May 30th, 2011

Of educators then and now

 I AM always baffled when my younger colleagues tell me about the setbacks they face as teachers. What they experience now is nothing compared to what we senior teachers had to go through in the early days.

Apart from the numerous interviews we had to go for before being accepted into the teacher training colleges, we were posted to schools in towns and villages that were far away from our hometowns.

Finding a room or house was not easy and many of us had to still travel a considerable distance from the school. This required us to take the buses or ride on our bicycles.

We made sure we reached school at least 10 minutes before school started at 7.30am.

May I point out that many teachers these days have no sense of punctuality and often come to school later than their students!

These days, fresh graduates are luckier as many of them get to serve in their hometowns on their first posting which means they don’t experience the type of problems we faced.

As for teaching, we would come to class with a well-structured lesson plan compared to teachers these days who are unprepared. They have no passion for the job because they know that most of their students are being tutored outside school.

Those who cannot afford tuition will continue lagging behind, but do their teachers care?

Many teachers these days are also reluctant to attend additional courses so long as they fulfil the seven-day Latihan Dalam Perkhidmatan (in-service training), which is mandatory for all teachers.

The reason why they aren’t keen on attending these courses is because they do not want their holidays to be disrupted.

This is not all, the school authorities are reluctant to take action against them.

Up to a decade ago, only a competent and experienced teacher would be appointed as Ketua Panitia to head the respective subject panels at school.

These days, a teacher with less than a year’s experience is allowed to head one of these subject panels.

While it may seem like I am griping, parents and many dedicated teachers in the profession will agree that teaching is no longer as noble as it used to be.

Those who have only recently entered the teaching line must buck up and take an interest in their job, otherwise they will be doing a disservice to their young charges.


DEDICATED TEACHER Via e-mail The STAR|Home|Education|Sunday May 29, 2011

Keepin’ em posted

 There is now a new generation of teachers who share their thoughts and communicate with students through blogging.

IT IS a “place” where she expresses her thoughts and feelings freely and to Saodah Ajil, the writings on her blog are a reflection of herself.

Hailing from Kelantan, this teacher likes sharing educational articles and inspirational sayings with her students and her own brood of children at
saodahajil.wordpress.com.

She adds that she also loves to express the beauty she finds in prayer, children and education on her blog, as they are inspiring.

While keen to improve her proficiency in English, she is also proving the point that older, “motherly” teachers like her can be tech-savvy too.

Similarly Cyril Dason, a young teacher, who is also into blogging says “it’s good for networking and putting my thoughts out there. I also have students reading my blog and it’s a platform to share my knowledge with them”.

Cyril blogs voraciously in http://cyrildason.com about his personal thoughts but sometimes offers his followers a dose of current issues together with automotive and tech news.

The ICT (Information Communication Technology Literacy) teacher in Kuching who also heads the fraternity of Sarawak Bloggers — http://sarawakbloggers.com, says that it is exciting to get to know people and see how their life is different from his. “My close friends at the moment are mostly from the blogging circle. Not all of them are teachers though – some are executives, CEOs (chief executive officers), varsity students and even people involved in health care. On top of that, blogging helps improve my English.”

Blogging expands one’s social network and allows an individual to vent their feelings, says Caroline Charles, who adds that in the end, one is addicted to sharing their daily thoughts on his or her blog!”

This young teacher from Keningau, Sabah, says that she first began blogging to record the progress of her chemotherapy sessions while being treated for Persistent Thropoblastic Disease.

Blogging to her was so therapeutic that she continued even after her treatment had ended.

“I blog mostly about my personal life that revolves around my passion for beauty, travel, weddings, dog, shoes, shopping, books and self-reflection. I had so much to blog about my students that I finally created another blog just for school-related entries.” Her blogs are :
http://carolchs.com ;
http://kaychs.blogspot.com and
http://caitleya.blogspot.com.

She also reflects on what she has written. “Once the year is up, I look through my posts and note what I have and haven’t achieved. This helps me put my life goals back on track.”

Amanda, another young teacher, blogs to air her opinions on current issues and trends. In addition, she writes her own poems. Her blog www.amandachristinewong.blogspot.com is also an invaluable teaching tool because she uses it to post literature notes for her students. Content-wise, teachers have to be careful.

“As a teacher, I have to watch what I write,” agrees Amanda. “As a role model, it’s tough to be pure in heart, words and deed. And that’s where the problem lies. No sensitive issues! It’s a complete oxymoron to want to speak my mind, and at the same time be polite about it!”

Her principal can read her blog too! While she toes the line somewhat, Amanda feels she needs to remain “real” to her students who understand only too well where her angst comes from.

Meanwhile, Muhd Radin Muhd Imaduddin, who is currently attached to the Education Ministry’s Curriculum Development Division, blogs to move forward with the times.

He started his blog in 2004 because as a member of PEPIAS (Persatuan Pelajar Islam Selangor), he was dissatisfied at what was achieved in small circle meetings.

While his blog allowed him to compile and organise the essence of their discussions, it died a natural death when he was posted to Sarawak in 2007, where online access was denied to him.

A year later, upon his transfer back to Peninsular Malaysia, he revived his blog and even got students to improve its “cosmetic” appeal.

“Why blog?” I ask him. “Why not?” he replies, “it’ is free, isn’t it? Besides, it’s easy to create, enhance and maintain. For its very flexibility, I love blogs.”

For Radin, his blog is not only his “personal space’’, but also a platform where he can open up to his students and be more available for them.

“I think today’s youngsters need mentoring, and in order for us to reach them, we need to be seen as people who understand their concerns.

“A teacher’s blog opens up channels of communication between him and his students and allows them to know how approachable he is.”

Radin directs his students to his blog whenever he sees them struggling with a particular issue.

“In my blog,” he reveals, “there are a wide variety of sayings and articles – both religious and secular – which can motivate and inspire my students.”

In complete agreement is Guru Cemerlang (excellent teacher) Rahmah Sayuti. However in her case, she focuses on teacher development. The tagline for her blog
www.engoasis.blogspot.com is the “thinking teacher”.

She believes “teachers should think about what they do and why they do it.”

A professional blogger, Rahmah uses her blog to help “create more awareness” while “sharing the best practices in the teaching business” with “linking useful materials for teacher development.”

She is justifiably proud when she tells me that her post on the tried and tested “basic sentence patterns in English” has been downloaded 5,674 times since 2008!

In fact, the ideas and links that she has been posting so far are so useful, that one ardent fan described her as a “gift” to the teaching world.

To sum up, blogs today are fast becoming a way to open up the world of teachers to others.

So, the question is whether to blog or not to blog?

Our Prime Minister in his keynote address at the First Malaysia-Asean Regional Bloggers’ Conference in Kuala Lumpur last month, said that it was important to learn from the views and constructive criticisms of bloggers as this would help build a better Malaysia and future for all of us.

“The relationship must be based on mutual respect. We might not agree all the time, but we cannot be disagreeable,” he said.

“The government-knows-all” era is over, he added, reminding bloggers that they should know better than to trespass the line between posting their honest views and spreading lies and half-truths.


TEACHER TALK By NITHYA SIDHHU

Source: The STAR | Home | Education Sunday May 29, 2011