Thursday, January 30

To A Meaningful Chinese New Year!

As I help my family spring clean & decorate until late at night, I'd like to proudly share with you what my students gave me for Chinese New Year.

The Chinese characters & tiger are elevated with polystyrene. Recycling! I like!
A pop-up card! My favourite!!
This boy innocently put a Nirvana logo on the card. Lol. Wait till he finds out what the company does...
or does he already know & meant something malevolent? hmm...
This one has a meaningful message.
From a Form 4 student who benefited from my PMR Mentor Programme last year.

My colleague & house mate, Cikgu Chieng, got his students to make Chinese new year cards for the teachers celebrating the festival. As you have seen, the students produced very simple handmade cards but they mean a lot to me & I will be proudly displaying them like trophies at my home in Kuching.
If you're reading this, dear students, thank you & I am so happy to have received your gifts.

To me, Chinese New Year is a time to appreciate the golden generation. We are so busy all year with our family, work & life that we tend to brush them aside. We don't know how lonely it gets having raised all your children only to see them fly the coop & find you an inconvenience. It's high time we fill up their empty houses, spend time with them, catch up & shower them with love.

Every year, I'd dedicate the 1st day of the Lunar New Year to family. I'd patiently accompany my parents & grandparents as they travel in a convoy with my extended family from house to house. Every year, the occupants of those houses turn from grey to white. Every year, they lose more & more of their mobility. Every year, the list of houses to visit diminish. It is heartbreaking.

I am far from being the most filial child. But I try to make up for my shortcomings at least once a year.
Do you remember those of the golden generation who paid extra care to you when you were younger? Do you remember those who encouraged you when your own parents did not understand you? Where are they now? Are you willing to repay their kindness?
It is better to take action now... when they are still around than to regret later.

Here's to a meaningful Chinese New Year!!!

Sunday, January 19

The Days I Did A Naked Rain Dance

This is what happens at my jungle school when the main pump breaks down & there is no water coming out of the pipes.

Anybody feel like drinking boiled river water?
Even after 6 years, I still gag at this but, when you're desperate, you really have to man up.
If it rains, we get to collect rain water which is clean & good for cooking.
While it is raining, I do everything that is water intensive like washing towels & bedsheets.
Also, I store rainwater in a large container in my bathroom for emergency use.
If it doesn't rain, we bathe in the river. I do my laundry at the same time. Thank God for the river.
I carry 2 buckets of river water back to my quarters for kitchen & toilet use.
I don't cook with or drink river water if I can help it.

We really don't know the value of the simple things we take for granted until we have to live an extended period without it.
So, do be thankful for all the little things you have. While you're at it, do pray for us.

Saturday, January 11

How To Galvanise Support From Senior Teachers

I've been wanting to write this little bit of humble advice from an ageing man who is still hot but finding it increasingly challenging to keep his belly from bulging. This revelation came to me while having dinner with a lecturer from IPG Batu Lintang (you rock) but I can't remember her name (I suck) during a CPD course (of which I have already written a blog post but will probably publish it next week). I asked her a question & she gave me an amazing 50 carat gem of an answer. Simple but powerful. Just the way I like it. I've applied it this year & will apply it for the rest of my career. Be it in teaching or marriage or business. And the best part is, I'm going to share it with you right here. Even if you are not a teacher, this will still be helpful to you.

Let's say, your an excellent teacher. You've descended from the heavens with an IQ of 1 million. Your students love you & they work hard in your classes. They improve their grades (& you get a pay raise? NOT). You come up with the most amazing plans & programmes. They run smoothly, make an impact & produce the desired results. Your lesson planning skills & paper museum curating skills are off the charts. (I HATE YOU.) You have shoes which are US size 99. You make a big wave in the school, have proven your worth & have done more in 1 year than most have done in 10. You're on top of your game. If there was a Nobel Prize for teaching, you'd probably win it every year. BUT, there is something missing...

YOU may be top of YOUR game. YOU can probably run the entire school by YOURself. BUT, that's not how it's meant to be. That's not even humanly possible. Well, unless you're someone like me who lives at school 300 days in a year, blogs about it & has no life. If you work alone, you will eventually hit a ceiling. Perhaps it's your health. Perhaps you want to scale some effective programmes but you can't do it alone. Perhaps you want to see other teachers experience the same level of success you're having. Eventually, YOU will need to bring in other teachers to help you.

It's easy with new teachers, isn't it? As I have lamented when I was a freshie (OMG) 4 years ago, as a senior, you can practically dump your work on your juniors & they will have to either suck it up & do it or give up & still do it.
What if your school is one of those fancy urban schools with something called roads & more KFC outlets nearby than my fingers can count? I bet you wouldn't have a plentiful supply of fresh meat to put under you in the pecking order.

What do you do when you need to galvanise support from your SENIORS. Some of which are actually great to work with & open to your ideas. (You lucky basket!) Some might not desire to do as much as you do. Some will probably be really occupied with family, tuition, Avon or Amway. Some are probably threatened by you. (Read up on the inferiority complex.) Why would they want to lift a finger to help you?

Remembering the dinner, I was given a very simple gem: "Before you ask older teachers to work for you, you need to involve them in the decision making process. Ask their opinions. Older teachers want their experience to be valued." Sometimes, it's in the way we ask & the pre-asking work that we need to do. Kinda like asking a really hot chick to be my girlfriend, no?

Stephen Covey had a great metaphor for this: an emotional bank account (EBA). We need to make deposits into the EBA of our seniors before we can withdraw from it. Withdrawing will be asking for favours or help or support. Therefore, before you ask your seniors to do something for you, perhaps you should deposit into their EBA. Fortunately, there are also plenty of ways to deposit.

I'm no expert but here are some ways I am going to deposit into the EBA of my seniors:

  1. Asking my administrators what they from me this year.
  2. Asking opinions on programmes that I want to run. Appreciate experience.
  3. When asking for help, explain how it will help THEM. Not me.
  4. Showing interest & helping out in their programmes.
  5. Noticing great work/effort.
  6. Remembering birthdays.
Do you have other suggestions? I'd love to see them in the comments section!!

Every junior's wet dream: A senior who looks like this guy
& tells you every day, "look into my eyes... and tell me, how can I help you?"

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