Saturday, 31 March 2018


Wednesday 28 March 2018
Today, I feel drained.

A student in my school shared a glimpse of his life . I knew that a lot of the students from our school have complicated background, but I couldn't help but to feel helpless and disturbed after listening to his story.

Ah Wong* is a 17 year old boy, studying in the last class of form 4 in my school. He has been out of school for more than 2 years. He worked with his father during that period of time, before deciding to return to school, with the aim of getting his SPM cert.

The school principal placed him in the last class, perhaps because he missed two years of schooling and the principal thought that he might be behind in his studies. His English is okay, he managed to pass his test, but he failed in BM and Sejarah paper.

His father is hospitalized, his mother has mental illness and is staying in a mental hospital, and he has been staying alone since Chinese New Year, and living off the money his relative gave.

How much can us teacher do for a student like this? This might just be one out of plenty of students who have complicated background.

How much time can we spare? When we have so many students to take care off, on top of paper work to settle, co-curricular activities, our other teachers duties.

Classroom hours? One subject typically have six period in a week, and a one period lesson is 30 minutes, 5-10 minutes is lost if your class is right after an assembly, or when the students are coming from science labs/the school field. Sometimes assembly might overrun so there goes your class. Sometimes students are out of class for extra-curricular activities and they miss out on more than one lesson.

How much can we help the students, financially? When we have to pay for our stationary, pay for our printing, and we need to live - there are bills we need to pay, our food to settle and we have our family and loved one we wish to treat occasionally.

I offered free extra classes for this particular student after school hours, but I honestly not sure if I can commit to this as my DPLI (Diploma Pendidikan Lepas Ijazah ie Postgrad Diploma in Education) coursework might start piling up soon and I foresee more responsibility and workload from school as I settle in. I do hope I can at least help him in achieving his dream to obtain his SPM certificate, but right now with his level of proficiency in Malay, a lot of work must be done, a lot of hours must be poured in.

How can I achieve minimax outcome to help my students?

Friday, 9 March 2018

And So It Begins...

"Cikgu kena tegas dan garang ya, jangan senyum di kelas."

"Be strict and firm, don't smile. Be fierce."


Advices from teachers I've gotten, on the first day of school as a new teacher.


The wait for us Teach For Malaysia (TFM) 2018 cohort has finally come to an end, after 2+ months of waiting, we finally received our placement and are now in schools! 

In an unexpected twist of fate, I have a colab (a TFM term for any TFM teachers in your school), who is coincidentally one of my close friend and housemate, Sophie!

Us with our placement letter on lapor diri day (7 March 2018)
The placement news came rather sudden - it was a fine, normal morning, well actually rather a pleasant morning. Woke up at 7am, weather was lovely so I went jogging, had a good breakfast (Jia's standard peanut butter and banana toastie) yadaa yadaa yadaa typical morning of an unemployed Jia Qi. I remember I was preparing to go to school (was volunteering in a school with the 2017s fellow, Sui Yang and Chiew Teng for 1.5 weeks) and a wave of Telegram messages started crashing in. We were informed to travel back to our respective regions immediately, as we are expected to lapor diri (report for duty) in less than 24 hours.

As I was already in my region (Johor) since 19 February (was interning at TFM office for a week, then I was in school supporting 2017 fellows as a teaching assistant), I wasn't affected much (other than the shock of having to enter MY ACTUAL SCHOOL the next day), I still went to school as a teaching assistant as usual, whereas my friends who were out of the regions had to just drop whatever they were doing and travel back to Johor. Some were working when the news came in, and most were out of the state (Selangor/KL/Pahang/Kedah etc.).

Our cohort is spited into three regions: Central (Selangor/KL), South (Pasir Gudang district) and East (Semporna). Those who are placed in Semporna had to go through the most trouble to travel back to their respective region, as they are all not from Semporna, and air travel was the fastest and more viable option to them (& also the more expensive option). Luckily, they were given a few days extra to report for duty and they have already secured a place to stay prior to this.

(Note: we all had prior knowledge about our respective regions way before this)

Most of us that are placed in the South (12 out of 14 of us) managed to report for duty on the stipulated date (7 March 2018, 8.30am). Had a briefing session with PPD (Pejabat Pendidikan Daerah/District Education Office) Pasir Gudang, was presented our official placement letter, and off we go, whisked to our respective schools.

How have things been so far? 

We only officially started our duty as a teacher yesterday (Thursday, 8 March 2018), and Fridays & Saturdays are rest days in Johor, so that marks one day of me being a teacher! As the school wasn't expecting any new teachers, Sophie & I are now assigned as reliefs teachers, and were given a challenge by the school principal to try to teach the kids something in class, rather than asking them to buat kerja sendiri (do your own work).

The school principal, teachers and staffs were really warm and welcoming in the school, and that's something I am really grateful about. A teacher bought Sophie and I some sandwiches as a welcome gift, and an English teacher invited us to observe her lesson so that we can get a "feel" on how things work here.

Howeverrrrrrr (notice how a good story always ties with a "however" at the end), they warned us about the students' behavior & disciplinary issues.

"Be fierce, don't smile in class."


The principal placed both Sophie & I in the morning session for now where the students are more well-behaved (relative to the morning session, gulp), before they decide what to do with us & which classes/subjects we are supposed to teach (other than English, which is our main option). Scaffolding us to handle students, perhaps.

On my first day, I was given two-hours of relief classes for three different classes. I made up my mind to just do a simple introduction and make the students ask questions based on the KWL (Know, Wonder, Learn) chart, for all three relief classes.

First relief class, okay, things seems to be okay. (Notice the excessive use of okay(s). Just me telling myself it is going to be OK). English proficiency of students: A lot NEEDS to be done. I basically conducted the whole class in Mandarin and Malay language. Students were tad mischievous, but not as bad as I imagined it would be. The students themselves in that class admitted, that they are not problematic students, but they really struggle in their studies.

Second class, one-hour relief. Okay, Jia Qi, you can do this.

The moment I set foot into that classroom, a tingling sense tells me that I have to be firm, and maintain a strong teachers' presence.

After my relief class incident at one of a back class, I knew I had to be firm. Students were rowdy, and some dared to talk back. 

There was a point where I stumbled over words and a few students started laughing and hurling rude remark, so I had to put on a stern front and asked them "is it funny? What's wrong with making a mistake? Everyone makes mistakes." and the class immediately fell silent. 

Towards the end of the one-hour class, I was really exhausted. Somehow smiling is such an autopilot mechanism for me, so being conscious of NOT SMILING really do take a lot of effort. 
Thank goodness my third relief class was a dream class. Phewwwwwwww. Students were lovely and cooperative. #Goals.

And that, is my summary of my first day in school.

Still figuring out what type of teacher personality will I approach. I personally wouldn't want to be the fierce teacher - it really goes against my nature. I grew up attending Chinese primary school, where discipline was tight, strict (insert whatever adjectives relating to strictness). I grew up fearing schools, fearing authority, and afraid of making mistake - I wish not to replicate my experience in the classes I am teaching.

Oh, students.  
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