.

The plan was a 2-in-1 program at 2 longhouses. An educational event involving students in Song at one longhouse & an official event with Dato Sri Michael Manyin involving the local community at another. The dream was to demonstrate that the rumah panjai (longhouse) could be a place of learning & encourage tuai rumah (longhouse chief) to have learning programs conducted in their ruai (common room).

Children benefit from associating reading/learning with the love, especially when parents read to them or get involved in their early learning. Also, if regular educatio…

2019 PostcardX with ASEAN Countries

A few months ago, I was engaged as a mentor at a YSEALI regional workshop with representatives from all 11 ASEAN countries. At the end of the workshop, I had access to all of them via a WhatsApp Group. I really hate WhatsApp Groups. I realized the value of having contacts abroad & the great potential for collaboration, so I asked if anyone in the group wanted to do a postcard exchange between their classes & mine.

Working with students who have low-proficiency, low-confidence & low-interest in English is a significant challenge & I jumped at the opportunity to provide a authentic context for my students to use English & to experience first hand how this language can connect them with the world. Fortunately, I received enough affirmatives to pair every class at my school with a different ASEAN partner, specifically Brunei, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, Philippines & Cambodia. Almost had a Timur Leste counterpart too, but she had difficulties securi…

2019 Post-PT3 English Day Activities

Before my arrival, the different language teachers under the Language Department worked together to plan & run activities for a Post-PT3 Language Day. Many hands made light work. However, last year, I noticed that, instead of practicing their English during the English segments of the day, students would revert to BM/BIban. This reflects their low English proficiency & highlights the critical need for more practice & exposure to English.

Therefore, this year, I asked for English to have it's own day & the surprised reaction I got indicated that I was likely the only teacher to ask for more time with the post-PT3 students. Therefore, I'd like to thank my colleagues, Cikgu Gan & Cikgu Amy, for going the extra mile by leading their own segments & providing support to the students during my sessions.

Special thanks to Dr. Tamas Kiss who designed Activities 2 & 3. He is a highly qualified & cited ESL teacher-trainer who is currently in Kuching hopin…