Thursday 26 June 2014

getting to their level

There has been a lot of heat recently when a PHD student wrote a public open letter to a rather controversial yet popular news webpage, telling teachers to use L2 instead of L1 in the classrooms and was very against word-to-word translation, indirectly blaming Malaysian English teachers for the downfall of the overall English proficiency among students.

To be perfectly honest, while I feel victimised by her opinions, I looked at the teachers around me and would give her credit to a certain extent.

Of course, no language teachers would choose to teach the target language in the students' mother's tongue if they have a choice. Speaking for myself, I would choose to teach in English above all else in a really ideal situation. But how often do we get an ideal classroom?

The truth is, there are HEAPS of lazy teachers.

Those who are only concern about their salary and their 'claims', those who do not enter classes, those who enter classes but do not teach, those who never even bother coming to school, those who leave the school way before they should, those who use school hours to run personal errands, those who hand out answers to students during exams to ensure his/her class score well, those who never step foot in the school assembly, those who eat in the canteen during school assembly, those who get students to run tasks for them while they laze at their couch smoking, those who blatantly stand up and leave the meeting room even when the principal is still giving his speech, those who are more concern about selling things than their lesson plans, those who constantly trying on the array of tudung, those who do not enter the exam classes to invigilate and give students the permission to cheat, and those who take the easy way out.

(the examples above are found in my school.)

And I have also come across English teachers who teach in L1, simply because they do not have the competency in L2.

There is an obvious lack of creativity, passion and dedication among many of our teachers. Of course they have to take the blame to a certain extent, but I also see the great burnt out as well as lack of motivation amongst them, simply because many of us are stuck in very discouraging situation.

Most of them are struggling with long-distance-marriage, our students are a tough bunch to teach, the students' parents do not value education, and mostly, for the bright and enthusiastic teachers, their fuel easily runs out simply as there is a great lack of professional development, acknowledgement or even support.

I really enjoyed my time teaching the Catholic High Students. They are highly proficient, witty, and a whole lot of fun to teach. Not only was I able to apply whatever I've learned in teaching, I taught only in English, was able to maximise my lessons with help of technology, and students often surprised me with their end product.

But now,

I teach in a high school in Gua Musang, Kelantan.

We were apparently ranked at the very bottom of the high schools in Kelantan, and Kelantan's SPM achievement was at the bottom tier out of the 13 states.

To better show you my students' level, here's a glance of their recent results:

Most of them scored below 25 marks and those marks are already from their effort in cheating during test. (3 out of 5 classes admitted to cheating when I threatened to retest them after seeing the obvious attempts in cheating; while the other 2 were just too weak to even cheat).

I don't know whose fault is it that at the age of 14 - 17, many still can't identify the meanings of very basic vocabulary such as 'trees' and 'bread'. I wanted to blame their previous teachers but then again when I tried my hardest to teach them, they seemed to have learned it well on that lesson but very soon forget everything the next day and even had the guts to claim that I had never taught them that before.


It is a profession that brings you a lot of disappointment, if you fully invest yourself in it.

It is a profession where your pay does not equate to the time and effort of your toil.

It is a profession with the highest risk of stress-related illness.

It is a profession with little respect and regard in our country.

It is a profession highly misunderstood by many.

It is a profession you either hate or love.

But, when you have GOOD TEACHING DAYS, or a simple ACKNOWLEDGEMENT or APPRECIATION from your students,


Satisfaction, pride, relief, joy..... It is also a profession that brings you meaningful experiences.

I would not bash this particular person for her opinions, as she does have valid points; but as a senior of mine had pointed out, WE WANT TO BE SHOWN WHAT TO DO.

To be fair,

I give you the situation of my classroom, and how I handled it. I am open for constructive feedback, as I believe that's how we actually learn to be a better teacher.

I have a class of 41 students, aged 14. They are a mixture of Malays, Chinese and Asli.

Here's the thing, only 2 out of 41 could make simple sentences, very simple SVO or SVC type of sentences.

The other 39 couldn't even tell me what's the past tense of 'sing' and have yet produced a single, unguided, error-free sentence. I can safely say, they are only at 'word-level'. I even had them tested and out of the first 1000 common English words, most of them scored 50 and below. We are talking about them not even knowing the meaning of 'care', or able to differentiate 'you' and 'your'.

The Chinese students to my horror, could not understand Malay. Possibly due to their family background and the strong racial sentiment in this place, they would rather fail in the Malay language.

The Malay kids are not even proficient in Malay, as they use the 'Kelate' dialect. I have been using 'Standard Malay' for my translation and even that proved to be hard for the students. Interestingly, the Asli students were the ones with better Malay proficiency, having learned it the 'baku' way.

We could easily say that to them, English has never been a L2. It is FOREIGN.

Now, the question is,


Do be mindful that in any Malaysian classroom, we are very time-constrained and are expected to finish our syllabus before their exams while our classes are often cancelled due to many school programmes and constant new launches by the government from time to time.

As for me,


The other 70% consists of explanation in Malay as well as Mandarin, followed by a lot of drawing and acting. I even had to use their different L1 to elicit responses in English from them.

The poem I had to teach was 'The River' by Valerie Bloom.

Using google image, I sourced for pictures, and drew them onto a Manila card.

Then I started off my lesson asking them in their L1, what comes to their mind when they think of a river.
Their answers were, "water, stones, fish."
Yup, that's all they could offer as a whole class.

I then proceeded to write six words on the board - Wanderer, Winder, Hoarder, Singer, Baby, Monster. 'Which of these words, do you already know its meaning?'

Not a surprise, they could only identify 'Baby' while a few boys yelled out 'Monster'. I was actually taken aback that none of them knew 'Singer'.

I then explained each of those words with a mixture of L1 and L2, and got the students to match my pictures with the 6 words. Thankfully, it was easily achieved.

As none of them brought their literature textbook (though I repeatedly reminded them before), I had to write down the poem, stanza by stanza on the board, explain to them word for word, and make sure they copy down neatly in their writing books.

As you can very well see, I had to teach in three languages.

At the end of the lesson, I tested their vocabulary by yelling out the L1 of the words, and having them give me the answer in English. Even the weakest in the class was able to provide me the right answer, which was a relief to me.

Lastly, I told them to draw the different characteristics or persona of the river beside their notes, in hopes that it will help them to remember better.

So that was how I taught the poem of The River in 70 minutes to this particular class.

Even if I tried, I would have not been able to teach completely in L1 for my lesson objectives to be achieved. It could be of my own lacking, so I would really like to know, how would you have taught differently with this particular group of students?

Any form of suggestions and ideas would be very much appreciated, as I truly want to be shown of new ways / perspective / techniques to teach my students.

If you feel like commenting on a more personal space, feel free to drop me an email on

If you are a fellow teacher and wishes to collaborate in any way (I have actually done quite a number of collaborations and thoroughly enjoy them), do drop me an email too :)

That's all for today,

God bless~

Review: Little and Friday, Newmarket, Auckland

Hands down, New Zealand probably has the best coffee! Then again, I might be downright bias.

Always on a lookout for a good cuppa flat white, I suggested to Lina to pay a visit to this cafe that is highly raved in many commercial reviews. Surprisingly Lina told me she had been to this place and said food is definitely good, hence our brunch venue was decided!

With her trusty GPS, and a short 10 minutes after, we found this cute little cafe that is co-joined with a textile shop (interesting)~~

Unlike most cafes that provide cosy little tables, this one has long, large dining tables. Not much privacy I guess, but sometimes it's good to share the table with others, and passing around the amazing chutney (which we fell in love with).

Picture below taken from since I did not have a photo taken of the layout...

Spot a very interesting sign lol.

Food choice wise, one may be disappointed if you are looking for some big breakfast or soft, gooey egg benedict as they only serve whatever is on their cabinet - which mainly are quiches, frittatas, sweet tarts and cakes. We later found out that they do however reheat your choice, and serve alongside a generous portion of salad greens :)

Lina picked Beetroot Walnut Galette, while I opted for a Mushroom and Feta Cheese Quiche. Seeing how pretty the chocolate and Raspberry cake looked, I couldn't help myself but ordered one as well!

They gave us those cute animal statues instead of the usual (and boring) waiting numbers!

and our food came...

Now let's rate the food~~~

Flat White: 4 out of 5 AWEstars
Galette: A real pleasant surprise, packed with flavours!
Chutney: OUR FAV. Nuff said.
Cake: Too full and had to takeaway to share with hubby and WE LOVED IT.

Final rating?

We will be back :)

Tuesday 17 June 2014

Paper Planes...

I'm one of those teachers who are just never disciplined enough to write detailed lessons plans before entering classes.

In fact, I work best under spontaneity.

Probably my weakness which coincidentally could also be my strength, I am often unprepared, but with an idea or available resources, I could somehow whip up something... Which is the case of this lesson of mine 2 days ago~~

It was once again a double period with my notorious 2A4. Since it was the first lesson with them after a two and a half week break, I was kinda unsure of what to expect. Wasn't exactly a good thing that the class was right after our school assembly, meaning I had no time to make a run for my desk to grab some worksheets or whatnot... Oh well, I had literally no one to blame except for myself since we actually had a rather comfortable break (which I as a *self-acclaimed* passionate educator should have used wisely to plan my activities in advance)....

I sat on the chair, throughout the assembly, trying to think of something to do with them. But no, my brain decided to go dead on me, possibly still hibernating... oh yeah, I haven't had my caffeine fix which is the most crucial part of my day....

Soon enough, assembly was over, students dismissed and I entered the class, still clueless and a lil worried lol..

At least it was a relief that only 19 was present out of the usual 30, with most of the troublemakers not back at school yet... Not the best inner thought to have but I was thankful for their absence, because I had no confidence that I could handle all the craziness at such an early start of the new semester...

After the salam and doa, I found myself just picking up my marker pen and wrote the word 'HOLIDAY' on the board, asked them what does is stand for, proceeded to explain the difference between 'HOLIDAY' and 'VACATION', and got them to share with me what have they done during the holidays or whether they went for vacation.

After all the noisy and rowdy 'sharing', I shared about my trip to New Zealand, which somehow led to questions on how long was my flight and which airline did I take....

Next thing I know, I got all of them to fold paper planes...


Paper planes.

Since they were rather weak not only academically but also in simple motor skills, some actually had difficulty folding the most basic and simple planes... I had to teach them how to fold a plane step by step. @_@

There were a couple of them who actually came out with more complicated designs and looked pretty damn proud lol.

Once I made sure everyone has a plane, I taught them to label parts of a plane.

'WINGS' - Both wings were labeled

'TAIL' - They cut the end of the plane, folded it upwards to create the tail

'ENGINES' - They had to draw the engines below the wings

'WHEELS' - Obviously they had to draw the wheels.

'COCKPIT' - Drawn on as well

After that, I quizzed them to make sure they remember the parts before moving on to teach them two verbs - 'TAKE OFF' and 'LAND'...

With their planes in their hands, they have to act it out when I shouted  'TAKE OFF' or 'LAND', much to their amusement.

I was even more amused by how excited they were. A glimpse of innocence could be seen underneath all the rebelliousness, the 'bajet pandai', the annoying antics, the rude comments, the stupid and uncouth jokes and the laziness....

Unfortunately, activities as such would not be quiet and peaceful or even orderly. Some of them started 'flying' their planes or even grabbing others'.... But thankfully, when I managed to obtain order again, I tested them and they could still remember those words that I taught earlier... Learning objectives achieved!

Tiring it was, but who would have known that simple resources such as unwanted papers could bring laughter and learning into the classroom ;)

Tuesday 10 June 2014

Here comes the drill...

Final few hours before the well-dreaded farewell... again...

It's always the hardest during the last night.. the anxiety.. the churning in the stomach... the thought of needing to hold and to be held while you try to cherish and soak in every single moment of it....

Then again, that's the beauty of a long-distance-marriage.

When moments as such become scarce, every single tear or laughter becomes so much more appreciated.

He had to work really long hours yesterday with quite a lot of mental turnmoil happening to him... Real estate is definitely a tough business to be in... So I was home, praying for him and occupying myself in ways I know, just to lessen a lil burden for him...

To my great surprise, he dropped by home around 3pm (during a 2-hour gap before his next appointment) with these...

... from my new-found fav bakery :)

My man, he is big on Love Through Actions. The biggest reason why I love him so much!

Then it was back to work and dealing with difficult buyers and vendors and even colleagues for him... While I waited patiently at home, prepared dinner, and waited nearly two hours for him to be back, heated up the meal, and we had the most awesome time eating dinner while watching Games of Thrones (with me closing my eyes most of the time during this particular episode lol)..

Best part was, despite the food being a lil cold after so long, Alex told me I did a good job and personally I too think I served up a rather decent meal lol. We had roasted chicken wings and potatoes (which I marinated overnight with fish sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, salt, chilli powder, lots of crushed garlic and sesame seeds) and a cabbage + carrot slaw (cooked with sweet chilli sauce and a self made vinaigrette)~

After a playful night and lots of teasing and chats and a restful sleep, I got up with him at 6.30 in the morning, made him his usual breakfast, sat on the toilet bowl and chatted with him while he showered and finally sent him off to work with a tight hug and a word of prayer..... Now here I am, penning this entry...

You see, LDM is tough, and not an ideal situation to be in...

But all these little things make it so worth it.

I find JOY in the waiting, in the every single little opportunities which I could play my role as a wife, being able to pray for him before he leaves home, cleaning up after cooking him a meal, whenever he surprises me with his thoughtfulness, when he makes me feel beautiful, when he sucks in his displeasure with me and lets me get away with certain things, and the list goes on...

I found gardening a therapeutic experience (only here in New Zealand shall I stress lol)...

... especially at such a charming transition of autumn/winter... 
Surrounded by fallen leaves of various colours... 
That's the word. 

Seeing how a season is ending, my stay here in Auckland is also coming to an end.. I will be back on that plane, struggling to fill up my time during an 11-hour flight, and a further 5-6 hour bus + car trip to my hometown, back in Malaysia.

It will be a few days of running essential errands in Taiping, before going back to Gua Musang to face the many challenges of a teacher, teaching in less than satisfactory conditions and dealing with hormonal and identity-developing teenagers... 

But the good news is, with every end of a season, comes a brand new season, a brand new start waiting to be filled with amazing adventures and stories of God's works... And I can't wait to go back to my classes, energized and recharged after such a lovely break here in Auckland while knowing we are moving closer to the day that ends the distance for good...

With just about 2 seasons down the road, 


Alex and I will be celebrating the same seasons, in the same timezone, on the same ground....

in a place we could call home :')

Monday 9 June 2014

Review: Olaf's Artisan Bakery & Cafe

After hearing Alex exclaiming about this particular place over viber and sometimes torture me with pictures of his loot, I was more than excited to try out the treats myself... Thankfully the wait wasn't too long and on the 3rd day of my arrival, Alex took me to Olaf's Artisan Bakery & Cafe at Mt Eden for a well-needed brunch!

My oh my was it packed. While queuing up, my eyes were glued to the cabinet selection... Alex was telling me to just pick whatever I want and that we could even take-away, but as usual, the Asian in me would be doing a lot of mental calculations and we ended up sharing an egg-benedict with some sweet treats...

Alex's first pick was that delectable portugese egg tart (that of course has a fancier name which I could not remember); while I picked that raspberry and custard brioche... Before we were about to pay, Alex suddenly ordered the third pastry (no idea what's it called) but turned out to be a let down...

I really love the raspberry and custard brioche as not only it will look good in pictures, it was surprisingly amazing!

I would say its a very well-balanced delight. you have the sourness of the berries, the creaminess from the custard, and some bitterness and sweetness from the decadent belgium chocolate... It's a dessert that won't make you feel 'jelak' or sick from it (if you get what I mean)..

The not-so-up-to-the-mark for us would be these two items here..
That pastry with the powdered sugar on top just tasted kinda 'meh' to me, and probably too sweet for my liking... And the husband's mocaccino with extra chocolate (He's the one with the sweeter tooth) turned out to be quite diluted and didn't have the 'kick'...

My flat white on the other hand,

... was divine...

I love how fragrant the coffee is with slight bitterness and punch, supported by the velvety texture of the milk.... Ahhhh... I love my coffee... hahahaha

And finally came our Eggs Benedict on Sourdough with in-house citrus-cured salmon

A lil hefty in price, at $21.50 one would expect at least some salad greens on the side but it is a pretty damn good dish. I particularly like the combination of the creamy hollandaise sauce and the runny yolks, together with the sourdough bread.... It was addictive!

Definitely a great place with great food! I rate it as 'WILL VISIT AGAIN, and AGAIN and AGAIN' lol.

Wednesday 4 June 2014

The man I married

This entry had a lot of interruptions, causing me to write... paused... saved as draft... rewrote... reedited... paused... etc.

Because, let's face it... Marriage is not perfection. And is never as simple as 'happily ever after.'

One moment I would be in cloud nine counting my blessings; the next I would be grumpy and dissatisfied because of some disagreements that we had as a married couple. In fact, 30 minutes ago I just got rebuked by Alex for not bringing him the right black belt. Yup.

We are so different in so many ways and I get upset by how particular or even anal he is about certain things...

He is so disciplined and independent that he makes me feel useless and redundant at times...

He has a sharp tongue and when he is not in a fine mood, he unconsciously provokes and snaps at people... And I know I had been hurt by the negativity that comes out of his lips, especially when he says things like 'I should have known better not to expect much from you'....or.. 'I should have just done it myself..' (Referring back to how he wants things done in a certain way and I am just not good in following instructions or doing those same chores that I do back home in his ways)..


I do know that I married an amazing man.

He has his imperfections and neither am I a saint. I am messy, impatient, clumsy, which directly clashes with his perfectly aligned routines and methods.

But his imperfections also made him the man I have no regrets in marrying.

He is so disciplined that he wakes up at 6am, gets his breakfast done, wipes the car (every single morning), does a 30-minute sit (to strengthen his posture), reads the news, showers, shaves, and prepares for work even though he only needs to leave home at 9am.

He is so disciplined that every time he comes back, he would first clean the shoes he wore (special treatment and cleaning would be done for his white Lacoste), placed them back into the box, complete with the protective layer of papers... (While I chucked the shoes wherever, running into the house)

And when I asked why would he go to that extent, while assuming that he has OCD, he merely explained that he is maintaining the condition and quality of the items he possesses... Of which becomes a really important trait that sustained our Long Distance Relationship... As much effort as he puts in to care for his shirts, shoes, cars etc, he puts in even more effort in our relationship. Not a day passes throughout the 5 years and 8 months without communication between us. Other than a few instances that could not be avoided, we have at least 1 hour of interaction (be it through Viber, Skype or whatnot) Every. Single. Day.

As fast as his tongue is, as fast he is to pacify me and cheer things up. It's either I let go really easily or he is really good at being funny lol. Somehow, I never managed to put on that pissed off face long enough before I cracked out in laughter.

I know he has a lot of things in his mind, especially when our financial situation causes strains, but yet he puts me high in his priorities. For instances,

He is a man, who would warm up the bathroom and bring my towel in before I enter to shower.
He is a man, who would take the yoghurt out from the fridge and let it warm a lil for me, before I consume it.
He is a man who finishes up any food I cooked regardless of whether it was a successful attempt, not leaving even a single grain of rice.
He is a man who would make me desserts. I especially love his baked flans.
He is a man who massages for me, especially when I have menstrual cramps.
He is a man who would looked up bus times, restaurant reviews, and sends me a comprehensive guide when I mentioned about wanting to go into the city on my own.
He is a man who makes sure I have my vitamins, and that I use the hand lotion after I do any washings.
He is a man who goofs around and plays childish tricks with me lol.
He is a man who stood by my side even when he was persecuted.
He is a man who hugs me, kisses me, and tells me he loves me every day.
He is a man who prays for me, every day.
He is a man who held on for more than five years of long distance, albeit the MANY challenges and storms, and said his vows without any hesitations...

I may not have achieved many of my dreams and my current circumstances may still be a distance away from the ideal, but while many spend a lifetime searching for the right partner, I am glad that the man I married, is the man that completes me and makes me a better person, the man I could envision a lifelong journey with.

With less than a week to go before going back to Long-Distance-Marriage, I shall savour every single waking moment, with this man I married :)