Thursday, December 25

My Transfer Is Denied So Share This With An Administrator

Denied Again. But not defeated.
The past 6 years in the jungle have been amazing & I believe that I have proven my worth.
I want to commit all my talent & skills to education in Sarawak because it is where the need for someone like me is greatest (Sarawak is usually at the bottom of national performance rankings.) but my determination is waned & my potential is limited at being confined to the jungle for a 7th year.
I am ambitious & I know that I can do much more with access to an airport, resources, people, internet & mobile connection.
Being denied not only frustrates me, it unsettles me.

Sarawak has an excess of English teachers (most of which are in Kuching & the surrounding districts teaching subjects other than English) so it's harder for me to move WITHIN Sarawak than it is to move OUT of the state.
Excess = very few new postings = not being able to move because there is no replacement for me.
Excess = very few vacancies = joining a waiting list where lots of more 'qualified' people are already waiting. Some for more than 10 years.

I've been a really good teacher transfer-wise.
No matter how tough it got, I rooted myself to my jungle school & gave my best. I only applied for transfer after my FOURTH year and I've never applied for transfer in the middle of the year. I have only applied for transfer at the end of the year because I am committed to my students & the programmes I have planned for the year.
After being left behind by juniors who have been religiously applying for transfers from their first year, I feel like I am being punished for my naivety & my desire to serve.

Sunday, December 14

5 Ways The Malaysian Continuous Professional Development (CPD) Course Can Improve

I'm not an expert but ah....
   This is an honest review from a thinking professional who has been in the profession for more than 5 years & already continuously improving himself via reading books/magazines/websites, reflecting & attending courses/training/conferences/symposiums. I have also shared my development through writing blogs/articles & giving talks/speeches/workshops to teachers/students.

   The fruits of all of that personal/professional growth is documented in this blog. I urge you to to skim/browse its archives & see for yourself if I am a credible commentator/stakeholder before you continue reading.

   I wrote this post not as a condemnation. I want to pool ideas to help make it better & I believe there can be a more effective use of tax payer funds & valuable time of education professionals. I have written down the same views & suggestions expressed in this blog post on the feedback forms I filled at the end of the course; of which I hope will be given due consideration.

   I truly admire promoting the spirit of autonomous continuous personal professional development in educators. Studies have shown that PD courses increase teacher efficacy & student scores. It doesn't take a genius to see how the nation will benefit when there are more effective individuals serving as role models to the new generation in an fluidly evolving modern world. The MoE hit the nail on the head by having BPG initiate the CPD course.

   However, having heard unfavourable reviews from more intelligent peers & having gone through the course myself at the end of last year, I'm afraid that the best intentions do not guarantee the best outcomes. Here are my ideas of what worked & what can be improved.

Friday, December 12

5 Tips For GRE From Someone Who Barely Has Time To Study

What the ETS page for GRE looks like.
For those of you here out of curiosity, Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) is a 4 hour exam required for admissions into graduate study programmes at universities in the United States.
I'm not an expert at GRE prep. I'm sharing lessons from my test day experience so that you may have a better idea of what to expect on your test day.

I took the GRE a few months ago at a Prometric testing centre in KL, Malaysia.
I registered online at the Educational Testing Service (ETS) website & paid for it with my credit card. My test costed US$195. Bear in mind that the test in KL can only be scheduled on Wednesdays/Thursdays.

I took the TOEFL test earlier & did extremely well despite not preparing at all. If you're taking the TOEFL computer-based test as well, you might want to read the lessons from my test day experience to have a better idea of what to expect during your own test.

Tuesday, November 18

10 Steps To Start A School Newspaper At Your Rural School

The Fantastic Global Newspaper Team (consisting of students from Form 1-4)
Besides initiating a comic book project this year to encourage students to read more in the English language, I revived a school newspaper project I initiated in 2010. (Since then, I stopped to commit myself to being a Chief Warden.)

Thinking back to my high school days, producing a school newspaper was really easy at my urban high school where the teacher could just assign the project to a group of students & they would work everything out on their own like magic.
It is a lot more challenging for a rural school with limited facilities & students with limited proficiency.

This is how I did it. You can go ahead & do the same at your school.

Sunday, November 16

Ryan The Lion: A Gift From Afar

The "Ryan The Lion" book which flew all the way from Australia!
When you make public your desire to do something good (like collecting a library of simple books for your students), help can come from unexpected places.

The students at my school have very limited English so what is prescribed at secondary school is usually too challenging for them.
While forcing the horse to drink the bitter prescribed alphabet brew, I've spent many years sourcing for colourful children's books with simple English. These books are at the level of my students & very fascinating for them to read or just flip through. I'm hoping that, for once, reading English will actually make some sense to them.

They also happen to be too expensive for my school to pay for on limited government allocations (due to allocations given based on a small student population which has to be stretched across various subjects which need books in the library as well).
Fortunately, I am always able to find kind donors. This particular one was really special.

Thursday, November 6

#inspireKATIBAS: Big Hearts Taking Action In Rural Sarawak

#inspireKATIBAS 2014
In August this year, a group of young professionals led by Teach For Malaysia's Sarah Lasung came to my school to run a week-long programme.
The amazing thing about them is they were volunteers who came completely at their own expense for an opportunity to make a difference deep in jungles of Borneo.

Other similar programmes are Aram Katibas! this year as well as Program Jalinan KasihmissionKatibas & Jalinan Kasih Antarabangsa from last year. All unique & powerfully moving in the lives of my rural school students.

Why this programme?
My students do not have much in terms of role models & ambitions. Most want to join the civil service as policemen or soldiers. Some want to be teachers. Very few aspire to be professionals or businessmen. Eventually, too many of them end up doing odd jobs & living in slum like conditions.

This needs to change. There is so much out there that they can do & many of the best jobs today never existed 5 years ago.
I want my students to have the opportunity to be exposed to & explore new possibilities.
This was the challenge I extended to this enthusiastic & brilliant team of people from various educational/professional backgrounds.

Tuesday, October 28

The Dream SIP+ Visit

Just a few days after the nightmare visit by the Nazir, an SIP+ visited my school.
At that time, the teachers were weiry of visitors; including myself. We wouldn't want to go through another round of scrutiny & condemnation.

When a colleague came into the staff room announcing that an SIP+ was looking for me, I admit I was pretty negative about it. I recalled how a colleague of mine was publicly humiliated only just a few days ago. I dragged my feet as I forced myself to meet with this officer.
As it turned out, the officer was very peculiar & he had a peculiar reason for visiting my school.

Tuesday, October 21

The Nazir Nightmare

**Everything written here is my personal opinion & observations. I am not perfect. In fact, I'm terribly flawed. I'm sharing because I have learned from this & I believe others can too.**

A few weeks ago, a team of officers came to my school to check on our implementation of the PT3 & our readiness to administer the PT3 written assessments.
My school is located deep in the jungles of Borneo so we rarely get visits from anybody. Not even the Nazir. Their last visit was in 2007, believe it or not.
Their visit on Monday was only made known to us on the Friday before & we were completely in the dark about what they were expecting. We were only informed that we had to prepare all our documentation especially those for PT3.

Our admin used this opportunity to scare us into doing all sorts of paperwork & it worked.
My colleagues thought that I was the cause for the visit because I applied for GC earlier this year. But, I told them that I didn't even qualify.
Anyway, if they were really here to check on me, my colleagues needn't worry or prepare anything.

Here's my account of the experience which taught me valuable lessons on correcting people.

Saturday, October 11

Katilympics 2014

What would you do if life at school was getting mundane? What if every week was the same hustle & bustle into the classrooms for lessons delivered while you were seated like a lovely puppet doll? What if it has been like this for months already?
I'm sure you'd get this little itch. It starts as a small one. Then, it becomes bigger & bigger & bigger until, eventually, you've just got to scratch it.
Often times, our students are Bored & we're only making things worse.

When students are bored, they will do all sorts of things to amuse themselves.
Which is why boarding schools have activities all year-round. Perhaps they do this because of PBS: Penilaian Berasaskan Sekolah Sebelah.
Whether intentional or not, having programmes all year-round occupies students & distracts them. It gives them the opportunity to expend the inexhaustible energy they tend to possess. With such an outlet, students rarely have the time nor the energy to cause discipline problems or mischief.
After all, an idle head is the devil's playground.

Thursday, October 9

Job Offer: Teach Orang Asli Children in Gerik

working with the less fortunate
Do you love children? What are you thoughts about educating them?
Would you enjoy a rare opportunity to travel to a rural part of Malaysia? Would you enjoy applying yourself in meaningful work which will change lives?
Do you want to make a real difference in the lives of children who are forgotten & abandoned because they were born into a rural community?
Or, perhaps you want a break from the hustle & bustle?

I'm helping a friend seek out an individual with a deep sense of purpose to teach young Orang Asli children in Gerik, Perak.

Position: Teacher
Place: Lake BandingGerik
Duration: 3 to 6 months

Education: An education diploma or bachelor's would be good but your education background is not as important as your desire to educate. You will be given a chance to learn from a local government school & be in control of the curriculum.
Package: Negotiable within reason. Food, board & logistics to village covered. 1 month funded teacher training at a local government school.

Objective: Prepare the children for full time formal education at a government school by next year.
Students: Orang Asli children who have had no education. 32 children between 3 and 12.
Classroom: A basic purpose build class room. All the necessary school books will be purchased and there is a boat to take the teacher to the island daily, or as frequently as required.

Contact: Matthew Rickard

Please help the Orang Asli children by sharing this blog post & tagging friends who might be interested!
You may contact me or Matthew for more information.


UPDATE: 31 March 2015
Check it out! The school officially launched in October 2014! Read about it on my blog here.
Still, contact me or Matthew if you're interested in being a teacher there or if your organisation is looking to collaborate on a high impact programme.

Tuesday, September 23

A Gift of Reading by Second Time Around Books

A Form 2 class gets the pleasure of unboxing the books given by Second Time Around Books.
In my last blog post, I wrote about a news article about me that I was displeased about. Before it was taken down, it caught the attention of a local entrepreneur. He contacted me about giving me some free English language children's books from the US.

Being very aware that my students lack quality reading material catering to their low levels of proficiency, I jumped at the opportunity.
My school library is well-managed by the teachers-in-charge but they lack the funds to splurge on quality books. They also have to cater to all the subjects taught at school.

In my 6 years of service here, I have arranged for & received book donations from only 2 parties: a female warden at UiTM Sarawak who mobilised her hostel blocks to organise a charity fund-raiser & members of the Aram Katibas! team who donated their old children's books.

However, this one from Second Time Around Books is the biggest I have ever received on behalf of my school.
When I went to collect, I only expected 1 box of books. Little did I know, they packed they packed 4 boxes full of children's books!! Susy, the lady in-charge, asked me if I wanted more & told me to take as much as I want!! How generous!!!
I was going to carry the boxes by myself all the way to my jungle school so 4 boxes was as much as I could manage. Also, I was rushing to catch the express boat at that time so I didn't have time to select & pack more books.

I had time to examine the books yesterday as I unboxed them with a class of Form 2 students. I received books at the level requested. I asked for books catering to low proficiency readers.
Simple books with lots of colourful pictures and large words. I got plenty. All of which were in good condition & had excellent content.

Second Time Around Books runs book fairs all over Sarawak. They import used books from the USA and sells them at affordable prices.
I collected the boxes they gave me at a small book fair in Sibu. The books were going for RM3-RM9. Also, there are plenty of gems in their collection: Dr Seuss, Winnie the Pooh, Disney, & so on.
They also support rural literacy initiatives in Sarawak & Sabah. They have been giving books away to rural schools & villages.

It is really an honour to meet such kind-hearted business people. I really appreciate the books & I believe that my students will greatly benefit from the extra breadth in the English book collection in the library.

If you have a collection of old children books you want to get rid off, why not donate to my jungle school? Contact me.

Sunday, September 21

Interviewed by The Sarawak Energy Newsroom

Interviewed by The Sarawak Energy Newsroom - 15 August 2014
A few months ago, I was approached via email for an interview about my opinions of the importance of education to rural folk in Sarawak. The question pushed enough of my hot-buttons that I answered immediately & elaborately. I wanted to raise awareness about the education challenges & social issues in the part of rural Sarawak I serve in as well as call people to action.

I guess my answer was so comprehensive that the news agency used it to publish an article on their site under my name. They also used a lot of pictures of me in it. Especially one big picture of me at the top of the article even before anyone read the text.

I didn't like what I saw. I decided not to share the article & I emailed the journalist about my desires & intentions for answering her queries & how the article is might become a disservice to everything that I am trying to achieve in the jungle.

I am no politician. I don't need journalists to over-blow my persona. This is not something I want at all. I want the focus to be on THE ISSUE. NOT on me. I'm hungry for change. I'm not hungry for attention. I became very concerned when people started sharing the article on social media & tagged me in it. I hope that I do not become a Malala. I don't want people to support me in spirit/on social media & then do nothing at all about the issue. I want more people to innovate & come up with their own unique solutions to age old problems in their own world. I want to decrease so that others may increase. Together, in our own little ways, we can do a lot more.

Fortunately, the journalist I contacted took down the article, apologised profusely & rewrote the article. This new one is way better. Although my name is mentioned multiple times & most of the words used were mine, my picture does not appear in it & another teacher is also quoted in the article.

Check out the article here:

Do read the article & comment on it.
If you would like to clink brains with me & flew your muscles to help, send me an email or contact me on my FB page.

Saturday, September 6

The Time Is Right For A Transfer

I applied for a transfer for the academic year beginning 2015.
I'm sorry to burst your bubble, everyone. I'm not going to spend my entire life in the jungle. Some of you may have only recently come to know of my work but I've actually been serving here for 6 years already. This year, I have found something that I can leave behind which will yield long-term benefits to the rural community. Knowing that, I believe that it is time for me to move on. I am hungry for a new challenge & desiring to make a bigger impact.

Let me make something clear. When I arrived 6 years ago in 2009, I made a conscious decision to root myself here for at least 4 years & work my butt off to see if I am worthy of being a teacher. I converted my bland government apartment into a swanky jungle bachelor pad (will take photos & show it off soon) as well as implemented various programmes & activities which promote the English language & develop the character of the students at my school.

I only applied for transfer after 4 years of full service in 2012. Again last year in my 5th year in 2013. And again this year in 2014.
During those 3 years, I only applied for transfer at the end of the year because I wanted to commit myself to developing my students & guiding them over the course of a full academic year. I also wanted to follow through all the programmes that I have planned for the year. (Teachers only get 2 windows to apply for a transfer: mid-year & end-of-year.)
Even though I would have had a better chance of getting a transfer if I applied in the middle of the year, I wanted to put my students & my school first.

I have seen too many teachers arrive at my school & immediately decide that they want to leave. They never bothered to enjoy the natural rainforest surrounding them, gotten to know the warm & unpretentious locals, or figure out what kind of legacy they wanted to leave behind. All they want is to leave & that's their main focus throughout their wasted years here. I have seen desperate teachers do all sorts of unethical things. Some of which I will never be able to publish in a public document.
Sadly, it is their loss. They missed the beauty & opportunities which were right under their noses. In the end, no matter how many years they've spent in the jungle, it was as if they have never arrived in the first place.

From the get go, I wanted something different. I came here with the intention of testing myself & a desire to make a difference. I believe that the greatest opportunity exists where the challenge is greatest. I also believe in rising to the level of any challenge & overcoming it.
My beliefs have proven true over the years. Having excelled here, I am primed to excel in any pursuit in life. I am ready & I am hungry. I am ambitious & there is so much more that I want to do which I cannot do in the jungle.

I am ever thankful to be blessed with this opportunity. If you ask me if I would do it again, I'd give you a hell yeah. Working in the jungle has given me so much. Most of the blessings I've received cannot be seen with the eye or valued with currently. It is imbued in my character & only understood by those with the softest eyes & biggest hearts.
To summarise: I entered the jungle as a boy. Soon, I shall emerge as a man hungry to make his mark in the world.

I bet you're asking: Where do I want to go? What do I want to do? What is this special thing that I am leaving behind?

Wednesday, August 27

SPM English Literature Component

Hey teachers!
This is something I wished existed on the internet since a long long time ago...
The SPM English literature component (2010) in plain text for easy cut & paste! I've even typed out the 2 short stories!
This will be very useful for setting exam papers... Enjoy!!
Say thank you & remember to share if you find this useful!!!

Thursday, August 21

My CPT Results

liulian runtuh oh!
Dear English language teachers!
If you're like me, as in you have no clue what your CPT results are, I have good news for you! You can now check if you've got C1 or C2 here (!!
If you've got a A1-B2, your name will not appear in the list on the site.

This website was released early this week & already on the very day itself, this jungle teacher has received more than 5 notifications about it! BEFORE 8AM!!! Talk about an affective & efficient cascading model for the dissemination of knowledge amongst education professionals!
I've even had a strange lady spam my FB page for me to reveal my results! Thankfully, I removed the unsightly posts & will satisfy her curiosity here tonight!

Sunday, August 10

Saya Guru Tak Cemerlang

This is a story I want to share because I think there are hundreds if not thousands of teachers out there who are working very hard but getting little or no recognition for their work. My disappointment is nothing compared to theirs. I'm lucky to at least have an audience & a platform for sharing. It's good that I don't get everything because it keeps me humble & fighting for what is right.

This blog post is dedicated to the teachers out there who are slaving it out for their students & loving it while at the same time alienated from the system which is supposed to reward them. They are fabulous enough to flip their hair aside haughtily at such ignorance & remember what is important to them.

As you know from a previous blog post, I applied for GC. The purpose of this award was to recognise truly exemplary teachers. However, not all who are awarded are exemplary. I wanted to change this disappointing fact so I made my first attempt this year. If I was successful, I wanted to teach other exemplary teachers how to do it for themselves because I want the best people to be GCs. However, I don't think that this is something I'll be able to do in the short-term because, apparently, saya guru tak cemerlang.

Monday, August 4

An English Language Comic Book From The Jungle

A few months ago, I caught a glimpse of an impressive piece of anime art a student of mine drew in his journal. I complimented him on it & he was delighted. Pretty soon he was showing me other pieces of really impressive art he did on his own. I felt really impressed & touched that he would share this with me. I feel that he is like a little spark in the middle of nowhere. I never expected such artistic talent from my jungle school students.

This experience left me wondering how I could help students with such talents showcase it & get it out there into the world for everyone to enjoy. I want him to develop his talent, be proud of it & use it to do good for the community.

An idea came to me as I was discussing an English Language Newspaper for my school (will blog about this very soon) with my selected newspaper dream team. I thought of including a hand-drawn comic strip in the monthly newspaper. As I discussed the idea with the newspaper team, they told me that there were at least 4 students with extraordinary drawing skills. After the meeting, I gathered these students & asked if they were interested in having a publication of their own: an English language comic book. They lit up & immediately got to work.

My team of talented artists.
I will talk about my reasons for wanting to produce an English language comic book for my students in a following blog post. For now, let me share the 1st edition of our school's comic book. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 24

Jungle Pedalling Adventures

Close your eyes. Imagine the mist-velveted lush green rainforest in all it's glory. Imagine the air filling your lungs with its crisp, sweet & cool goodness. Imagine the golden glow of the sunrise illuminating the scenery before you as you rush downhill in a blur of speed. One small slip on your mountain bike & you'd fall & risk injuring yourself hours away from help with nothing but a cheap plastic helmet to protect your valuable noodles. But it's worth it. Working in the interiors of Sarawak does have it's moments. Esp if you've got a hot-blood for adventure & the persistence of a hamster on two wheels.

After working here for 6 years, I've finally decided to get a set of wheels for early morning rides to Song from my school.

Bought a bike in Kuching, had it packed nicely, carried it all the way to the jungle so that it will carry me in return.
I'm still considering whether I want to carry it all the way back to Kuching once I transfer.

Saturday, July 12

The Education Consultancy Job

A few weeks ago, when I was stressed-out & madly rushing the paperwork required for Guru Cemerlang, I got a call from an HR agency working for an education consultancy about a job position in the consultancy. The person saw my profile, read my information & thought that I would make a good candidate for the vacant role. I've heard of the consultancy & have a friend who works there but I didn't know much about what they did. I was provided with some basic information on the consultancy & the job description. What really surprised me was the remuneration package. It was huge. I was surprised that there was such an amount in the education sector.

The offer really caught my attention & got me thinking seriously about the direction I was taking in my life. Is this better than what I am doing at the moment? Is this the legacy that I want? Is this the only way for me to finally be able to move on to a new challenge? Do I stay as a common teacher or become a consultant of teachers?

Sunday, July 6

When There Is No Water At The Jungle School

You've probably heard me lament many times on Fb/Twitter about the lack of water at school.
Well, the main water pump in our school is really old & in a poor state of repair. It breaks down or a pipe bursts every few months & immediately plunges the school into drought.

Also, the speed in which repairs take place can drive a snail mad so we can go on for weeks without water being pumped into our lodgings. The situation gets worse when the mini-pumps at our apartment blocks break-down after an extended period of disuse.
The record time for not having any water pumped into my apartment is 4 months: October 2013 - January 2014.

Imagine you're a student who is sitting for SPM & you have to endure a drought throughout your preparation & exam. You have to endure no matter what & do your best in your tests. I really respect my students who went through SPM in such conditions last year. I wouldn't want anything like this to happen to me during an important period of my life.

Imagine you're a teacher who comes from the city where you have taken for granted the constant supply of running water & electricity. You fly from your home & take 2 boats to get to school. You feel energised from the holidays & are eager to start the year with a bang.
Yet, you return to find that nothing has been done to fix the water problem during the holidays & you've got to find a way to clean your filthy house, source for clean drinking water, prepare your meals & clean your dirty laundry.
What would that do to your morale & those of the colleagues you depend on? No matter what, you have to survive & you have to stay focused. It's not easy.

So what happens when there is no water at the jungle school?

Wednesday, July 2

Featured in The Borneo Post - 14 June 2014

an exact replica of the article in the Victorious magazine
When I received news about appearing in the newspaper again, I thought that this principal in Sibu was pulling my leg. I laughed off the early morning WhatsApp message in good humour. Soon, more messages came & then I was FB tagged in a picture of the article by a hot dentist friend.

Apparently, I have made a surprise appearance in The Borneo Post, an English daily distributed all over Sarawak. At that time, I was in KL for TFM's energising Connect_ED.

I didn't know about the article & my permission was not sought. I studied the picture of the article & found that it is an exact replica of an article written about me in Victorious, the alumni magazine of my alma mater, Victoria University of Wellington. I don't know whether to be alarmed or happy about this.
Even though I appreciate the recognition & being used as the face of New Zealand education in Sarawak, I should have at least been informed. I am going to seek an explanation.

Meanwhile, it's business as usual for me. I'm just the flavour of the week. Being featured in newspapers does not make me a better teacher nor any better than any other teacher.
I'm still trekking 10 minutes to the river to do my bathing/washing/cleaning just like any other jungle teacher.
I'm still paid peanuts to do what I do. Paid like teachers who do very little too. hmm...

Also, I'm trying very hard not to let all this publicity get to my head.
You have permission to slap me when my head gets so full of hot steam it floats through the air like an Angry Bird. Be gentle.

Maybe with this new found fame... will someone powerful who reads this please tell the ministry to send good principals & teachers to the interiors?
What's the point of having Guru Cemerlangs & Pengetua Cemerlangs in top schools? Put them some place where they can make a real difference instead of being Great Clerks or Powerful Clerks in schools who can run extremely well without them.
Teaching in the interiors is a privilege. NOT a punishment. You can quote me on that.

View all my newspaper features here.

Saturday, June 21

TFM Connect_ED 2014

Connect_ED 2014 by Teach For Malaysia
There is one time in a year when I feel a little less crazy for being the way I am.
There is one time in a year when I recharge my soul & spirit without having to do anything.
There is one time in a year when I feel hopeful for the future of my country.
There is one time in a year when I feel really old because of the fresh young new faces.

Many new teachers come up to me & express a desire to do what I am doing. No, they don't mean working in the jungle with low proficiency students for half a decade. All they see is the fluff. My travelling around to attend all sorts of ministry meetings, conferences, speaking & giving talks. That is what they want.
What they do not see is the process of getting from where I was, an obscure teacher working his butt off in the middle of nowhere where nobody cares, to a still obscure teacher known & appreciated by those who care.

Doing what I'm doing is a lonely road. Believing the best in my students. Doing my best to provide them with what they need to succeed. Burning fingers & stepping on toes to bulldoze my way to doing what I think is right.
For a long time, I have been working in isolation in the middle of nowhere. I dare not speak of my ideals lest I be branded a madman. During my darkest days, I wonder to myself whether I am crazy. I wonder to myself whether it is worth it. I wonder to myself whether any of this will ever make a difference in the long run.

This cycle of slaving, doubting, salving, wondering, slaving, crying, slaving, hurting, went on & on for years. Those were my darkest years where I tasted the deep dagger of betrayal & being abandoned. Amazing thing was I kept fighting & believing. Great colleagues joined me in my quest. I hung on to whatever hope I could find like my life depended on it. All in the name of doing what I thought was right & honourable.

Tuesday, June 17

The Jungle Teacher Responds to Nadilla Jamil's Open Letter

This blog post is a response to this article.
This is a long blog post in response to Nadilla Jamil's article 'An open letter to secondary school English teachers' which was published by the Malaysian Insider on 13 June 2014.

In this letter, she eloquently shares her beliefs in the teaching of the English language in Malaysian secondary schools & passionately urges English teachers to follow suit. Here are some quotes:
- stop doing word-to-word translation or even mother-tongue mirroring
- speaking English in an English language classroom provides the linguistic environment that you know they are lacking
- English is fun. Bring along your games, movies. Act out. Consider role-plays. Let our potential future leaders learn the language through music.
- I passionately believe that the trouble is that education doesn't go on in the committee rooms of our legislative buildings. It happens in classrooms and schools, and the people who do it are you and them as students. And if your discretion is removed, trust me, our education will stop working.
- as an English teacher, you are not a grammar nazi who will red-mark or point out every single written and verbal grammatical mistake of our potential future leaders.
- you don’t need to make sure they get the Queen’s tongue while speaking
- Don’t rob their confidence. Don’t kill the language-learning joy.  Don’t make them feel timid. Don’t sabotage their language learning by speaking in L1 in their L2 classroom.
- the more you speak and let our potential future leaders speak L1 in L2 class; the longer they will remain in miserable limbo of being unable to communicate in that language.
- we can never learn English by speaking in and listening to another language. No one ever has mastered a language this way. And no one will.
- your mission is not only to let them know how to read and write in English to pass their exams. Your mission should be that so that one day they can THINK critically when they converse and read in English.

The Malaysian Insider balanced her article by publishing these responses:
1. A reply from a secondary school English teacher – Mohd Faiez Mohd Ali
   A teacher describes how he tried to use only English to little effect and then finds success when he uses the mother tongue in his lessons. Students understood the task & proceeded to make use of the target language to complete their tasks which are essential to success in SPM.
2. Teaching English is a task for all – Daron Benjamin Loo
   A teacher trainer argues that the use of mother tongue is acceptable in the second language classroom.

I did some sleuthing because I thought that she was probably a renowned teacher trainer or researcher or master teacher whom I could learn from & what I have found will surprise you.

Tuesday, June 10

Featured in Victorious - Autumn 2014

There is a factual error here: 1 hour by boat from the closest town, Song. 3 hours by boat from the closest city, Sibu.
Still, this is an amazing amazing amazing honour!
I never imagined that I would be interesting enough to be featured in the alumni magazine, the Victorious, of my alma mater in New Zealand, Victoria University of Wellington. In this magazine, I usually read about exemplary alumni who are contributing greatly to society; i.e. researchers, scholars, business people, biologists, mathematicians, policy makers & economists.

I'm just an English teacher working in the middle of nowhere with children who do not come from rich or influential backgrounds. I'm not doing anything world or nation changing like many others who have been featured in the magazine. I'm just doing what is within my circle of influence to make a difference in a rural community like many thousands of teachers are currently doing & countless others have done.

I am not a hero. Nor am I a lone ranger doing everything myself. Every day, I work with top-notch colleagues without whom I will be unable to carry out 100% of my programmes. I also work with the kindest students who are the most eager to learn in Malaysia. I want to highlight their faceless contributions of sweat & blood to my achievements. They are the heroes.

This is an unbelievable encouragement to me & it motivates me to work harder to enlarge my circle of influence until one day it reaches a tipping point where I can make a real difference for the betterment of my country. Thank you so much to the people who have believed in me & helped me along in my journey.

Thank you, Dr Jonathan Newton, Kristina Keogh & the Victorious team for believing that I'm worthy of this honour. I am speechless & totally grateful!

Tuesday, June 3

I Took the TOEFL iBT Test

This was where I signed up for my test.
A few weeks ago, I took the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). I took the TOEFL test because it is a prerequisite for a graduate study grant I'm applying for.
I'm not going to explain what TOEFL is. There are plenty of websites about it. I'm going to share my experience registering for the test & sitting for it so that you have some idea of what to expect should you choose to do the same.


First, find out the location of the tests & the dates here. Tests are usually on Saturdays & Sundays. There are test centres in KL, PJ, Johore, Penang & Kedah. Different centres will have different dates. TIP #1: Make sure that you choose the right centre & date. This is especially important if, like me, you are travelling from far away.
You can change it later but it'll cost you US$60 to reschedule. If you cancel, you will only get a refund of half the fee (US$90).

Once you have decided on a place & date, sign up for TOEFL online at this website. First, you will have to create an ETS user account. This is where you register for a test, check your test score & have it sent to a 3rd party. The TOEFL test costs US$180 in Malaysia. TIP #2: Make sure you check your passport & register with the same name as your passport. They are very particular about names so make sure you are careful. US$180 & lost time is a big price to pay for a typo.

The Mock Test

I purchased the mock test (US$27) but I did not take it. What a waste. I cannot tell you what it is like or if it actually reflects the actual test.
TIP #3: I recommend that you purchase it & take the mock test to get a feel of the test.

Pre-Test Phone Call

I signed up for the testing centre in KL. One thing I really appreciate from them is they gave me a phone call during the week to remind me of my test. Without this phone call, I would have made a really big blunder & would not be able to take my test. I don't know if this is the SOP for all testing centres but I really appreciate this from the centre & they have my gratitude. TIP #4: LISTEN to what this person has to say lest you be DENIED from taking your test.

Test Day

TIP #5: BRING YOUR PASSPORT!!!! I saw a person come without his passport & he had to leave. Fortunately, he managed to get back in time. The TOEFL test requires identification with a photo, name & signature. Only our Malaysian passport has all three. Our IC is not accepted.
I was in KL for a meeting when I found out about this. I would be taking the test that Sunday & my passport was in Kuching. Fortunately, I received the pre-test phone call on Tuesday & was able to get my passport couriered to me at my hotel.

TIP #6: You want to be early. I arrived at 7.00 am & was #5. You get called in for your test in the order you arrive. You don't want to be doing the Reading test when those who came before you start babbling away loudly for their Speaking test. Imagine if you were #10. You'd have 9 different people yapping away in that confined room while you are trying to read a challenging article.

Before you take the test, you will have to put everything into a locker. EVERYTHING. Watches, pens, wallet, etc. Pockets must be empty. They will scan you with a metal detector before they let you in. You will only bring in your passport & locker key. Pencils & scratch paper are provided next to your computer. The test room resembles a computer lab at a school with cubicles to separate candidates.

Test #1: Reading

The reading test was challenging. NOT a walk in the park. Esp if compared to the Cambridge Placement Test which all teachers in Malaysia were required to take recently. If you have not been reading academic writing regularly, you might want to practise before the test.

It's mostly National Geographic stuff related to cultures & animals. However, I didn't need to study for it. All that I need to know to answer the questions were in the passage. The sentences were challenging because they were written in academic vocabulary & the sentences were long & complex. It was a real test of whether you could survive tertiary reading.

There were multiple choice questions asking for meanings of words/phrases but most were questions which require higher order thinking skills. I was also required to choose the correct sentences to place into a summary of the passage.
4 Passages: 1 hour. I could review my answers. I paced myself & was able to double check all my answers.

Test #2: Listening

Listening test was not that hard. I had 6 listening passages. 3 discussions between a student & a lecturer/student. 3 lectures/talks. The discussions were not difficult because they used simple communicative language + a little bit of topic discussion. Lectures were not challenging too. They mostly spoke about National Geographic stuff too. You might want to practise listening & taking notes from American news channels or the National Geographic channel.

TIP #7: TAKE NOTES while listening!!!! The questions can sometimes be the about the most mundane things so try to take note of as much as you can. The speed will be quite fast because it's natural talking. It was an excellent test of whether you will be able to understand lectures & discussions with peers.
6 Passages: 10 mins each. Timer only starts when you're answering questions. I was not able to review my answers. I was able to answer all the questions before time so you can take your time.

There will be a short 10 minutes break after the listening test where you can go to the loo or get some air.

Test #3: Speaking

Speaking was tough. Being nervous didn't help. If you can, don't be nervous. lol! The point is to be clear & coherent. You might want to do some speaking practice with a trusted friend before the test.

The first 2 questions were short recordings of my speech about everyday things. I remember I had to compare & contrast.
The next 2 questions involved reading a short passage & listening to a talk on the topic. Remember to take notes while reading & listening!!! My task was to list the key points. No need to add my own ideas.
The final 2 questions involved listening to talks & then listing the key points.

For every speaking task, I was given a short period of time to prepare before recording began. I can't remember exactly how much. I used the preparation time to calm myself & list down the main points in my head. Make sure you describe all the key points before your time runs out!!

Test #4: Writing

Writing was easy. However, the time limit was tight. I managed to finish my essays right on the dot! The timer only began when I had to write.

For the first task, I read a short passage & listened to a talk related to the passage. Remember to take notes for the talk. No need to take notes for the passage because you can see it later as you write. All I had to do was list the key points from the passage & compare it to the points from the talk.
For the last task, I was given a question & was told to state my opinion. There was a minimum word length. I think it was 150 words.

Typing during the TOEFL test was not the same as typing in Microsoft Windows. Some shortcut keys were disabled; i.e. 'Ctrl' & 'Shift'. This made it time consuming to proofread & make corrections. You could only use 'Backspace' to delete 1 character at a time instead of an entire word with 'Ctrl+Backspace'. Also, you could not use the arrow keys to move the cursor vertically. The cursor could only move horizontally so be sure to use the mouse esp when selecting large bodies of text for deletion.
Because the timing is so tight, I recommend you practice writing with a keyboard before the test.

***NOTE: Follow this link to read about the different sections in more detail.***


After taking the test, I can say right away that the TOEFL test actually tests what it is supposed to test. It will most definitely show whether a person has the English language proficiency to survive tertiary education in the US.
How did I do? Well, I need to wait 14 days for my results. They're not out yet.
What are my expectations? Well, I'll do well. But, I'm not sure how well. I didn't adequately prepare for the test so I don't expect to score.

Don't be like me. Now that you've read this, prepare before you take your test.
All the best!!!

***Added 15:00 6 June 2014***
My score: 119/120
I thank God for this!!! If I didn't do well, I might actually lose my job!
Want to do as well as I did? Well, read my tips above!!!

***Update July 14, 2017***
I've started doing live videos of me attempting TOEFL Independent Writing essays. If you'd like to score 30/30 in TOEFL writing, you can access the videos for free. More info here.

Sunday, May 18

Featured in The Star - 18 May 2014

It is an honour to be featured. Thank you, Mdm Mallika Vasugi.
I'm not sure if I deserve to be painted in such a noble light.
Today, I was featured in The Star together with Cikgu Warid who teaches at SK Balar, an Orang Asli school in Gua Musang, Kelantan. I have a lot of respect for what Warid does at his school. He is as passionate & persistent in educating rural children as I am. Congrats, buddy! You deserve it!

Furthermore, I want to say that Warid & I are NOT unique. There are plenty of teachers out there serving with all their hearts both in the pedalaman & in the concrete jungles. They deserve just as much plaudit & recognition as the both of us. Many of them are slaving away year after year without even a word of thanks from anyone because they are meek or introverted.

Also, there are plenty of teachers serving in situations far worse than mine. Shout out to those serving in rural areas which require way longer travelling hours in 4WD or on boats as well as those who depend on rainwater & eat canned food every day. They are true unsung heroes who are quietly serving without expecting much in return. You have my deepest respect.

After reading this, please remember the teachers that you know. Send them a message of encouragement. Do it on Facebook or on Twitter. It's free for crying out loud!
All teachers need encouragement & it's not fair for me to get all the attention just because my face appears in the newspapers. Remember a teacher today!

Read the online article, here:

Remedial Instruction Workshop in the Kapit Division

The Remedial Instruction Workshop in Kapit
Can you tell from this photo that we had fun together?
In memory of Cikgu Henry Nyambar. He has always been a fine example to me of humility & kindness.

Do you teach the English language to students from low socio-economic backgrounds & whose guardians are illiterate? What if English is not used in this rural community & English is a foreign language your students are forced to learn?
What if the English language has consistently performed very badly in PMR & SPM? What if more than 30% of your students can't even achieve a mere pass?

What if your students are not motivated to learn? What if it is easier to make a hole in a concrete wall with your face than to get some of them to complete their assigned work? What if some of them have already given up from years of failing & verbal abuse?
Such is the classroom situation here in Kapit. A small town which has no road access. You have to ride on an express boat for 3 hours to get here.

So, you've ventured far away from your home to be an English teacher here. You receive very little support from your superiors &, at the same time, you need to endure the wrath of the seniors.
What do you do? Do you whine & wail? Do you put your hands up & blame the students/their parents/other teachers/the government/God for the situation? Do you teach the way you were once taught? Or, do you attempt multiple solutions & see which ones stick?

This week, I had the privilege of sharing one such solution with the English language teachers in the Kapit Division of Sarawak.

Sunday, May 11

Aram Katibas!

The Aram Katibas! Team
I am truly blessed to be working with the individuals pictured here as well as the many who were not able to attend the photography session. With their time, care & effort, they made this programme happen.
It's interesting how making a stand for something & fighting for it attracts kindred spirits.
Back in 2011, an eloquent & intelligent teenager from Penang read a series of teacher articles I wrote for She then decided to interview this obscure teacher & write an article about me for The Star. She was the first person to recognise this crazy slaving hermit in the jungle & slingshot me into the limelight.

Never in my wildest dreams had I expected to host her & her merry band of altruistic adventurers at the very school she wrote about 3 years ago.
What were they up to at my school? What were they like? What were the outcomes? How much did I pay them for their 'services'?

Friday, April 25

Why Good Teachers Don't Apply For GC When They Should

In 2014, after wrestling with my personal demons, I finally applied for Guru Cemerlang.
Raise your hands if you identify with 1 or more of the criteria mentioned below:
  1. You give your best as a teacher.
  2. You love spending time with your students.
  3. You love being involved & working in 'the field'.
  4. You love coming up with programmes for your students.
  5. You constantly develop your skills to be a better teacher.
  6. You absolutely abhor paperwork.
  7. You think that paperwork does not benefit your practice or your students.
Oh yes. I see a lot of hands.

Chances are you love teaching. You're intelligent & talented. You're probably a practising GC but you think that the GC vetting process is flawed & hopelessly biased against teachers like you. So, you chose not to go for it.

You don't like to appear haughty. So much so that you avoid praise, credit or titles like the plague. You tend to deflect praise or play down your work/success. So, you chose not to go for it.

Also, chances are you've met GCs who are clueless, unimpressive, snobbish or, plainly put, undeserving of the big title which they throw around with pride. You do not wish to be identified with this lot. So, you chose not to go for it.

Saturday, April 12

The Remedial Instruction Guidebook

The Remedial Instruction Guidebook team.
Remedial instruction (RI) is a focus on teaching pedagogies/practices/activities catered towards students with low English language proficiency (the galus students). Reaching out to students who know some English but not enough to be adequately proficient. It is however different from teaching students with learning disabilities or students with complete no knowledge of English.

Let's face the facts, the ministry sets goals & requirements like all students are Putrajaya students & all schools are Putrajaya schools. They are under pressure due to poor performances in international assessments so they react with a sudden slew of 'transformations' & amazing 'goals'. But, those of us working in non-boarding/elite schools know very well that our students & schools are not able to achieve some of those goals because more than 50% of our students are remedial students.

As for me, a teacher in the interior of Sarawak, 80% of my students are remedial students or worse. My colleagues & I have to work very very hard to lift them up to the passing mark. I have no time for transformation programmes which take up my time & require me to create a meaningless paper museum which has no positive effect on student performance. What we need are programmes which directly address this group of students which form a large proportion of our student population.

Sunday, April 6

Meaningful Rewards In Sibu

Jump if you love English!
What motivates children to strive for academic excellence? Just as you & I are different, what motivates our students will be different things. Some students are motivated by inspired oratory. Some require bribes of sorts. Some require a push or a slap. Some require social intervention. Some require a combination of the above. The thing is… if we don’t try, we’ll never know & our students may never feel the need to strive for academic excellence.

My students come from a poor socio-economic background. A majority of them live in longhouses. Most of their parents are subsistence farmers, subsistence fishermen, or blue-collar workers doing menial work for meagre sums of money. Furthermore, their level of English is atrocious. A majority have difficulty forming accurate sentences; even those in the first classes. Their environment & background do not help them progress further in life. They are poor so they do not study. They do not study so they become poor. A viscous cycle.

This is why good results are important. With good results, doors to scholarships & sponsorships will be opened. That's why it is so important for the students here to study hard. It is their only way of progressing beyond what they know & see here in the jungle. Every teacher who works in such a situation needs take a serious look in the mirror & ask themselves: What can I do to help my students achieve the better grades? How far am I willing to go?

Thursday, March 27

The Girl At The Cinema

taken from
Who doesn't love the cinema? It's a wonderful sanctuary where you can sit in complete anonymity & enjoy a good movie in silence together with hundreds of other people. There is beauty in how random it is. You have no idea who is sitting next to you. The person could be a serial killer. The person could save your life in the future. The person could even be your one true love. Sometimes. Just sometimes. In complete darkness. Without saying a word. Without even looking at each other. You make a connection that transcends metaphysical understanding. I don't know which is more heartbreaking. Not being brave enough to risk rejection or watching the person disappear like a wisp of smoke never to be found again.

I woke up at 8am today & I had a strange inkling to load the GSC app on my phone. This I did & I found out that Captain America was released today. "Wonderful!" I thought. I'd always make it a point to take my siblings to the movies every time I'm back from the jungle. It's a tradition which would probably keep us together in the long run. Without even asking them, I bought tickets for the afternoon's 3pm show. It all happened so fast. It was as if I was possessed. Looking back. I think fate was up to her twisted games again.

Saturday, March 22


I'm here to tell you about #TeacherStories. Something I started a few weeks ago in a bid to flood the internet with more meaningful media about teachers & school. Why? Simple. Ask yourself which stories usually get attention from the mass media: teachers complaining about workload, ministers telling teachers off, students getting beaten up, teachers getting beaten up, vandalism/gangsterism/drugs/scandals in schools, & all the other attention grabbing headlines.

Those stories will definitely generate clicks or sell newspapers but they are not necessarily stories which would make our society better or encourage teachers to keep working hard for society. Often times, it demoralises or demonises teachers.

Nobody will deny that education is an important part of civilisation. But why does everybody constantly find pleasure in beating down the key people sweating & bleeding to keep it going?

I am making a stand against that. I am declaring that there are better stories from schools even though they will never see the light of day in the mass media. These stories are simple yet powerful. These stories happen every day but are meaningful to the development of both child & teacher. These stories usually appear on Facebook statuses & then fade forever into the past. I want to make the best of these stories immortal.

Stories which warm the heart.
Stories which energise the spirit.
Stories which make us think again when we complain about petty things.
Stories which make us reflect deeply on our practises & the effects it has on our students.

It does not matter if these stories never get heard. The most important thing is they are told. I want to share teacher stories because when I read about these stories, I feel lifted up. I feel encouraged. Most importantly, I feel that I am not alone. I am hoping that it will do the same for every teacher who reads them.

If you love a teacher & you want him/her to continue changing lives & making a difference, the least you can do is share their stories. Make it known that there are still plenty of good teachers out there.

This week, remember one of the teachers who have made a difference in your life. Reach out & do something nice for him/her!

p/s: If you see #TeacherStories worth sharing, send it to me & I'll gladly put it up!!

Sunday, March 2

Why I Chose NOT To Be An SISC+

What in the world is an SISC+?

I've been trying to find an official definition for SISC+ from 'official' sites but have failed to find any with both 'School Improvement Specialist Coaches' & 'Jurulatih Pakar Pembangunan Sekolah' on Google. If you want a good laugh, try to Google 'SISC+' & click the first link. Anyway, I will try my best to explain it in my own words.

SISC+ is a new post at District Education Offices nationwide for experienced teachers. At this stage, SISC+ have been recruited for BM, BI & Math. Very soon, they will begin recruiting teachers for Science. SISC+ do not teach. They will spend 70% of their time visiting classrooms & coaching teachers of the lowest performing schools in their district. They will observe teachers & help teachers develop on the job. By providing direct mentoring to teachers, it is the aspiration of the ministry that the quality of education in Malaysia will improve.

In theory, this sounds great. I would have appreciated a mentor during my first few years. Even now I admit that I have blind-spots & biases, I could use a coach who is better & has achieved more. I do hope that they implement this properly or it would be another white elephant which cannot be removed because the livelihood of hundreds are dependant on it. Anybody can see that this job can be easily abused by lazy workers, used as a gathering of cronies or used as a dumping ground for unwanted teachers.

I do hope that the teachers who are chosen are credible & proven in their classrooms. I also hope that these teachers, who have been taken away from their students, will truly be empowered to develop other teachers & make a bigger difference in our nation. I'm keeping my mind open on this & I honestly hope to see true positive results & not just inflated statistics.

In Sarawak, the vetting process is very strict & only the better teachers are finally selected. For this, I am grateful. I know several of the teachers chosen to be SISC+ & I can vouch for them any day. I can rest assured that at least in my home state someone in JPN is doing the right thing in appointing the right people into this leadership position. I expect great things from them.

Why No means No

Lately, I have been receiving unofficial/casual questions regarding my interest in this role. I suspect it is because of the many vacancies still currently available. I have thought about this last year when the first call for applications was advertised. Since then, people who know my work or people who have newly discovered my work have encouraged me to apply. I have the same answer then as I have now. It is still a firm NO.

It is not something that I see myself doing at this stage of my life because:

#1 I still have a lot to learn before I am willing to tell others what to do.
I am doing very well here in the jungle & I have made my mark. However, that is not all that I want to be. I don't just want to be a jaguh kampung. I want to at least be a jaguh Sarawak. I may be good at teaching low-performing cooperative rural students but I am completely untested with highly-competent disruptive urban students.
Strange as it may seem, I relish that challenge. I salivate mentally at the thought. I want to be able to turn tides & win hardened hearts in EVERY setting. Until I have tried that, I will not quit teaching. Also, I don't mind if I fail. The important thing is I give it my best & fail with dignity.

#2 There is still a lot that I want to do & have not done.
What I love the most about teaching is how flexible it is. The problems in education are so wide & vast, I have a whole bucket list of challenges I want to get my hands dirty with. I can address any challenge I desire. Inside & outside the classroom. Besides having lots I can choose do, there can be multiple solutions to addressing the same problem. Also, the same challenge can change from year to year, student to student. Infinite variables. Infinite challenges. Infinite possibilities. Perfect for an infinite moron with infinite ambition like me!

#3 No desire for more money, promotions, positions of power, or escapism.
No doubt, some people applied for SISC+ because of the above. Or, because they are jaded with school life & the infinite amount of challenges as well as the infinite amount of work heaped upon those who are able. I do not have such desires.
However, I do have a strong desire for less meddlers & less little Napoleons to handle. Can somebody make it legal for me to shoot these monkeys? You know, as a self-defence from stupid, ego & corruption.

When I say no, I mean it

taken from
I think sums up what I want to say.
I am aware that there are way more vacancies than they are eligible applicants. I am also aware that PPDs are empowered to nominate whoever they want. I support what the SISC+ & SIP+ are doing. I wish them success. For now, I have no desire to join their ranks. I want to teach. Not coach. I am willing to be the ugly dirty smelly sweaty guy who does the cleaning. I want to remember what it is like to be at the bottom of the chain. It will be my biggest asset when I am at the pinnacle.

Force me & you will only force 2 things: You'll force me to lose respect for you & you'll force my resignation. Believe me, you don't want neither.

Thursday, February 20

Broadening Horizons in Kuching

Their first time at the beach. No point holding ourselves back.
Anyway, this jumping photo has been a trademark of this programme since 2013.
My students have spent most of their lives in the middle of nowhere. A majority have never been to a beach so you can imagine how much they lack exposure to the outside world. One reason for this is their low socio-economic background & rampant illiteracy in their community. They also lack role models of whom they can emulate & imitate.

It is sad that most of the brightest students end up getting nowhere near achieving their greatest potential. Some of the bright girls hook up with the not-so-smart boys & end up with a bulging belly. Some of them experience culture shock when they leave for their studies & drop out of matriculation/university. Some of them get caught up in social ills. At the very end, those who do make it are very very few.

To address these issues, in 2012, I decided to personally mentor the PMR students. I would meet with them every week to exercise & also talk to them about life & how important education was. I also promised them all sorts of rewards if they did well. One of which was a fully sponsored trip to Kuching if they achieved straight As in PMR. As a result of this mentorship, 3 students achieved 8As in 2012 PMR. And, I took them to Kuching in 2013.

In 2013, I also mentored the PMR students but, this time, I decided it was probably more sustainable if the students were taught to mentor their juniors. I roped in the excellent 2012 PMR students to mentor the prospective 2013 PMR students. In 2013, 2 students achieved 8As in PMR. And, this is the blog post about their trip to Kuching in 2014!

The boat we took from Sibu to Kuching. 5 hours of being tossed about at sea. Not fun.
They tried Kuching Laksa!! Yums!!!
My favourite is at Mega One Food Court, King's Centre.
They also tried Lui Cha.
My favourite is at Hakka Lui Cha on Jalan Intan.
I treated them to their first ever western dinner.
I knew the owner of the restaurant so I persuaded him to sit down with us & share his life with my students.
My favourite is Big Oven in Bormill Commercial Centre.
I wanted my students to be aware of the cultural heritage of Sarawak so I took them to the Sarawak Cultural Village.
I also took them on a tour of Kuching & we visited all the iconic sites in Kuching.
We visited at least 3 malls too. This was their first time at a mall.
Makes me wonder if they've been to online malls like Zalora.
We watched a movie.
Took them on a tour of Swinburne where we got connected with the staff there & found out about their scholarship programmes for Sarawak natives.
Did you know that they have more scholarships than they do students?
If you're a Sarawak native, you can seriously consider Swinburne.
One reason I love my parents so much is they decided to contribute to my vision.
My parents treated us to 2 dinners & they spoke extensively to my students.
All in all, the price tag for this 4D3N trip to Kuching was RM900++

Why spend all that time & money on children who have absolutely no ties with me, you ask? I want to show them that the possibilities in their future are greater than what can be imagined within the jungle. I want them to know that I believe in them so much that I am willing to put my money where my mouth is & blow a large chunk of my monthly income on this trip. This was also my chance to expose them to all the best minds I know in Kuching & allow them to be enriched by their stories.

This trip is more than a reward. It's a gift that keeps on giving. I made it very clear to them during the trip that they have the greatest potential in their community & also the greatest responsibility. God has blessed them so that they may be a blessing to others. I told them to dedicate their lives to living to their highest potential & becoming successful. Then, I want them to return to their homeland & lead others of their kind to do the same thing. Thus, uplifting a forgotten people via their most talented.

To me, this is a small price to pay to make a REAL difference.

View all the pictures here.

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