Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Seventy Plus Seven

Seventy plus seven
It would have been
Today
But now elusive
Forever

Memories
They are

All that are left

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Knee Jerk

When you hit your knee with the small little hammer, your leg jerks. It is a totally involuntary movement. Your knee jerks because something acted on it. So, a knee jerk reaction is basically that... a reaction that does not go through the process of reasoning. It is spontenous. And it reflects the content of the heart.

I guess it is pretty clear that knee jerk reactions are mostly 'emo' driven and not brain driven. And I think most of us are aware what kind of results they usually bring. Knee jerkers usually are more interested to show that they are in control than appraise the actual situation. They are also usually very quick to think adversely of others without realising that they are guilty of worse.

Knee jerkers... lately, there just seems to be more of them around...

Friday, June 9, 2017

What Gives Meaning...

Was scrubbing the floor this morning when this thought came to mind... what gives meaning actually to the things we do? I think we'll get all sorts of reasons... convictions, remunerations, threats, fears, compulsion..... the list is there.

Housework is one of those thankless jobs around and many of us would come up with all kinds of excuses and reasons why we need not do it, or if we have to do it, no need to be so particular about it. Was just thinking. What if housework is also paid in cash? Would the same sort of arguments against it now be used? Or the job will get the kind of attention that we so often reserve for those paid ones?

Even though many women work these days, their husbands generally do less housework in Asian countries. While many try not to say anything adverse about who should get the housework done, women generally still shoulder the bulk of the house stuff... from seeing to the food on the table, to laundry, getting the groceries, clearing and cleaning. And women themselves too, put housework at a level lower than paid work too. There was a working lady who told me that she is not too particular about the number of times the floor of her house needs to be swept every week. I wonder if she would say the same if housework is paid.

The thing was this. As I scrubbed away the dirt on the floor outside, I was suddenly amused by this thought that if that job would pay the me same as I was in my job, I am sure everyone would stop labelling being fastidious in household chores as being being naggy. Being fastidious would be a very good thing.

And here's this. To those wives, and mothers who toiled laboriously year after year, and in the end still get the shorter end of the deal, it is you actually who truly understand what it means to be accountable and even admirable in those mundane, meaningless tasks that you do day in and day out.

Oh ya... this is a sober reminder. Even for those of us who hold jobs that pay us money, there is also an expiration date to on us in that job. And at the end of the day when we are told that we need to leave because we have reached expiration dates, I think many of us do not know what to do with our lives too, cos all that we've known in all those productive years of ours is work equals remunerations that can be quantified. Some of us lose the focus in life. We become listless. Some of us are fortunate enough to find a second calling. Others just float along. Then there are those who simply just expire.

So, what gives meaning... Wonder Woman is the current blockbuster. In the movie, Diana finally decided to fight for humanity because of love. Love manifests itself in many forms. For those of us, whose mothers toiled unrelentingly in the kitchen making sure there is food, or fastidiously kept the floors clean so that we could just plop on the floor anytime of the day, or even coming home to not a single unfolded clothes lying around... perhaps that is what actually gives meaning.

While eventually all these mundane tasks might be taken over by bots or drones or whatever things robotic by nature, meaning in life sometimes does not necessarily have to be big things only. It is the small things that enable big achievements.

Ah well... ramblings on a morning of floor scrubbing...

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

On A School Day Outside SJK (C) Kok Min

This is the scene that unfolds outside my childhood house every school day... Cars on their way to pick their precious cargoes. And the line of cars... big and small, old and new, imported and local... they take up all the space outside the house, making it impossible for occupants of the houses to go in or out. Appeals and complaints have fallen on deaf ears. The school authorities say they can't do anything... two lines of cars heading the same direction, on a two way street.

I was rather irate when I came back and had to wait in line to get into my parents' house. I mean, I can well understand half of the road being occupied but cars occupying both sides of a two way street? And to make matters worse, some cars were already lined up on the road at 11.30 a.m. when school was supposed to end at 1 something. I do not know whether it is kiasu or kiasi at work here? Lots of fuel gets burned daily here, with engines idling. However, what struck me was their attitude towards the environment and the health of the people who live nearby.. and to themselves ultimately.. as they sat in their air conditioned cars while their cars spewed out noxious fumes.

The school says they can't do anything. I talked to the guard and he said, the Headmaster tried to talk to the parents and got scolded. They sound so helpless... and they are the institution churning out the next generation. I wonder whether I am in a factory...

The school has been around ever since we moved here. There used to be another gate which led out at the other side of the school. They have sealed that entrance. I don't know whether it is because there is Chinese cemetery facing that now closed exit. All of us know the Chinese and their fengshui. Sure bad luck to go out facing cemetery.. Or they could always utilise part of the school field to allow those early kiasu/kiasi parents to park their cars. Maybe then they will shut their engine off since they are in the close proximity of their precious cargoes.... out of concern that they might be introducing carcinogenic substances that will affect their zuriat. And the Headmaster says they are helpless against the parents who can be verbally abusive.... (is it any wonder why Malaysians are getting more violent/abusive these days?)

Or perhaps maybe the only solution is when an emergency happens and someone dies because the ambulance cannot get in because it has to wait in line... or even worse still for somebody to run amok on a bad hair day?

Congestion can be tolerated if both parties give and take.... but when cars park outside your house for an hour with engine running... and both sides of the road filled up, it feels like only one side is tolerating all the time.

One thing I always find funny is how Chinese school kids are taught to kowtow to teachers as a mark of respect when they bump into them at school. My mind always wanders back to the stories of subjects who prostrated themselves coming and going out of the emperor's court. Somehow, that very act of kowtow-ing always conjures up an atmosphere of fear... Yet when these kids grow up into adults, they seem to have forgotten how to respect other people's rights too.... so much for school as a place where we instil good community spirit.

My mom told me that some of the (grand)parents have taken to helping themselves to the fruits on her limau purut tree too. She called out to a man plucking the fruits recently, telling him that all he needed to do was just ask. He walked away nonchalantly, a uniformed kid in tow... Such is the attitude of the old now... jia-lat.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

PT3.... External Internal Exams

That means the questions are set by the Lembaga Peperiksaan but the school teachers mark their own students' scripts. And also the school prints the exam papers. Externally set but internally printed and marked. That's what an external internal exam means.

This is the 3rd year running. Is this better than PMR?

First, from the students perspective. Questions are deemed tougher. Why not? After years of objective questions mostly, kids these days don't take subjective questions very well. I think different sets of grey matter are at work here. For one, you cannot 'agar-agak' your answers any more. Also, after years of prepping students for PMR, I think teachers are also at a loss in getting the students ready. We have been spoon feeding the kids too long that we are finding it hard to figure out how not to spoon feed. And there are the effects of PBS to be reckoned with too, those heady days where everyone was worksheet obsessed cos every skill 'mastered' required recording.

But, then again, kids are able to get these amazing tips for PT3 these days too. For all that is worth, the tips seem to be very accurate. Friends have confirmed that there are special classes carried out on the eve of the PT3 exams. Those kids who attend pay. RM30 ringgit above for those sessions. Were the tips reliable? Well, one only needs to ask around and the answer is quite apparent. Despite all those pledges of secrecy, one has to admit that the whole thing can become rather porous. After all, papers need to be printed... that's one. Then they need to be stapled.. another one. Basically the whole hierarchy of the school is accountable here.

In a school system like ours where we have so many different labelling, the labelling itself might also pose a problem. A school which is in the selected list would be hard pressed to produce sterling results befitting of its listing... Berprestasi Tinggi, Kluster Kecemerlangan. Seems like listing can be bad too. Stiff competition among schools to top the district, state also play a role. In the end, despite being an internal exam which is supposed to be a yardstick for the students to gauge their ability ends up being used as a comparison to other schools. We just cannot stop comparing, it seems. So, it is not hard to imagine that accurate tips can find their way out of the secrecy that they are supposed to be cloaked under to the hands of those intended for assessment.

As for the teachers, their hands are full after the exams. Where once, teachers would spend time organising games or activities, these days they are hard pressed for time to finish marking. A whole year of marking and grading would have taken their toll by now and most would be too drained to concern themselves with any enrichment activities. Students lose out too. There are schools who tell their students not to go to school after their PT3 exams. Seems like the school is just a place for academic pursuits. Whatever happened to it as a fun place too? A place where one grows up? I remember the days when we still had SRP. The post exam days were spent in the classroom playing board games, reading books, chatting with friends and planning activities. We were given the freedom to go to school... or not to. But, some schools don't allow those activities these days. So many restrictions... sigh!

Also, kids are barred from attending school in some schools. So, they get an extended holiday thrust down their throats. Kids don't get a chance to spend time with their friends. They get locked out from their school, which is such a sad thing.

As for the PT3 exam. Who would expect that an internal exam would become a business opportunity too? It is and apparently has great potential. Accurate tip givers can make a killing. The desperation to score would see to that. Parting with RM30 or RM50 is cheap for the number of A(s) that it can buy.

Another curtain is coming to a close. Another year ending. Time flies when one is busy. And when one is busy, one forgets sometimes to stop and smell the roses. That is not good too. There is more to life than just work.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Perspectives

So, what actually is the real thing. The killings in the name of religion, the execution of laws in the name of justice, or just simple every day according to mores, norms and culture. What actually is right?

To 52% of the Brits, Brexit is about preserving their way of life. To the remaining 48%, the 52% are stupid. Then those who claim that others who are not of the same faith as them are infidels. Yet to those labelled as such, those who label them are infidels too. In a patriarchal society, the men are the heads of the nuclear units, yet to a few matriarchal societies, the males pay inconsequential roles. So, who is right?

In the Bible, there is this story of the Israelites who asked God to give them a king. God told them that they'd be tied to his will. Now up to that point, the Israelites had only the priests to lead them. It was the time of prophet Samuel. He had grown old and his sons who had taken over from him did not follow his ways. And so the people demanded for a king so that they could be like the others and lead them and go out before them and fight their battles. So, Samuel went to God. He was told to tell the Israelites that the king who reign over the Israelites will claim them as his rights: their sons and daughters will serve the kind. They have to give the best of their produce to the king. They will have to give the king their flock and they themselves will be slaves to the king. And there will come a time when the people will cry out for relief from the king they have chosen, but God will not answer them in that day.

So, did the people listen? Nope! They insisted on a king... to lead them and to go out before them and fight their battles.

Interesting isn't it? We all want someone to fight our battles, do things for us. In other words, settle things for us. We want someone to hold the fort for us while we go out and work. I think if you look long and hard enough, you will find that everywhere.

The Israelites had the priests to lead them. But like the kings too, these priests were human. Today, we have kings and clergy. And because both feel that they are mandated, one by the people, the other by the heavens, they dictate. Their will, their perspectives rule.

A flock needs its shepherd so they say, a country needs a king or a president, a company needs its CEO, a damsel in distress needs to be rescued, a woman needs a man to protect her... the list goes on. But at the end of this very short list only two things stand out. One takes and one has to give.

Equality.... probably not. Balance perhaps???

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Google Classroom

This is still ongoing. Friend and I have been at this for 4 months. Right at the end of last year, we were asked to go for a meeting regarding our school portal. I jumped at the opportunity as I have been trying to start my Google Classroom since it was launched. I even bought a domain name thinking that it would be sufficient. A few tens ringgit poorer later, I discovered that I could not carry it out as I did not have an education website. I did try it for a while though, learned my way around it a bit. And that was that! I left it as it was for a whole year...

At the meeting, I asked that the portal admin password be reset. And there in our hands were the keys to our Classrooms! School was already about to start by then and as soon as it did, both of us went into a frenzy of creating email ids for our students. There were hundreds to be created. But we did it in a record time, on top of other things that we had to do... new lessons for the new year, new classes, a new digital signage in the works and the usual paperwork.

It's been 4 months of running a digital classroom alongside the school prescribed one. And I have this to say... It is a great tool.

The thing I like most about Google Classroom is it has made me even more efficient. I measure efficiency by the amount of time saved in class for what I consider as 'time-wasting but necessary activities' such as copying from the board. Consider this... I was able to finish my Form 3 literature component in slightly over 2 months. And students did plenty of work on it too. Every chapter was accompanied by a video. The novel went digital and the Classroom is where I placed my digital copy for download. Questions were put up there... and I have figured out ways around the work/homework. Where Flubaroo can't work its magic, I have resorted to manoeuvring my way around with the help of the Google Form and Google Spreadsheet. I started using Doctopus together with Goobric last year and so, they made their appearance in some of my class work. Have not had much time to reacquaint myself with Socrative or Kahoot, though my friend occasionally still uses Socrative.

Sometime last month, I attended a Google Educator Group seminar, organised by the JPN. After attending it, I kinda got the impression that my friend and I are perhaps make up a very small number of teachers in country using the Classroom. And I think the reason is simple, many schools don't have their own domain on the web.

I like the Classroom for its simplicity to use. The learning curve for it is relatively manageable, as long as one has an understanding of the digital learning environment structure. Some tenacity and persistence go a long way too. And of course, having at least one other teacher who is just passionate as you about embracing change goes a very long way too!

So what do I do in my digital classroom? This is where I put most of my school work for the kids. They no longer use exercise books for their work. Some work is done in the digital realm. Other work still gets done the traditional way, with a pen and paper. So, they keep a file to keep the 'paperwork'. I have been able to cut down paper usage quite substantially. And there will be no exercise book wasted at the end of this academic year. The management files can be recycled next year. So, yeah, my classes have gone at least a third digital. Comprehension passages are printed on paper but questions are put up in Classroom. Time is saved when Flubaroo does the work for me for the objective questions.

I scanned the Sejarah textbooks for all forms 2 years ago and the Classroom is now a very good platform for me to put them up for my students to download into their phones.

Accessibility is the next problem which many will point out. My friend and I are fortunate. We are in a school where almost 100 percent of our students have at least a smartphone. And that is all we need for them to do their work and read stuff which we put up or asked. Almost all of them have access to internet connections too.

And this year too, I can claim my Nilam project to be quite authentic. All my students read the same books. And they write their own reviews. I have used materials from different sites and put up my own ebooks for them to read. And so, this year, from simple readers like those from Reading A to Z, my students read 'I Am Malala'. Next will be one of my favourite comics from childhood... Asterix!!! And all these can be put up in Classroom.

What are some of the surprises.... Somedays I would still be at school after the bell rings for dismissal. And I have had many pleasant surprises when I see work completed not even 45 minutes after the students leave the school compound. This is Gen Z. They are the social media generation. Their communicative devices are like an extension of themselves. Put your work there and it is bound to get response from most of them. Of course, the usual 'threats' of fines for work not done have something to do as well.

But generally, my experience with Classroom has been quite good. I did try Edmodo but it was too much hassle. I read up other LMS platforms. We have the VLE Frog programme too, but when the issuance of user id is not efficiently managed, very often you are left with students who cannot remember their id or not have one. And that is when, even with one left out, you cannot have that everyone in the 'same room' rule working. And it spells failure as some will be left out. With Classroom, the teacher has full control as long as he/she is made a user with some administrative rights in the school website. That is the beauty of Google Classroom.... well, at least for me.

With my iPads and AppleTVs still my main tools for instruction in class (this is the third year that I have not used the chalk board), having Google Classroom is a super added plus point. The education field is still changing. The last few years have been very exciting for me. From iPad and its many amazing apps to AppleTV for ease of projection and Google Classroom for that complete experience.... I have been more fortunate than many to be able to experiment and use them extensively in my classes.

More to come.... I hope.