Sunday, July 25

I Actually Like Teaching In An Interior School

Very few teachers can say that they like teaching in their school.
I don't think a majority of my colleagues will say that.
Even in the urban areas, I don't think many teachers will say that too.

You may think that I have it easy. Mind you... I don't.
I hold many posts in my school that involve a heavy dosage of work.
I am head of the English Panel & the editor of the school magazine. I take charge of the English Language Society as well as the Police Cadets. I also attend & photograph all of the school's activities. I am invigilator for PMR & penyelia kawasan for SPM.
Furthermore, I teach 4 classes of which 2 are PMR classes & I constantly give them essays & drills which I have to mark even during my scarce & valuable free time.

Come to think of it... there's actually very little to like about teaching where I am at.
There's only 14hrs of electricity. That means no water in the pipes, no TV & no ceiling fan outside working hours. Imagine the discomfort.
There's no cellphone coverage or landline. Almost no communication with the outside world. Peace & quiet? Not quite. Imagine when you are waiting for an important call or when you want to liaison with people outside of your school.
The school is isolated. The only way in & out is a 45min - 1hr boat ride. Imagine transporting goods, groceries & equipment.
Also, floods can happen anytime.
Lastly, you'll miss home, your buddies & your favourite hangouts.

Besides the extra monthly allowance... I actually have other reasons to like teaching in an interior school.
In my profession, two things matter most: the client & the support group.
My school thankfully happens to excel in both.

The Support Group aka. The School Administration
I was very pleasantly surprised to find such an efficient administration in such an interior locality. I expected most of the school & even the principal to be laid back & the school facilities to be in horrible condition.
Lo & behold, I arrived to find that it was the total opposite.

The Principal is determined, disciplined & blunt. The assistants are friendly & they carry out their responsibilities. The office staff are warm, quick & very helpful.
Everyone is doing their bit & some are even venturing into the additional (including myself).

Everyone is young. Everyone is approachable. Everyone is willing to help everyone in this school.
It's no surprise that this interior school has been achieving a 90++% pass rate for SPM & even a 100% SPM passing rate in 2008.
Wouldn't you like to work here?

The Client aka. The Students

Just like most students from rural/interior backgrounds, my students lack exposure.
This lack of exposure reflects in their poor attitude towards education & their poor academic excellence.
However, they are very teachable.

Give them an order & they will follow.
Reason with them & they will accept punishment.
Raise your voice & they will lower theirs.
They rarely answer back at teachers.

There's no surprise such students though ignorant are mouldable into credit achievers in public examniations.
Wouldn't you like to teach students like these?
They may not be very smart but they will do what you tell them to do.

Seriously speaking... if you cannot handle/control a classroom of these interior area students, don't even dream about teaching in urban schools.
Rural students are hamsters in comparison to the cunning & daring of the lions in the urban schools waiting for their prey (yes, you) to enter their classroom!

My working situation is excellent but my living conditions are harsh.
However, I've decided to accept it & work with it. I want to adapt & conquer this mountain instead of have it conquer me & have me running back home to mommy every weekend.

Whether your situation in the interiors are similar or much worse. Be encouraged. You are doing something great for the people in your locality.
If you are anything like me, you're going to give this school everything you've got in your head & in your heart.
And one fine day when you do leave, you're going to leave behind a shoe so big it'll take 5 people to fill.

Selamat Berkhidmat (& Berkorban)
Demi Negara & Bangsa 1Malaysia!

Saturday, July 17

2010 English Week @ SMK Katibas

Imagine it's just any ordinary Monday morning, you're walking to school & suddenly you see this greeting you at the door.

Last week, SMK Katibas celebrated the English language by having the English Language Panel (ELP), in conjunction with the English Language Society (ELS), organise the 2010 English Language Week (ELW)!
It was a blast!!!

For the opening ceremony, we buried a Time Capsule.
Every student from every class was given written or semi-writing assignments to complete in the English language & be placed within the capsule. Teachers & staff were invited to contribute as well.
To be opened during ELW 2013!

Every afternoon of ELW, there was an ELS BBQ to sell scrumptious burgers & savoury hot dogs fresh from the BBQ pit!
We sold out 40 burgers & 40 hot dogs in 2 afternoons!
The ELS will be doing this once a fortnight to raise funds to pay for their T-shirts (instead of burdening their already cash strapped parents).
They learn entrepreneurship, practical English language use & living skills all at the same time!

There was also a simple school-wide Storytelling Competition where the best storytellers from each class competed for a place in the finals.
In the end, it was won by this skinny over-dramatic Form 5 boy, Azmi.

There was also a Spelling Bee organised for the lower forms.
Students were given a list of 100 words to memorise the day before & yet the competition did not last for more than 5 rounds.
It was won by a multi-talented Form 2 girl, Leslie.

For the upper forms, a Crossword Puzzle Competition.
The student who gets the most number of answers correct wins.
I tried the puzzle myself & found it to be really challenging. I only managed 35/40.
The winner was Yatie from Form 4.

Then, there was the first ever ELS Treasure Hunt.
Representatives from each class were divided into groups & had to collect points at different stations.
They have to run, lift, dance, sing, act, write & solve puzzles.
The top 3 groups will receive a riddle. Solve the riddle & you will discover the location of the treasure (a golden piece of paper).
Be the first to find it & win a hamper!

Finally, there was the English Language Night produced by yours truly!
Boy, did we have a show for the students & all others in attendance that night!
I dressed up in my 3 piece suit & the other English teachers donned blazers.
Performances for the night were a duet by the 2010 Teacher Idol, a duet by the 2010 Katibas Idol, a story by the 2010 Storytelling Champion, a sketch & a dance.

I sang Jason Mraz's "Lucky" with Norhayati, the Katibas Idol. Even though my mic malfunctioned, we put on a good show.
I also produced the dance. I got a few girls together & trained them every night for a month to do the Wondergirl's "Nobody" dance. I bought dresses, gloves & ribbons for their costumes. It was more than magnificent in the end.

I absolutely have to commend my colleague, Royston, on a job well done in producing the sketch for the night which was based on "Rumplestiltskin".
The casting, the props making, the acting, the abridged plot, the multiple nightly practices & the simplified dialogues they were done with absolute care & attention.
I could see that & I am very grateful to have someone like you on my team.
Keep it up!

2010 English Language Week was a great success!
I have never experienced ELW when I was back in school but my experiences in IPBA & VUW plus the images in my head of what an awesome ELW would be like has really come true.
I would like to thank the members of the administration, the ELP, the ELS & every member of the school who directly & indirectly contributed to this dream.
It was truly memorable & I believe that it has pushed the English language up a notch in the hearts & minds of the students.

I'm already brimming with ideas for next year's ELW!

Saturday, July 10

Phuket - Patong, Phi Phi Island & Phuket Town

Savadecrap! (Greetings) Karpkuncarp! (Thank You)
I've been carp-ing & speaking English at a baby slow pace for 5 days during the holidays in Phuket, Thailand.
I've fallen in love with the good food & the friendly people.
Thailand is such a great place to spend your holidays in!

I spent 5 nights in Phuket & paid around RM400 for return flights with AirAsia.
My travel budget (including flight) was around RM1000 without shopping (including shopping RM2500).
I think I've pretty much experienced most of what Phuket has to offer. The only thing I missed was the Muai Thai boxing.

Here are some highlights of my trip.


Deluxe Room - Thavorn Grand Plaza Hotel

I spent 5 nights in Phuket. 3 in Phuttasa Residence, Patong Beach. 2 in Thavorn Grand Plaza Hotel, Phuket Town.
Accommodation is VERY cheap in Phuket. For 5 nights, we paid a total of ONLY RM200.
The hotels were clean, comfortable & had en suite bathrooms, fridges, towels & great service.

The Phuttasa Residence was only 3 mins walk to the beach & in the middle of all the action.
Step out of the hotel & there are endless rows of makeshift trader tents, taxi drivers, tour guides, massage parlours & restaurants along the roads near the beach.

Phuket town is very quiet & it's just like any other city... Nothing much for cultural sightseeing.
However, the morning market next to Thavorn Grand is an excellent place to sample the food of the locals. None of those touristy Westernised dishes they serve at Patong. The prices are significantly lower too. 

My philosophy about food is something I've learned from my mother.
She taught me to look for the restaurant with the most people. It's her way of vetting the quality of the food.
When I'm travelling, I look for one with the most locals. This way the food is good & authentic at the same time.
That was what I did when I was in Phuket & it paid off every time.

If you're in Patong, look up the humble Dang Restaurant. I like it. Try some of the vege dishes.
It's hard to find Thai food when you're in Patong. The streets are lined with Western, Italian & Fast Food joints. I counted 3 Starbucks in Patong alone!

When I was in Phuket Town, I was taken to an out-of-town beach-side Thai seafood restaurant called Khon Thai 2.
I didn't find the dishes here especially palatable. However, the multitude of mosquitoes there had a wondrous feast on me & my girlfriend.
I would avoid this place in the future because they do not cater to small numbers. They have set prices & portions for each dish so be careful not too order too much like I did. The food is not worth forking out too much for.
The waterside view was not particularly picturesque when I was there. Extremely low-tide revealed the ugly wrinkles of the waterfront.

Thai tailors are renowned around the world for excellent workmanship & especially for price!
I had a 3-piece suit done for RM700+.
The sales people were very friendly & accommodating. Never once did they even show a hint of displeasure at my low-budget or excessive haggling.
The service is extremely fast as well. I ordered at 5pm. Tested at 10pm. Collected 5pm the next day.
If you want a similar experience, look up Uomo Fashion.

Thai Massage
Step into any parlour that says Thai Massage & you'll get the authentic thing (not the more dodgy type of 'massage') & the prices are all very similar.
I paid only RM25/hr for a foot massage. It's the same price for a full body massage.
The foot massage was really good. If I had more time, I'd have gone for a body massage too.
You can also find manicures, facials & etc for around RM25.

Patong Beach
The first thing I noticed about the beach is that it was surprisingly clean & well kept.
The sand was white & there were absolutely no traders at the beach.
Most of the time, there is a red flag up. Which means no swimming. However, I could still dabble at the shore & I still see people surfing the waves.
There are also other types of water recreation that you can take part in. But I didn't think it was worth it to fork out shopping money for a jet-ski or banana boat ride.
I just wanted to have a laid back relaxing time at the beach.

I'm not much of a beach person but shopping... that I can do!
I had a good time browsing & haggling at the makeshift stores located all around Patong.
Lots of custom t-shirts, imitation broad-shorts, sunglasses, shoes & etc.
Most of the traders have similar collections. Haggling is a must esp if you are buying more than 2 pieces.
There is more variety in Phuket Town but the prices are very similar to Patong.

If you're bored with the beach & have some extra money to spend before heading home, I suggest you hire a taxi for a long ride to Phuket's Factory Outlet.
There are many outlets there with reputable brands. There are a few boutiques with excellent T-Shirt designs with prices better than the imitations on the street.
I also got Man Utd, Arsenal, Juventus & Barcelona merchandise there for my friends.
You can get a VAT from most of the stores.

A major attraction in Phuket is the Phuket Fantasea. It's like a large Thai theme park.
There's lots to see there because the architecture is exquisite.
The restaurant is mediocre so you're better off having dinner beforehand.

The main reason people are here is to see the show staged in their large auditorium.
I would rate the show 4/5. There were lots of eye candy, bright lights, live animals, pyrotechnics & acrobatics but the flow of the story & the links between the different acts were uncohesive.
I guess you will need to know the Thai fairytale the show was based on to truly understand it.
This place is worth a visit.
If you have children, then it's a must see! =)

Travel agencies will promote a day-trip to Phi Phi Island.
The cruise is long & the waves are strong so you'll be feeling sick the whole 2hrs there & back!
On the way, you'll see some islands & get to go scuba diving.

The islands were nothing to shout about & there wasn't much to see when scuba diving.
On Phi Phi Island, the beach is lined with boats & the cove filled with them. It's a horrible sight & not sure how hygienic it would be to bathe in such waters.
Unless you're going to spend a few days island hopping, I suggest you avoid Phi Phi Island altogether.

Nowhere else in world will you find excellent customer service, excellent food & clean toilets at such low prices. Only in Thailand.
Phuket is perhaps a little too touristy & Westernised to cater to the majority of tourists who are American & Australian.

However, you will not feel threatened at all in Phuket. As a tourist, I could feel safe walking the streets at night. Probably because the people are so friendly, they're clean, well-dressed, they speak English & there are lots of other tourists around.
I enjoyed Phuket & especially the company.
Thank you for organising it, baby. =)

Friday, July 2

Only 14 Hrs Of Electricity A Day

It's 12 am & I'm experiencing the first of many blackouts at my school.
Today (1 July) is the first day that this rural school will only receive enough diesel for 14hrs of electricity per day.
This means that we will have to cut 10hrs of electricity out of our every day life.

This is our daily schedule:
5am Students wake up.            1pm Morning classes end.
3pm Afternoon classes begin.   5pm Afternoon classes end.
7pm Evening self-study begins. 10pm Evening tea ends.

We're really being pushed here.
On a bare minimum, my school requires at least 13hrs of electricity to run!
Our curricular & co-curricular activities can still go on but gone are the comforts of a blasting fan on a hot day, refreshing afternoon showers, relaxing in front of the tv/computer or working late.
I'll probably miss most of the 2010 World Cup games. bummer~~

I'm not going to point fingers & start a pointless rant but...
It's days like these when you wish the 1 million given to top schools were used to generate electricity for performing rural secondary schools like mine.

Saya Berkorban Demi Negara

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