Saturday, January 30

Exotic Fruit: Buah Isu

I've been teaching in the Iban motherland for more than 1 year now & I have tasted many exotic fruits exclusively available only within these quiet secluded timber forests.
Now, don't you smirk at me! You perverted baskets I call friends are thinking about a different 'fruit'!
There are no innuendos here. The exotic fruits that I'm talking about are REAL fruits.

First, let me introduce you to the cousin of the king of fruits...

Buah Isu

Buah Isu resembles it's cousin, the Durian, but I was told that it is NOT in the Durian family.
The spikes are longer & they are sharper.
They are also very much smaller than the Durians. It's about the size of a man's palm.
It has a pleasantly sweet fragrance which is not pungent like the Durian's.

Because of it's size, it is easily opened with a cleaver.
After opening my first Isu, I couldn't help but bounce off the walls in gay laughter.
It was all too amusing to me!
I thought that it would look like a Durian on the inside but...

It's cute little fruitlettes are orange in colour!
And they come in adorably small sizes!
If I were to export Durians to Japan, I'd end up bankrupt.
But if I were to export these Isu fruits & pass them off as mini-Durians, I would make millions capitalising on their obsession of all things small & cute!
hoho~~ the Chinaman in me speaks!

Well, the flesh is orange in colour with dark earth brown coloured seeds.
The flesh is thin & it has a peculiar taste. It definitely doesn't taste like a Durian.
It tastes sweet like a blend between the Cempedak fruit & the bubblegum candy flavour.
It is like nothing you've ever tasted before!
I like it but, like the Durian, it is not something that I'd be fond of eating every day.

When you are in Sarawak, esp in the Kapit or Sibu region, look out for Buah Isu in the Iban markets.
They cost only RM5 for a cluster of 5-6 in Song but I expect it to cost a lot more once it gets to more urban areas.
I'll be bringing some back to Kuching as a CNY treat for my family.
Want some exotic 'fruit'?

Note (30/11/2012): An anonymous commenter of Borneoan origins said that this fruit is actually 'Buah Nyekak'. I'm sticking to 'Buah Isu' because I got it from Ibans in Song, Sarawak, & shared it with other Ibans in the area. They called the fruit 'Buah Isu'.
I looked for images on the internet & the Buah Nyekak & Buah Isu look very similar. Having tasted Buah Isu, I wonder what Nyekak tastes like. hahaha~~

Saturday, January 16

Action Research In Malaysian Schools

At one stage of your teaching career, you will come across a type of research called "Action Research".
It is currently the buzz in the Malaysian Education system &, for several states in Malaysia, there is actually a circular or 'pekeliling' which dictates that each teacher has to conduct at least 1 action research per year.
If you happen to be serving in one of those states or if you're curious why administrators are taking it so seriously, let me answer an important question first: What actually is action research?

Action re- what?
If I understand it correctly, action research in Malaysian schools is a personal yet professional documentation of actions taken to address a problem or explore a question.
Personal because the person carrying it out can decide how deep he wants to get into it.
Professional because it has purpose & relevance.

Teachers are not rigid or narrow minded, they are reflective & constantly change their styles, methodologies, equipment, environment & etc to make the best of their teaching situations.
Every teacher does it. They meet a problem. They ask & look around to find a solution. They implement it & tweak it as they go. The implementation of their solutions are the 'action'.
'Action research' is simply putting down in pen & paper: the situation, the problem, the solution & the effects of the implementation.

Is it beneficial?
There are tons of teachers out there who are clueless, helpless or just unaware that there are better ways to do what they do.

Every person has a unique idea or method. Why not document it in action & share it with others?
After all, we are all slaving it out together for the betterment of this country.
Now more than ever, this country is in need of teachers who are willing to step up and lead those who have already given up or are on the verge of plunging into the depths of makan gaji-ism.

If you have something to share, please do.
The education system needs it. I need it. Oh, and admit it, you need it too.

Is it realistic?
Honestly speaking, I don't think that teachers should be forced to do action research.
Most of us have a heck load of work to do. If we had a drop of water for each task we had to do in our line of work, we'd be able to plant durians in Sahara.
Furthermore, most teachers who were forced didn't bother to put any effort into it. They just copy & paste an action research done by some else. The best part is, they get away with passing it off as their own.
I don't blame them. If I had a load of work to do, I'd produce quantity instead of quality.

Action research is a burden.
However, the positive effect it will have on the education system is too good to ignore. Rather than attend mindless honeymoon courses, action research might be one of the best ways forward in the professional development of teachers.

Talk is cheap. Are you walking the talk?
Mind you, I'm not going to copy & paste the action research of some Ahmad, AhBoi or Apu.
I'm going to take my time to consider it & I'll put my heart into it.
I'm going to finish one action research this year & it will be one that carries some weight.
People will want to read it. Those who read it, will benefit from it.
That is my target & I plan to achieve it.

You got me. I'm in. But how do I start?
You can start right now!
It's the beginning of the year so you can finish you research in time for it to be published next year or presented to an audiences by the end of this year!

Ask other teachers who have done Action Research before.
Ask the Guru Pakars or Guru Cemerlangs.
Contact the officer in charge of the development of your subject at your JPN.
English teachers can contact the Malaysian English Language Teaching Centre or ELTC.

If all else fails, you can come to me. I'll do my best with the wisdom I have to set you up.
Let's take the first step into a prospering profession.

Thursday, January 7

To Teachers Unhappy About Being Posted At A Rural School

I was snooping around the Ministry of Education website wondering if there was a new SP & HSP to go with the new literature component (and boy was it hard! Nope, there aren't any new ones but the SP & HSPs were impossible to find via website navigation. I had to use google! If you're reading this MOE, plz make your website easier to navigate!) when I found this:

MOE response to "Unhappy Over Rural Posting"
5 January 2010
Ministry of Education (MOE) would like to refer to an article by Disgruntled Teacher, Batu Pahat, published in The Star dated 30th December 2009 on the issue of Unhappy Over Rural Posting.
When you signed up to become a teacher, it was to serve the needs of the children of the nation. Whatever their colour or creed and wherever the children need you. It was certainly not for you to serve in a school at the doorstep of your home. I feel saddened by your words: “It snuffed out my passion to teach!” My simple answer to you is “you are in the wrong profession!”
Becoming a good and committed teacher takes a lot out of the person who gives. But if it takes only 3 months for your flame to be smouldered, then you are definitely in the wrong profession. We, teachers, are supposed to help children grow through sound education; more so for children who are in the rural areas. They are the ones who need the kindness, patience, guidance and the lasting passion of a committed and giving teacher to help them.
For your information, the biggest number of teachers serving in the interior of Sabah and Sarawak are actually from Kelantan and Terengganu. These young teachers have been serving in these states for many years. Many have done so for more than three to five years.
Secondly, among the many teachers sent to Johore are senior teachers who, once upon a time, had to sacrifice by being separate from their spouses and children to serve where they are needed. Many of them are English Language teachers. If they, in their situation, can deliver where needed, what excuse have you got as a young teacher to deny your services to the children who need teachers so badly? Do you expect the MOE to uproot settled seniors and place them in the interiors just because young teachers do not wish to serve in these critical areas?
Furthermore, it is not that the MOE has not been addressing this issue. We are taking in many more locals to serve in Sabah and Sarawak. The MOE increased the intake of Sabah and Sarawak locals in 2009. There are also two new Teacher Training Institutes, specifically IPGM Miri and IPGM Keningau.
Finally, in line with the Ministry’s objective to narrow the gap between the rural and the urban, we in the MOE, have to do justice to the children who so badly need our help. `Cikgu’ please remember this: Yes, the children in Johor do need you, but the children in the interiors need you more. You need to seriously change your attitude towards teaching as a profession. It is not a bed of roses. It is giving to those who need you most.
Remember, our tagline should be “Children first in Education” as it is with many other nations in this world.
*Note: This article was edited for clarity & grammatical mistakes have been corrected. Also, there are parts of the response that didn't quite make sense. Then again, it is still a good response. My favourite lines are in bold.

I snooped around on google & I found the article that inspired this:
Unhappy Over Rural Posting
30 December
I am a new graduate teacher. I was recently posted to a national-type primary school in the interiors of Sarawak. This posting came as devastating news to me. After completing a three-month stint there without any basic amenities, it snuffed out my passion to teach.
One question that rings loudly in my mind is: Why does the Ministry of Education send an entire league of Johoreans to Sabah and Sarawak and bring teachers of other states to occupy the schools in Johor? Until today, I still cannot think of a good reason to justify the rationale behind the Ministry of Education’s drastic move.
The school holiday is drawing to a close. Unlike other teachers who are armed with all kinds of preparations for their charges, I am not in the mood to do anything at all. I am reluctant to go back to teach in Sarawak. I really hope to be with my sick parents so that I need not worry about them, thus enabling me to give my very best towards the development of my pupils.
Disgruntled Teacher, Batu Pahat.
I feel sorry for the disgruntled teacher who is so worried about his parents that he cannot work properly at a school which probably is similar to the one I am in. Unfiltered water. Generator for electricity. No cellphone coverage. No landline. The occasional Internet availability. Mine being a Secondary School; Primary Schools can have even harsher living conditions! 8 hour boat journey. If water levels are low, they will have to carry the boat over their heads with their bags on their backs. This can drag the journey on to more than 12 hours! Eating canned food every day. Washing, cleaning, bathing & drinking from the river. Only 4 hours of electricity each day. Bored. Antsy. I'm not surprised that he is dreading the thought of returning to school & is frustrated at being unable to return to his comfortable home.

Then again, every cloud does have a silver lining. Yes, even in his/her situation. The deeper you go into the interiors the smaller your classroom gets. Some Primary Schools have only 20 students or LESS! Imagine a class of only 3 to 4 students! It's a teaching heaven! Individual attention is plentiful & classroom management should be a breeze. Furthermore, the administration is usually very relaxed & will not give you too much pressure. There is also no problem with marking because of the small amount of exercise books! But the best part is... the deeper you go, the more money the government compensates you with. He could be making from RM500 to RM1.5k MORE than other graduate teachers!

Anyway, the MOE is not a bent over scrooge putting teachers in the harshest of environments without providing a way out. This teacher can apply for transfer & he WILL get it after serving for about 3-4 years because he comes from Semenanjung Malaysia. Locals will have to serve for more than 5 years before they are even considered for intra-state transfer.

My message for teachers who are in similar situations & having similar feelings is apply for transfer. While your application is being processed, do your best for your school. Work like the school you are in is the perfect school that you've always dreamed of working at. God has placed you where you are for a reason and I'm sure that reason is pretty clear to you. There is much to do. Do not be disappointed or broken when your transfer applications are denied. Keep applying & keep serving. If you are serving in Sarawak, chances are, you WILL be transferred in at most 5 years.

My message for MOE is the question he posed actually makes a lot of sense. Last time I heard, Johore has an insatiable grave shortage of teachers. So much so that, a few years ago, they hid the transfer applications they received for a few years and pretended to have passed it on to Putrajaya. Johore locals should really be sent back to Johore. The same goes for the locals of Sabah & Sarawak. Only those from states without vacancies should be placed in other states. Furthermore, less me stress that you should NEVER sacrifice quality for quantity. Do not accept someone just because you need to meet a quota. What's the point of training a cat to be a lion? The person you choose will make or break future generations!

Saturday, January 2

That Feeling You Get Before Returning To School

You know the feeling you get as the holiday draws to an end?
When you think about returning to school in a short time...
When you think about how school was before..
Oh, I feel it.

What is the feeling?
For those of you who are not teachers, I'm sure that you were students before.
How did you feel when your long summer or year end holiday was coming to an end?
Yup, that's what I'm feeling now...

I dread the amount of paperwork & weight I will have to carry during the year.
I dread the naughty students that I have to discipline every time I step into the classroom.
I dread the snobby or backstabbing teachers I will have to work with or see every day.
I dread living in the jungle without Internet & cellphone coverage.

But I go anyway...
I wake up earlier than the rooster to take the early morning flight.
So that I'll arrive in time for the early morning express boat.
Then, I take the connecting boat ride to school.

At school, I see students.
The prefects were there a few days earlier to help in preparing the school.
I see the look on their faces.

I see them smiling at me with recognition.
I see eagerness & purpose.
I see how willingly the boys rush over to help with the heavy baggage.
I see some girls giving me adoring looks.
I see others pretending they didn't see me.

And suddenly, I am reminded of why I work so hard...

The students.

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