Monday, 13 January 2014

If I were to start a school...

So, several days ago I had some sort of an identity crisis; more like identity moratorium (just to sound more intellectual, and yes I’m quoting Marcia). Though technically, if according to Erikson, I way passed that stage (8 year to be precise) and should only be concerned about ‘intimacy vs isolation.’ Sorry Erikson, still pretty much a late bloomer who is only panicking about her identity at this age, but as consolation, I did manage to sort out that whole intimacy issue as according to your stages’ time frame (pats self on the back)…

OK.. Back to the topic. Note to self: stop making weird imaginary conversations with dead theorists.

Anyhow, I posted this on my Facebook at 8.54pm (New Zealand time), watched the TV for a lil bit with the husband, and went to bed. Gosh we have such exciting married life.

When I woke up, I was stunned by the response of that post. 

Because obviously, I’m no one special nor popular, but mostly because I’m freaking touched that there are sooooooo many (exaggerating a lil) like-minded people who actually agrees with me, do not ridicule my idea (giving the stare to some wet blankets of my life) and want to be part of this grand dream!

And if you looked carefully, there’s this person called ‘Peh Kim Hock’ who literally comments on ALL my facebook posts – well, he is my dad. 
Yes, my dad is cool like that. 
While most of the time he just trolls my posts and statuses with his lame jokes *cough*, he also puts out some super wise comments occasionally. And he made a real point. It is easier to work around the system with your best than trying to change an impossible situation. 

In fact, these are his actual words and I quote, The system we have may not be perfect but it can be workable. It is just the implementation by certain parties who want to look good in front of their bosses with fantastic numbers and percentages. Let's just work around the system for the sake of our students.  Being a modern day teacher is very taunting. Having dreams is a very motivating thing which drives one to become better. But just as Prophet Nike says; JUST DO IT or Cesar Milan who says LIVING THE MOMENT; just go to your students, try to impact and inspire their lives apart from just teaching. What will happen tomorrow or ten years from now, let us come, don't lament. Teach our students like there is no tomorrow. Enjoy the moment and make the best out of it. My wife and I being teachers for nearly 30 years strongly adhere to these beliefs. We try to become role models who are not perfect but we try. Our living testimonies are felicia and joel peh and soon joshua. Giving God all the glory!

Yup, like I said, my dad is cool.

Then again, sometimes I have my own mind. Do I really want to keep working around the system, or create something that I personally believe in?
We are so accustomed to accepting and adapting and even reviving something that is dead. What about building a new world?

As I mentioned in my facebook post, I would never know whether this dream will come to fulfillment. And if it does, it will take me a whole lot of years, if it is indeed God’s will and He guides me through it. Yet, it doesn’t mean I should just bask on the short term ego boost and not do anything about it right? I decided to do some research.

Out of so many private schools out there, I found myself attracted to the Montessori Education as well as Oprah’s Leadership Academy for Girls. While the former is fundamentally strong and rich in history, the latter is inspiring and ground-breaking. I love their philosophical values and learning programmes. Then again, my dad always reminds me that our Malaysian Education Philosophy and National Education Programmes are all great in theory; it is always the implementation that makes the difference.

If I were to start a school, these would be what I would aim for:

  • -          Self discovery
  • -          Personalised learning
  • -          Meaningful learning

Very different compared to schools we now have isn’t it? Yup, there will be no grade levels or adapted curriculum. Just a school that aims to do what a school should do: to cultivate learning. 

You might think I’m being extremely vague here. 
What? A school that doesn’t focus on any internationally credited examinations? 
A school that doesn’t focus on learning subjects such as the sciences or arts?

Let’s see what I actually have in this complicated mind of mine ;)

For me, this school will of course focus on two huge areas that define what we learn: Literacy and Numeracy. Students, regardless of age group will be taught these two skills according to their level, for better and more effective teaching from the teachers. One may argue that this will create self-esteem problems for older students who are placed in a similar level with the younger ones. Well, to enter this school, one must be prepared to be a learner, and not treat the learning process as a competition. There is no one better than the other; you learn based on your own capabilities as you know yourself better. Which brings us to the first aim – Self discovery.

1. Self discovery

I believe in Multiple Intelligence, and that everyone learns differently. 
When I was teaching in the ‘last class of Form 4 and 5’ in Gua Musang, I was accountable for the learning of a big group of ‘rejects’, the ones who are ‘hopeless.’ Being the idealistic person I have always been, I went in to those classes thinking I could create miracles with these group of students and that no one is dumb. Right at the beginning of my teaching journey, I was slapped right in my face when these students can’t even list down the letters in alphabetical order or spell the word ‘Monkey’ or even follow very simple instructions that I repeatedly demonstrated with much patience. 
I came to acknowledge the fact that there are just students who are and will always be academically weak or have learning issues. BUT, this does not mean that they are dumb. These kids are way more talented than me in a lot of other ways. For instance, in a parallel universe where one be tested in cars repairing or rubber tapping or even sewing, I would be labeled as the DUMB one.    

So, my school will encourage self discovery. Most kids at their young age does not know what they want or even what they are capable of. So the teachers would facilitate the self discovery process through exposing the students to different skills, through workshops and events or even through observation, reflection and questionnaires.

2. Personalised learning

This is a tricky one. 
My school is kinda like taking home schooling to a whole different level. 
Students will be taught to be responsible for their own learning and will be given credit hours to complete. Other than their literacy and numeracy classes, students can decide what they want to learn and how much time will they allocate that learning for. Teachers mainly act as facilitators, to guide the students and to get them the resources if needed. For example, the child wants to learn about baking. The teacher could arrange the child to intern at a bakery for 3 hours a week to fulfil a part of the credit hours. Or, if a senior student who really loves Physics, wants to allocate 2 hours a day for that subject, he could do his self learning through books or the Internet, while the teacher supervises or even help to search for more appropriate learning materials for that student.

3.  Meaningful learning

Learning should be on how to live, how to play a part in this world, how to identify one’s purpose of living. Not on spending years on logarithms or algebra and not knowing how to apply them in real life. (Okay, maybe some of you out there are in the field of Mathematics but for a commoner like me, nah ah, haven’t found the use of that yet.)

How to make learning meaningful? 
Perhaps I could teach the students about the horrendous flood in Philippines, and put them in groups to come out with fundraising efforts to collect funds for the flood victims. Students will not only learn about leadership and cooperation, they learn business, marketing and publicity, world events, empathy, social issues etc.

Or for a Mathematic class (since we mention those topics that I dreaded as a learner), groups are given a set budget and have to create an enterprise of their own. Throughout that learning period, students will have to learn accountings, finance management, actual skills needed to create the products they sell, art of speech and communication, responsibility, business ethics etc.

And if the students decide for themselves (maybe even with parental advice) that they want to pursue certain Examination standards (for example IB or CIE or even the Malaysian SPM if it still exists), the teachers will guide them to arrange their learning schedule accordingly and once again facilitate them to self-study the needed subjects. Basically, students are in charged of one’s learning, and teachers have to be multi-taskers and great support system that constantly keeps the students in check of their own learning goals.

Of course, at this very moment, this is still just my idealistic thoughts to a grand personal dream. 

I won’t even push the thoughts that I may alter the vision of the school as I learn more and evolve my thinking. Or instead of starting a school with such ideology, I would just practice them in my teaching and whichever classroom I am given.

I am so not used to having so much free time.
I really do miss teaching.

Hopefully soon enough God’s plans for Alex and I will be revealed soon and we could take the right step towards the future. And there’s a saying that goes ‘One does not need a classroom to teach, just be a teacher wherever you are.” So, I should probably look harder for opportunities to teach, or maybe I should start teaching the husband some Malay phrases, other than the ones he prided on learning by himself – ‘api’ and ‘tandas’ hahahahaha. By the way, I totally just made up that saying lol.  

What else would you expect or wish to see in a school? 

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