Thursday 24 October 2013

Class Parties =D

This is the 3rd year of me teaching here in Gua Musang, Kelantan.

What? It's the 3rd year already???? Just seems like yesterday when I first had my mild meltdown upon knowing about my posting lol.

Anyway, in 3 years, I have seen so many teachers and even administrators go in and out of this school: mainly because our school is a transit school. Located an hour and the half away from Cameron highlands and 3 hours away from Kota Bahru, our district has been known as the 'first entrance' into Kelantan, and only government servants would know HOW TOUGH IT IS TO GET INTO KELANTAN. Yet, by God's will, I (not a Kelantanese), was sent right into this place albeit not having this state in any of my 3 options. Now that i look back and think about it, I wouldn't want it any other way ;)

The cool thing about teaching here is that my admins (we had so many transfers that I was under 2 different principals, 2 senior assistants of administration, 2 senior assistants of students' affairs, 2 senior assistants of co-curriculum, and 3 different Head of English Panel within the 3 years I've been serving here lol) really supported me and allowed me to do just about anything I deemed right! I pretty much had the freedom to experiment with activities and programs, and I have good colleagues and great moments in this school too.

And although in all 3 years I was given the role as a class teacher on top of my many other positions, it is probably my favourite role as a teacher. First of all, you just get to build so much more rapport with your own homeroom kids, develop a team, inculcate values, and even become their 'mum'. I grew the most as a class teacher, having to dealt with disciplinary cases, talk to parents, visit students in hospitals, and to lead your group of students. It is also an exceptionally tiring job, simply because the students here lack exposure and leadership qualities - something I learned to accept and not to criticise. Most of them came from really big family of more than 6 siblings and they do what they are being told at home and in school, to get by their days. With weak role models of non-educated parents or older siblings who did poorly in school, their main concern was only to 'get money', and are contented just doing rubber-tapping, selling in the market and becoming a worker in Econjaya (our only supermarket)... There was no need to step up or to go beyond their expected duties.

My teaching philosophy has always been - 'get real.' I aim to expose my kids to the real world, create lessons with real and authentic examples, and to teach them how to live well in real life. And with so much of me invested into them, I do get rather emotional during our year-end farewell parties.

For 3 years, I was given Form 5 classes as my homeroom class. So for 3 years I dealt with kids anxiously preparing for their SPM and worrying about their future. Therefore, I want to give the students something to remember about their high schooling days, before they go forth into the real complexities of adulthood... And I try to do that through our farewell parties...

In 2011, my very first homeroom class was 5S1..

That was my first year organising a jamuan kelas. I didn't want them to just prepare food, get teachers to eat, they eat, clean up and go back (which is the norm and culture), so I brought along my projector, taught them to create a slideshow, perform, do gifts exchange, make speeches, and wear oogly glasses just to spice things up a lil ;)

Then came 2012. I was class teacher of 5A2. This group of students were unexpectedly weak in their academic, but have the best attitude! I knew it will be hard to get them to perform as a class, so we did a coloured theme party instead. I gave them permission to bring accessories and we had a blast.


Today, 24th October 2013, we just had our #5A2kickassparty !!!
Compared to the previous 2 years, I was actually a lot more involved in this affair.
These kids are a whole lot weaker than the previous lots, to the extent that 1/3 of them are not passing or barely passed their Malay language. Communicating with them was really tough in the beginning as I had never taught them in the previous years, and I don't speak or understand the kelate dialect well.

But they grew on me. Sooner than expected, I was part of their lives, went for meals together, they sent me home (often in an entourage of at least 3 bikes lol), secrets were shared, life-size questions were asked, and as much as they pissed me off sometimes, they are just really good kids.

And out of my previous batches of students, this group lacks thinking skills, but they counter with pro-activeness.
They lack leadership; they counter with great attitude and surreal enthusiasm.
They lack experience and maturity; they counter with willingness to learn.

So imagine my pleasant surprise when I saw this on my table yesterday...
I told them to prepare invitation cards for the teachers who do teach them, and they came out with scented invitations done in an actual printing shop (by forking out their own money!).

I told them to decorate our plain wall (we had a class change to everyone's horror as we had to part with our actual classroom that won first prize for best class decoration to a shabby one), so that we could take better pictures.
They came the afternoon before, sourced their own materials from home, and did this!

I too promptly prepared some props for them to take pictures with~

..many of which are not shown in the picture as the kids got over-excited with the accessories lol.

I too taught my kids the current trend of a 'dessert table'...
and this is their attempt~

Some of the items are homebaked, and there are more hidden underneath the table for later refills lol.

What really caught my surprise was this,
They created a Guestbook Corner.

That big scrapbook / Guestbook was quickly filled with words of encouragement from teachers who came in while the kids occupied the blank pages. And then, everything you see on that table - the photoframes with pictures, and that book, was gifted to me so that I would remember them :')

After a quick snap, the craziness began when the teachers came in huge groups at the same time @_@

The teachers just kept coming... I was actually getting worried as the food was finishing real fast and I really didn't want to starve my kids. Thankfully, being totally understanding, they served the teachers first and when our crowd was slow, only did they go for the food *proud mama*

Our menu of the day included Nasi Kerabu with Ayam Goreng, Nasi Ayam, Laksa Penang, Bakso, Koey Teow Goreng, Satay, Akok, Pudding, Cocktail (kelantanese ver), Colek, lots of agar-agar, cakes, cookies, lollies, crackers etc. (some food not in picture). By the end of the day, I could safely say that we fed about 130 people today lol.

After our last guest, I went straight into our own 5A2 intimate session.
We had speeches, and came the time to reveal our 5A2's Hall of Fame.
A lil backtrack first: During a previous lesson using the Hall of Fame song, I had the students voting for their classmates according to 12 titles. They range from The Hidden Gem, Masterchef, to even characters like The 'Robin Hood' and The 'Donald Trump' lol. After that, I told them that I will only announce the results during our class party.

So, I made the sashes... and their response during the announcement of the winners was plain hilarious!!! We all had a good laugh at the winning speeches too.

Unfortunately, as I was rather busy running around the whole time making sure everything is in place and our guests feel welcomed, these are all the pictures I managed to capture. Other moments worthy of remembrance include our 57 years-old principal wearing a giraffe mask with a pink headband for pictures with my students, I had the confetti bomb 'popped' at me twice, and my kids brought all the food in those huge containers by their bikes!!!

I lost count of how many times have I said 'terima kasih' to my kids. I was just filled with pride throughout the day, hearing praises from teachers and admins about how delicious the food was, how well-mannered my kids were, how 'happy' the atmosphere was. The principal even made an impromptu speech saying that 'Cikgu Felicia ni nok nikah jauh jauh, meme kerugian besor sekola kito dan jejaka kelate.' OH MY GOSH, the laughter and cheers from the teachers and my kids cracked me up so bad lmao. 

I'm just glad everything went well. Of course there were hiccups and lots of spontaneous problem-solving needed.. But today, I just feel really really proud of my kids.

Tuesday 22 October 2013

The Teacher

I am many things, but one of the coolest identity I have is - I am a teacher.

Growing up in a family of teachers, I always knew the real deal behind the myth of 'Its a Half-Day Job.'
Growing up in a family of teachers, I was well-taught since a young age and understood the importance of education.
Growing up in a family of teachers, I had many opportunities to teach, to play 'the teacher' role, since my teenage days.

I've taught over-enthusiastic pre-schoolers, boisterous primary school kids, teenagers facing puberty and identity crisis, hipsters / tertiary students, those old enough to be my grandparents, foreigners-who-thought-Malaysia-is-part-of-Singapore etc.

Let's just say I did manage to dip my feet into quite a wide-range of learning groups. YET, it never ceases to amaze me at how little I know of teaching and how much more I learn from every teaching experience.

Being a teacher is really not all about being in control of the class and the lesson, but also to be humbled enough to be taught.

Here, I just want to share a few examples of how I was 'slapped right in the face' or how I was shaken up, being a teacher here in Gua Musang.

Today while handling my class's return of textbooks, I realised this girl of mine (let's call her A) who has been absent for a long time didn't even turn up to return her books. She was branded as a problematic girl, been failing in nearly all of her subjects and does not have many friends. I called this other girl (Z) whom I used to see hanging out with A about her. To be honest, I was quite annoyed to see A absent as I could not get hold of her for so long and really wanted to talk to her personally; so I wasn't proud of my sarcastic tone when I inquire Z about A.

Z just looked at me and said, "Teacher, I don't know why is A absent, but I know that she has no family to turn to."

So with a little more digging, I found out that A has lost both parents, and none of her extended family wants to care for her and her siblings hence they were sent to schools with hostels. But because she has been failing in nearly all of her subjects, they felt that it's a waste for her to remain in school so they asked her to return to the village to work, and make herself 'useful'....

That was a real stab into my heart. It is so easy to label a student as lazy, get frustrated by their occasional horrible attitude and overlook what they have been going through.

If only, I could take back my sarcasm...

Then there's this boy, S...

He gets into the nerves of every teacher in school. He was even caught in the act of performing 'coitus' in the school grounds and nearly got expelled. When I knew I had to teach his class, I really dreaded it, after hearing so many stories about his misbehaviour.

True enough, he doesn't disappoint. He is loud, attention-seeking, and really tests my patience.

When I got that class to do an 'honest hand' activity (something I came out with spontaneously on that day), I was nearly brought to tears. Basically I got all the students to close their eyes and only raise their right hand if they could identify with my statement. I started with easier questions for example, "I am a girl", I love football" to "I am good-looking." The students were following the activity really well with some chuckles here and there... Slowly, I went on with harder questions that require a lot of honesty and bravery to own up to, such as "I feel that I am useless", "My parents hate me", "I don't like coming to school", "I get bullied", "I don't like going home", "I am worried about my future." 

To my surprise, not only hands were raised up in rather big numbers at each of those questions, I could see some of them shaking. When I finally asked them to open their eyes, I could see eyes getting watery, while some looked rather defeated. There was no bickering, just silence and solemnity.

I told them that I was going to change up my lesson. I was no longer their English teacher for that period, but just a concerned teacher. I explained how it is alright to feel vulnerable and to admit your weakness; but more importantly is how we respond instead of react in those situations. I then got them to take out their writing pads and told them that they are allowed to use any language that they are more comfortable in to express their answers to the questions that I was going to throw at them. I reassured them that I was in no means to embarrass them, but to know them, beyond these four walls and my assumptions of them.

They understood and wrote quite a bit. So as I reviewed their answers, my heart sank deeper and deeper.

Some of them lived in families as big as 14 siblings and 2 stepmothers.
One girl's biggest desire is to have a meal with her complete family.
One boy's parents separated and as no one wanted to take care of him, he lives with his step-sister.
One said that she had to often go to bed without dinner because there was just not enough rice for 10 siblings.

and then I read the writings of S..
He knew that he hurt his parents. He knew that he embarrassed his family with his past scandals. He felt really apologetic to his mum who fought real hard for him to remain in school. He even wrote that he does break down in tears when people talk behind his back but he could only hide all those feelings by being a class clown. He also mentioned how his father is only a labourer and he has 11 siblings. So he has to help his father to collect scrap metal after school and wash cars to help support the family's expenses....

My mind shut down for a little while, overwhelmed by the information I just came across.

It just shows that, behind every mischievous smile, every nasty reply, every disrespectful attitude probably hides a whole lot of stories and pain.

I have been trying so hard to get my kids out of their shells, not realising how deeply rooted their problems are.

Will I be able to achieve my current success if I had to go through what they did?
I don't even think so.

I realised that I am so BLESSED. Compared to them, I do have this life a whole lot easier. Supportive parents, God-fearing upbringing, comfortable living, education emphasis, healthy social circles just to name the least.

I started to see how wrong I was to judge them from my standards.
I learn empathy, I learn to listen, I learn to understand before I judge.

Just as how I was taught to go church with expectancy of God's word on that day instead of treating it as a weekly routine; I have since been very blessed and recharged. Now, I apply this heart of expectancy as I go to school each day.

It is easy to see teachers and fellow colleagues around me getting complacent, complaining about every possible thing and join the bandwagon of self-pity / self-interest. But do we really want to end up like them and burn out so soon?

Just try this with me. If it works for me, it will definitely work for you.
Everyday, at the moment you wake up, don't just reach for your phone, but say a prayer to thank God for a great day ahead. Ask for His strength, wisdom and guidance in this new day, then prepare yourself to expect a lesson or two in this day.
Don't let a day pass by meaninglessly. If nothing significant happens on that day, you make something happen, make that day count.

So, to all my teacher friends who are still fighting strong in this crazy battlefield we have, DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED. At the end of the day, we are still human, and it is ok to admit that we don't know everything, and that teachers are just not all-knowing. Make a few mistakes, experiment, cry, curse, take a break, and let us never stop learning.

Keep up the good fight! Do know that a lot of you are my encouragement and inspiration :)

Friday 18 October 2013

My Top Eats in Malaysia!

When one introduces Malaysia, they probably start with the mention of how we are a multi-nation, multi-cultural community, followed by the FOOD.

It's no secret that Malaysians love to eat, and can really eat. I even remember Alex's cultural shock during his first visit to Malaysia lol - he couldn't believe how many times we (my family) eat in a day. 2 hours after lunch we would be thinking of where to go for 'afternoon tea' and in another less than 2 hours, it would be time for dinner, and who could say no to SUPPER when there is good company?

I have listed down the 10 must-eat for me here in my beloved home-country.
Let's see whether your preference matches mine ;)

1. Char Koey Teow!!!

Bean sprouts are extremely fat and juicy in the northern Malaysia which i LOVE very much. Fried over great heat, topped with huge prawns and cockles... super YUMS!

2. Nasi Lemak
(Grandma's trademark dish)

Rice cooked in santan and pandan leaves, crispy anchovies with Grandma's special sambal, assam prawns, curry squid, curry chicken and usual condiments like egg, peanuts and cucumber... plain beautiful.

or, the CLASSIC

3. Char Koey Kak ( Fried Radish Cake)

This is one oily but very sinful dish lol. With just the right amount of garlic, thick and thin soy sauce, crushed peanuts, radish cake, pickled radish, and a whole lot of fat bean sprouts - and there you have, my guilty pleasure!

4. Teh Tarik / Nescafe Tarik

Basically its tea or coffee or milo or just about any drinks been 'pulled' into having a froth on top. The urban myth was that this pulling technique cools down the hot drink for easier consumption. Not sure how true is that but I do love my 'Tarik'.

5. Satay

The above picture doesn't do good satay justice. In the right stalls or shops, you would be able to get huge chunks of meat (usually chicken or beef) grilled over hot coals, and eaten with Nasi Impit, cucumbers, onions and thick peanut sauce.

6. Durian!!!

I'm a sucker for durians. Especially now that I'm teaching in Gua Musang where the Musang King originated from, I'm spoiled with lots of good durians, especially the 'kunyit' type. Yellow, creamy, sweet (with a tad of subtle bitterness), a pure delicacy. I have yet managed to convince any of my American buddies to even try one lol.

7. Kan Lau Mian (Dry/Dark Noodles)

Personally I prefer to have my noodles with Roasted Duck, but we have plenty of options to choose from: Roasted or Marinated Pork, Roasted or Boiled Chicken, Wanton etc. Best eaten with pickled chillis!

8. Indian Roti... My fav will have to be Roti Tissue

Thin crispy roti with sweet layers of surprise in it! Ultimate fav to share with family!

9. Bak Kut Teh

A whole lot of pork (from all parts of its body) cooked for long hours in a herbal soup, best eaten with rice and You Tiao!

and finally,
the food that made my top 10 list is....


As much as I love big juicy patties in western burgers, there's just something about our Malaysian Ramly Burger! The thin patties are sliced in the middle and seasoned during the grill, later wrapped in a layer of egg. Both sides of the bun are buttered and put on the grill, then spread with a layer of mayonaise, grilled onions, chilli sauce, before covering the patty. A piece of cheese is put on top of the patty (personal preference) which will be melted by the heat from the cooked patty. Perfect when one gets the late night hungry pangs. The regret can come later lol.

The pics above are all taken during my many eating-out experiences. I'm pretty sure that there are a whole lot more of better versions, but these are my go-to food whenever I have the chance to.

What's your favourite Malaysian food? ;)

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Cameron Highlands: Hits and Misses.

Two weeks back, My colleagues cum girlfriends decided to go for a short weekend trip to Cameron Highlands, that was only an hour and the half away from Gua Musang. One could say we needed the breather, and we had lots of cravings to satisfy lol.

Our previous trip to Cameron in the year 2012 was a quick one, and we were considered as 'singles' then. Another year later, one is a mum-to-be, the other about to be engaged, and I, about to get married ;)
I personally had lots of fun planning this outing of ours, but gosh was it far from easy. I was used to making trips to Cameron with my non-Malay friends so eating out was never a concern; but now that I have to search for Halal places, which led to me totally abusing my Google Search, and reading a whole lot of Malay blogs lmao. Still, we had a couple of hits and misses. So here's our account, feel free to take it as a reference if you are planning a trip there ;)

Since we were leaving from Gua Musang, our trip will not be complete if we do not start off with breakkie at Kak Zah's!
Kak Zah's pretty popular for its Nasi Kerabu and Nasi Dagang, but for us, it has always been Nasi Lemak with Daging (for me) and Hati (for Nad). The real deal for us has to be its Nescafe Tarik (kurang manis)! It is thick, creamy, fragrant, and gosh I'm craving for it now!

After getting our tummies filled, it was high time to start the journey.

Our first stop was none other but Cameron Lavender - a new attraction in Cameron Highlands. Before i fool you with the rather nice pictures later, my honest opinion about this place - it's a hoax.

Let's see, to enter you need to pay RM5 (fair enough), but 80% of the garden is not filled with Lavender (surprise surprise). The whole place is rather gimmicky I would say, but its worth a first visit, and that's about it. Since we paid the entrance fee, might as well go all out in pictures!


and no trip to Cameron is legit without nomming on fresh strawberries!

After Maximising our 5 bucks worth lol, we went straight to check in at our budget hotel. From a personal friend's recommendation we came across Bird's Nest Hotel at Tanah Rata. Oh well, if we were charged according to its Weekday rate, we would have been more than happy; but for what we had been charged - RM150 for a really small room with beds for 3 was a little let down. On the pros side of things, the budget hotel is relatively new and clean, which is actually hard to come by in Cameron.

After the girls finished their prayers, we headed off to our next destination - The Big Red Strawberry Park at Brinchang! I saw many people blogging about this place so I was quite excited. But I guessed I might have placed my expectations a tad too high. Nevertheless, we had great laughter and the cafeteria was kinda generous with the servings of fresh strawberries.

Here's the Menu Display

and here's my order for the day...
Scones (hard and flaky) with cream and strawberry jam, English Breakfast tea, and a bowl of yoghurt laden with honey and lots of fresh strawberries.

While the girls shared a strawberry sundae (supposedly very famous but just too sweet for my liking), a puff (which they claimed was disappointing) and a strawberry yoghurt.
For the reasonable pricing and options, I guess its not too bad to make a stop there.

Next up - What is the Must-Do activity in Cameron other than stuffing yourself with strawberries? Steamboat, of cause!

And, this was my biggest headache. Most of the shops in Cameron have very questionable 'Halal' status. You could hardly find one that has the 'Halal' sign, and if they do, its probably outdated. With that, we decided it would be wise not to take risks at eateries as such and head off to a hotel for our steamboat dinner after our walk at the Brinchang Night Market. Our choice was...

Let me break down to you first, what you will expect. It costs RM25 per pax, and after counting the items they served us, it seemed as if the portions given are through estimation instead of been 'set.' It comes with free refillable chicken soup, so if you want to have tomyum soup, that would be a RM8 upgrade. We went for the upgrade as we love steamboat with a spicier and tangier soup paste... only to regret paying that amount for possibly the worst tomyum soup we have tasted. It was powdery, bland, and loaded with vegetables that were old-ish!!! I have to really praise my photo-taking skills as the food turned out so much nicer in pictures than in reality lol.

My take on this place: Don't go if you have better options. Won't be recommending to anyone.

Our night was filled with laughter as we had girly talks, hips exercises etc lol. And soon enough, morning came and it was time for breakfast! We really wanted to try out The Lord's Cafe after reading so many positive reviews online.... BUT TO OUR DISMAY, it was closed that morning!!! T____T

Hence we had to settle for just about anything, and went to Mamak Rasul for some not-worth-mentioning food huhuhuhu... At least we got ourselves fed and head off to Kea's Farm for some serious shopping! No pictures taken because the wind was crazy strong and we all had our hands full with our purchases!

So, it was time to check out, and  head back to reality in Gua Musang... On our way back, a sign caught our eye and led us to this new restaurant way up on a steep hill!

The whole concept was rather unique and the restaurant really has space! But do go there prepared to bear with the smell of fertilisers and earth. *don't say i didn't warn you*

 HOWEVER, the food at Earth House was plain disappointing. We were told the strawberry juice was supposed to be fresh juice... Hmmm.. Take a look at the drink on the left, does that look fresh to you?

The chicken chop was just... BAD. It was oily, over-fried, and the chips were just soaked in oil... As I mentioned before, my photography skills or rather my Galaxy S4 takes good pictures as the food seemed pretty okay in them lol.

And that practically completes our two days one night trip to Cameron Highlands! In short, we had less than satisfactory food, but a great trip is great because of the company. It was really nice just to have time together as girls (yes, we are still girls!), taking selfies, shopping, pillow talks and all things girly!

By the way, what was stated above was purely based on our actual experiences. Do not let my words deter you from trying any of the stops mentioned above, and make your own judgment ;)