Thursday, October 24

Sistem Analisis Kompetensi ICT: My Tips

what the website looks like. clean & straightforward. just the way I like it.
For your information (esp those of you who are not working for MoE), everybody in the ministry has to take an ICT Competency test. The officers & teachers in Perlis, Perak, Melaka, Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Penang, Kedah, Labuan, Negeri Sembilan, KL & Johore have already taken the test.

So from 23-31 Oct, its our turn in Sabah, Sarawak & Selangor. Here's the link to the website.
Here are my thoughts...

#1 FAST & SMOOTH!!! OMG!!!

How many of you dread using MoE websites? Esp if it has to do with clerical data entry? It's not the data entry that we dread but the servers which tend to get crowded too often & log us out all of a sudden. Because of this, many teachers wake up in the middle of the night to key in data. Oh, this reminds me, I have to update SPPBS. Dank. No sleep tonight.

When navigating & using this website, I cant help but notice how smooth things are running & how fast the website responds. Everything looks good & in its place. Very well thought out website. Then, I noticed at the bottom-right... Powered by Microsoft. No wonder. The website was even better to use than the Cambridge Placement Test website.

So feel free to log in at any time of the day to do your test! It's a breeze!
(I logged in from in the middle of the jungle so... you should have no problems.)

#2 Bilingual but Bahasa Malaysia handicap

I hope that no fundamentalists will castrate me for saying this.
The test is bilingual. It's kind of like our PPSMI exam papers. Each question is written in BOTH BM & BI. An ICT test is bound to have plenty of technical terms. The problem is, when translated to BM, the technical terms become EVEN MORE CONFUSING.

I started out with the questions in BM because they were the ones on top but I found them really confusing & it took me even longer to answer even simple questions. So I ignored the BM translation & focused solely on the BI part... Worked like a charm.

#3 Easy peasy walk in the park like a piece of cake

I could finish this test with both my legs & hands tided up & 1 eye blindfolded. Seriously.
How would I be able to point & click? Well, use your imagination... *wink**wink*

This test is easy. If you are below 30 years old, you should have no problems with this test because you grew up or were born in the age of the computer. Those of you who use your PC regularly in the English language for work should have no problem.

The questions were about computer parts & their functions. Also about the Internet & certain technical terms. I also remember questions each about MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint & Access. Still, they were really easy & there is no need to cram before you take the test.



I actually took my sweet time to answer the questions. I was also confused at the beginning with the BM translations. Anyhow, I still got a really sweet time. Think you're better than me? PROVE IT!! I DARE YOU!!!

My final time. I took a screenshot before entering my last answer.

Sunday, October 20

Jalinan Kasih Antarabangsa: A Milestone For My Jungle School

The students of Form 4D (the weakest class) produced this beautiful banner. I believe in employing the strengths of usually overlooked students in such projects & boasting about their good work. Our visitors loved the banner.
Many Sarawakians have never heard of my school & while many express a desire to visit my school, very few actually put in the effort to travel to my school except these people & these people. For walking the talk, I salute them. So it is even harder to find foreigners who would be interested in visiting my obscure (but awesome) school in the middle of (a very romantic) nowhere.

However, as I mentioned in a previous post, God has a good plan for my school & I am only tapping into God's plan & His will for the people in this region. He set in motion the events that would lead to this: Program Jalinan Kasih Antarabangsa. The first ever visit to my school by foreign education officers.

It started with a chance opportunity to be part of a Remedial Instructions Workshop during the June holidays co-organised by the School Management Division of MOE & the US Embassy KL. All of the other more 'qualified' teachers just happened to be occupied & I just happened to be free during that period. That was when I met Dr Kay, an English Language Specialist flown all the way from the US.

I was very impressed with her thoughts about education & her experiences teaching all around the world. She was very direct, composed & she was a woman of her words. I thought that she would make a perfect speaker for my students & my colleagues.

I approached her with a proposition. I would arrange for a unique experience into the mystical jungles of Borneo in exchange for a simple talk with my students & a simple sharing session with my colleagues. She jumped at the idea & brought her boss with her, Dr Dawn, the Regional English Language Officer from the US Embassy Manila who oversees US English programmes for Malaysia & other SEA countries.

Firstly, they travelled from KL to Sibu by plane (2 hours). Then, from Sibu to Song by express boat (2 hours). Finally, from town to school (1 hour). My students welcomed our visitors in traditional attire & a short Ngajat performance. The students were guided by Mr ShahrulnizanOur guests also received a garland made of flowers. 
It was a school tradition to have a barbecue with visitors. A Malaysian ice-breaking via food. After all, the way to a person's heart is through the stomach. This BBQ, however, was different from the others.
Why? Because Dr Dawn was a vegetarian, the BBQ team prepared a very special vegetarian BBQ.
The food was great & so was the merry making. Kudos to the chef, Mr Hayazi & his team.
The visit coincided with our Medeka Parade so our visitors joined the event & got to witness our students expressing their love for Malaysia. This awesome parade was organised by Mdm Lia.
Dr Dawn & Dr Kay conducted an in-house training for all the teachers at my school. They shared their teaching experiences, about the US, their opinions on education & gave a few tips for the classroom. Set up by Mr Andrin.
I wanted ALL of the students to benefit from our visitors so I organised a talk for all the 450 students at my school.
Dr Dawn & Dr Kay played games & sang songs with the students. They talked about various places of interest in the US & encouraged my students to work hard to learn & practice the English language. Students were clearly very excited & engaged.
I wanted to force my students to interact in the English language so I was delighted when Dr Kay agreed to do a Q&A with my students. Representatives from each class attended. They were instructed earlier on to prepare questions as a class and, after the Q&A, share the experience with the rest of the class.

Students got the chance to ask questions & shake hands with the visitors. It was a golden opportunity for them as many of them have never seen a native speaker in the flesh before; much less interacted with them. My brother chaired the Q&A. He handled it so well. I'm so proud. =)
We took Dr Dawn & Dr Kay to a longhouse, TR Pillai Ng Miau. They spoke to parents & took part in the Miring, played the Engkerumong & danced the Ngajat.
Tuai Rumah Pillai, who will be retiring soon, was especially overjoyed. He said that the visit was the best thing to happen since he became the TR many years ago. He had never had foreigners visit his longhouse before.
The last night of the programme coincided with our Katibas Idol competition so we doubled the competition as a closing event. The students & teachers put up an entertaining night for our guests. Organised by Ms Flo.

We also presented tokens of appreciation to Dr Dawn & Dr Kay for coming all the way to our school. The banner we gave to them had the signatures of all the teachers while my students presented key-chains handmade from beads. Ms Ifeane oversaw the production of souvenirs.

Here's what Susianna Jannet, one of the 8A PMR students I brought to Kuching in February, said about the programme: "The Jalinan Kasih Antarabangsa programme was the best programme organised at SMK Katibas. This was a very good programme because it gave us motivation to study hard. When we interviewed them, I knew some good tips to improve my studies. It made us interested to study hard and give us a new mission in our lives. From that day, I wanted to study overseas."

I have reason to believe that plenty of other students were similarly inspired & encouraged; their mental horizons broadened. After the talk, students started speaking English with me more & also amongst themselves. Many of them expressed a desire to visit the US & were inspired to study harder. In my classes, students were more eager to learn the language. Dr Kay & Dr Dawn's visit had produced its desired effect! The WOW effect with the intrinsic push. Something which I hope all ETAs in Malaysia are working hard to produce.

This programme was perhaps the biggest programme I have ever had to coordinate. I had to liaise with the US embassy, get permission from JPN, inform the local IPD, mobilise my great team of teachers (some of which have got their names mentioned here because I love them so much) & struggle with a little Napoleon (I might write about this little episode one day). I am privileged to be one of very few common teachers who have brought foreign officers into a jungle school. If I can do it, what is stopping you from doing something similar at your school?

Thank you, Kay & Dawn, for coming all the way to our humble school!
I wish you both all the best! Our school will always love you & remember you! You will live forever in our folklore!

Here are all the pictures from Merdeka Parade, Katibas Idol & Program Jalinan Kasih.

Saturday, October 12

Remedial Instruction For English Language Teaching Workshop (Phase 2)

The workshop was held at Harbour View Hotel, Kuching.
I remember, not too long ago, I said that when an individual stands up for a cause that is bigger than he/she is, good things start to happen, people want to help, resources find their way & all with little perceived effort. This was one such occurrence.

By the stoke of luck (or was it?), I was called up at the last minute to attend Phase 1 of the Remedial Instruction Workshop during the Gawai Holidays. I happened to be in Kuching at that time & I happened to have no plans (which, come to think of it, is really rare). And other teachers who were more senior or 'deserving' happened to have plans & could not attend the week long course.

Besides being trained by a credible & knowledgeable specialist from the US, meeting some of the best & supportive teachers in our country was perhaps the most valuable take-away from the course.
It was a great opportunity for me because teachers from obscure or out of reach schools rarely get called up for courses. Needless to say, we rarely hear a whisper about top-tier courses like these. It's like we do not exist. Either that or the person from Song/Kapit who went to such courses did not do his/her part in sharing/passing on the knowledge. They might have been plain selfish or probably too swamped to find time to train other teachers.

I am neither. I will definitely make time to share with other teachers because I realise that it is more important for me to make more teachers better than me than for me to be the very best that no one ever was. Therefore, I will be doing my part on the 21st of this month for a group of 10 English teachers in Song. They will, sadly, have to see my ugly face day & night for a few days as well as satisfy my every whim & fancy. Any of you from Song reading this should know that I like massages & dark chocolate. Pandai pandai la...

Dr Kay Davis trained us for 2 weeks in total this year.
Just listening to her stories & her experiences teaching around the world was an invaluable motivation to me. If she could work in remote areas in the world & still find effective ways to teach, I can too.
Well, this course was divine because it led to a lot of amazing collaborations this year. The best of which was the banding together of a group of driven English teachers from Sarawak. We have a private Facebook Group, FB Group Chat & a Whatsapp Group. We keep our group private because we share a lot of personal struggles & feelings. It's a safe place for us to air our feelings away from judging eyes. We support each other & back each other up. That is what most teachers need yet do not get from their colleagues or from their administration.

Also, this course has led to a visit to my school by Dr Kay & Dr Dawn. They made a journey to my school mid last month & became the first Orang Putih to visit my school. A momentous occasion in my school history (maybe even Kapit history). They spoke to the students & even had a special session with the staff. The students were so encouraged & felt really motivated to speak English; Shifting many negative mindsets & possibly bringing about positive change in their attitudes & motivation to learn the language. I am so proud to have played a part in making it happen.

Also, let's not forget the amazing activities & insights I gained from the 2 courses. God's plan is indeed perfect.

Check out the pictures on my FB Page.

Monday, October 7

The PMR Mentor Programme: Leadership & Motivation With One Stone

Mentors giving out congratulatory high 5s at the end of the jog. Emotional support.
Last year, I conducted the PMR Motivation Programme personally & let another teacher handle the SPM Motivation Programme.

This year, I wanted to personally handle the SPM group because I felt that it was more challenging to influence older kids & I didn't want to burden other teachers like I did last year. However, this left a big question mark as to who will handle the PMR group. I got my answer at the end of last year in a discussion with Sarah Lasung (a Leadership Development Officer with Teach For Malaysia): Get the PMR students who went through the motivation programme under me to do it for their juniors.

Pure genius. And that was exactly what I did. I'd like to thank my principal, Mr Patrick Nojey for approving the funds to pay for the shirts my students used.

Exercise is good for mental, emotional & physical health which contributes towards better concentration & memory.
Any motivation programme needs to take note of this.

This was how I went about the PMR Mentor Programme:
  1. I chose NON-prefects because I wanted students who could commit to the programme. I could not have the best students (I believe Prefects should have the first pick) but I had students who did not have to juggle with multiple responsibilities.
  2. I chose students who scored at least 1A (which is not easy, mind you) so that they had credibility. I constantly met with them to edify them (for self-efficacy) & always talked them up in front of their mentees (for perceived credibility).
  3. Initiation Reward: free shirts. I hand-picked 20 students & gave them personalised collared shirts. Their mentees had round-neck shirts of the same colour. I told them that the collars symbolised their authority, leadership & professionalism.
  4. Completion Reward: certificates. Out of the 20, only 13 deserved certificates. From the beginning, I stressed commitment & leadership by example. If they failed to commit or support their leaders, they did not deserve the certificate. I made sure that the certificate stated what they were part of.

Stretching & warming down is important after exercise. I added in a few resistance exercises at the end to finish them off.
I may be an old man but my conditioning sometimes makes me more resilient than my students.

What is the difference between my Motivation Programme & your typical motivation programme?

Schools usually go on an exam frenzy the month before the exam. They'd scramble for teachers to give talks & motivation speakers to motivate their students. They'd organise a few talks usually in the span of a week & then conclude that they had a successful programme. That will work in most schools because parents will motivate their own kids. Parents, you do realise that you have to tell your kids to study, no?

My school is a boarding school. Students spend most of their time here. Furthermore, their parents/guardians have very little influence on them or very little parenting skills to impose on their children. Therefore, in my situation, the school plays a big part in shaping the lives of these children. We don't have educated parents who will tell their kids every day to work hard. In my 3rd year, I saw the adverse effects of leaving these children to their own devices. It's not something that I'd want my own children to go through.

Therefore, I decided to take matters into my own hands & craft a motivation programme in my 4th year based on what I learned from the past principal of my school, Mr Clement Chieng (Principal of SMK St Elizabeth), whom I had the privilege to work with in my first 2 years. It's a weekly programme which starts in January & goes on until the last week of PMR.

Every week, the mentors will sit the students down & talk to them about the importance of doing well & working hard.
I believe that children need to be reminded constantly & consistently throughout the year.

Last year, I shared my personal beliefs in preparing students for the big exams. I think that it is important enough for me to briefly share here too.
  1. Children need to be constantly reminded. They are easily distracted. Motivation needs to be year-long & continuous instead of just a one-off talk a month before the exams.
    There are many ways to do it. The Counselling Unit at your school plays a big part in this. You can also do this every day in your classes.
    At my school, I get the mentors to meet with their mentees regularly to discuss their grades. Every week, the mentors must run a motivation programme for the PMR students.
  2. Basically, children just need someone to be there for them. To push them. To fight for them. To believe in them. You can choose to be that someone. Or, you can let the local gangsters do it for you.
    You, the teacher, no matter what it seems, still holds a lot of relevance in the development & success of every pupil.

You see me in the pictures above because I come in at key moments. In January, I worked with the mentors to get the programme up & running on a momentum. Then, I let the mentors have full autonomy. In September, I take over & speak to the students every week because I feel that it is important for them to hear what I have to say as an adult & as a teacher who wants so desperately to see them succeed.

Let me end with a thank you to the mentors for a job well done. I could see them grow as leaders & many of them are stepping up in leadership positions in the school. I'm proud to have played a part in shaping this generation of young people. I look forward to great things.

View all the pictures here on my Facebook page.

Friday, October 4

In My Heart, I Really Want To Transfer

My transfer application.
This afternoon, I was at my PPD to pursue an urgent letter they have not sent to my school. I needed this letter urgently to attend a meeting in Melaka next week &, with all the arrangements I have to make, I did not appreciate the delay.

One of the officers walked by & said, "Cikgu Yong, jangan pindah lagi ya?" I looked at him for a moment to see if he was joking. He didn't look like he was joking. He could very well have been the officer assigned to handle transfers. I figured that if he had already made up his mind, there would be no point for me to reason with him. I was, after all, a mere statistic to him. I said hi, shook his hand politely but didn't say anything. He asked the question again. This time it seemed more like a statement. I took my letter, said my good byes & left.

Yes, I applied for transfer. This is my second application. I did the first one last year. I only applied at the end of the year because I wanted to do finish off the year properly before moving on. Somehow I feel that good people will always be the victim of their own goodness. Those useless or 'bad' teachers get transferred quicker. Should I become one of those in order to get a transfer? It is definitely much easier than what I'm doing now.

As I left the PPD, I couldn't help but feel a deep sorrow in a hidden part of my heart. I have pushed my feelings deep deep inside. Now that the bruise was rubbed, the sorrow lingers. It's a familiar feeling I get when I realise that I have to spend yet another year here. Right then, I knew. In my heart, I really wanted to transfer.

You think that I'm cruising & triumphant. But this is what I actually do every day.
People might think that I'm a happy positive camper but only those with true discernment will know... I'm loving what I do instead of doing what I love. I'm making lemonade because life has given me lemons. I'm promoting what I love, instead of bashing what I hate. I'm making the best of what little I have &, praise the Lord, I've managed to turn many tragedies into triumphs & achieve much more than those who came before me & perhaps even more than some of those who are better equipped.

The main reason I want to go is because I feel that this is no longer a conducive place for a teacher like me. I didn't always feel like this. I remember my first 2 years with great fondness. I worked even harder during those years but the work seemed light & everybody was working together. Then, came the 2 darkest years of my career. I slaved & slaved. Yet, I got undermined, abandoned, slandered & attacked as I pushed forward, with all my might, my personal ideals.

After that, I realised that I was resisting what this school has become. It has changed. I was trying to change it back to what it was & the utopian paradise it could have been. The worst thing is... as time goes by, I am changing with it... and not for the better. I am like a piece of coal. I am passionate & I generate a lot of heat. I can warm a lot of other coal pieces. However, the coal pieces which surround me will eventually influence my flame. Maybe even put it out.

I also feel like I am not welcome here. The local teachers whom I used to share 'happy' beverages & BBQs with, now, treat me with disdain. I don't know why. Maybe it's my race. Maybe it's because I chose to spend less time partying with them in order to spend more time working with the students. I never asked. However, I've always been friendly & I've always greeted everyone. Many of them just stopped reciprocating. Some can't even give me eye contact. Still, I treat everyone here as friendly as the first day I came to school.

I do what I think is right.
I do it with all my might.
I never back down from a righteous fight.
I am nothing but a common knight.
I have always believed in God's will. Some call it destiny. I know that I am here for a reason. I'm not sure what that reason is but it does not necessarily have to be something that I desire or understand.

At a moment of spiritual high, many Christians pray, "use me, oh Lord, to do your will." Yet they forget that this world has become so corrupted that God's will becomes so hard that even Jesus, in a moment of weakness, said, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me." Before soldiering up & saying, "yet not my will, but yours be done."

After 5 years of blood & sweat, I think I more than deserve a transfer. I am very ambitious. I desire to be at a school where I can perform at my best. Where I can learn from the best & hone my skills. I dream of being one of the top teachers in Sarawak. I want to support budding teachers & nudge them towards being better than me. Yet doing God's work is not easy & humility is a bitter pill to swallow.

The wonderful first 2 years of my service was God's bait to keep me hooked on teaching. I still hang on to the memories as proof that nothing is more meaningful than teaching. At the moment, I am in the 3rd year of a refining process. If I am kept here for another year, there must be something special in store for me. Something that only I can do. God is full of surprises. This year has been full of surprises. I never asked for the recognition that I received all these years. All that I ask is to be set free to make a real difference instead the usual bureaucratic pretence in black & white.

My heart really wants a transfer. But if I'm going to be here for another year, do pray that this bleeding knight in dented armour shall have the courage to do what is right.

Reason for transfer.

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