Friday, 31 August 2012

Sasemians celebrated Independence Day!

The 55th Independence Day was celebrated in style in SASEM. First we had boiled tapioca, lempeng (a kind of pancake) and 'sambal' in the dining hall. However there wasn't enough tapioca for the students so they just had the pancake. After that we were off to Khalifah Hall for brilliant performances by the students. As I've said before, the students have a lot of talent so they were able to come up with a wonderful performance. Well-done to the teachers who trained them (Ema, Wanie, Syukri and others).

What left an indelible impression was the dance from the lower secondary kids! Simply beautiful! Credit must be given to Roshni for dancing so gracefully. The other one was of course Syafiq Osmera (reminds me of Ed Osmera, the handsome actor of the olden days) and the gang for the memorable video. I love the part when he addressed the Malay folks on what they could do to help fund the initiative towards independence. He has the talent in acting I think. To cap it all was the fireworks display and the 'Merdeka' chant by all present. Did Syafiq say it seven times or eight? video will have the answer if Ikhwan had shot it all :) 

Sasemians, let's not waste that talent you have. I would like to see you succeed in both academic and co curricular. There is something special about this batch if only they realise it...I've always said they have a lot of talent but that talent must be tapped and channeled towards excellence particularly academic excellence. Sasemians BOLEH!

Kudos to all those involved in the Merdeka Day celebrations.

Happy Independence Day Malaysia! Proud to be Malaysian!

The Thinking Teacher

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

If You Don't Use it You Lose It! English,Your Window to the World (Wadah Siswa 1/2012)

My first article in Wadah Siswa/Issue 1/2012. Happy reading :)

Learning to speak English well may be the best thing you can do to improve your life. It is not just a subject you need to learn in school but it is an international language you need to master simply because it is the most widely spoken language in the world. That’s right. Do you know that at least 2.2 billion people speak the language? It is also used as the mother tongue and the official language in at least 70 counties around the world, 95% of scientific articles are in English and it is the official language used in the United Nations and the Olympics (Crystal, D English as a Global Language, Google Books, p4, p65 an d These facts alone show that the English Language is a language you cannot ignore. You have to master it in order to amass a lot of information and knowledge especially in science and technology. You just cannot afford to ignore this language.  English is your window to the world. In Malaysia, English is the second language after Bahasa Melayu. Our education system places a lot of importance on the language in order to become a successful nation. It is also a compulsory subject to learn in primary and secondary schools. Getting a good grade in English is no longer considered a bonus or an advantage but it is a must! If you can speak and write well in English, it opens many doors to better opportunities in life. Let us look at the opportunities:
  • Get access to knowledge -What are you interested in? Sports? Music? Gadgets? Entertainment? We live in an information age but unfortunately most of this information or knowledge is in English. Just look around you. Today’s media such as the internet, television and newspapers can provide you with unlimited access to knowledge about your interests but you must have a good command of the language to be able to access them. There are over a billion web pages that are in English for you to gather unlimited information on any topic. A person who has knowledge has an advantage over the other.  The saying ‘knowledge is power’ is true but you need to master English first in order to get access to knowledge. Can you imagine how much learning one language can do to your life?
  • Communicate with people - English is the language of communication. More and more people are learning the language especially in China. China has recently decided to put a lot of emphasis on the importance of learning English to its citizens. They do not have a choice because with the booming economy China is experiencing now, business and trade transactions require English as a medium of communication. After all, English is the language diplomats form different countries use to communicate with each other and the language used for almost all international competitions such as the Olympics.  If you can converse well in English, you can speak confidently and talk about your ideas and opinions to others around the world. You can travel easily and communicate with people on the streets or ask for help.  
  • Give your career a push- Don’t just dream of that good job in a business or technology company! Start learning English now! Once you have a good level of proficiency, you will it easy to write yourself a good resume, gain technical knowledge or be a world-class businessman or businesswoman. You can also upgrade your skills by learning computer skills that are mainly in English. This will definitely push you career prospects once you jump into the world of career.
  • Enjoy literature and the arts- With a respectable command of English, you will be able to enjoy reading great books by famous authors such as Charles Dickens and the more modern author such as J.K Rowling of the Harry Porter series. Reading a book is not the same as watching a movie. Many details are left out in a movie but you will find a good book a good read. In addition, there is a wide choice of movies to watch particularly American movies. A strong command in English will also help you understand and enjoy songs better because you understand the words.

How do you learn English?
Here are some simple tips:

  • Get rid of that shyness!
You are being shy for the wrong reason. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes- people may laugh at you sometimes for mispronouncing a word of two but that is the way to learn. Mistakes are really opportunities for you to improve yourselves. Think of it this way- how can we ever learn English or any other language for that matter if we don’t make mistakes? Even Thomas Elva Edison had to make approximately 1000 mistakes before he could come up with the electrical bulb we are using now! He was not sacred of making mistakes. In the same way, do not be afraid to make mistakes while learning English. Your teachers will help you in class and you should make the most of your English lessons in school.

  • Invest in a good dictionary
Get a current dictionary and not one that you have had for years because the list of words increases all the time. A good dictionary is preferably an English-to- English dictionary but there is nothing wrong in getting a bilingual dictionary if it helps. If you can afford it, get an electronic dictionary which is light and handy to be brought to class. Having a reliable dictionary will help you deal with difficult words and look at good sample sentences on how to use the words.

  • Read, read, read!
Reading is the key to acquiring English besides speaking. You need to develop a love for reading all types of materials in English from newspapers to novels. Newspapers are the cheapest source of reading material costing only about RM1.50. Find the section you like most such as sports and start reading. It is not hard to do. It is hard when you read something you do not like.

  • Keep a journal
Make a difference in your student life. Keep a journal or diary in English. You can record your personal thoughts, reflections and events regularly. This will increase your contact with English outside school hours. On top of that, keeping a journal will motivate you to write your inner thoughts and feelings without any inhibitions.

  • Listen to good speakers of English
They could be your own English teacher, classmates, a news reader on television and radio, an actress or a broadcaster. The main thing is to be exposed to good models of the language as much as possible. One way you can learn English is to watch the English news on your favourite TV channel. It is not expensive at all.

  • Use the language
How many English words do you speak in a day? Ask yourself this question every day and make an effort to speak in English daily. You can do this by having simple conversations with your friends and classmates in the classroom, at the canteen or during sports practice sessions in the field. Remember, if you don’t use it, you lose it!

  • Be patient
Learning a second language is not the same as learning a first language such as Bahasa Melayu. You must be patient in learning the rules of grammar and the fours skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. Take it one step at a time. The saying goes that ‘Rome was not built in a day.’ Hence, be open-minded and be ready to learn.

           English is easy to learn. You can do it!

The Thinking Teacher

Thursday, 23 August 2012

On being a Special Grade C English teacher...

So I made apologies if I don't sound so enthusiastic about it after six months of probation. I really wanted it and will not forget the numerous Dhuha and morning prayers asking for God's consent. In those prayers, I had always asked God to decide what's best for me because only He knows. I asked Him to grant my doa only if this post was good for me and to protect me from it if it was bad. I'm eternally grateful for the award. It is the highest achievement for a teacher- the max. But perhaps I've been just a little tired lately.

The truth is my right back is giving that old problem again and I am undergoing physiotherapy to ease the pain. It's normal to feel lethargic when you've been at it for a long time although a good friend cautioned me not to cite this as a reason to others. All I need is a bit of time to recover. Everybody feels tired now and then. Hence, I've been rejecting (politely) some offers to give talks, present papers and the likes for the simple reason that I haven't been too well. I just want to be in school till the end of the year and devote myself to my teaching- what I do best. I hope my rejections have not been misunderstood.
The road to GCK has been a long one. The journey had it's fair share of twists and turns like a river that meanders to no end. To think that I had been 'canned' for at least four years it was unthinkable I would pull this through. It's all God's will. And the journey presented some casualties too- I lost some friends. (Someone warned me back in 2001 when I voiced my interest in applying for GC that I would lose my friends). It didn't dawn upon me then but true enough, I lost some friends. These were friends who thought I had changed. Yes my DG changed but I'm still the same person whatever title you bestow upon me. I have my roots fixed to the ground and much of it has to do with my upbringing. Upon reflection, I'm not sure if these friends were real friends in the first place! There are friends who stick with you through thick and thin and there are those who judge you all the time. They are like the police of world, sentencing you to death even before you are put on trial.

Documentation for GKC evaluation

Hardwork and peserverance

Application form and supporting documents

Six months down the road I'm enthusiastic about this new-found role. I have a lot of ideas and plans but I need a team that's equally enthusiastic. You can never do it alone. 
A week before Hari Raya, I had an audience with you know who. Our conversation was fleeting...from Hari Raya preparations to school matters to family matters... so I don't have to pay any attention to the encounter except for the last part when I was informed that an officer in the PPD commented that I was not holding any post in Majlis Guru Cemerlang Kluang. Do I need to hold such a post? It's not enough being the advisor? Complicated this :) For the record, I do things that matter (curriculum and co-curricular) and I'm certainly not one to hold posts to rub shoulders with important officers or have a vested interest. To think that I'd passed the evaluation!

Well, cest la vie...
Salam Aidil Fitri

The Thinking Teacher

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Are You A Good Language Learner? (Wadah Siswa/2/2012)

This was my second article that was published in Wadah Siswa, Issue No.2 recently. Happy reading!

English is such an important language to learn that millions of people want to master it. In China for example, the drive to learn English is high because English is important in the business world. Millions study English to improve their status. Those who could communicate in English found themselves facing a much brighter future in China. English is essential for employment opportunities and for higher education. The situation is no different in Malaysia.

In our own country, English is officially the second language after Bahasa Malaysia. It is a compulsory subject to learn in schools from Primary 1 to Form 5 for secondary education but it is unfortunate that many do not have a respectable command of the language even after thirteen years of learning the language. i.e from primary 1 to Form 5. The sad situation is reflected in the Minister of Education’s comments on the state of English recently.

Are teachers incompetent, or school books unsuitable? The Education Ministry will look at these factors to determine why students continue to have a poor grasp of the English language.
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also education minister, said the ministry would review the curriculum with regard to the teaching of English as well as identify the reasons behind students’ poor command of the language.Muhyiddin said even after learning the language for 13 years at primary, secondary and matriculation levels, some students still could not master English…
                                                                                                                            (NST Online 7 August 2011)

Among others, he is concerned with a number of issues related to English teaching such as English teachers’ competency and the suitability of the curriculum. Hence, efforts are in place to revamp the curriculum to adopt a more fun approach in teaching the subject.As a student, there are valid reasons why you need to master English. For a start, the following information gives us a good idea as to where English stands in comparison with other languages of the world:

On a worldwide basis, the languages and the number of native speakers (people speaking their own language, in millions) are as follows: Mandarin 1.52 billion, English 375 million, Hindi/Urdu 316 million, Spanish 304 million, Arabic 202 million, Portuguese 190 million. Russia, with 143 million people, is conspicuous by its omission from the list….While Mandarin is used by the largest number of people; English is the most widely used language in the world. The following are other data relating to the use of English in different situations: (1) 380 million speak English as a second language; (2) one billion speak English as a foreign language; (3) there are an estimated 1.7 billion users of the language: English dominates the Internet, the print media, business, aviation, conferences, other international events, etc.; (4) approximately one billion are learning English worldwide; (5) over the Internet, about 80% of home pages and 60% of e-mail are in English; (6) English is the medium of higher education in many countries, e.g. India, the Netherlands, Oman, South Africa, Sweden and Turkey; (6) 85% of the world’s knowledge is in English; and (7) 98% of scientific papers are written in English.

                                                                                                                   (Sunday Star, April 24, page F24)

Hence, it is obvious why having a good command of the language is crucial. The figures speak for themselves. How then can you help yourselves be proficient users of English? I believe that if you want to learn English well, you cannot wait for your teacher. You have to take charge of your learning. Here are some guidelines on how you can learn English in fun and effective ways.

1.   Become a person who likes English

Your attitude towards the language influences your actions. Stop saying you do not like English. Do not shun the language. Instead you should be proud that you are learning a language that is spoken by 380 million people as their second language. Imagine what a good level of English can do for you. You have to imagine being able to speak to native speakers with ease as if English is you first language. Imagine writing emails to people from all over the world, travelling to distant countries and being able to converse in the language. Imagine finding your way at the airport easily because you can understand the signage and imagine sitting on a plane and speaking to a British passenger next too you confidently.  Only a good command of English can afford you all these. It is time to gain an impressive knowledge of English.

2.   Spend time learning the language every day

Most students want to improve their English but they do not want to spend time learning it on their own. They generally lack the motivation to do things on their own. Even revision for the exams is done at the eleventh hour. What you should do is to take small steps every day that will culminate into something big and effective on a regular basis. Learning English requires ACTION. Here are some actions you can start with:

  • Read a book in English or a newspaper in English for at least thirty minutes a day.
  • Read the dictionary. Yes! The dictionary is a library of words. Study ten words a day and its part of speech (whether it is a noun, verb, adjective etc.). Write a sentence on each of the word and keep it in you vocabulary notebook.
  •  Listen to the news in English daily. Pick a station that you like and listen to how the words are pronounced by the broadcaster. You will learn that to be understood, you need to speak correctly.
  • Write email messages in English to a friend, a pen pal who is a native speaker or your teacher. Check the language with an online thesaurus and dictionary before you send the email
  • Use the thesaurus to find equivalents words and build your vocabulary.
  •  Aim to speak twenty words (minimum) in school today and increase the number every day.
  • Use English with friends at the canteen and on the field.
  • Watch a movie in English. Movies provide you with the opportunity to improve your pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary. You can listen to native speakers using the language like in real life.

3.   Spend some money on learning English

Your teachers always tell you to invest in a good dictionary but you probably do not know what kind of dictionary you should buy. A good dictionary has to be an English-English dictionary. Makes sure it has phonetic transcriptions (for pronunciation) for every word). You should also look out for example sentences for every word so you know how to use the word in a sentence. Now that you have spent on a good dictionary, make sure you maximize its use.

4.   Find a friend who is learning English

It is good to have a friend who is interested to improve his English and who is of the same level as you. Find someone who is in the same class or neighbourhood. You will have someone to talk to in English and increase your motivation. Learning English will be easier because you can discuss problems in learning English with your friend and he or she will drive you to study English more because you will want to be better than your friend. J

5.   Read fun things.

Read something that you like. If you can’t stop reading, that shows you have chosen a good text. If you choose to read something that you are not interested in, it will not sustain your interest to continue reading. It does not have to be intellectual and do not feel guilty about reading comics, newspapers, magazines, blogs etc. The most important thing to do is to read what you like and develop the habit of reading on a daily basis. Allocate at least thirty minutes a day reading in English. Once you have nurtured this habit, you will find that reading comes quite naturally. On top of that, you should read “everyday” English. Read natural and contemporary English which is current. Some books have older words and phrases which are not used widely today unless you are in the literary circle. However, if you want to read Lord of the Rings for example, go ahead and read it. There is no harm in reading something that interests you.

All the tips above show you how you can improve your English and not be left behind. Let us look at some characteristics of a good language learner and ask yourselves if you have such characteristics. Based on research, a good language learner displays certain characteristics:

1.  Good language learners find a style of learning that suits them.
They are self-aware and they know themselves. They can adapt easily in any learning situation. They are positive that they can they can always learn something, whatever the situation. They also know how they prefer to learn and choose learning situations that are suited to their way of learning.

2.  Good language learners are actively involved in the language learning process.
      They practise, practise and practise! They take responsibility for their own learning. They do not         
      depend on the regular language classes alone but they always look for and create opportunities to use 
      the language. They do not mind appearing foolish if necessary.

3.   Good language learners try to figure out how the language works.
They pay attention to form and look for patterns. They develop good techniques for improving their pronunciation, learning grammar and vocabulary. They treat mistakes as opportunities to learn more about the language.

4.   Good language learners know that language is used to communicate.
They pay attention to meaning. They have good techniques to practise listening, speaking, reading, and writing. They do not worry too much about making mistakes. They speak and try to become fluent. They look for opportunities to speak with native speakers.

5.   Good language learners are like good detectives.
They always look for clues and make guesses. They ask people to correct them if they are wrong. They monitor themselves by keeping a record of what they have learned.

 6.  Good language learners learn to think in the language.
They think in English when they are writing an essay for example or when speaking to others. They try to use think in the second language and not allow too much dependency on their mother-tongue.

7.   Good language learners realize that language learning is not easy.
They do not give up easily. They try to overcome their feelings of frustration and their lack of confidence. They are able to come to terms with the demands of language learning.

                       (Wenden, A. ‘Helping language learners think about learning’ in Currents of change  
                        In English Language Teaching ed. by Rossner and Bolitho OUP 1910 p 174)

Do you possess the above characteristics? Think about them and start developing those characteristics. The importance in learning English cannot be emphasized enough.  In order to contribute to nation-building, the country needs citizens who have a respectable level of English. We need knowledge workers and skilled workers who are confident to use the language in whichever field of work that they choose. The benefits of mastering a second language are manifold. It works to your advantage if you are able to speak the language well.

Don’t forget that you already know some English. That is already a big success! Now it’s time for more successes. All it takes is ACTION. Don’t put it off. As the saying goes, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Take Action!

The Thinking Teacher

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Eid Mubarak

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri (Eid Mubarak) to all Muslim friends and visitors,
 students in SASEM and ex-students in SMSJ and SMK Canossian Convent, Kluang. 
Maaf Zahir Batin.

The Thinking Teacher

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Innovation Competition- Johor State Education Dept.

Date: 15th August 2012
Venue: SMK Taman Kluang Barat, Kluang

31 JU's (trainers) for Innovation were selected from all districts in today's meeting with En Sujak Sarman, Head of Academic Sector, State Education Department. I was one of the four teachers from Kluang. The JPN Johor has finally coordinated the types of innovation competitions for the state but strangely this is different from the "Guru Inovatif" competition held annually. I was probably too vocal in this meeting to withhold any comments as there were serious errors with the evaluation form. Suggestions to correct them were accepted after a long discussion. The are five categories of awards:

1. Anugerah Inovasi Khas: 
    For individuals with a high level of leadership skills, charismatic and initiatives to bring about change.

2. Anugerah Inovasi Pengarah Pelajaran:
    Specially for teachers who are creative and highly-skilled in employing a variety of teaching techniques.

3. Anugerah Inovasi Pengurusan Perkhidmatan:
    To be awarded to officers and staff who creatively introduce, execute or improve approaches, 
     processes and working procedures.

4. Anugerah Inovasi Rekacipta:
    This award is given to officers and staff who are creative in producing new products or improve on  
    current products.

5. Anugerah Kumpulan KIK
    Awarded to groups that produce innovation.

Head of Academic Sector, JPN Johor, En Sujak Maskan

Question please...
Tn Hj Shahilon, Principal Assistant Director, Mathematics and Science

Mr Ruslan, National Level Innovation Winner from SMK Benut, Pontian

Group 2

The Thinking Teacher

Friday, 10 August 2012

A Recipe for Friendship- 4 Bukhari

One of the best lessons I've ever conducted to be honest and 4 Bukhari really impressed me! I had to borrow 10 minutes of Ani's time (Chemistry teacher) to complete all the activities. This is a suitable lesson to be conducted at the end of the term before the August break. Give it a try teachers and tell me how it goes.

Here's the lesson plan:

Title: A Recipe for Friendship
Class: Form 4
Duration: Double period
Skills: Listening-speaking, presentation skills, creativity
1. Song mp3 (You've got a friend- Carole King)
2. Handout- gapped lyrics from song
3. Mahjong papers- 6 x 6 groups
4. Marker Pens - as many as you want
5. Masking tape

1. Teacher writes eight words from the lyrics of the song and get ss to guess what the song is about. (My students said it's probably a love song)
2. Distribute the handout and play the song once.
3. SS fill in the gaps with words from the song.
4. Teacher discusses the answers and asked five comprehension questions orally based on the song. (E.g. According to the song, if you're in trouble, what should you do?)
5.Put SS in groups of five.
6. Instruct them to write a recipe for friendship. Divide the mahjong paper into two: A. Ingredients B. Methods/Steps. (Allow their creative juices to flow)
7. Groups take two minutes to present their recipes.
8. End with "I Like You Slips" Activity (everyone including me took part in this activity where we write nice, positive things about our friends/students today)

The recipe from Faqih's group:

1. A bowl of sense of humour
2. Two bowls of honesty
3. A pinch of generosity
4. A cup of patience
5. Two slices of trust
6. A bottle of acceptance
7. A packet of understanding
8. Half a loaf of care

1. Boil a packet of understanding for 30 minutes.
2. Add a pinch of generosity and stir it with a cup of patience.
3. While waiting for the ingredients to boil, mix two bowls of honesty with a bottle of acceptance and stir.
4. Toss the boiled ingredients and mix it with half a loaf of caring.
5. Serve it with a bowl of sense of humour and two slices of trust.
6. For decoration, add a dash of good looks and enjoy your meal!

Proud of you 4 Bukhari :) Keep up the good job!

The slips that I got. Thanks all!

Thanks a lot!

thanks nash- love you too :)

yesss!! English number One!!

More chocs???

I actually hate my voice hehe..

You are welcome...

My envelope...

The Thinking Teacher