Monday, 28 May 2012

Dr Basil Wijasuriya Silver Award, 21st MELTA International Conference, Sunway Putra Hotel

The 21st MELTA international conference in Sunway Putra Hotel, KL ended yesterday. Didn't I have a scare on presentation day? Silly me forgot my charger and efforts to transfer the ppt. to the organiser's notebook failed. The notebook was awfully sloooww and I wondered how I was going to go online! Luckily, a good friend offered to help with his notebook, unifi and all. How can I thank him enough. My paper presentation was ok. Just glad I managed to share.  It was good to meet some old friends, Adibah, Rosmawati, Shantini and many more and to meet up with my blog visitors. Congrats to Shantini for being awarded the Dr Hyacinth Gaudart Award! I found the conference pretty quiet this time around though. There seemed to be something missing. Couldn't quite put a finger to it but something was amiss. Maybe the big names?

The winners for the Dr Basil Wijasuriya Award for Best Teacher Presenter were:

Gold: Shantini Karalasingam (Selangor)
Silver: Rahmah Hj Sayuti (Johor)
Bronze: Nor Fadzleen Saadon (Johor)

The silver award was a total surprise. I won the Dr Basil Wijasuriya Award for Best Teacher Presenter in 2009 but there was only one recipient at the time. I wasn't aware I was evaluated so I had a good time just sharing. It's wise that the organisers have decided to award three teachers now so that more teachers have the chance of wining. It felt good to share what you've done in the classroom with other teachers.  I left earlier and didn't wait for the closing ceremony. I headed for Sg Besi for a family matter but Yati from Pelangi (thanks Yati) texted me to let me in on the news. A pleasant surprise indeed. To be honest, I think I'm too old for competitions...I wish to see younger teachers come to MELTA and share their ideas and methods in such a platform. I've always encouraged teachers in my own little town, Kluang and other teachers through my blog to attend such conferences to open our minds to new discoveries in teaching and research.

I love Dr Ruani Tupas' lecture on current developments in ELT and the potential of bilingualism. According to Dr Tupas (National University of Singapore), research shows that learners who learnt English bilingually outperformed their peers in the long term. Interesting finding indeed. A research by a Korean presenter on homogeneous and heterogeneous groups and the impact on conducting group work also caught my attention.  Attending conferences is like food for the soul, if I may borrow such an expression. The teacher's soul needs to be nourished with new knowledge and skills especially for senior teachers like me. 

I was piqued (stimulated or irritated hehe..) by one enthusiastic or rather over-enthusiastic SYT (sweet young thing) who commented in Dr Ruannis' plenary that she believed that bilingualism was a good thing for L2 learners to pick up English but that the 'senior teachers' in her school frowned at her use of BM in teaching English. She went on to say that senior teachers 'got their license to teach 30 years ago' and they need to keep up with the times. Ouch! What do you think senior teachers?  I for one support bilingualism  but it is a question of how much of BM, when? and what? Senior teachers don't reject bilingualism especially in the context of ESL. It comes naturally for non-native teachers to use their mother tongue in the classroom but perhaps there is this inexplicable feeling of 'guilt' on the part of the teacher when they use BM and hence they'd rather deny using the mother-tongue to teach English. I can assure you I have no problems keeping up with the times too :) It's called passion. Research that throws light on the benefits of bilingualism and multilingualism are much welcome as they open our eyes to current issues in language learning.

I also visited all the Teacher Showcase booths to learn from the innovations presented by teachers all over Malaysia. The strange thing though was that some of the teachers taking part in the showcase did not explain what they were showcasing clearly. There was one that was pretty muddled. The pair left me confused as to what the aims of their innovation were. It seemed the aims were multi-pronged and too wide for any particular impact- listening and speaking, vocab, assessment etc. Some were 'defensive' when answering questions. Thought the questions from visitors would be useful as a warm-up before the evaluators came. Many concentrated on phonics, which is the current focus of KSSR and I had a good time learning a thing or two. Primary education has always amazed me because I think you need a special talent to teach primary pupils and I don't have that :) 

The second conference will be held in Kuching on 7-8th June. I see interesting papers for the Kuching venue. One is Dr Ganakumaran's paper on 'The Truths about Creativity in the Classroom'. Perhaps in the future I should venture to Kuching :)

The Thinking Teacher

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