Sunday, November 29

Top 5 Tips For New Teachers

Many new teachers who will get posted into the Malaysian national school system have asked me what advice I have to give them.
Well, I have summed all I have to say into 5 tips.
Let me put it here so that I dont have to repeat myself indefinitely.

#5 Go Wherever You are Sent
This is probably the last thing you want to hear but I realise that good teachers are in short supply everywhere in this country.
It is also my heartfelt belief that a good teacher will be a good teacher regardless of location.
Furthermore, every teacher has something unique to offer to the school they enter.

Do not be afraid of a place just because of hearsay.
Do not judge prematurely.
Go & experience the school for yourself.
Try it out for a year.
Work on it before you decide to call it quits.

#4 Brace Yourself
When you first arrive at school, you will carry a ‘donkey’ label on your head.
Chances are... You will receive the most brain-dead jobs in the school that other teachers do not want to do.
Chances are... You will get the most challenging classes.
Chances are... You may even be mistreated or face some form of discrimination.

Prepare to be detached emotionally.
Work is work.
Do your work like a faithful little donkey.
Also use your human brain la...
Figure out ways to shine in your multitude of mundane donkey tasks.
In time, someone is bound to notice & pull you out of your pen.

#3 Learn to Smile & Say Good Morning! 
Smile, greet & name everybody & anybody in the school.
A smile & greeting can make a big difference in workplace relationships.
It breaks down boundaries. It melts cold hearts.
Many teachers have forgotten how to smile so it’s up to you to inspire them!

Remember the name of every teacher, staff member, gardener, guard, toilet cleaner, your favourite students &, yes, even the bad bad bad bad bad students.
People may not be used to it at first & there will almost definitely be haters but do persevere.
Smiling, greeting & naming someone as you pass them in the school corridors will open many doors & lift the whole workplace environment.
Don’t believe me? Try it persistently for a year!

#2 Your Boss is the Boss of You
Your relationship with your Principal or Ketua Jabatan is VERY VERY VERY important!
Remember this!!
If you have a good rapport with your boss, things will go a lot easier for you.
They are entrusted with the command of the school so they can open or close doors for you.

Most bosses are old & they do not have the ideas that you possess.
But most of them are open to new ideas.
So if you have any suggestions for improvement, I'm sure your boss would be willing to sit down with you and discuss it.

Sometimes, the boss will tell you off for a mistake.
Sometimes, the boss will make you do something that you dont want to do.
Remember to be professional.
Do not be afraid or harbour any hard feelings towards your boss.
He is just doing the boss's job.
So as a subordinate, you must do yours.

If you find that your boss is incompetent...
Well, my friend, I feel sorry for you...
He is still the BOSS!

In whatever you do remember to exercise wisdom, cunning & grace.
Don't give in to frustration & anger.

#1 You Think. Therefore, You Are.
Descartes hit the nail on the head with this one.

You must have a clear vision of what you want to achieve in this profession.
Honestly, this profession is a no play-play one okay.
No teacher should be someone who does the bare minimum & sits around waiting for the salary to arrive every month.
If it was up to me, anyone who is not serious should really get out or be kicked out.

Of course, everyone can give teaching a try.
But if you think that teaching is not for you, you should go.
If you think that there are better things that you can do in your life, go.
If you hate teaching, why the **** are you even here?! GO!!!

Go. Pursue your dreams. Be a bum. Get married. Whatever.
Do anything except take up the space of someone who really wants to be a teacher.
If you are not serious about this profession, imagine the amount of damage you will do to generations of children in the classrooms you enter.
Do some soul searching. Take some time off.
Give it ample consideration before you come to a decision.

If you decide to stay...
You have just given yourself to a cause that will not bring benefit to the self but will have a magical rippling effect on the rest of society now & forevermore.

Dream big.
Dare to fight, bleed & wrestle for your students.

Be creative.
Set a new standard for others in the profession.

Be your best. Do your best. Bring up the best.
Only if people like us decide to stay & slave in this profession will there be a future for this country.

Friday, November 20

My First Year In Education

taken from

First of all...

Yes, you guessed it...
It’s the holidays!!!

Yes, being a teacher has not taken the joy out of holidays.
No, dear students, we do not enjoy prowling around in school.
Yes, teachers are also capable of fun & some really stupid things.
No, you may not do the same in our presence.

2009 will be remembered in history.
It’s my 1st year as an overseas graduate.
It’s my 1st year in the workforce.
It’s my 1st year as a full-fledged teacher.
It’s my 1st year making my own money & spending it anyhow or anywhere I like... YES!!

It has also been a really challenging year.
I was placed in a school in the middle of the jungle accessible only by water.
I suffered a year of lousy internet & no cell-phone coverage.
I worked with students who have little interest & ability in my subject matter.
I had to learn from scratch the mechanics of classroom management & the art of workplace politics.
I had to work my ass off as a new teacher aka slave in the school.
I had to cook, clean & iron... I feel like such a housekeeper.

It has also been a year of achievements.
I produced a high-quality school magazine.
I survived the worst class.
I made monkeys sit still, learn & do better in their examinations.
I made students speak English to me.
I was an excellent educator, motivator, amplifier, secretary, clerk, subordinate, manager, housemate, chef & photographer.

Despite all the difficulties faced, I’d say this has been a good year.
I’m looking forward to more.
But first… I need a break.

Saturday, November 14

Empurau Magazine 2009

It's finally out!
Here is a picture of the 2009 Empurau Magazine of SMK Katibas!

Those of you who are close to me would have heard my squeaks & creaks on how hard I worked on this magazine to make it work... ALONE!
The person who was supposed to give me the biggest support simply refused to give me any help!
Although I did most of the work myself, there were several other individuals who came up to me & offered their help. For these people, I am thankful.
Without them, this magazine wouldn't be as good as it is today.
Without them, I'd already be a burnout psycho teacher murdering 'bad' teachers.

Now that I finally have the magazine in my arms, I dare say that I am proud of my baby.
He has come out looking like a great piece of art.
All the months of slaving overtime unpaid just to get the information right & painstaking making sure that every page is exactly how it is supposed to be has paid off.
The people who have read magazines from previous years also commented on the leap of improvements made this year.

This is the best part...
I love the way the children's eyes light up with anticipation while lining up for the magazine.
And how they instantly flip to their class photo to see how they look.
Oh, how sweet their smiles.
And how even the hardest coldest student would look at me happily & thankfully after that.
That was when I knew that my self-imposed slavery was all worth it.

To summarise my whole experience in the production of this magazine, here is what I wrote in the editorial part of the magazine.
It is my greatest pleasure & honour to present to you this year's edition of the Empurau Magazine. This is my first year in the teaching service & I am truly amazed to have been empowered with the freedom to mold & cast in stone, as I see fit, such an important document. A school magazine can portray the school as a shady incompetent institution or one that's worthy of awe. This magazine is the fruit of many sleepless nights, unrelenting frustration & compounding fatigue. Therefore, it is my sincere desire that you will find it both attractive, informative & worthy of a school on the rise.
Working with the magazine committee as well as the school staff to complete this magazine has not been a piece of cake. Of course, the staff of SMK Katibas are extremely talented & willing to share. Little did I know, all their good things came in a combo together with certain flaws. Any human resource manager will be able to relate that some flaws are easy to overlook while others are, well... a little more of a pain. Whatever it is, a compromise has to be made to achieve a quality end product. Therefore, dear reader, let me share an adage I have coined from my experience: 'You can pick your friends but you can't pick your colleagues. So live with it!'
Although there were obstacles, the fact that you are holding a handsome magazine in your hands right now is a testament that every speed bump or mountain in the way of the magazine committee was ironed out & put behind us. I would therefore like to end by thanking the bulldozers & excavators who were a big help in the production of this magazine.
Firstly, I would like to thank the Principal, Mr Clement Chieng Sui Ung, for spending his own time & energy to help with finding sponsors & for putting his faith in me. I would also like to thank Mr Chieng Hop Sing for staying up until late for several nights editing pictures & text. Furthermore, thank you to Mr Gomez Das for taking time off to design graphics including the tribal design incorporated at the bottom of every page. Big thanks to Mr Mohd Shahrir Mustapa, Mr Victor Anthony Anom, Mr Johari Abdullan & Mr Richard Atong for helping me with digging through a haystack of files seeking a needle of information. Another thank you to Mr Nigel Ling Ting Shiuh for getting things started & taking me sponsor hunting in Sibu. Finally, I would like to thank everyone who contributed but was not specifically mentioned as well as the sponsors who invested & believed in this project. Your prayers & contributions are greatly appreciated!
Now, what are you waiting for? Flip the page! Every page is eagerly awaiting your arrival!

Saturday, November 7

Photography Is Such A Lonely Affair

Ever since I got my SLR, I've been the designated photographer for my school.
I have been called upon to take photos of almost every person & literally every event.
It's as if a whole new world of imagery has opened up for the residents of my school.
Another probable motivating factor is... I snap for a zero fee!

Every time I look through the pictures taken after a photo-shoot or after an event, I cant help but notice that I do not exist in any of them.
Then, I'd pause & feel my heart break over the thought that I would never ever have a recorded memory of the event with my face in it.
Everybody would be exclaiming with glee & discussing excitedly how ridiculous they looked in the photos but they'd still copy the photos & cherish then.

As for me, I have nothing to cherish.
It's only me & the fleeting memories I have difficulty retaining.

Often I'd be having dinner or taking a nap & then a photograph would pop into my head...
or I might be thinking of my next blog post & an awesome idea for an accompanying picture appears.
More often that it should, most of these moments are forgotten because, for me, photography is such a lonely affair.

I wish that God would give me a buddy who shares a mutual love for all things beautiful.
Someone who desires to cause a reaction in the hearts & minds of every picture viewer.
Someone who would drop everything to brave rain or shine at a mind-boggling hour just to get the picture done 'perfectly'.

To every photographer living as an island...
Let us remember each other in our prayers.
Now that my buddies are far away... I miss their artful contributions to my expressions.
I miss you, Nas, Mien & Manan.

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