Thursday, July 30

Is Cold Water Safe For Drinking?

Have you ever been given advice from your mother who got her advice from her mother who got her advice from her mother who got her advice from her mom?
Age old wisdom passed down from one generation to another seems pretty convincing.
Especially when the person giving this advice is someone who's been nurturing you during your early days & would give her life for you.
However, sometimes they can lovingly give the wrong advice.

I have been told since a very young age to stay away from drinking cold water or iced water.
I have been told that room temperature or warm water is the best.
Cold water can even harm me.
Especially right after exercising.

It seems that drinking cold water when your body is hot is like pouring cold water onto a hot wok.
The insides of your body would go...

According to this article, that's not such a bad thing after all.

It's actually cold water that's recommended when exercising vigorously.
During intense physical activity, the body's core temperature rises above the normal 37°C.
Drinking cool water lowers the body's temperature and helps it settle back to its normal range.

Studies have also shown that cold water (5°C) is absorbed more quickly from the stomach than warm, abating dehydration and allowing you to play harder and enjoy your game even more.
Sweating also helps to lower the body's temperature, but through sweating we lose a lot of water, so it's important to keep drinking.

That said, if the only water around is warm, or if some prefer it warm, that's ok too.
In a hot climate like Malaysia, it's sheer pleasure to slip a class of iced water.
Now, I've got double reason to enjoy something wet & cold.
Feels good to know that something that feels so good is actually so good for you!

Saturday, July 25

Extra Reason To ROFL

Guessing from my other ROFL posts here & here,
I'm sure you know what I'm going to talk about!

There's extra reason for me to ROFL because:
English teachers in rural areas will get extra incentives!
What extra incentives?
Here's a clue...

These incentives would be over and above those already accorded to English language teachers currently serving in rural areas!
There is no indication as to how much this incentive will be but I'm guessing it's probably going to be at least as much as what ETeMS teachers are currently getting & will probably stop getting after 2012.

The first question is what makes rural English teachers so great that they should be given an extra allowance? Aren't teachers in the urban schools working just as hard?

In the opinion of this rural school English language teacher...
Two things: exposure & relevance.
These are what urban students have plenty of & what rural students have close to none.

Why is exposure important?
Because exposure gives a student more language options to use for different situations & functions.
It diversifies their knowledge & facilitates indirect/self learning.

Exposure can come from TV shows, movies, the Internet, newspapers, books & etc.
Rural teachers are at a great disadvantage because the availability of English language media is questionable especially when you have to travel a long distance via boat or 4WD to your school.
This means that they will have to go out of their way to find necessary materials & media to give their students enough exposure.

I myself delve through the Internet (with an unreliable & unstable schoolnet connection), textbooks, reference books, magazines & newspapers (all of which I have to carry on my back from the city onto 2 different boat rides to get to school) for resources.

Why is relevance important?
Because relevance gives the students a purpose or function for what they are learning.
It is directly linked to their motivation to learn the language.

Relevance comes from personal ambition, parental pressure, prospective career requirements, societal norms, usefulness of the language in society & etc.
Rural teachers are at a great disadvantage because the English language will not find much use outside of the classroom in the immediate society.
Furthermore, the career ambitions of the students (exp: fishermen, farmers, labourers, bumming & etc) & the limited interest that many parents show in their children's education further reduces the relevance of English.
This means that teachers will have to MAKE learning English relevant.

Personally, I am an iron fist ruler of the classroom.
Do the work or you will be punished.
Do it well & you may (or not) be rewarded.
I MAKE students use & learn the language in the classroom.
I do encourage them to use it outside of the classroom & I have developed several meaningful classroom activities for it but I still don't see any changes.
The English language continues to be of limited use.

In conclusion, English teachers in rural areas face greater obstacles & have more on their plate compared to English teachers in urban areas.
Their methods have to be different.
It will be found that the preparation & implementation of these methods are often very taxing on the individual teacher.

The second question is why should English language teachers be singled out for an extra allowance? Aren't other subjects being taught in rural schools too?

Our education ministry emphasises on the Malay language (BM), the English language (BI) & the sciences (Math, Science, Physics & etc).
Among all these subjects, I believe that English is the hardest to teach.

The Malay language is similar to many vernacular languages spoken in rural areas.
It is also the national language, the language of government administration &, not to mention, a subject that students are required to pass in SPM.
It is very relevant and exposure to it is easily obtained.
Therefore, there should not be as many problems teaching Malay as there would be teaching English.

Science subjects were fondly referred to as a 'dead' subject by my teachers.
It is black or white. There is no way to dispute it.
1+1=2. There is no question about that.
Acid+Alkaline=Salt+Water. No question there neither.
Therefore, science subjects can be observed, practised and mastered.

The challenge that exists for science subjects is the medium of deliverance.
If science subjects were to be taught in English, then all science subject teachers should be given the extra incentive too.
They might even deserve a higher allowance because they are exposing the students to both content knowledge & scientific vocabulary in an unfamiliar language.
A double learning burden. Science + English at the same time.
However, this will not be a problem anymore because science subjects will be taught in the Malay language soon.

Now, why is English the hardest to teach?
English is like a foreign language in the rural areas.
It is even scoffed at as a 'Bahasa Orang Putih' (white man language).
It has little use. Nobody speaks it but the teachers. You don't need it at the market. You don't need it at the clinic. You don't need it at the government office. You don't even need it for work.
This language is not required for anything in their lives except the early grueling 11-13 years in school.
This leads to little motivation to learn & perhaps even some resistance to learning.
Even then, we rural teachers still have to teach & get students to learn it.

In my opinion, English teachers in rural areas experience more difficulties than the teachers of other subjects.
The extra incentives are more than deserved.

Just to make those of you who are reading this with great bitterness feel better...
I know our government very well.
I know them so well that I know that if they were to give someone extra money, I know for sure that they will also give that someone extra 'meaningful' work to do.

I can guarantee you one!
Sure got some farnie thing we have to do one!
So don't be so jealous la...
Got come, got go ma!

Tuesday, July 21

Oral Test Bloopers - Part 2

Yesterday, the 'pentaksir bahagian' paid a visit to my school.
As was customary, he wanted to evaluate some students with the teachers to see if there was much difference between our evaluations & the kementrian's evaluations.

Today, you have the privilege of being there with me as I enjoyed myself thoroughly.
Remember that these students are still in the process of perfecting their English so we smile because they are just adorable. Not because of anything else.

This wondrously sweet-looking girl walks in & manages to recite everything she has memorised about the dangers of smoking.
It's obvious she worked hard for this evaluation.
After she finished reciting, came the question & answer part.

Do you smoke?
No, teacher.
Do you like it when people smoke around you?
No, teacher.
Because it smell bad and it is bad for my health.
Good. Good answer!
Suddenly, tears started welling up in her eyes.
Don't cry, your answers were very good!
She nodded & managed to hold the tears.

A female teacher asked her...
Does anyone in your family smoke?
Yes, my father.
Then, the tears started flowing.

Everyone was taken aback. Speechless.
I turned to the female teacher next to me & asked her in a concerned tone...
Don't you want to... go over there and give her a hug?
As I asked the question, I could hear the other teachers gasping in held laughter.

The female teacher asked her another question & she answered it well but her sobs were increasingly uncontrollable.
We decided to end the evaluation there.

As the student left & closed the door behind her, I said to the teachers...
Don't be deceived! Maybe that's her tactic to get extra marks!
Everyone burst out laughing.
Then, one teacher uttered...
You're right! I did give her extra marks!

A boy came in & briefly spoke about his hobby which was reading.
When he had nothing more to say, I prompted him with a question...
You said that reading is good because it can help you improve your English. And you say that English is important outside the country. Can you tell me why English is important outside the country?
He answered...
Yes, English is important outside the country because outside the country everybody speaks English.

And the he went on to add in a completely honest & innocent manner.
Many people outside the country speak English... compared to Bahasa... Iban.
Everyone in the room burst out laughing as he sat there looking at us with a confused blur face.
Sorry, it's just that... that was such a good answer!
Everyone actually expected him to say Bahasa... Malaysia.

Aren't students just adorable?
Teaching does have it's moments, eh?

Thursday, July 16

English Oral Test Bloopers

I recently finished conducting oral tests with 4 classes of the lower Form...

Boy, was it a struggle!
sometimes I struggle with finding ways to oversimplify my English.
sometimes I struggle with listening to unintelligible pseudo-English gibberish.
but mostly I struggle with keeping from lol-ing at their honest yet pitiful answers.

Let me share some of the highlights of my experience!
My spoken words are in red.
The student's are in green.

This boy walks in timidly & sits down quietly for the test.
I try to break the ice with a greeting.
Good morning, boy.
Suddenly, he experiences an electrifying burst of energy...
Good morning! To my teacher! And to my fellow friends!
There were only 2 of us in the room.

This girl greets me in BM, so I say:
This is an English test so I need you to speak English not BM, okay?
She nods in understanding, smiles and says very sweetly:
Baaaiik, ciiikguuuu.
My response was somewhere between smiling & crying.

After asking a boy to talk about himself, he doesn't understand the question & remains silent.
So I decided to be more specific.
How old are you, boy?
He looks at me as if a light bulb just went 'ting' in his head.
I am fine, thank you!
I've had so many of these answers that I just gave him an expressionless stare.

After asking too many specific questions, I found a student who looked like she could handle a more general question.
Tell me about your day.
The student thinks very long & hard before uttering this answer loudly.
8 July 2009!
Great... Back to the specifics!

This kid has been struggling to understand my questions & find answers.
I am also struggling... to find questions that he can answer!
Finally, I asked him about his hobby... fishing.
Why do you like fishing?
He was very confident with his answer.
I like fishing because I like fishing.
I almost fell off my chair.

So there you have it!
I love being a teacher.
I love being a teacher because I can laugh at students.
I love being a teacher because sometimes they unknowingly laugh at themselves too!
I love being a teacher because, after sharing the story with my colleagues & having a great laugh together, I can write a blog post so my friends can laugh too.
Share the love!

Friday, July 10

The Abolishment of ETeMS: A Rural Teacher's View

It's big news.
So big that it affects the lives of every common Malaysian.
So big everyone MUST know!

If you don't...
The Malaysian cabinet has reached a consensus.
Beginning in 2012, English for Teaching Mathematics & Science (ETeMS) or Pembelajaran & Pengajaran Sains & Matematik dalam bahasa Inggeris (PPSMI) will be phased out in stages.
There will be a return of BM & vernacular langauges for the teaching of Science & Mathematics in Primary & Secondary Schools.

However, there will be no change for Form 6 or Matriculation.
Science & Mathematics will still be taught in English for them.

Following the abolishment of ETeMs, several measures will be taken to place extra emphasis on English.
They will be implemented as early as next year.
They include increasing classroom time for the English language, an English literature programme, a camp during the holidays & the hiring of additional English teachers.

The English teachers hired will include 1000 foreigners & 600 retired teachers.
The ministry is currently in negotiations with UK, India, Australia & NZ for the foreign teachers.
Furthermore, retired teachers can apply with the ministry next year.

Our Prime Minister has expressed that the abolishment does not signal a move away from English. There will still be an emphasis on English if not even more.

The abolishment of ETeMS seems to be welcomed in the Chinese & Indian communities.The use of English was found to bring about negative effects in Chinese & Indian schools.
Switching back would be a great relief & would help students understand the 2 subjects better.

However, there were also ppl who were against the abolishment.
This includes several of my fellow bloggers who expressed shock, disbelief & bleak predictions for the future of Malaysian children.

Parents interviewed by The Star voiced dissent.
Some were even threatening to transfer their children overseas or to international schools.

The Prime Minister who introduced ETeMS, Tun Dr Mahathir, was saddened & thought that the future of Malaysian children is being compromised.
He added that, many years ago, when he changed the teaching of Science & Mathematics from English to Malay, many teachers didn't know Malay either. However, everyone worked at it & everything worked out in the end. They could have done the same with ETeMS.
Tun Dr Mahathir was responsible for the shift from English to Malay for the teaching of Science & Mathematics in the early Malaysian education system inherited from the British.

Tun Dr Mahathir has started a poll on his blog to gauge public opinion on the abolishment of ETeMS.
Do vote on this poll because the results will be forwarded to the government for consideration.

From the renowned blog on Malaysian education, Education in Malaysia.
In a post by John, he expressed great dissatisfaction that the government could have but did not, at the beginning of ETeMS, place the extra emphasis on English that they are promising now.
The extra time for English lessons, the special programmes & the extra teachers would have helped to make ETeMS work.

In a post by Tony, he came up with a compromise.
He is calling for the government to allow urban schools to allow students to choose which language they wanted to learn Science & Mathematics in.

Enough with the newscasts!
Now it's time for what everybody wants to read...
The opinion of the great koko' himself!
hahaha~~ I am so conceited!

The first thing I want to do is clear the air once & for all.
ETeMS is NOT about using Mathematics & Science to teach English or improve English.
This is a very common misconception of the public.
ETeMS is about using English to teach Mathematics & Science to prepare students for higher scientific pursuits in-line with Vision 2020.

Now that I've cleared that up, let me just say that I am actually quite disappointed with our governments move to take the easy way out.
All the extra emphasis on English that the government wants to implement today should have been implemented during the time of ETeMS to provide extra support.
But little of that sort was done.

Furthermore, if the ministry really wants Science or Mathematics teachers who are fluent in English, they should have selected fluent students for their teacher training programmes in the first place.
I have found many newly graduated Science & Mathematics teachers who still struggle with English.
They should have been screened out in the interviews instead of being allowed to graduate & contribute to the horrifying statistic that less than 20% of teachers in Secondary Schools & less than 10% in Primary Schools are proficient in English.

I find it deeply disappointing that the implementation of ETeMS was half-hearted in the first place.
How can something half-hearted be a success?

Now, what is my take on the abolishment of ETeMS?
Let me give you some background on my students who can be classified as 'rural' students.
They live in longhouses along a river in the middle of a timber forest.
For a lot of them, their parents do not place much emphasis on education.
They can make a decent living for themselves by fishing, foraging or farming.

Here, English is pretty much a foreign language with little use or relevance.
Although they have 6 years of English lessons in Primary School, majority of them come to Form 1 lacking the ability to string together a grammatically correct sentence or answer simple WH questions.
Some cannot even read words that urban children learn in kindergarten.

I guess you know what I am going to say next.
I think the abolishment of ETeMS will do them a lot of good.
They will be able to learn Science & Mathematics in a language very similar to their own.
Moreover, it is highly probable that they will do better at these subjects too.

It doesn't matter that English will be of lesser importance in their lives.
It doesn't matter if they cannot achieve higher levels of academia.
What matters is they now have a better chance to gain basic scientific knowledge.
What matters now is they take interest in these scientific subjects first.

It is TRUE.
Abolishing ETeMS will do a lot of good for my school & I believe it will do a lot of good for other rural schools in Malaysia as well.

If I were to choose between BM or BI for every school in Malaysia...
BM would be my choice hands down.

I do not believe that language is a barrier for those who are serious about science.
They may struggle initially but they will get there eventually.
And once they do, the experience will be an even more fulfilling one.

In a perfect world, students should be allowed to choose which language to receive instruction in.
The second best option for Malaysia at this time is to go back to BM.

Tuesday, July 7

No Computer In The Middle Of Nowhere

2 weeks ago, I left my computer in Kuching for fixing.
A diagnosis revealed that the RAM slot I have been using is damaged or faulty.
After switching to the other slot, my computer is working perfectly again.
Despite its age, seems like my baby has still got it!

Without a computer, I lived a different life for 2 weeks.
I work & live in the middle of nowhere. No roads. Not even cellphone coverage!
It used to be that my computer was my sole source of entertainment.
Therefore, having no computer in the middle of nowhere brought a definite change to my lifestyle.

With the time that I usually spend watching a movie on my computer...
I spent finishing a novel (Angels & Demons) & 2 research periodicals (Bicara Pendidik Sarawak 2006 & 2008).
From reading Angels & Demons, I found that the thrilling movie is so much better than the draggy novel. Too many unnecessary details in the novel.
From the research periodicals, I found several interesting articles but nothing much to add to my practice. Too many literature reviews or theoretical write-ups that look like they were recycled from a university assignment. Having more empirical studies would have made it more practical & relevant to the everyday teacher.

taken from

With the time I usually spend chatting or writing & reading blogs...
I spent with my housemate & colleagues.
As a result, I got to know many of my co-workers better & we have a greater sense of camaraderie.

This forced change was actually quite refreshing.
I would not have been able to do read so many books & get to know some of my colleagues better if I still had my computer with me.
It has opened my eyes to how dependant I was on a computer.

There's much more out there in the real world for me to enjoy!
It'll not be easy because of habits built over the years...
But I am surrounded by amazing people & an exotic wonderland of nature!
Time for me to make use of it!

p/s: perhaps you should spend less time in front of the screen too!

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