Friday, October 3, 2008

Bye Bye Ms Kang...

My 4A angels

Procrastination is the thief of time. After some 20 days, finally I'm budged by the higher connection speed in Ange's place to sit down and well... what better things to do on this lazy afternoon than reflecting on everything that I had gone through during my past 10 weeks of teaching practice?

Come to think about it, 20 days is not really a long time but all the lesson plans, school uniforms and even the Federal Highway seem like such a long time ago. When I was teaching, I always made mental notes on things to write, things to say on my blog and to my students. I was so afraid that I will cry on the last day but when the big day finally arrived, I was left with a rather empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. Yes, I was touched by the appreciation shown by the students but Sept 12, the day all final year TESL students looked forward to with bated breath on 7 July was just like any other day. Chee Hwei and I did not not jump up and down jubilantly nor did we weep tears of sorrow.

It was not only on the Monday after the week that the feelings started to sink in. Gosh, not only did I miss my students, my, my, my, I even missed teaching! It felt strange not to be surrounded by those rambunctious young things and sometimes I had to remind myself that it's OK, everything's over and I didn't have to worry about whether the lessons would work out or how the kids will behave on that day.

So, in order to to start my grand scheme of a reflection, I will break it down into parts like this :

I am feeling

I certainly miss this bunch of merry makers. It's good that 4C has a blog and I can leave some footnotes there.

I have not much regret for 4A but I feel really, really sorry for 4C because I think I did not teach them well enough, class control was bad at times, lessons not tailored to their interest and ability sometimes. These are the things that I will discuss under Things I Will Do Differently. In spite of it all, they later told me that I was a nice break from their rather strict teacher.

Hehe, I am so happy that I do not have to lug mahjong papers around anymore. You see, my school belongs in the dark ages of technology and it's either they didn't have a desktop in the ADP room or a projector in the classroom or the damn thing is locked and nobody knows how to operate it. And all that hassles and red tapes for a trainee to even borrow one....

Things I might think about differently...
Overall, I think I thought about too many things during the whole 10 weeks, what my students think, what the other teachers think, blah, blah, blah. But there are things that I should have thought more of such as ways to be more creative and innovative in the lessons despite the technological shortcomings so that the darlings wouldn't be dozing off.

The other thing that I should have thought of differently is the presumption of my students' previous knowledge. Sometimes, I took them for granted and assumed that they know many things such as what are the nouns, verbs, etc but the fact remains that very few students are aware of such things and to be honest, they don't really need to know which is which for them to practise good English. Besides, I assumed that the proficiency of all of my students are above average but it's still a mixed bunch of abilities in every class. But then again, there are quite a number of the students are really, really very good for their age too.

I have had a few great teachers and I know that teaching is a noble profession. However, I didn't know that teaching can be so cool. We have always complained about students these days who are nothing like the good old times but no matter what, they are still the translucent canvases who are so easy to love and to leave marks behind.

Things that I might do differently...

If given the chance to start all over again, I definitely would want to put my foot down and be more strict with the kids. This is something that I must learn to do effectively. I told them that teacher had turned blind many, many times for turning a blind eye to them not submitting their homework, not paying full attention, etc. I also would want to find a more teacherly way of responding to students' cheeky banter because I tend to be so young at heart to fall into their game sometimes.

On the other hand, I wish I had conducted some games session with them because honestly, I did not really do language games with them. I wish I had spent more time to figure out the types of games that are suitable to be carried out in Form Four classes instead of making sweeping assumption like no, they might think that it's too childish for them. Besides, classroom management and the appropriate teacher personality in conducting games activities are also the skills that I have to pick up.

All in all, the 10 weeks marked the milestone in my journey to be a teacher and it is one of the most wonderful experiences in my life. " To teach is really to learn twice."

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

My Teacher, My Friend

That's Wei Hao, Ms Kang and Vicky at the badminton match. Quips, teacher is so short!

Here's the thing, I am approximately 7 years older than my students. Therefore, at another place and another time, we could have been siblings, friends or better still, buddies at heart. We speak the same lingo, listen to the same music, watch the same movies, get hooked on the latest craze eg. television series, networking sites and a fervent desire to finish additional mathematics homework in school (once upon a time for Ms Kang here...)

The Twilight Series, the teenage vampire fantasies that could possibly do a Harry Potter was highly recommended by the girls from 4A

Thus, the abui in me sometimes forget and start to blend in their bunch. We sing, we dance and we steal things ( hehe, not really true for the last one, it's just that I love the title of the Jason Mraz album but we did sing I'm Yours in the classroom but I didn't join in the dance). To a considerable extent, that is not really a problem because nothing can be better than teacher and students being comfortable with each other. However, I think I'm getting too friendly and too lenient with them till the boys are climbing over my head now. If I were to reflect properly, I think my teacher mode started to wear off after the first two weeks at school, which is still not a problem strictly speaking because a friendly demeanour will deem the teacher as being more approachable.

Therefore, the question begets, "What exactly is the problem then?" After I felt that the 4C boys are getting out of hand when they have a habit of breaking into nursery rhyme sessions while fooling around with their mates, I decided to give them a prep talk, which in the strictest sense, ain't no prep talk at all. I told them that I was just like them when I was in school and therefore I understand how they feel and why they behave in a certain way eg. developing a perpetual fear for their very fierce Add Maths teacher. I said we can be like friends and get all buddy-buddy but in the classroom, they have to act and behave like my students. Besides, I reasoned that I didn't expect them to sit upright and hold their breath while I am teaching as after all, boys will always be boys. Instead, I would have minded less if they talk a little, move a little than them acting like zombies in the class because at least they are still involved in the lesson. For a moment, everyone paid full attention and started to listen intently.

So, here's the problem : 1. Did I give them too much of leeway? I didn't even keep up a straight face and was in total genial mode throughout the 'lecture'. I think my main problem is I don't know how to act really stern with them, that is not in my nature at all. However, sometimes I can get strict with the relief classes but not with my own classes, which is something that always eludes my comprehension. My supervisor and the other teachers did not really provide much help when they acknowledged that they are also over friendly with the students and those kids enjoy being treated like that. Furthermore, Dr R said that I should be proud that they are treating me as their friend and I couldn't be harsh with them because I love them. Gasps, imagine my kids hearing that! But yea, Ms Kang loves you all, 4 A and 4 C.

Problem no. 2 : Will my so-called prep talk be turned against me one day because I told them that teacher used to be like that too and teacher understands them. I'm afraid that this disclosure of mutual understanding with them will backfire because they might think that it's OK to mess a little with this young, docile teacher because hey, she herself said that she is one of us. The point is that I want to be their friends and I believe that what goes around comes around. I hope that if I treat them nicely with some compassion, they won't go overboard and totally ignore my teaching, not that they have really done that. All I asked for is just a little bit of control but will I lose their respect by saying that?

Teaching is not a popularity contest but being friends with the students is certainly a bonus that comes along with the job. While not going to being closer than close with them which is something that I do not condone, just so how can you draw the teacher - student line?

my very lovable 4C kids...

p/s : I felt that the kids were nicer and sweeter after the talk for the last week but today they switch into a chanting mode this time...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Why so serious? Why so serious?...

Another time, another day, that's how I procrastinated in posting anything here. It's the school holiday now and I finally have the time to do not-so-teacherly stuff like sleeping in late on a weekday ( well, thank God we've got the Friday free from going back to the campus), stuffing myself silly with chocolates ( makes you feel Happy and a bit less serious) and finally, finally to watch the most highly- anticipated movie of this year, Batman : The Dark Knight ( for those who have not watched it, the penalty for you is to be to be either gagged or bound to the cinema and plunked on the seat, because it is simply too amazing to be missed).

However, this break is no real break for us because we had to spend a lot of time to run the walk-a-hunt activity in the campus. I did not pull a lot of weight in my Hunt committee and this confirms my affirmation that in group work, it is always bound to have a few member who put in extra work than others and it happens to be me who is the lackadaisical one this time. Nevertheless, I do wish that we could glean some experience from organizing this thing to help us in our future undertakings, be it in school, NGO or any other field. One thing for sure, I can't wait to participate in a treasure hunt myself in another time, another place, so there you go again...

In The Dark Knight, the Joker keeps taunting about why do we have to be so serious all the time and I think this could or could not apply to us who are undergoing the teaching practice. As I have said, teaching is a roller-coaster of a ride and it is only us who can pull ourselves up again and learn from our mistakes at the same time. I think it is not the case of looking at the glass as half-empty or half-full since we have to get more serious as the observations passed by because by hook or by crook, we can only improve and not deteriorate as the days go by in teaching practice. Unfortunately, sometimes I feel like my zeal and enthusiasm to be a creative teacher could never match that of the first two weeks.

My second observation came and gone on the last day of school before the school holidays. This time, I had more kids in the class and the atmosphere was more livelier, if not cheekier. It was with 4C and you know I have always yakked about searching for ways to engage the bunch of boys there. Therefore, this time I did something that I thought might interest them because there are many of them who play Frisbee in the class. It was a writing lesson and they have to write a persuasive speech on "Why Playing Frisbee is Good for Students'. I told them that I thought Frisbee was some kind like the name of some breakfast cereals and got them to explain the rules of the game to me. The plan kinda work because clearly it's not a boring subject to them but I think I have staked my lesson too high in the materials that I used to teach them the techniques of writing a persuasive speech. I know that at their Form Four level, a persuasive speech is just like any other factual essay that they might write but I have always believed in employing the authentic materials to make students see how learning is relevant to their lives. Thus I gave them the paraphrased version of Brutus' speech after Caesar's murder in Julius Caesar to highlight the rhetorical questions, parallels and contrasts used in order to make a speech more persuasive. Then, I distributed an example of a simplified version of a speech by Obama to show them that 500 years on, the same skills are still being used to make a more convincing speech. Well, this may all sound very well on the paper but in practice, many of them did not get the idea and apply what I have told them when they were writing their own speech on the Frisbee topic. For one, 4C is a mixed ability class and maybe the materials have been a tad too difficult to understand. Besides, they are just 16-year-olds after all and maybe those concepts are not within their grasp. Mistake : not using materials that are appropriate to the proficiency of the majority of the class.

However the problem with me is that I usually think like how the good students think. I don't know I am doing this to unconsciously appease my own ego or what but the whole situation is a dilemma because I feel defeated when the good students get bored and I feel even more terrible when the weaker students could not follow the lesson because I have failed them as a teacher because they are the ones who should get the most attentionin the first place. Instead of teaching them anything, I murk the water by further confusing them instead. Mistake : It's not about creating a win-win situation or whatever it's called, but on catering to the needs of all students

On the brighter side, I am getting it on with 4A. Since we had covered all the texts in the literature component, I gave them some other texts to read so that they can appreciate and understand the literary texts in the component better. Besides, we talked about how did the poets' personal life relate to the themes in the poems as literature mirrors life. Furthermore, since Sonnet 18 tops the list of their favourite poems, I let them read another sonnet by Shakespeare, Sonnet 130, My Mistress' Eyes Are Nothing Like the Sun, which contrasts the whole idea of eternal beauty perpetrated in Sonnet 18.

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun (Sonnet 130)

"My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun"

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red:
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak,--yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go,
My mistress when she walks, treads on the ground;
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

It was a very humourous poem to read and I tried to keep a straight face while reminding the boys to control their hormones when they asked me to explain the line 'why then her breasts are dun' ( they were not pulling my leg, they truly did not get the meaning here, it was not very politically correct to favour fair skin anyway and the boys think that Shakespeare is a pervert). Besides, I asked them to write me a piece on which of the two sonnets that they prefer and a girl raised a very interesting question when she said that if beauty is in the eye of the beholder , why then Shakespeare complained about his lover's flaws? I just quipped that love is blind, but Shakespeare was just half-blind when he wrote Sonnet 130. Now I just wonder whether I would let 4C read this because even the girls there don't like Sonnet 14 and I don't want to blush in front of the very cheeky boys there.

Now it's two more days to go before going back to school for the last three weeks. I kinda missed my kids on Monday but now teaching i.e. waking up dead early, going to class, wearing skirts everyday, talking to people 7 years younger than me...are completely out of my system for the time being. Who says I am going to miss teaching?

p/s : yea, maybe, I will really miss teaching.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

B for Boring

Ok, it's boring, not bored. So far, I have not come across a student who said " I'm boring, teacher". Thank goodness for that, for
1. They are good enough to know the difference between boring and bored.
2. My students do not suffer from low self-esteem and think of themselves as boring.
3. Well, at least they are polite enough to not to tell it straight to my face even though a few of
did break into a muffled thud on the desk.

That said, I have to admit that my kids are getting bored. If I want to take everything with an extra huge chunk of salt, then I will say that novelty has worn off and my kids are getting used to my style ( i.e. amiable, gentle : won't get into a barking mode if their attention starts to wander off). Meanwhile, if I want to be honest and a little hard on myself, I can only say that my lessons and teaching are indeed getting boring.

I have always wondered how my kids in my two classes got on in their English lessons with their own teachers before I came. This is something that I will never find out for myself because I had made the decision to not to observe how my mentors conduct their classes as I wanted to start off everything with a clean slate sans any indirect influence or baggage from them. Besides, being kids as they are, I think students will always go out of their way to put on their best behaviour when someone is observing them, which brings to mind a remark from a compatriot who said that teaching is a whole faking business. The theories and the simulation during the first three years are not real, supervisors who do not understand how things go on at the grass roots level, students who put on their pseudo alert mode when someone is sitting at the back watching their every move, etc, etc.

I have never blamed my students for getting bored in my class. In fact, I feel really, really bad for them because it is always the teacher's fault for falling to engage the students, good or weak. It is my failure, not them. Therefore, the only thing that I can do is to make the lessons more interesting for them. But how to?

Sometimes, I feel it is not the content of the lesson which bores the students but the way the teacher conducts the lesson. My kids in 4C get all excited while learning about something like homographs when I let them off the hook and we had Chuck and Larry jokes (note the homo there). Hmm, being politically correct is not that much fun all of the time. I think it's time to let the abui ( for your information ma'am, abui means fatty in Hokkien and all the gorgettes who love me call me that) in me come out in the classroom, I mean at least most of my friends are not bored with me, are they?

Okok, now I am being bombarded with the suggestions of bringing fun learning activities into the classroom. The thing is, it does not matter what kind of activities that the teacher uses, what matters to me is the teacher's personality in the classroom. For example, how can you expect a teacher with a stiff upper lip to conduct say, a lively beauty parade like what Anantha did, but it's not that I have a stiff upper lip anyway. I am not saying that teachers have to make a fool of themselves by clowning themselves in front of the students but they really must speak in a way that can engage the students.

However, this is also not to say that the activities and the contents of the lesson are not important either, what counts is bringing something that is engaging and constructive to the students. Moreover, my kids are very used to the chalk and talk way of learning, they are not interested to participate in some outrageous, over the top activities that they feel that they will learn nothing from. A case in point would be the speaking lesson. We have always planned a 35-minute or so speaking lesson with role-playing, etc in our simulated but it just won't work in the real classroom. I have discovered that role-playing, presentations are only for very good, outspoken students because the rest of the kids will not pay attention to their friends unless they have something very interesting to watch, which makes me feel bad all over again for asking them to speak and having no one to listen to them. Besides, the weak students are just not confident enough to speak and we are making everything worse for them for making them embarrass themselves and not learning anything. Thus, everyday should be a speaking lesson and integration is the key to make lessons less boring.

As I have said in my earlier post, kids come to school to learn and they expect to learn something whether they realize it themselves or not. Making them aware that they are learning something is how I feel we can get students to respect us and be less bored with our lessons. For my one class, I can go into the very technical areas of the language and still not see blank stares but for the intermediate class, it is more of a balancing act of catering to mixed bunch of them with different needs and personalities. It is not until my first observation that I realized that I have been taking them for granted and not paying attention to their real needs. After all, they are still kids and they need a lot of guidance especially in literary texts for the weaker students. There are also more boys there and sometimes they are more passive than the girls in my 4A class. Engage, engage, engage is the answer.

Anyway, my first observation came and went. As usual, my Achilles heel is on giving clear instructions, come on, not everyone can read your mind, abui. It was with 4C and Dr R said I have to cater more to their needs and not set tasks that are too difficult for them. Dear, dear, my poor, neglected kids, I am boring them and not teaching them anything sometimes.

Alright, there is always so much for me to vent here. I have to write more frequently in order not to make each post too tedious. I think this is one of my weaker posts here, perhaps the title is already defeating it. To make it up, here is something I have shared with my kids while teaching about organ donation, yes, Kugi from 4C, sharing is caring (he always tells me this when he forgets to bring the textbook and shares it with his friends and I will tell him off that it will apply during Christmas) and teacher hopes to share more things that teacher likes with you all so that you kids won't get so bored.

p/s : one thing that I have discovered about teaching is you start to speak in third persons.

To Remember Me

Robert Noel Test

The day will come when my body will lie upon a white sheet neatly tucked under four corners of a mattress located in a hospital busily occupied with the living and the dying.

At a certain moment a doctor will determine that my brain has ceased to function and that, for all intents and purposes, my life has stopped.

When that happens, do not attempt to instill artificial life into my body by the use of a machine. And don't call this my deathbed. Let it be called the Bed of Life, and let my body be taken from it to help others lead fuller lives.

Give my sight to a man who has never seen a sunrise, a baby's face or love in the eyes of a woman.

Give my heart to a person whose own heart has pain.

Give my blood to the teen-ager who was pulled from the wreckage of his car, so that he might live to see his grandchildren play.

Give my kidneys to one who depends on a machine to exist from week to week.

Take my bones, every muscle, every fiber and nerve in my body and find a way to make a crippled child walk.

Explore every corner of my brain.

Take my cells, if necessary, and let them grow so that, someday, a speechless boy will shout at the crack of a bat and a deaf girl will hear the sound of rain against her windows.

Burn what is left of me and scatter the ashes to the winds to help the flowers grow.

If you must bury something, let it be my faults, my weaknesses and all my prejudice against my fellow man.

Give my sins to the devil. Give my soul to God. If, by chance, you wish to remember me, do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs you.

If you do all I have asked, I will live forever.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Labour of Love

Teaching is like falling in love. One minute you are walking on clouds nine after the students walked past you and thanked you personally for the lesson ( I have always preferred that to the sing-song-chorus of 'Thank you Teacher' played on at the end of every lesson) while the next you will feel down to the pits from just the look of boredom in your students' eyes. At least, that was how I felt for these second and third week of teaching practice. The ups and downs are like the emotional roller-coaster ride, with me secretly wishing that there would be a Solero Shot-like theme park game to thrust me up again after the downs if you know what I mean.

The second week saw me settling down and adapting to my 7.20 - 1.10 pm routine. In between, I became the inspector for wardrobe malfunction and I even got a movie date from one of Chee Hwei's students. Hehe, those are really marvellous kids who believed that teacher is only 19 years old. Looks like I am joining the cougar circle of Demi Moore and Madonna if not of the teaching ethics because those boys assured me that " 3 years' difference only teacher!". However, the mother of all guffaw is when I truly, honestly believed that the two equally tall, crew-cut boys are twins when they kinda told me so. This is the ultimatum prank that a student could pull to make all trainee teachers look stupid. I mean how stupid can I be for believing them because now that I look at them again, they are NOT identical, with one having his face partly obscured by his thick-framed glasses and the other is a Cristiano Ronaldo lookalike.

Back to my teaching, it was alright for the second week when they had their first ever listening lesson and the kids in 4A produced top-notch mind-maps after much cajoling and coaxing. This is because the thing with those smart kids from smart class is that they are so academic. They detest some games and activities in lessons which they feel they will learn nothing from. Smart as they are, only half of the class passed up their summary. I decided to tick them off or else nobody would pass up anything at all eventually but I think I did not do a very good job. I did not want to sound mean, sarcastic or boastful. I just wanted to put them in their place when I told them " hey, teacher knows that you all are very smart students and many are straight-As scorers but to tell you the truth, teacher was a straight-As student all my life and I did all of my homework no matter how unimportant I thought it was then because I think there is a learning curve in everything you do,". Of course that was not the cold hard truth because I did not get the perfect score in STPM but my ego wants to tell them that teacher is smart too even though she checked her spellings with you all and please hand in your work because that is your responsibility as a student. Nevertheless, there were a lot of dilemmas attached to it because I really do not know how to say nasty things in a nice manner, I do not want to boast, I am not saying that my homework is unimportant, I am afraid that I will hurt the feelings of those students who are not straight-As scorers and I still want to be in their good books but I do not want them to disrespect me by ignoring my work because normally those kids from the good class would always hand in their work in time. Overall, they can be very easy to teach because they have the input and are very knowledgeable and I just have to try to not to get them so bored while imparting something that they will appreciate from me such as things that they still do not know yet and technique in scoring exams.

Meanwhile, 4C is a different kettle of fish altogether. They are still good and knowledgeable but the one or two boys there can be so cheeky. The banter can be fun and playful but I am not sure whether I should ignore them sometimes else I will be more like their friend than their teacher. Basically, I think all students are the same like you and I, they expect to learn something from their teacher whether they are forced to come to school or not. Therefore, I think what really matters in teaching is for the students to learn and not just for the teachers to finish their lesson plans per se, which is the question that I am always asking myself now : What have my students learned from me? I begin to feel that 90% of the lesson plans that we have been doing throughout our undergraduate studies are not real as it is impossible for teachers to start on a brand new fresh lesson everyday because surely they have to do some follow up discussions and checking with their students when they enter the class or else how would the students learn anything?

And then there is also this question of classroom control because I have the habit of standing in the same corner in the centre of the class and sometimes I feel like I am only speaking to this same group of students. I think I did this out of instinct because I tend to be closest to those who give me the most eye contact. I do not feel that this is right because I will ignore the weaker students and those who are not paying attention because those are the students that I should have been paying a lot of attention to in the first place. Between, I do not know if it is just me for I am inexperienced but I have to plan every single line that I am going to say in the class the night before or I will mess up my lesson.

Today, I marked my student's essay with LOL, something that I do not think any teacher in my school does. Laughing out loud, taking everything with a pinch of salt could just be the two things that every trainee teacher must remember in their book.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Good Morning Ms Kang...

" Good morning teacher..."

"Good morning Ms Kang..."
( after a few days)

"Good morning Pn Kang..."
(which is when I instinctly snapped back, "teacher is not married yet la...", or on some occasions when i enthusiastically mouthed "Miss, Miss" when the whole class when into the unison of "Good morning Pn Kang" when I went into some relief classes"

Sigh, do I really look that old? Or is it maybe my make-up is too gaudy? Vanity aside, I really appreciate all these greetings though. Chee Hwei and I are actually in awe of how courteous the students are in SMK USJ 8. Overall, they are well-mannered and I'm not sure whether it's the school's training or they are very well brought up children who respect teachers. We even witnessed a 90 degree bow from a girl once! It's actually quite uplifting sometimes to be acknowledged by your students at the school corridors and it does serve as a booster to remind myself time and again that I am a teacher now!

I have been assigned to 4 Arif and 4 Cerdik and true to their name, they are all very arif -arif and cerdik-cerdik belaka. Technically speaking, I think I am teaching in a very ideal English classroom where the level of proficiency of the students is generally above average. Gosh, I have so much to pour out now but nothing can make a bigger entrance than my first day at school.

Day 1
It was our official first day at the school and Chee Hwei's Ah Kam ( her white Honda Civic, you must know that she has a habit of calling all of her cars by boys' name, just like one of the blokes who is married to their cars) was cruising on the Federal Highway on the ungodly hours of 6.35am. We decided to play safe to depart earlier since the traffic on the at-times-notoriously congested Federal Highway can be quite unpredictable at times. Anyway, nothing can possibly be worse than arriving late on your first day at work right?

After we had reached the school and parked Ah Kam in a rather inconspicuous spot ( don't want to step on any of the teachers' tails by taking up their parking spot), we were swiftly briefed by the PK 1 and hurried to join the rest of the school for their assembly. I breathed a sigh of relief when we were seated in the last row ( again, wanna keep the low profile) but somewhere in my daydream while gazing at the students in front, I was brought back to reality when the principal made a roll-call on the presence of the new trainee teachers and the rest of teaching staff had a frenzy of encouraging us to introduce ourselves. I stood up sheepishly and Chee Hwei later told me that she was only awaken from her own daydream after seeing me springing to my feet suddenly. The principal further urged us to say something to introduce ourselves and I think that was the first litmus test for us in speaking in front of the crowd. Psst, I think I had a rather silly smile plastered all over my face, be kind, rewind please!

Next, we met the teachers whom we are taking over from and I just hoped that I had asked them all the relevant questions. I went to 4A later after refusing the teacher's offer to chaperone me there as I did not want to think about the students' responses of getting a new teacher in front of their old teacher. Then, I had a taste of how good their English is by the adjectives they have used to describe themselves in assonance with their own names. Come to think about it, "Tenacious Theresa, Advocative Adrian.." just sound like a very promising lot. Overall, the whole ice-breaking session was not too bad but I think they were still missing their old teachers##
p/s : Did I also mention that some boy in my relief class asked me what does "tits" mean. Talking about a red-faced first day!

After that, I started teaching a real lesson when I entered 4C the next day after going through the same ice-breaking activity ( this is the class-control-proof one which most trainees favour). Lesson plans could be a bit of a headache sometimes as we trainees would always strive to do something out of the box. My "Simon Says" activity to teach prepositions did not really work out that well with 4 C, perhaps it was a bit too childish for the big 16-year-old-kids.

On the third day, 4A improved my impression of them because I thought they were a little bit cold on the first day. Overall, I had a rather satisfying lesson with them on the poem If. The kids are responsive and very good in their proficiency, which made my job a lot easier. Besides, I find that they are very attuned to the latest development around the world, eg. 75% of the class had watched The Inconvenient Truth. Thus, I can talk about any issues with them without meeting a sea of blank stares. In fact, they are so smart that one boy even questioned my rationale of asking them to state the challenges that they think they may face when they are 25 as a set induction to the lesson. 4C is also not that bad, but they are also quite advanced in their sexual lingo though. I have to learn to be more careful with my choice of words with them. Come on, who could have thought that threesome is that threesome to 16-year-olds?

Overall, I had my ups and downs on the first week although the downs could be a letdown at times. To sum it all up, these are the things that I have discovered on my first week at work :

1. It may sound repetitive, but I want to say again that it is not easy being a teacher.
2. To teach is to learn twice.
3. I finally understood what ethics mean, I am learning to maintain a professional relationship
with my kids because I think that I am too friendly with some of them at times.
4. Notes on a Scandal is so disgusting to me right now.
5. Preparing questions, i.e. the stem of the questions can be very challenging.
6. My biggest problem is getting all of the students to understand my instructions clearly.
7. And lastly, teaching can be quite fun and I think I am starting to fall in love with my kids.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

A Room With A View

July is the month which marks many new beginnings for me. I'll be moving in to a new room with a new roommate ( but then again, I tend to do that almost every year, not that I am very difficult to get along with though, mind you).

The few visitors to my new room claimed that the view from my 8th floor is spectacular. The Am Corp Mall is figured prominently here.

I swear that the night view is breath-taking, guess have to fiddle more with my camera's functions

However, the most pivotal first step that I am going to take would have to be on the morning of 7th July, 2008 when I am about to embark on the journey of my teaching practice as a full-fledged trainee teacher. I am partnering with Chee Hwei this time, never knew our lives could intertwine this much when she sat behind me in class when we were in Form 2.

We had paid a visit to our school, SMK USJ 8 on last monday and we have talked to the very amiable Principal, PK 1 and the Ketua Panitia English. The Principal, Pn. Rubiah gave us a rather long briefing ( opps, can't help that is an oxymoron here) about the background of the students in that school. According to her, the students there are lonely kids as they come from double income families. They are not really delinquent kids and thus we teachers have to show our caring side to them while being firm at the same time. Hmm, this is not too bad, I think I would have failed in acting as a garang teacher anyway. Nevertheless, I think Pn. Rubiah is a very benevolent lady. She told us that she allows her staff to bring their children to work if no one is around to keep an eye on them at home as she could not face her own conscience should anything bad happened to them. Don't you think that she is a very nice employer to have, well I certainly hope she is because lady principals do have the reputation of being quite fussy.

To my surprise, SMK USJ 8 was just established 8 years ago and it was quite a beautiful school actually. We toured the school on our own while waiting to meet the teachers and I was enchanted by the pots of petunia hanging around the school compound. No pictures here because I thought better of being taken as a too-eager first-timer furiously snapping away. Much to the worry of my partner, we will only be given our timetable on the big day itself but we were informed that we will be taking Form 4 classes. This aside, we are also in the understanding that the proficiency of the students there are generally above average as Subang Jaya is a middle class area.

All in all, these are all the rather physical domain of the preparations prior to the it's-finally-here-teaching practice. I think I have been preparing myself mentally for the big day by relaxing as much as possible, hehe. I am convincing myself that I am going to have a lot of fun during my 10-week stint. Positivity never kills right? Nevertheless, I think all of us have been thinking on what to do on the first day in class. There have been conflicting opinions on whether to have any ice-breaking activity on the first lesson because some supervisors advised us to teach straight away. I am not too sure about that because I find it very weird if we did not make an effort to get acquainted with the students in the first place. Isn't the golden rule of teaching is remembering the names of your students? Anyway, that's about it now. I will carry out some simple ice-breaking activity anyhow. Keep your fingers crossed for each other, alright. Cheerio.