July 10th, 2012

Disciplining a child starts with good routine

I REFER to the letter "To discipline is to love" by Khadijah Rohani of Kuala Lumpur recently.

It is important to point out that the best realisation of discipline is via the establishment of a routine. You get up at 7am, go to school, come back home at 1pm, have lunch at 1.30pm, rest from 2pm to 3pm, do your homework at 3.15pm, and so on. That is discipline.

Establishing a routine is highly beneficial to both children and adults. I noticed a marked improvement in the performance of students who were brought from an uncontrolled environment to a disciplined one. This improvement occurred very rapidly, often within just a few days.

Having a proper routine to follow gives children a sense of security, control and accomplishment. Tasks are set and achieved within a determined period of time. It reaffirms the importance of preparation and increases the success rate.

Usually, we are successful because we keep at things. Some people might learn to swim by being thrown into the pool, but most will learn better with an instructor and practice.

Nowadays, routine is much discarded in favour of all the distractions. If a parent promises her child to be home by 6pm and then rings up to say that she will be late because of a meeting, this can be a great disappointment for the child.

I find it strange when parents say they spend "quality time" with their children. To me, there is only time. You are either there or you are not.

School and teachers can have considerable influence in disciplining a child, but the parents are the most important, because the child loves his parents more. If the child does not receive an equal amount of discipline at home as he does at school, it will be very difficult for the teachers to override the parents' behaviour.

If a parent loves his child, the child will love him, too. Except that discipline makes everything so much easier.

Marisa Demori, Kuala Lumpur  Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editor 08 July 2012

What good teachers are made of

I REFER to "A good salary will help" by Marisa Demori and "Experience and passion matter more" by R. Murali Rajaratenam (NST, June 24).

I agree with both on some things about good teachers. However, I do not agree with Murali's concluding statement that it is "an already deflated profession".

What makes good teachers? There are many answers to this question, including ideas based on our experience. Below are a few thoughts on what I think are characteristics of good teachers.

A great teacher is someone who can inspire her charges and bring passion to the job.

ABILITY to connect with students: Teachers who connect with their students are good teachers. They must light up the classroom the moment they enter it. Their teaching must fit students' aptitude. Striving to maintain students' interest in subjects is important.

ABILITY to communicate well: for teachers to succeed and be effective, they must possess good communication skills.

Good teachers must communicate effectively with students.

They are willing to explore innovative ways to make complicated ideas understandable, and fit new ideas into contexts that are understandable to students.

Good teachers can take a subject and make it crystal clear to students.

PASSION for teaching: no one can stay for long in a job if they do not have a passion for it.

The passion for teaching is important to become good teachers. This factor differentiates average teachers from great teachers. Good teachers are people who teach because they have a passion for it.

Teachers with passion give their heads and hearts to teaching. They care about the whats, the hows and the whys of teaching.

They believe they can make a difference to students.

These teachers are committed to working with their colleagues. For these teachers, teaching is a creative and adventurous profession.

HAVE a sense of purpose: as human beings, good teachers should behave ethically.

Teachers should know what their students expect and make plans to meet their expectations. If teachers want to prepare their students to excel in their studies, their teaching should be well prepared and well presented.

ENJOY their work and their students: good teachers must enjoy their work and their students. If teachers enjoy their work, students are motivated, energised and become creative.

REFLECTIVE: being good teachers, they should think about and reflect on their classes, their lessons, their students, their methods and their teaching materials. Being reflective teachers means they compare and contrast, make parallels, and distinctions, review, remove, rethink and restore. This also includes the ability to be self-critical.

Failing to reflect on what happens after each lesson disconnects teachers from the teaching and learning process, and it is impossible to create connectivity if they have disconnected themselves.

GOOD role model: if teachers want their students to excel, the teachers should excel first.

Teachers are role models for students, so they must be at their best in front of children.

If they want to impart values to students, they must have the same values. When students appreciate their teachers as people who uphold high standards and ethics, it is easier for students to take their work seriously.

So, students learn through inspiration, rather than by enforcement and obedience.

CREATIVE and innovative: creativity is another quality of good teachers. With many changes in the syllabus and school environment, teachers should include interesting activities, techniques, methods and exercises to make their lessons fun.

Creative lessons develop interest in students about teaching and learning.

The important point in teaching is whether students retain what teachers taught.

If their teaching is interesting, they will have a class full of curious eyes and ears, absorbing everything they deliver. Students will then learn out of impulsion, not out of compulsion.

Creative and innovative teaching involves passion, attention and positive attitude towards the profession.

PATIENCE: some say teachers who are patient with their students are deemed the best.

Patience is needed when teachers teach the same students, who vary in their ability to understand concepts.

It is important to be patient with such students. Undoubtedly, any disturbance in classrooms may affect teachers' temperaments, but being patient in these situations helps the process of teaching.

Good teachers explain each and every point to students.

UNDERSTANDING: teachers should be understanding. This is another trait of good teachers. Students have problems that need to be understood and steps devised to overcome them.

Teachers should not prejudge students, as this will not bring changes in them. Teaching methods should be flexible for different situations.

Teachers must understand students' viewpoints as this helps in their teaching.

DISCOVERS and encourages: good teachers discover talents of their students.

Students are unique and none of them is weak. Each has a talent waiting to be discovered. In classes, students grasp facts at different speeds.

Thus, some may lag behind in understanding, which just means that they need attention. Teachers must also monitor students' academic development and personal growth.

Some may not know there is a best orator, best singer or best footballer in a class.

Therefore, the teachers' challenge is to transform average students into clever ones.

Every honest appreciation and encouragement students receive will change dull brains to intelligent heads.

HUMILITY: this is rarely seen in teachers and it is an important quality of good teachers.

Teachers who claim to know it all will impart knowledge to students but they may not earn the respect or affection of their students. Students may be fed up with such teachers.

The traits of good teachers will contribute to good teaching. Good teaching involves values, purpose, attitude to learning, and teachers' commitment to providing the best to students every day.

Good teaching encompasses technique, content and presentation.

However, sometimes, we come across someone with tremendous knowledge and qualification but who fails to communicate this efficiently, which will lead to students becoming bored and frustrated.

Also, good teachers always motivate students, no matter how tough the situation is, or how weak the students are.

Good teachers are those who crack jokes in class, but are serious when teaching.

Good teachers can can turn a dull subject into an exciting one. Good teachers are leaders, but they are also friends. Good teachers are those who are always students at heart.

Without these qualities, good teaching will not exist. Teachers need to be committed to five principles: committed to the school, committed to the profession, committed to the work group or colleagues, committed to work and committed to students.

This is not indulgence; it is a professional necessity.

By Dr Dzulkiflee Abdullah, Bau, Sarawak Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editor 03 July 2012 

Evaluate students on all their abilities

GOOD scores, no life skills. This has been the thrust of the Malaysian education system thus far, much to the detriment of the youth.

The exam-oriented education system distorts  motivation and learning by overemphasising  the importance of scores as outcomes and measures of students' abilities.  

Students lack personality and creativity, and are not qualified enough to fulfil future careers. Heavy rote learning makes students tired of learning and in worst cases, some  even develop psychological problems.

As a lecturer of a foundation programme, I teach Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia school-leavers  and quite frankly, it is sad to witness the students' deterioration  in thinking  and solving problems.

The exam-based system grooms students to focus on extrinsic goals and task completion  that finally results in excellent grades, minus the creative skills.

Being an educator, I find the exam-based system enables students to obtain knowledge quickly and secure perfect scores rapidly.

However, in my classes, students do not dare to talk with me because of the lack of confidence and  intellect to justify arguments.

They are used to having blind faith in authority -- both teachers and textbooks.   Research on academic motivation has shown that a focus on extrinsic goals such as exam scores and task completion  undermines intrinsic motivation, interest and persistence.  

The bane of it all is that graduates of an exam-oriented system are very dependent on their parents and teachers, and are not willing to do things  themselves.

One core reason for having an exam-oriented system is the selection for university entrance.  Therefore, what is needed is a more comprehensive selection mechanism.

First, we should concentrate on regular grades; all grades will be evaluated, including college entrance examinations. This long-term assessment  will make students treat every exam seriously.

Secondly, if students are made to take  college entrance examinations several times a year, it would avoid students playing below par.

Thirdly, use a continuous assessment system. Not only the score, but also all the abilities will be used to evaluate a student. This  will help avoid  instances of student scoring high grades but having low abilities.

The Malaysian government  wants to nurture a workforce with comprehensive abilities but under the exam system, graduates who are good in exams will be chosen.

They will be unwilling to ask questions and provide advice as they have been groomed to obey others.

These graduates  just concentrate on theories, but they do not know how to use them in reality. All these drawbacks cause "high score but less creativity", which will finally hinder Malaysia  from becoming a true economic power.

By R. Murali Rajaratenam, Kuala Lumpur Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editor 11 March 2012

Be firm and consistent when disciplining a child

I REFER to the letter by Tony Lim, "Caning won't work today" (NST, July 2). He said he witnessed a mother threatening her 10-year-old daughter that if she continued misbehaving, she would be caned. But when challenged by the little girl to carry out the threat, the mother meekly swallowed her words.

The mother was wrong to have threatened, or given a warning to her misbehaving daughter only to chicken out when challenged by the child.

Where is the mother's authority? What respect can the child have for someone who makes empty threats or does not honour her words?

This is a mistake that many parents and teachers make in trying to discipline children. They threaten children with punishment that can never be carried out. The result is disrespect for the person making those empty threats, and his/her authority and discipline goes down the drain.

It is not the children of today who are different, but the adults. In the 1960s and 1970s, if a warning was given, it was carried out.

So, the children dared not challenge the authority of the person. That is what made the difference.

So, please do not blame the children. The way they learn to respect authority has not changed.

The mother of the 10-year-old girl should have taken the cane to the defiant girl, asked her to put out either palm and give her a two hard whacks.

That would have brought change to the girl who would then realise she cannot bully her mother anymore. But by chickening out when challenged, the mother only let the girl rule the mother.

This child might have been spared at a much younger age and knows that her mother would not do what she threatened to do. Why was the child allowed to get away with misbehaving all these years?

In the early stages, the strategies mentioned by Lim could have worked, but again, only if strictly and consistently enforced.

There has to be firmness and consistency in whatever strategies that are applied in disciplining children from an early age. The cane (a light one) should be the last method to be used when all else fail. Without these, the desired results cannot be achieved.

We should stop blaming children for their indiscipline. The fault is ours for we have allowed them to become such through misplaced love, ignorance and inability to be firm with them.

By Ravinder Singh, Batu Maung, Penang Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editor 09 July 2012

Leadership: Checks and balances can lead to good leaders

I REFER to the letter by Dr I. Lourdesamy, chief executive of Pacific Institute of Technology, "Checks and balances vital" (NST, June 29).

He said: "It does not mean we cannot have clean governments. There are many examples of good governments that are transparent, accountable and clean."

However, the trouble is that "the tendency to abuse power is too great to be left to individual altruism and moral platitudes".

The reason he gave was that moral codes were ineffective in the real Darwinian world. He suggested a system of checks and balances to control the greed of those in power and position.

Thomas Friedman, a New York Times columnist, writing about his observations on leadership in "The rise of popularism" (NST, June 25), wrote that there was a leadership deficit: "So few people are capable of inspiring people to meet challenges."

He cited some cases where leaders, "when they've had the opportunity to go big, they've chosen to go small".

This was because they were busy going to the places where the people were: they were busy reading polls, tracking blogs, tallying Twitter feeds and updating Facebook postings.

Friedman said: "The constant interaction is making it more difficult for them to make sensible, brave decisions."

And this, he said, was causing a "real mismatch and leadership challenge". His question: if everyone is following, who is leading?

This makes us ask: who are leaders? What are they supposed to do? What is the leadership challenge?

I remember a student who wrote that leaders' job was "to lead and communicate. Leaders have to do what others are not able to do and their role is to set the path for people to trail and the leadership challenge is to be clear and correct so that messages and meaning are well understood".

In Friedman's words, a leader had to take people to where he thought they needed to go. When a leader starts to deal with people or insult them, it is an indication of misleading and miscommunicating.

Lourdesamy suggested checks and balances to safeguard and protect people from becoming vulnerable to the excessive power and greed of leaders.

It is like the story of King Midas, who had the power to turn everything he touched into gold. Soon, he lost his sense of judgment of what should be turned into gold.

The History Channel's rating of eight infamous leaders was disturbing.

It showed Caligula as a sadist and raving lunatic; Attila for savagery; Julius Caesar's ego turned allies into enemies; Hannibal was history's cruellest general; Genghis Khan killed a quarter of the world's population; Nero was linked with incest and murder; Alexander the Great, a military genius, killed members of his own family; and Cleopatra, though noted for her intelligence, was driven by power and ambition.

The television channel's way of profiling leaders was simple and straightforward.

Perhaps, if the infamous historical figures had been subjected to checks and balances, they might have become good leaders.

Therefore, Lourdesamy's suggestion sounds relevant in that leaders need a support system that will guard against their power and personal ambition.

There are two types of leaders: one who shapes events for the better and leaves a legacy, and a disturbed one who wants power to meet his ambition.

Therefore, there must be an assessment done to select leaders with positive traits.

There are many methods and technologies to assess the unknown traits of individuals. For example, they should take a lie-detector test.

Johari's Window is a simple model that can assess what leaders can or cannot do.

It has to be said that power is too great to be left to individual altruism, and before it is left to individual altruism, the stepping stones of altruism must be laid.

It is better to have measures to protect leaders than to let them be, and be listed as infamous leaders.

In the interest of the future, the process to distinguish good and strong leaders must be embedded in the system.

The bar for leaders must be raised. The indicators should include the leaders' ability to lead, set the right path and communicate the way forward.

By Mena Jeyaram, Subang Jaya, Selangor Source:  New Straits Times  Letters to the Editor 09 July 2012

1 Julai 2012 ~ Era perkhidmatan telegram jadi sejarah, berakhir secara rasmi

KOTA BHARU 1 Julai - Selepas lebih separuh abad berkhidmat, telegram kini menjadi sebahagian daripada lipatan sejarah negara apabila Telekom Malaysia Berhad (TM) secara rasmi menamatkan perkhidmatan tersebut hari ini.

Penamatan perkhidmatannya terpaksa dilakukan berikutan kos penyelenggaraan yang tinggi serta saingan perkembangan teknologi komunikasi semasa.

Pengurus Besar TM Kelantan, Ab. Rashid Che Othman berkata, perkhidmatan telegram pada masa kini hanya digunakan oleh institusi kewangan untuk menuntut kembali hutang mereka dan amat jarang bagi orang awam menggunakannya.

"Hari ini adalah hari terakhir kita menyediakan perkhidmatan telegram di negeri ini. Hari ini sahaja kita menghantar kira-kira 1,000 telegram melalui TM Point Kota Bharu.

"Secara purata kita menerima 600 sehingga 700 telegram dihantar melalui TM Point Kota Bharu daripada bank atau institusi kewangan pada setiap bulan dan peningkatan secara mendadak hari ini disebabkan pelanggan mahu memastikan telegram dapat dihantar buat kali terakhir," katanya kepada Utusan Malaysia di sini hari ini.

Ab. Rashid berkata, sejak tahun 2000, telegram dihantar melalui komputer dan tidak lagi menggunakan mesin telex seperti zaman dahulu.

Katanya, ini disebabkan kos untuk membaiki mesin tersebut amat tinggi malah kemungkinan alat ganti yang diperlukan juga telah tiada lagi.

"Harga untuk setiap patah perkataan bagi telegram biasa ialah 10 sen manakala 20 sen setiap patah perkataan bagi telegram segera," katanya.

"Kami generasi lama TM amat merasai kehilangan telegram kerana ia merupakan satu alat komunikasi yang amat penting terutama untuk menyampaikan berita-berita kecemasan. Bagaimanapun perkembangan teknologi membuatkannya kini terpinggir," katanya. 

Sumber: Utusan Malaysia Dalam Negeri Julai 2, 2012  

1st July 2012 ~ Telegram call it a day

KUALA LUMPUR: THE telegram, which was part and parcel of Malaysian development and progress for more then a century, has finally called it a day.

The advent of the Internet and in particular, email, has rendered the service, which served the nation and its people faithfully for the last 138 years, obsolete.

Service provider Telekom Malaysia Berhad announced in an advertisement on Sunday it was ending the service that same day.

The first telegraph line was set up by the now defunct Department of Posts and Telegraph from Kuala Kangsar to Taiping in 1874. It signalled the beginning of an era of telecommunications in the country.

National Union of Telecommunication Employees president Mohd Jafar Abd Majid said telegram service had faced many challenges.

"Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the telegram was the only communication tool to send short text messages quickly, which made it one of the most important services in our service line.

"However, when fax machines, short-message services on mobile phones and email were born, the aging telegram slowly lost its former glory.

"So, because of these new tools, people stopped using the telegram," he said.

Mohd Jafar, who has worked at Telekom Malaysia for the past 30 years, said in its final years, telegram services were only used by older organisations.

"Old-timers stuck to the telegram because it ensured the message sent was received by the recipient. Services like faxes do not have this facility.

"As technology progressed, the telegram was simply unable to compete," he said.

Many countries have in recent years ceased their own telegram services.

In the United States, communications giant Western Union ceased all telegram and commercial messaging services on Jan 27, 2006.

In the United Kingdom, the telegram service formerly provided by British Telecom was sold in 2003 to an independent company, Telegrams Online, which currently provides the service as a retro greeting card or invitation.

However, in some countries including Japan, Belgium and Mexico, telegrams are still offered as a low-cost service for those who cannot afford or do not have access to the Internet.