Sunday, October 31

Of Attitudes & Altitudes

This is a story told not to discriminate, alienate or propagate a certain ethnic group or way of life. I’m saying things the way it is. It’s my honest depiction of what I have observed with my own eyes. Please do not take offence.

Often have I wondered why the local people found it hard to break out of the chain of poverty that plagues a large majority of them. Apprenticeships & job opportunities are easily available wherever they are albeit lower wages, longer hours & hard work, it could still lead to something some day. I’ve always wondered why business owners would shun the local people & prefer to hire Indonesians for these menial jobs. I’ve always wondered why many of them have such low productivity even from the very beginning of their careers. This reflects the local men more than women. I find the local women more industrious & reliable.

After observing them & especially their young up-close for 2 years, I realise it has got a lot to do with their attitude towards life. Happy go lucky & cukup makan is a mantra many of them live by. They were not forced to live from hand to mouth. They chose to live from hand to mouth. This way of life has been handed down from generation to generation as if it was genetic.

This is what many of them will do. When they do not have money, they will go looking for work. Once they get their wages, they will not work. They want to enjoy first. They spend their money on cheap booze, contraband cigarettes & cheap women. Only when their funds run dry, they go searching for work. Some of these men even have families to take care of.

Compare this to another group that also chooses to live from hand to mouth, young Anglo-Saxons. There is however a big difference between the local men & young whites who choose a hand to mouth lifestyle. Our locals want to enjoy life while the whites want to live life. They go from country to country, town to town & city to city because they want to see the world. They finance their travels from any work that they can find wherever they are. When they have experienced all that they can from one place, they will save their money & move on to another place.

Now let’s look at another group of people who have thrived all over the world. The Chinese. They are industrious by choice. Many of them come from impoverished backgrounds as well. Since they were young, they were taught to be frugal & work hard. This is why many of them go from rags to riches in 1 generation. They are willing to work hard for a small profit & still save every penny. All the money saved will either be used for a business or for their children.

One of the challenges that a teacher working with the locals will face is the students are bright but many they are unwilling to work hard. They want to be doctors, engineers & lecturers. Many of them possess the talent & potential but few realise their ambitions because many refuse to suffer temporarily for long-term gain. This short-sightedness is a mental handicap that is keeping these people from progressing.

I have to use short-sighted rewards & punishments to steer them in the right direction. Candies & the cane are my left & right hand. I use these to get them into a positive habit. Hopefully, by the time they leave my class, there is enough momentum to carry them further. It is a slow & painful process of change. Pray for them & those of us working for them.

Tuesday, October 26

2010 #1 Act of Defiance: Tear It Up & Dunk It!

Every year is unique to a teacher even though he may be teaching in the same school & the same class.
As the academic year draws to an end, let me share with you the #1 act of defiance I encountered this year.

I taught a Form 3 class this year, two actually. But the focus is on this particular one with a majority of borderline fail students which also happens to be a class with a majority of boys.
I put a lot of pressure on them & made them do a lot of exercises.
There was this boy who probably had had enough. Can’t blame him though. I’m a tough teacher.

I gave the students exercises to do after teaching & he was making a lot of noise while the others were quietly doing theirs.
I went over to his desk & sternly told him to zip it & finish his work.
He stopped but did not do his work. He just sat there in a taiko style.
I ignored him & went on to monitor other students.
However, he decided to make noise again.

This time, I returned to his desk, raised my voice & scolded him fiercely.
This caused him to stand up, lift his exercise book & tear it in half defiantly in my face.
Then, he took the torn exercise book with him to the bin behind the classroom, lifted up the lid & dunked the book into the bin before returning to his seat & resuming his taiko sitting style.

I actually wanted to laugh because he was a really short boy & I did realise that I had been pushing them all year.
I was not scared at all. I was actually very entertained. I almost clapped.
From the look on his face, I could see that he felt guilty for his actions.
Sadly, I had to make an example out of him.

I did not get angry. I did not yell.
There was only one thing to do.
I calmly walked to the bin, collected the book, walked back to his desk & said...
“Mari jumpa Pengetua. Yang lain diam & buat latihan.”
Then, I pulled an ear all the way to the Principal’s office.

Now you know who's your daddy, right?!!

The Principal was a stern & serious man to the students. He would whack them hard.
The Principal became furious when he heard me story.
He whacked the boy & repetitively asked him rhetorically, “Siapa nak ajar budak macam kamu ini?”
He called him rude & told him that I was a good teacher doing him good.
He told the boy to apologise & the boy did.

He accepted his punishment & has clearly learned his lesson so I decided to let things be.
I told him to buy a new exercise book & copy all the notes & exercises from the beginning.
He agreed.
I told him to give it to me in 3 days.
He agreed.
Then, I told him to return to class & be quiet.
He agreed.

He gave me a complete & neat exercise book after 3 days.
The best part is he never caused me any more trouble after that.
Neither did anyone else in his class.
I love teaching!

Monday, October 18

People Can Surprise You After All

This week, I want to share about a decision someone made that has both surprised me & inspired me.
In every school, there is at least one teacher who is a master magician who can unbelievably disappear into thin air!
Someone who would avoid doing anything & would even struggle with the most basic tasks.

I hope you’re not one of them.
If you are, hope is not lost.
You can learn from this particular teacher in my school.

taken from

This teacher is notorious for being lazy & lately for being anti-establishment.
He would be late for lessons, teach half-heartedly & produce faulty exam papers that are distributed unvetted because he is both the Department Head & Panel Head. What meritocracy? This is seniority at its best!
He rarely turns up for extra activities, would come late & leave early.
He is in a position of influence & would often strut it but he rarely shows the aptitude or attitude of someone deserving it.

Recently, I had an honest man to man chat with him over a few beers, hard liquor & cigarettes.
He shared his grievances with me & blamed his impotence on being let down by his superiors.
His reasons were understandable & would have consumed any emotional man.

This time however, he has decided to put a stop to wallowing in self-pity & bitterness.
He promised me that he would give his best next year NO MATTER WHAT.
I was impressed. I was touched. I was almost brought to tears. Or was it the tuak?
Right there & then, I witnessed a rare moment in a man’s life when he has decided to rise above his overwhelming circumstances.

His career was riddled with incompetence & inconsistency.
It was inspiring to see him decide that enough was enough & plan to show what he is truly capable of.
If he follows through, I have no doubt that he will shine.

I promised him that I would support him all the way.
I promised him that I would acknowledge his good works.
I told him that it was not too late to do his best.
I told him that he was like a butterfly.
The many years wasted in resentment was his cocoon stage.
Now, it’s time for a beautiful butterfly to emerge.

It’s experiences like these that keep you going.
I praise God that I was able to witness such a miracle.
Men were designed to be miracle makers.
People can surprise you after all.
Don’t you wish you taught in a school like mine?

Tuesday, October 5

Injuries Are Sexy

There was a time when I was less stubborn, very suggestible & still somewhat clueless to the female psyche.
At that time, I was walking next to a good friend of mine who had broken his arm or leg or neck or whatever it was.
As we passed by this pair of attractive females, they checked out his injury & cheekily imparted these 3 divine words of wisdom: "Injuries Are Sexy".
Right there and then a blinding ray of light shone through the cloudy skies of my mind.
I was proud of my friend & at the same time very much envious.
However, I have learned something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

As the years went by, I had my fair share of cuts, bruises & hospital visits.
Maybe even more than my fellow male because of my tendency to throw caution to the wind & go all out in competitive sports.
Every time without fail, injuries will attract attention.
From BOTH genders.
The worse the injury the better! haha~~

The males will share a laugh about how unlucky you were & they'd look at you with an air of admiration for the pain that you have endured.
The females will look at you wide eyed with intrigue & awe for your bravery as well as gasp & moan at the highs & lows of your over-exaggerated story.

I recently had an injury that looked worse than it really was.
I've toned down my story to the adults by telling them the truth & playing down the seriousness of my injury.
Still, I walked in pain for 4 days & experience pain even today.
It looks really bad but it is actually merely skin deep.

This is a picture of the injury after 4 days. Still looks bad but I've had worse.
I once had gory, memory-loss also an OMG WTF?!
This is a mosquito bite in comparison but, still, I get attention, empathy & wide eyed admiration from both genders.

What happened was I went on a hunting expedition into the jungle behind my school with 2 locals.
They had rifles while I was armed with a single-barrel scoped camera.
As we made our way through the jungle, we saw a wild boar. It was the size of a small child.
One of the men aimed & fired a shot at the boar. It struck.
But it didn't kill the little b*st*rd as it instantly charged madly at us.
To be more specific, it charged at me.

There were 2 guys with guns & this animal blames ME?!
I was unarmed! I didn't even have a penknife!
I was stunned that I stood motionless like a confused idiot awaiting the impending doom galloping towards him.
It hit me & we fell into each other's arms.

We rolled around on the leaf covered ground & wrestled each other like lovers having sex for the first time.
I punched it in the face & it hoofed me in the chest.
Thank God it wasn't smart enough to aim for my crown jewels.
After my whole life flashed before my eyes, I saw two gigantic hands descend from the heavens.
One was holding a parang.

In one fluid motion, the free hand pulled the nose & the other slit its throat.
After several muscle contractions & a loud screech, the beast landed on top of my body; breathing heavily & its juices flowing all over my body.
I got up &, of all places, discovered an injury on my foot.

I roasted the b*st*rd over fire & consumed its flesh as revenge.
Let me tell you revenge never tasted so delicious.
Definitely the best wild boar I've ever had.

That was the story I told my students.
That's the story they believed & so did you... Sucker!
The truth is my leg fell straight into a shrub-concealed drain while I was coming down a hill.
The momentum of my decent threw me forward & as my leg came out of the drain, it scraped the top edge of the concrete drain.
Flesh met concrete. Sadly, concrete won.

I'm glad injuries attract attention.
I'm glad that I'm surrounded by gullible children.
At least when I'm in pain, I get some kind of pleasure.
I love kids!

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