Tuesday, September 30

Post-Mortem: 1 Maju Group Blog Project

picture taken from picasaweb.google.com

As many of you would know, I have just finished my practicum at a Malaysian Secondary School.
In this school, I had the opportunity to teach a highly motivated & good proficiency class.
With this class, I have experimented with a writing activity.
This writing activity involves getting the students to work in groups to practice their writing skills on blogs.
I called this experiment: 1 Maju Group Blog Project
I mentioned this in a previous post: My Students Blog Too!

Yesterday, I completed a post-mortem on the experiment.
In this report, I evaluated the advantages and limitations of implementing a group blog writing activity in a Malaysian Secondary School classroom.
The full report can be found at the 1 Maju Group Blog Project Website
I will put up a summary here.

The advantages I observed were:
- Positive Group Work
- Motivating
- Language Enrichment

The disadvantages I observed were:
- Individual Focus Lacking
- Sleeping Partners & Partners Left Out
- Deadlines Not Honoured

I found the group blogs to be an excellent on-going enrichment activity with the advantages mentioned above.
However, I warned that the disadvantages have to be taken into account or the whole activity would lose a lot of its relevance.
At the end, I promised to evaluate the setting of my future school & employ a similar activity.

I would like to acknowledge the willingness of 1 Maju to be volunteered in this experiment.
You have made it a successful one!
I learned a lot about Malaysian student attitudes, Malaysian school infrastructure & the internet in Malaysian classrooms.
Thank you, 1 Maju!

Monday, September 29

I've Grown Acustomed To Her Face

It has finally come to an end.
My 12-week practicum at SMK Puteri Titiwangsa.
The overall experience has been really good & this school has given me the extra drive to do my best in my future teaching profession.
hmmm~~~ Which gets me thinking...
should I start praying to be posted at a girls' school next year?

Anyway, SMK PT is a wonderful school to begin your teaching journey in.
The students do not have any major discipline issues & the general population is very welcoming towards outsiders like myself.
Furthermore, the admin staff has a very good working relationship with the teaching staff.
This means that anything a teacher needs for his students will always be provided for swiftly.
I guess one of the main factors for the excellence in this school is the humble, friendly & shrewd principal, Datin Rokiah.
Just as I have begun to settle in, I am forced to leave this school...
And this, with a heavy heart...

taken from en.wikipedia.org

Just like Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, I have grown accustomed to the face of my Eliza, this school.
I was not able to see how wonderful she was at the beginning because I was too distracted by how uncivilised she seemed.
Yet as I got to know her, as I taught her, as I watched her develop, as she refined her habits, as she showcased her many hidden talents, as she displayed gentle womanly strength...
I felt a strange tugging on my heart...
I can't possibly let her go...
I've grown accustomed to her face...

ahh~~ 1 Maju...
This is the class who I rarely have a headache teaching.
The only headache I have is that they demand a lot of attention & they want to play all the time!
Then again, they are still the ideal class to take your lecturer to for observation!
All sorts of activities that I dreamed up were all carried out successfully with this class.
A highly motivated, active & unrestrained class indeed!

With this class, I also experimented with student blogging or the Group Blog Project.
My main purpose was to actually write an action research on the effects of internet writing on the students of this class.
However, as responsibilities started piling up, I realised that I did not have the time.
So I decided to let it be a low-pressure pilot project for me to experiment and not be tied down by protocol & research red-tape.

sigh~~ 4ERT...
Life has not been easy on you...
You do not have what many others have and you will continue to be neglected unless you start stepping up and showing that you want to and are able to take on more!
You have been greatly neglected by the school and many teachers...
If I stayed, I would have done you some good...
lots of good...
If only you would come to school regularly & work harder academically...

Even though we struggle, I am glad to have taught your class.
It is from you that I learned to think on-my-toes and seek different approaches for the explanation of seemingly simple concepts or definitions.
You have also taught me a lot on working with low motivation students.
I appreciate your efforts in pushing yourselves harder with me.
I wish you all the best as you prepare for SPM & life after...

Thank you SMK Puteri Titiwangsa for accommodating the needs of my college, my colleagues and myself.
It has been great!
Wishing you all the best of success!

p/s: I would be more than glad to come back next year & teach at your school as a full-fledged teacher!

Wednesday, September 24

What I Know About Relationships

taken from inmagine.com

A few months ago, I was given a task by a friend to write for an online magazine.
The topic was a letter written to a younger me.
At that moment of life, I was pondering upon what it really means to be with a woman & what is she in a man's life.
Here is my letter to a younger me...

Dear Younger Me,

I know exactly how you feel. I understand your needs. I was curious like you were. I watched the same movies and read the same novels. I know that you like girls, keep it that way. They require a lot of work but everything you put into her comes back multiple folds. She is the perfect investment. Invest in her and you will never end up with a loss!

But how do you choose? Remember to choose only one. I know you are curious about other women but honestly speaking, one woman is more fulfilling than many women. When one woman decides to give you her all, it is better than any gift you can ever imagine. Definitely better than what the many women can give you. Besides, it is not in your nature to have multiple women. I know. However, do not go with just any woman. Time your time to discover her. Intuition will lead you to the right one. The one that keeps you up at night and wakes you up in the morning. The one that you feel most alive, natural and yourself with. She is the one.

When you find her, remember not to rush into things. Believe it or not, you need time as well to figure out whether she is someone you are willing to spend your time with. Consider your needs, her needs, your family, her family and your futures. I know there are many things you want to try out but women are different. They have more to lose. So be the man, tell her it is ok to take her time. Let her open up to you slowly. Be true to her and she will be true to you. Be honest with her and she will learn to trust you. Respect her and she will be comfortable with you. They know when you lie. So don’t even try. If you do, do apologise.

Once you earn her trust, she will automatically want to draw closer to you. Do not neglect her. Love her. Listen to her. Empathise. Adore her. Spend time with her. Make her laugh. Surprise her. Tease her. Care for her. Wipe her tears off her face. Encourage her. Let her know that you are thinking of her. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Always keep in mind that neither of you are perfect. There is no such thing as the perfect couple. One day you will disagree on something. On that day, be a real man. Learn to humble yourself and let her win arguments. When she is more emotionally stable, bring up the issue again – gently. Respect her views. Stay. Don’t run away from your problems. Two heads are better than one. Solve them together.

However, remember that you are the man and she should respect your decisions. Choose your faith, principles and priorities wisely and stick to them. As long as they are reasonable, there is no reason for a woman to want you to change this basis of your character. She should accept, understand and honour them. So should you, even when honouring them forces you to wait for something good. It is more rewarding to wait for something good. I know.

God is your Lord and she is your helper. Do not make her your God or make her your mother. She should be your partner working hand in hand towards a common goal. Man and woman: the perfect team. Complementing. Your weaknesses strengthened by her and vice versa. Understand that when two become one flesh. It’s not all about sex. It is equally about emotional, mental & spiritual union as well. No matter what age, race, background or personality, as long as the both of you are willing to cooperate in such a manner, there is a large chance that this relationship will go far. Very far.

If your relationship does not work out, do not be discouraged. Mourn. Reflect. Let go. Let good experiences and mistakes teach you valuable lessons. Do not go out deliberately on a desperate search for a replacement. Never treat a woman as a rebound. It is a shameful act for a man. You are ready to love again when you have accepted and are walking in a single life. Confusing I know. The best women are discovered by accident. God has a way of putting wonderful woman in your way when you are ready. After all, he does knows what’s best for you.

I have spent much of my life pondering and suffering to receive these insights. My wish is you will not. However, if it is God’s will for you, so be it. But if you feel stuck and are in need of a little insight to shed light on your relationship, unfold this letter again and let my heart speak to you.
I love you.

Yours sincerely,
The future you.

Thursday, September 18

The High Competency Award

taken from nywcc.org

As many of you will already know, I am a teacher trainee currently undergoing practicum.
Every teacher trainee in practicum will have to be supervised by a lecturer.
These supervisors will surprise teacher trainees once in a while with visits to check on the trainee & observe his/her lessons.
Near the end of practicum, supervisors can nominate any teacher trainee they think deserves recognition for being outstanding in their teaching.

Soon, a team of secondary observers will be assembled & appointed by the practicum committee of the university.
They will be given the task of scrutinising every nominated trainee to determine whether he/she deserves the 'high-competency' grade.
They meet the trainee, talk to him/her about his/her thoughts on teaching, read his/her lesson plans+reflection+portfolio & they will also observe one of his/her lessons.
If trainees are able to impress during the tough reevaluation, their names will be recorded in the exclusive 'High-Competency' list.
They will also receive a certificate of recognition by the institute.

I was nominated for this award this week.
It came as a complete surprise.
I do not believe in creating a 'beautiful' lesson just for observations so I never went the extra mile when my supervisor told me that he would visit me soon.
I did just what I would do on normal days.
I'm glad my supervisor liked it & saw it as worthy of recognition.

I was scrutinised today.
A team of 2 observers observed my lesson with 1 Maju.
1 Maju was awesome as usual.
They were very sporting & accomodating with the extra observers & they also put in extra effort to be at their best for my sake.
Thank you, 1 Maju!

After the observation, the team & I had a post-mortem.
The feedback I received was very positive.
They did not have much to object of in the lesson.
And they expressed pleasure at what I did today.
They even encouraged me to stay in the teaching profession & move on to teacher training.
My favourite line from one of the observers, "you're an easy one."

Everything looks good for me but I will not put my hopes too high.
Their impressions of me will still have to be put through another round of consideration with the practicum committee.
However, it is a great boost to my confidence to be nominated & so positively commented on by some of the most tedious people in my institute.
I will continue to improve myself in this profession.

To all those who encouraged me & said a prayer for me...
Thank You!

Wednesday, September 17

End of 2 Week Fast

After breaking fast at 7.14pm yesterday, I could proudly say that I have completed 14 days of solid food fasting.
However, I shamefully regret that I have to end the fast.
I have been losing body mass since I started the fast.
Even though I think the majority of what was lost consisted of fat, I should stop before I lose more than I can gain back.
I will be taking part in a pageant in November & casting for some TVCs soon so I will need to look & feel my best.

This 14 day fast is the longest time I have ever fasted in succession & also my first fast in 3-4 years!
After completing 14 days, I have found the fast to be very beneficial to my lifestyle & wellbeing.
I think I will continue to enjoy the benefits long after my fast.

Being hungry for the whole day has helped me appreciate food more.
I started savouring each bite & enjoying my food more.
Even the most tasteless & plain of foods can provide great satisfaction.

I have also begun to consciously make more healthy food choices.
I knew that I was going to have limited food intake every day so I decided to make my meals as nutritious as possible.
I significantly reduced my intake of rice & refined carbs.
I made up for the loss of tummy filling with extra vege, meat & fruits.

Having a large group of good friends enjoying a meal with you is a rare joy indeed.
We share laughs & day's experiences before, during & after the meal!
The company of my greatest buddies at the end of the day has been something that I look forward to every day.

Upon reflection, I think that this fasting month may be the only month of the year where some families have dinner together!
I also think that this month is probably the only month in a year when food is truly appreciated.

I had a wonderful fasting experience!
And I would like to thank my Malay buddies for being supportive & accommodating.

To all my Muslim friends,
Happy Fasting!
Sorry I cant accompany you all the way!

Sunday, September 14

Online Social Networking: A Teacher's Bane

Children nowadays are more privileged & are very active online.
As some of you have noticed, many students from my school read my blog.
I have no qualms about students reading my blog, commenting on what I have written & creating a link on their blogs to mine.

However, I do have a problem with one thing that they do online...
Requesting to be added to their friends list on a social networking website.
This happens to me all the time on friendster.
I mentioned this issue in a previous post: The Professional Divide.
Since then, much has changed & the situation has now escalated!
I am amazed at the throng of requests that I have been receiving!

I am mainly displeased at the manner in which they make the request.
A rare few would send me a message with the request & ask me nicely.
These people make me really happy and they seem to honestly want to make a new friend.
However, too large a majority of students plainly send only the request.
These people are rejected immediately without any second thoughts.
Some even complain & pester if I do not accept their request!
One person has pushed me so far that I almost blocked her.

Even though I reject all requests, I am polite...
I send a message to explain why.
I have a polite rejection message pre-typed!
Every time I receive a request, I'll click 'reject' & then send this pre-typed explanation message:

Thank you for sending me a friend request...
But I'm sorry to say that I cannot approve it while I am a teacher in your school.

All the best to you in your studies!

Mr Yong

p/s: next time you want to make a new friend, send the person a message FIRST.
I believe that a professional should separate work from social life.
There must be clear cut boundaries in the relationship between a teacher and his student.
This is to avoid any conflict of interest.
Once a teacher is added to a student's friends list, the status lines are blurred.
The teacher may lose his impression of authority & skill.
And these is also the issue of being too intimate with a student.
One day, I may need to discipline or evaluate the person. And this, without bias.

The main purpose of my online profile is to meet old friends & make some new ones.
How can old friends identify you if they cannot find your profile?
How can interesting people find you interesting if they cannot read about you?
This is why I have continued to allow my profile to be public.
I am willing to pay the price of abuse from admirers & haters alike.

A female teacher has been approving student friend requests & a student wonders why I wont.
Think about it. Our circumstances are totally different!
I am a male teacher teaching in a GIRLS school.
I HAVE TO keep my distance from the female students!
I wouldn't want to give any false hopes nor do I want them to be too comfortable with me.

I want to be friendly with my students.
But just like in any relationship, there must be limits.
This is my limit.
I will not approve your friend request so long as you are a student in the school that I am currently teaching in.
This is a principle on which I stand.
Please understand.
Live with it.

Thursday, September 11

Handling Vomit In A Classroom

A student puked in one of my relief classes today.
The best part is I had to teach the class how to clean it up.
Here's the story...

It happened when I was reliving a Form 1 Moral class.
I was busy with my work while a group of students were laughing & joking with each other.
One of them paused to talk a long drink of water.
But before she could finish, her friends told another joke!
She laughed with a chunk of water in her mouth & choked on the water.
The result was a gag effect & semi-digested lunch on the floor.

Initially, I ignored the sound of splashing fluids.
However, I grew curious when the fluids didn’t stop flowing!
I thought to myself, "that doesn’t sound like a mouth of water."
I looked up to find a red-faced girl with vomit all over the floor & especially on her pinafore.
All her friends were just staring at her. Unsure of what to do.
They were staring for a long... long time...

"Does anyone have tissue?" I asked.
Their eyes slowly moved from the vomit-covered girl to focus on me.
Then, they stared blankly for a while before, one by one, they started looking for tissue.
After giving away some tissue, they continued to stare quietly at the poor girl.

"Take her to the toilet," I told a girl.
Then, the monitor & two other girls took the afflicted girl to the toilet.
I went back to my work and waited for someone to take the initiative to clean the vomit up.

But no one did anything.
They just did what girls are best at… talking about problems.
I took a look at the puke. Not much of it.
So I decided to do what men are best at… solving problems.

I walked out of the classroom in search of dirt.
I found it & brought a dustpan to scoop it up.
As I was returning with the dirt, three very familiar girls ran out of the toilet with a bucket & a mop.
I smiled as I thought to myself, “what they want to do is so wrong!”

"STOP!" I yelled as I entered the room.
The girls were just about to start mopping the raw vomit.
I silently walked towards the puke and spread dirt on it.
I needed to dry it first as well as neutralise its stench.

I waited for a while before, with the help of one student, I used two dustpans to scoop up the dirt.
After the dirt was all scooped up, I told the student to take it outside and dump it.
Right after she left the classroom, the girl dropped the dustpan & gave out a loud squeal.
I looked & shook my head thinking, "大小姐 (city girls)..."
She had spilled some on the ground & was afraid to pick it up.

I wanted to wait for the dirt to dry up a bit before sweeping it & then moping the floor.
But my period was ending & another teacher will be coming so I told them to start mopping.
A student came up, dipped the mop into the bucket, took it out & was about to start mopping before I stopped her.

"Does anybody know how to use a mop?" I asked the class and got blank stares in return.
gosh~~ I forgot I was talking to Malaysian school girls.
I asked someone to translate to Mandarin.
Then, they understood and started pointing to a few of the students to their chagrin.

"What do you do when someone vomits?" I asked the class.
I wanted to teach these Chinese girls some English & this was a rare opportunity.
I got them to repeat certain phrases with me &, to check that they understood, I got them to reproduce the phrase in Mandarin.

In the end, these 小公主 (little Chinese princesses) not only learned how to clean vomit up...
They also learned how to use a mop!
Yahoo for their future husbands!

How to clean vomit?
1. Apply dirt on the vomit
2. Scoop the dirt up
3. Wait for the dirt to dry
4. Sweep the remaining dirt
5. Mop the affected area

How to use a mop?
1. Dip the mop into a pail of cleaning solution
2. Dry the mop by squeezing it or twisting it
3. Spread the strands of the mop out
4. Mop the affected area
5. Stop when the mop begins to smudge
6. Repeat from Step 1

Monday, September 8

What Fasting Does To The Body

taken from visionmagazine.com

Fasting is not easy...
All through the day, you have an uncomfortable stomach ache & a constant desire for your favourite foods...

This pain & hunger was driving me nuts!
So, I did some internet research.

I found these sites most useful:
Fasting - Wikipedia.org (2008)
The Health Benefits of Fasting - Carol, W. (2002)

And let me share what I have discovered from my research...

I found out that fasting technically begins when the body uses its stored energy reserves.
This is usually 12hrs after the last meal.
Your body will break down: first the food in stomach, glycogen in liver, glycogen in muscles, ketones in fat, protein in muscles and finally the protein in organs.
However, once the body starts using protein stores (from muscles & organs), a person is technically starving (BAD!!).

Cons of Fasting
I tried to look for the detrimental effects of fasting but there are none significant enough to justify mentioning.
Take note that each person responds differently to fasting depending on the levels of toxicity in his/her body. Some people may become sick (headaches, vomiting & faintness) while others feel energized and renewed.
There is also a warning that people should consult their physician before attempting any type of long-term fasting.

Pros of Fasting
Therefore, let me move on to the positive effects of fasting.
Mainly, the healing and rejuvenating effects on the body.

Pros: Healing
The healing effect of fasting is well known. From a scientific point of view, I will share a few reasons why fasting contributes to the health of an individual.

The healing during a fast is mainly motivated by the body's search for energy sources.
During a fast, the body starts to break down its energy reserves.
The body stores toxins/chemicals in fats as a natural defence mechanism. When the body breaks down its fat reserves for energy, these toxins are released and are often expelled from the body in the form of sweat, urine and faeces.

There will also be an increased efficiency in the way the body functions.
Regeneration is more efficient because the body will make fewer mistakes when producing new cells. This results in healthier cells, tissues and organs.
Hormone production is also more efficient during a fast which results in growth hormones (among others) being released more frequently.
The body will also prioritise its resource distribution. Therefore, abnormal growths (like tumours) will not receive full support. They may even be broken down for energy.

Pros: Rejuvination
Fasting also causes the feeling of rejuvenation and extends life expectancy. This is partly because of the healing benefits of fasting mentioned earlier as well as an anti-aging hormone that is produced more efficiently during fasting.

Studies have found that the only reliable way to extend the lifespan of a mammal is under-nutrition without malnutrition.
There was a study in the 1930s on earthworms where a worm was isolated and put on a cycle of fasting and feeding.
This isolated worm was found to outlast its relatives by 19 generations!
This is the same as keeping a man alive for 600 to 700 years!
Furthermore, it was also able to maintain its youthful physiological traits!
If the effect is the same on humans, which may be true due to the aforementioned healing and anti-aging benefits of fasting, fasting may not be too painful to endure.

Overall, I think a properly planned regulated fast is beneficial to a human being because of the healing, detox and rejuvenating effects it has on the body.
Personally, I have been fasting on soild foods during the day for almost a week now and I have yet to experience any detrimental effects.
After the Ramadan, I might plan to fast for a day or two every fortnight for the health benefits.
You may follow my plan but I suggest you consult your physician first if you have health complications (like obesity, high blood pressure & etc).

Tuesday, September 2

koko' Attempts the Ramadan!

picture taken from flickriver.com

The 1st of September marks the beginning of the month of Ramadan for this year.
Ramadan was the month during which Prophet Muhammad received the first of the Koran's revelations. Therefore, it has been ordained as the holy month of fasting for all adults of the Islamic faith to cultivate piety. (Al-Baqara 2:185)
The fast begins each day at the break of dawn and ends at sunset.
During the fast, Muslims are forbidden to eat, drink, or smoke.

During the month of Ramadan, koko' is also going to attempt a fast.
Just like my Muslim friends, I will have my fast from dawn until dusk which is around 6am - 7.30pm every day.
However, there is one element I will not go without: water.
Unlike the Muslims who fast both solids and fluids, I will only fast solids because my body is not accustomed to fasting.
I dont want my body to break down because I overdid my fasting.
The purpose of my fast: detox & spiritual awakening.

Let's see how long I can last!

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