Mists are only pretty in prose and poetry

Once upon a time, one of the best medicines for me was writing. When I was sad, the pages of my diary would be filled from left to right, top to bottom. When I started blogging in 2000, I began to keep electronic diaries. Some were stored in the form of HTML pages, which I still keep until today. I was once a very active writer hiding behind pseudonyms because I have no confidence, only watching in silent pride when words from the bottom of my heart made their ways onto the pages of the newspapers. I used to take pride in my poems, songs, short stories, and even my musings.

I’m constantly feeling sad now; I don’t know if I should blame the weather or myself for making me feel like this. All I know is that I should really pick up writing again after a long time. Maybe I will be calmer that way, InsyaAllah. I believe this is the first blog entry after being called a teacher officially now, no? I’m a bit excited to write.

360 degrees twists and turns: The road to my school is a long winding one. There isn’t a day when I don’t feel like “Is this the day I die?” when I go to school every morning. I drive approximately 52km to and fro every day, going at 60~110km (usually 85km constant). My car eats up around RM250~300 worth of fuel per month, not counting the itty bitty maintenance bits. Well, that’s parts and parcel of working, I guess. Sometimes, I am envious of those who can walk to school and those who can reach school within 10~5 minutes because they honestly save a lot. If they complain, then obviously they aren’t grateful enough (or they’re just greedy and lazy, idk).

I couldn’t see oncoming cars because of narrow roads and sharp turns. Huge trucks are everywhere, every day. When I’m almost late to school (as in I have 20 more minutes to punch in before the print is red on my punch card), it’s natural that I would be very annoyed if I had to drive at 40km/h. Yet, there are rocks, red soil that could challenge the grip of your tyres, sometimes small streams of water (after a night of rain or when it’s raining) or even dirt-water pools, trucks going at 30km/h, motorcyclists using the roads as if they own them, etc etc. Sometimes, I just had to overtake the vehicles in front of me even though the road was too small, praying I’d be okay.

Thick, thick mists: We seldom drive with the high-beam on unless we’re leading the way at night where there aren’t any street lamps. Otherwise, we could incur the wrath of people driving on the other side of the road -_-” The situation is different with my usual route to school. The mist is so thick; I can barely see anything every morning. The fields to the left and to the right of the highway would be completely white and impenetrable. Using high-beam is a must to survive the journey. Every now and then when the clock shows time after 7.10am, there would be ignorant oncoming cars with their headlamps off. Overtaking is made impossible even if you’re going at 30km/h in this situation. They may have magnificent visions able to penetrate the thick blankets of mist, but I don’t. Most of us don’t. Even more annoying when you see oncoming cars overtaking the road, missing your car narrowly by less than 10 meters or so before assuming their right lane. I was going at 90km/h when this happened once. You can probably guess how scared I was.

So, yes. 6.30am when I start the engine, I’d be saying prayers after prayers while my brain would ask the usual question: “Is this the day I die? God, please don’t let this be the day.” Along the way, my treacherous brain would conjure up visions of how my loved ones would react in the aftermath of my passing. Well, let’s not jinx the ‘d’ word. My parents – my Mom especially would be more than just devastated. My beloved male counterpart, I try not to think about it at all. You know how painful it is to imagine a faceless person replacing yourself, standing next to your beloved. I pray for my safety. Pray for mine too? *winks*

Sometimes I cry while I drive to school. Sometimes I play the mp3s at very high volume until the motorcyclists look at my car like it’s a UFO. Well, that’s life I guess. Until the next entry~

Of English, Math and Science: A Student’s Perspective

Blooms

- Winter in Full Bloom a.k.a Spring is Coming -

The picture has nothing to do with the post; it’s just my habit of posting pictures I took. So… Disregarding the fact that I’m a teacher trainee, I was a student taking SPM five years ago and I am still a student today. I’m simply sick and tired of random speculations and whatnot regarding the Malaysian government’s decision of reverting back to using Bahasa Malaysia in the teaching of Mathematics and Science. As a student, I don’t favour this change mainly because of the implementation.

Even if this change is inevitable, I think it is a lot better to take it slow. If it’s 2012, then make it so only Year 1 students of primary schools (or whatever year they start learning Science in full force) learn Mathematics and Science (MT) in English. Let them be the pioneers of the change. Why bother confusing the students who have studied MS in English for six years in primary schools so soon as they enter secondary schools? Let them study MS in English as they had for the past six years all the way to the university. I talked about this with my Mom (a retired English teacher) on the phone and she said, ‘Nah, they won’t feel the heat much. You know how in our place they don’t even teach Science, Maths and even English language in full English.

Guess what I think about this MS in English thingie? It’s somewhat of a non-issue in various places in the country, mostly the less developed parts where you often get remarks like ‘Berlagak la kau!’ or ‘Macam bagus je cakap orang putih. Tui’. Ironically, strong protests usually come from the same area. Before you go throwing bricks and attempt to kill me for calling it a non-issue, I’ll just share with you the outcome of my observations. I’ve been to a few schools (in Malaysia, including the short school-based experience in my first year), stopping by to observe how classes are taught. My observations were of course done discreetly.

Outcome of Observation: Most of the classes I’ve observed were bilingual in nature, meaning that the teachers and students used both English and BM.

It’s rare to see MS classes being taught in full English. Heck, even the standalone English subject isn’t taught fully in English. If you’ve been trained as a teacher, surely you remember the teaching approaches? I’m not exactly an A student, but I can refresh your memory if you’ve forgotten. So what are the principles of second language learning?

  1. Grammar-Translation Approach
  2. Direct Approach
  3. Reading Approach
  4. Audiolingual Method
  5. Community Language Learning
  6. The Silent Way
  7. Communicative Approach–Functional-Notional
  8. Total Physical Response

Look at the first approach on the list. When I learned about this, I immediately thought, ‘that kind of sums up the teaching of English in whatever subject I’ve learnt’. Maybe it produces minimal and slow effects, but it’s still the best way to deal with students who lack the commands (and vocabularies) of English.

In a way, teaching English in Malaysia couldn’t be worse than teaching English to second language learners (ESOL students) in native English countries. Take New Zealand for example. The English teacher in the classroom does not share the same mother tongue as his/her students who might be native speakers of Thai, Japanese, Chinese or Korean. Grammar-Translation is absolutely out in this case, so he/she must find other approaches to teach English effectively to ESOL students. Taxing, no?

People keep saying ‘few teachers are competent in English to teach the subject in that language’, but I call that opinion a total bullcrap. Teachers are not perfect, and so they seek to get better and better most of the time. With time and practice, teachers improve for the better.

I’m talking about teachers whose souls are into teaching the minds of the young here. I’m not talking about people who chose teaching as a profession because they couldn’t get anything better, or because it guarantees them a job. In plain Malay, ‘Habis dah tak ada pilihan, nak buat macam mana lagi?‘ or ‘Aku jadi cikgu ni sampai habis kontrak je. Lepas tu aku blah la‘ or even ‘Jadi cikgu la best. Banyak cuti‘ and so on so forth. I don’t mean to offend anyone, but if you’re offended, I’m not sorry. It’s just that to find a truly dedicated teacher is a bit of a task. The word ‘dedicated’ is not simply an English adjective for ‘berdedikasi’. Oh wait, wasn’t ‘dedikasi’ derived from English as well? What happened to the glorious term ‘berhemah’? In use in frozen documents, mostly.

Now back to the point I was making. It says something about our educators if teachers aren’t competent in English. They are in no way not competent. That’s like saying they don’t know how to use English in basic conversation. Some of them only lack the command of English. LACK is the proper word to use here. I wonder though… I always thought you learn those critical subjects mostly in English in universities (now where are my brother’s old notes, hm?). Defensive, am I not? It’s my thoughts and it’s my profession in about less than two years, so suck it up 😛

To those who protest or rejoice, or whatever, I hope you have at least attempted to read the curriculum specifications and the syllabi of English, Mathematics and Science before actually stating your claims. A little bit more research on how the subjects are actually taught and learnt would help your debate points. Trust me.

This post may or may not have a second part. Chances are… there will be a second part as I’m still inspired.

p.s/ Bahasa Inggeris tak boleh, tapi bahasa pinjaman yang makin berlambak (dan agak merepek, juga tak sedap mulut menyebut) tu boleh lah pula ya? Ironi, ironi.
p.p.s/ Oh my, what a long entry. I refuse to put it under ‘read more’ tag, though XD

Some People Need To Hush


– University of Auckland – Opp. Clock Tower –

… so that the stability of our country won’t be questioned further.

I’ve heard nothing but political shits when I ask my relatives and friends in Malaysia the same simple question of “How’s home?”

I’ve also noticed that more than 50% of Malaysian blogs (newly updated or pinged) are talking about political shits. The same thing over and over; all the slandering, namecalling (I swear, people can be so childish when they’re blabbering), etc etc.

Some of my international friends messaged me out of the blue: “Is Malaysia in some big political brawls now? I keep seeing Malaysians blogging about politics all the time. I thought they’re saying that your country is one of the famous mediators of peace or something…?”

You have no idea how ashamed and frustrated I feel after hearing this question.

How am I supposed to answer? Should I just give them this: “Well, actually, people simply like to fan small flames so that it gets really big. You know, make things all spicy to call for attention.” Or maybe I could simply say: “Don’t worry. I’m tired of all the political shits they’re writing about too.”

Can’t we have someplace reserved only for political bloggers? Correction. Can we have separate places for separate themes, like, ASAP?

I used to love Petalingstreet.org, and I use it still until today. But it gets REALLy tiring when all you see everyday is people blabbering about politics in the ‘Latest Pings’. And for goodness’ sake, they should refrain from double-posting the same thing. It’s a waste of good space.

I swear, blogs should have specific ratings too. We have 18PL for media broadcast. Why not blogs too?

I miss the time period between 2000 and 2003 so much. Blogs were more interesting back then although blogging platforms had less features.

A Wet New Year and A Musing

The new year premiered with accompanying rain and freezing cold temperature the whole day. Just when I thought the rainy season is finally gone, today’s continuous rain made me think otherwise. It felt so nice to sleep under my favourite thick comforter, and leaving the bed was the hardest thing to do. Last year, January kicked off with glaring sun, but this year it’s the total opposite. I could barely do anything without a sweater too. You can say that my tolerance to cold weather sucks.

I didn’t do much today. Slept in, write, read, eat, write, surf, read, slept some more. Visited a number of interesting blogs today. Well, it’s hard to keep up with all the interesting blogs after disappearing from the blogging world for so long. Hope I’ll get the hang of it soon.

The rain made my brain go into what I call the ‘brood-and-muse’ mode. It was on a whim that I wrote the latest entry in Stylish Geeks: Anticipating Malaysian Virtual Scenario in 2008. All that I wrote there was based on my observation and my own experience, coupled with my hopes. There’s one thing I forgot to mention in the entry – local-based online advertising. Last month, I wrote about ‘junk ads’ flooding Cari.com.my and some other sites. I hope 2008 will get people to be more mature. No one is going to believe ads like ‘Fire your own boss’ or ‘Make $10,000/mo without working’. Those ads are absolute eyesores. Like some Japanese people said, ‘there’s no such thing as free lunch‘. We only gain what we deserve.

Malaysian sites developers, especially the Cari.com.my team should monitor the ads being put up in their classifieds directory. I’d say more than 50% of the ads are not at all relevant to category listings.

Also, I’d love to see how local advertisers like Nuffnang, Nufflets, GrabMyAds and Advertlets compete in the growing virtual community and online advertising network. It’s not surprising if more similar companies announce their presence in the near future.

One more thing… I’d like to welcome Adi to the Caramel Toffee family. Hope we can be friends 🙂 His new blog is not ready yet, but later on, you can always have a look at http://adi.carameltoffee.net.

Laters~