My PMR & SPM Seminars @ SMK Katibas

Just touched down in Kuching a few hours ago for my well-deserved break at home. I've got 4 days to rest before I make my journey back into the jungle again.
"Why so little?" you ask as you stuff your face with mom's rendang? Well, it's because I gave up the first half of my break to stay with the students at school. I wanted the PMR & SPM students to stay back & do some self-study. Knowing them, it would be unlikely for them to study if they were home. The good ones will be helping the family at the farms while the spoilt ones will be lazing around.
I also took this opportunity to give BOTH the PMR & SPM students tips on how to excel in their respective English Language papers.

PMR Seminar
All through the 8 hour sessions for each of them, I reiterated the need for them to be disciplined, focus, work hard & work independently. Values that will serve them well after they finish school. However, I sometimes feel that I am alone in the struggle to lift these people. Then, I remember the handful of people in the school who have worked with me above & beyond the call of duty to make a difference in the lives of the students. I am grateful for them. I know that sometimes I don't appreciate them enough or support them when they need me. I'm working on that & learning as I go.

SPM Seminar
I told the students that it was compulsory for them to attend. 99% did attend. The other 1% will get a 'special' present from me after holidays. If I am able to sacrifice my holidays for your benefit, you should be able to stay back. Or else, you'll just piss me off & I'll make sure you know that. You have been warned countless times before. Yup, I'm tough like that. Don't you ever mess with me. I'm here to teach you & I'll make sure you learn something through that thick skull of yours.

For the seminars, I developed PowerPoint presentations. I developed the PMR slides myself from experience, discussions with examiners, reference book & online material. Since I did not have a lot of experience with the upper form, a veteran examiner was ever so generous to give me his old slides. I used his slides as the base & added some of my own research. This guy is a legend & he is bigger than life!
He's probably going to comment about this below. See if you can guess who he is.

From the feedback, it seems that what I've shared was helpful & some of the things I shared was never shared before. Good on those who attended & paid attention.

I apologise for not sharing the slides. I worked really hard on them so I have attachment issues. It's right what they say about you won't appreciate something you haven't worked for. Anyway, it's nothing earth-moving or overly genius. I'm sure you can come up with something even better.
I'll do the next best thing & give you a basic idea of what I shared with my students:
  • Past Year Questions Analysis
  • Tips to Score Better
  • Learning Strategies
  • Practice with Past Year Questions
  • Common Mistakes
There are more pictures here on my FB page. Check it!

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri!
Maaf Zahir & Batin!


  1. You are so dedicated on your profession. Im sure some of your students are looking up on you and dreaming to be like you in the future. Hope you have a wonderful break. Enjoy your time with your family. :)


    1. I want them to be better than me. So they have the power to change the fate of their people.

  2. Blush!!! Blush!!!

    Happy Holidays!!! Enjoy your few days at home.

  3. Do spend some time with your family...
    have a great one..
    wish all the best to your students..

  4. Wow. It sounds like you organised the talks on your own initiative (hats off, sir). I suppose the school simply provided the venue? Just wondering how you organised lunch & dinner since the school canteen would have been closed. See, this is the sort of detail that would have been nice (just kidding, thanks for taking the time to blog about this on your remaining days off).

    I have some questions; hope you don't mind my asking them here. Did you do any sort of assessment (formal or informal) at the end of/during the 8-hr sessions to find out how much your students took away from the talks?

    Also, I'm curious to know about the stuff you gleaned from talking to examiners. I'm asking because the information about exam-answering strategies are truly scarce when it comes to non-national schools trying to prepare students for state exams. Some burning questions we've had in the staff room included things like --
    - do students have to stick to the word limits strictly (essay writing), or is it okay to write as much as they like?
    - how much should the students write for the literature component (are there word limits), and is it really disastrous not to begin the answer with "In the novel I read, [title of novel], ...."

    One technique taught by an experienced teacher (which I thought was ingenious) for summary writing was for students to draw vertical lines to mark out 10 words in a line, so that they don't waste time counting words when they've finished writing the summary. Then a student asked if the irregular spacing between words would be a problem. I was like, "Er...." and then said they would hardly be penalised for such a trivial thing (but ... it bothers me when I don't know for sure).

    Anyway, hope you have a great holiday and a good rest. The final lap is almost upon us!

    1. Actually, the school has a hostel so meals are cooked & served at the hall FREE. These are poor children who would not be able to afford much from a canteen for long. Since it's a jungle school, all students stay in the hostel because it is unbelievably expensive for them to travel to & from home every day by boat. I am the Chief Warden after all.

      I did not do any assessments. I walked around to make sure that they were making their own notes & paying attention to what I was saying.
      After the sessions, I'd talk to some students about what they have learned & they shared that it was extremely helpful & cleared up a lot of questions they had.
      Also, ever since I started doing these seminars, the PMR results have sky rocketed through the 60% Pass Rate ceiling.

      I feel that the national English paper is a very inferior examination. It is very easy to do well on the paper. Think simply with common sense.
      -Essay has no word limit. Only summary. Write as much as you like but if you write too much you might be opening yourself up to extra errors.
      -Literature component has no word limit too. How much can you write in such a short time? Be SMART about it. Write more where there is more marks. Yes, please state the novel name explicitly so examiners won't have to play the guessing game & get pissed off about it.
      -For Summary, the spacing is indeed trivial unless it's so wide I can put a burger between it. What examiners would do is count to the word limit & make a mark. Only what is within the word limit is awarded marks.

  5. (and is it absolutely necessary for them to write the total number of words after their compositions, summary and the final literature question?)
    I'm being kiasu. Sorry. I also want the best for my students. :)

    1. Only necessary for summary actually. For the others there word limit is actually a word minimum.

    2. Thanks for the responses. Appreciate it :)

    3. Let me know if you have other questions.

  6. I laughed out loud when you talked about attachment issues with your slides. I have the same issues with my notes too. Although I cannot control who my kids shares them with. *breaths deeply

    I do however, have my initials at the margins. Heh.

    1. Oh yeah! Take pride in your work! =D

  7. There is one person you shall learn from. Brother Albinus. He is a legend and he is still in good health in Kuching.

    1. Thanks for the tip, William.
      But what does he do actually? Teach English? Retired? Examiner?

  8. He was the ex principal of Sacred Heart Seconary School. He made the school the best in the state. He was so dedicated and whenever we done something naughty like whispering to our mate, he will appear from nowhere. He supervised his students during morning class, afternoon library self study and night study but is also able to catch his students fooling around town after school hours. How he done it is still a mystery. Google Brother Albinus or visit or talk to ex Sacred Heart students if you want to know more about the legend.

    1. He could be an example or motivation if you are pursueing to become a good educatinist. Talk to any ex SHS like Suituapui and you will know.

    2. Interesting. I'll KIV this. Thanks for sharing!

    3. One of my handicapped teacher posted on his facebook status about Brother Albinus today. See below:

      This is one man who had inspired me as one of his staff; he had been a diligent, conscientious, exemplary and fair leader to me during my four years under his wings in SHS. I had always remembered his first comment on seeing me reporting to the school in 1983. He had marched into my class to make sure the boys did not take advantage of me during my first month in school. I had no difficulty to go to see him in his office even others reminded me to be cautious. I found him very approachable when we had tried our best of our ability. Thank you, Brother Albinus for the opportunity to be under your tutelage. I have learned a lot from him.

    4. Mr Albinus seems like a great man & I would love to meet him one day but I do feel that I do not have anything pressing enough to go & disturb him in his retirement.
      Besides, I do not have any personal connections with him so it will be entirely awkward to go see him out of the blue.
      Perhaps one day during a festival or celebration, I shall join a group of people to visit him. Whomever that group will be.
      Meanwhile, I've got plenty of people I draw inspiration from. There are other great leaders in our education system today.


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