Tuesday, May 14, 2019

4000 MINUTES... TERBUANG

What is 4000 minutes to a teacher? Been thinking about it for the past few months.

Schools are supposed to inculcate a love for reading in their students. So they craft all sorts of programmes to instil that love for reading. From NILAM to Reading Corner to Morning Reading Session, they hope to get students to want to read. After all, we know those kids won't be doing much lifelong learning or self-directed learning if they don't like reading.

NIILAM has been going on for years. Schools try to cajole, coerce, force and even threaten kids to get NILAM going, though I think NILAM has gone into cold-storage for the time being. However, I think NILAM has not succeeded in most schools simply because there wasn't much concerted effort put into it. Teachers have too many other things on their hands.

Reading Corner, on the other hand, collects dust after the initial brouhaha dies. It sits in the corners of classrooms, school compound, collecting dust... and eventually cobwebs, the reading materials aged by the unforgiving weather.

Enter Morning Reading Programme. In my school they force everyone to gather at the assembly area. Kids can't go to the classroom. So they are forced to sit there till reading starts at 7.20 a.m. If you walk into a school for the first time and see this programme, you'd be forgiven for being impressed. I mean, how not to. That is until you actually see it in action for a couple of weeks, when you, as a teacher are forced to sit there with the kids. After a few weeks, you will begin to notice that kids actually don't read. They just sit and stare at whatever printed stuff they are holding, under the watchful eyes of the prefects and discipline teachers...

As a teacher, I find it a chore after a few weeks. I mean, before I even get to sit down and work on my lesson, it's time to go down. And I am one who often arrives at school before 7.00 a.m. It is frustrating. These days, I make it a point to sit at the coffee shop before I go to school since the canteen food is rather unpalatable. Why torture myself some more?

When asked why the teachers have to sit there, I was told we need to read with the students, be a reading role model. Lol! After a couple of months, I find myself resenting having to sit there. I find myself telling myself, why even bother to prepare the lessons when the school doesn't see the need for teachers to settle down or prepare their lessons. Lol! Lesson prep is not important. Sitting there and wasting time is... for a show.

And, I asked a few classes what they thought of the Morning Reading Programme. One student even said she felt like an idiot sitting there. Even the younger ones said they do not like sitting there. Who can blame them. In the beginning I thought it was a good idea. But after a few months, I can see that I was wrong to think so. A school is also a place where kids play. These kids' lives are regimented from the time they step into school. So how fun is it to sit there? If I were one of the kids, I'd hate it. Lol!

And it got me thinking about the time it forces the teachers to waste. 10 minutes of sitting there waiting for the kids to finish reading. I am already in no mood to read because my mind will be on the lessons for the day. I get cheesed off because I would probably want to work on my computer or print some worksheets for my students. My printer is up there printing and I'd be thinking, did I leave enough paper in it? Would the paper jam ... that's a real worry cos I used recycled papers whenever possible. Life is a constant hurry, a harried rush down and then up again... so much energy wasted. 20 minutes a day.

A schooling year is an average of 200 days. The school wastes 4000 minutes for me without me having to do it myself. But I am not the only teacher. If there are 60 teachers, that is a whopping 240,000 minutes! And 20 minutes is an understatement. Very often it runs to 30 minutes, when there is a spot-check for hair length (that is another topic to ramble on), for example. So much time wasted. So much goodwill burnt. So much forcing down the throat the need to read... so I guess the students must have a very high level literacy ability. But sadly, it is not so.

So yeah.. READING IS HOW WE INSTALL 'SOFTWARES' INTO OUR HEADS.. but when done for show, those heads in the assembly area will still be empty even after 200 days of 10 minutes-a-morning enforced reading.

Want to see how to kill the love for reading??? I think one can safely make an assumption that such a Morning Reading Session will kill it... many, many times over. Want to really get kids to love reading.. inspire the teachers to do so. We'd achieved more this way.



Thursday, May 2, 2019

Hari Guru Hijacked

So, what actually is Hari Guru or Teachers' Day for? Is it a day for students to show appreciation for their teachers or what?

I feel Teachers' Day has been hijacked. Hijacked because it is no longer a day for students to appreciate their teachers.  It is more a day of show, and more show.. a lot of physical activities with expected superficial responses.... perhaps that's also a reflection of what we have all become.

The fanfare may all be there. Teachers seemingly being feted yet there seems to be an emptiness of sorts. This year, it is no different.

A special assembly. Class parties banned. Students reminded to attend school under guarded breath. You wonder why... The usual assembly, followed by the usual oath taking and the teacher song by teachers. I find it strange that students scream (or yelled) at any given opportunity during the 'show'. I don't think so our singing was that awesome. But the screaming goes to show the seeping of a concert going culture. Perhaps these kids are just so bored that they become like that at the slightest opportunity, an opportunity to let it all go, to assert themselves. To scream to claim the space or attention.

This year, though in another school, the celebration to me was just as staid as before. It would be nice if kids were allowed to have their class parties. Somehow it is always nicer to be able to go class to class at your own pace. You get to do real mingling with your students in a more relaxed environment. I always believe that working together for a common cause teaches us to be better people. When we remove the class parties, we remove so much of those unseen lessons. For me the joke becomes this... teachers feting themselves on Teachers' Day. I mean, what sense is there for teachers to organise a day to appreciate them. Are we focusing on self appreciation? It is rather comical.

The best things each year for me are those well thought out little gifts that kids made themselves for me. Homemade cookies, little cards with heartwarming messages and things that they thought out. I think they are the most priceless appreciation a teacher can have, I feel. Instead they congregated everyone in the hall... an institution institutionalising her own because it is way easier to exert control... and put on a show that something is being done... hijacked for convenience.

So, we have this stage show. Teachers sitting down there. Students screaming and yelling as if they were in a concert. So much fanfare, yet one can be forgiven to feel the sterility of it.

I spent a good part of the day fixing a fan with a colleague in the classroom that I am using. Figured might as well used the time to get the fan fixed ourselves so that the students will be more comfortable. The weather has been very unforgiving. Pleas for more fans have fallen on deaf ears because I was told all classroom in Malaysia are hot and stuffy. I can never understand why a school can raise hundreds of thousands of ringgit or embark on an endeavour to build a hall or some other buildings but not embark of projects to make classrooms more comfortable. How can they expect kids to study and even stay focussed if the classrooms are like mini ovens? Is it because things fixed in the classroom cannot be seen cos they are not imposing? We focus on the big things but ignore the small things...

In between fixing and trying to get my exam papers ready, we were 'invited' to go watch the concert. For me who just cannot stand loud noises, watching a concert is a torture to the ears and the mind. My own kids asked me to join them for the Ed Sheeran concert in KL recently... it definitely would have been an experience with more wow than the one this morning but I told them to go have a good time, minus me. Cos I don't like crowds and noise. I even gladly sponsored the tickets for them.

Teachers' Day... it would be nice just to let the teachers have their day. Instead, these days, many schools force teachers to watch, be part of a show that is put up yet minus all the personal touches... Everything planned.. everything organised... but the heart and soul left out. And in the end you are supposed to partake of it and pretend that it is the best thing that could have been done.

This year... despite in a new place... there were 2 cards... 2 different groups of students. One had this phrase... 'never a dull moment in your class'. They mean more than any of those other organised stuff... We no longer teach kids to take the trouble to appreciate those around them. We take things into our hands because we feel we know better. We don't... that is the sad thing. Our education system is run by these people who feel that they know best.....

Oh ya... every year they have this cake cutting ceremony... the irony of it.. Teachers' Day... yet those who stood in front, taking all the photos, doing all the cutting... the admin and the invited guests... all the while.. the teachers standing behind... Teachers' Day Hijacked. Lol!

The essence and the spirit of Teachers' Day are gone, hijacked.. I wonder by who?

One more thing.. they tried to have a special celebration for teachers who had their birthdays from Jan to June. Thing is when you do something like this, make sure you comb through your teachers list. Lol! They left me out... not that I mind cos I would not have budged from my seat for that sort of thing but it goes to show that it might be better just to opt that out...

Anyway, teaching is not so important these days... holding extra classes, winning competitions... those seem far more important than the mundane, routine work of building character... It is easy to see why. One gives instant recognition while the other ... well you might not even feel the fruits. Yet, without the latter, our country would surely face a further decline too...

Ramblings about Hari Guru... hijacked.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Musings about Teaching

Am beginning to lose faith in the system. Thinking perhaps it is time to throw in the towel. People who know me laugh at me when I tell them that, saying that's not me. Lol! I guess they forget that here is a limit called 'survival' and when that is breached it's just survival from then on. We are generally expected to be conforming.. either to a set of values, image for example.

My last few months have been a rollercoaster of sorts because of a teacher bully case who was my colleague. Having believed that such behaviour should not be tolerated by anyone, I foolishly stood up. And even when the signals were there that our value system has changed, I still steadfastly voiced out for action. But still that didn't deter me because I felt kids needed an advocate... for the right reasons. And so, I wasn't too perturbed even by the fact that I was transferred by a system that went against its own for something so serious like a teacher bullying students. I guess too verbal bullying is okay... the message from all those people with pangkat seems to indicate so.

Then recently, an academic cluster of excellence school, suffered a drop in its SPM results. The drop was marked enough for certain quarters to voice displeasure. And suddenly, there was this flurry of teachers being transferred. We suddenly began hearing teachers with good credentials and from the non-bumi race being transferred from their respective schools into the cluster school. Now these were Guru Cemerlang, teachers with C2 in their CPT exams (for English), teachers who were 'acknowledged' as being good by proof of APC.... Their schools are those normal day schools which struggle with less than sterling students. The cluster school meanwhile gets selected students with excellent results in the UPSR.

This is where it gets really interesting. For years, many of us were reminded that all teachers are the same in terms of ability. But this whole incident smacks a peculiarity that defies that perception. Suddenly we have this transfers of non-bumi teachers into a cluster school who over the years have been seen a decline in its non-bumi students as well as teachers. And of course, in the process of the transfers, you have bumi teachers who had to be transferred out to make way for former. And this takes place in March, at a time all schools have set into a routine.... not forgetting to the teachers on transfer who now find their very own lives disrupted to.

Then yesterday, I saw the extra classes list. The weather has been very punishing of late. Temperatures soaring to 38-39 degrees Centigrades in the afternoons, less than desirable conditions of the class because of the lack of fans as well as the design of the school which makes it into a perfect heat trapper, in the pursuit of CGPA, there is this demand for extra class. Now why does the admin of a school demand extra classes without consulting the teachers? And even in some cases where teachers insist that they do not want to hold the classes, they are forced upon them?

The reasons become apparent. With all these focus on Peer Learning Community which is supposed to be running, it now seems apparent that maybe there is a difference after all from one teacher to another. With the focus on creating Adiwara Pendidik, it seems like there is effort to push teachers to be 21st century teachers... whatever that may mean.

And that's where too I think we miss another point. 21st century teacher... a teacher who is supposed to be able to produce creative and thinking students. Now how is that supposed to be different from a 20th century teacher? Or 19th century teacher for that matter? Is the focus on technology? Cos I don't see how that's going to churn out those kind of kids desired.

The heart of a teacher, the effort put into moulding a kid and imparting values... those are the important things. Yet what I am seeing, is a system lost in its own labyrinth, one that is of its own making. A system that has been eaten away by its own policies of segregating and compromising.

An illustration. In the teaching of languages for example, a student is supposed to learn a few short stories, poems and novels. So, what is a teacher supposed to do? Teaching novel is always one of the more difficult thing to do. So what I am now being made aware is there are teachers who are clueless how to get students to read those novels. Yet the school admin breathe down hard on them to produce results. So what these teachers do is they give the question to the students before the exam, sometimes complete with the answer. Students sit for the school exams, get good scores, marks look good on the score sheet... teacher gets breathing space.

One would think that the public exam should be able to weed these students out. Yet, as a teacher of almost 3 decades, I am constantly surprised by the number of As and passes that I  seem to be hearing from students who actually do not show those qualities of a Cemerlang student. A student who has trouble writing cohesive sentences now can score A and even A+. And so, we tap ourselves on our shoulders and tell the world how great our students are and how effective our efforts are.

But that all stops when these same students enter the job market. We begin to hear laments from the market about how incompetent or unmovable these now young adults are. This shouldn't be as the students were A scorers in the public exams. Where did we go wrong? Have we compromised so much that we no longer are able to discern what quality actually is? Or are we just proverbial ostriches with our heads in the sand?

And so, in trying to maintain grades, more rote learning, more extra classes... more of everything that produces mechanical thinking and disinterest in knowledge...

We did have a good education system once... in an era without the need of PAK21 models. Those days we had thinking teachers but more importantly, teachers who were dedicated and taught. We didn't need extra class.... and we didn't turn out too badly. There weren't laments from the employers about the quality of graduates... if there were laments, it was from the graduates who lament about the market not being able to provide employment opportunities because of economic downturns......



Wednesday, March 27, 2019

SMJK Keat Hwa 1: Sijil Berhenti Fiasco (Part 3)

Looks like the posts for a good part of the year in this blog is going to be dedicated to SMJK Keat Hwa 1. For some reason, one issue after another has to keep pricking. I have decided to keep the posts going for thoughts that come through with each issue. And if I am still up to it, will compile them into an e-book.

Parents and even one smooth talking uncle of my former students called me ... apparently WGH told them I had to rectify the errors in their School Leaving Cert. It is funny how this man operates. As a head, he seems so helpless and powerless... watching him being a head makes one feels that a school actually does not need a Principal cos all he seems to be doing is not provide leadership.

I was asked to go back to correct grades for Behaviour which I didn't even give. Apparently the clerk typed the grades but under whose instructions, I do not know. What is clear now is (based on a parents' account),  I was not the one who gave the grades. But now it seems that he is asking me to go back to a school which I am no longer a staff to correct grades which I did not give. Hence, I have been asking for an official letter because I am no longer working there and those were not the grades I gave. He refuses, of course. And it's a matter which those in charge along that very chain of command could have easily just settled it... but nobody seemed to want to. Either the level of apathy is so high or they are terribly afraid of the principal.

One parent went to the State Education Department and hashed up a most ridiculous proposal too based on the Principal's demands, that I go back and rectify grades which the clerk typed. I told him to ask the officer who talked to him to issue a letter so that I am given the authority to do that. He said they won't too. This is where too, it begins to sound and feel silly. Our school system can be rather comical in a sad way too...

A mistake was made. However, I did not fill in the grades. Someone else did. What might make it worse is this... students say these 2 classes had majority (or all) B for Kelakuan. Lol! This is a Chinese school. Discipline problems like smoking, drugs hardly happen here. You have rather docile kids who generally show that they are apathetic... (not that they are but it is a survival skill). You have students who perform well in public exams. And you have 2 classes of them with B for Kelakuan when for the rest of the 9 classes.. it is mostly Cemerlang. Oh ya! Out of almost 400 students in last year's cohort, almost 200 of them scored 6As and above in their SPM. Now, how can majority (or all) students in 2 classes all get B for Kelakuan in their Sijil Berhenti? In my class there is a big number of students with 6As and above!! It is the same for the other class! How would these kids have been able to excel in their public exams had they been recalcitrant and ill-disciplined kids? It shows bad intent and a high level of vindictiveness on the school's part. It shows an adult at the helm who stops at nothing to balas dendam. It shows too, adults who call themselves educators but fail to rise above themselves to be educators....we should all be blushing in shame here. And the principal, who sits in that chair of leadership... he is responsible for this fiasco. A principal who kept trying to create a grave situation by telling parents I am the best person to give them the grade for Kelakuan. Hello!!! There is another class where the kids' Kelakuan were given B also. He stooped that low.... he even talked about needing to convene a special meeting of teachers who taught that class... but he forgot there's another class in the same predicament, a class with the teacher-bully as their form teacher. (The two classes strike a very interesting study too.. because both classes have very different responses to this issue... will be writing on that soon)

It is a matter which the school authorities can resolve quite easily. Instead, we have a Principal at arms with me because I spoke out and pushed for actions against a teacher bully... last year!  And so he took it out on me through the students. whom, I happened to miss filling in their grades for Behaviour in their Sijil Berhenti. But if I were still a staff there, this won't be an issue. But, for some reason best known to him, I had to leave with the teacher bully. Me, a teacher who rarely misses a class and worked hard for all my classes. The teacher bully is the opposite. But I guess despite all his show of diplomacy, he just cannot stand being 'challenged'.

Then there is this other class... the class who was bullied by the teacher. They too were given a B. They went to the Principal with an appeal for protection from their class teacher who also cursed them. Many grouses were voiced out during their meeting with the Principal last year. One of the complaints was that the teacher threatened them with the Kelakuan grade. Well, it happened. She carried out her threat. And the Principal let her do it. The kids went into the office and aired their fears. The principal heard. The admin people were there too. And still, this happened! Why does the school even need a head then?

The teacher had boasted to her students that nothing can be done to her. No one can touch her. It feels like these kids not only suffered the misfortune of that teacher but were failed by the very institution who was supposed to mold and protect them. What kind of people are these people put in charge of such an institution like SMJK Keat Hwa 1? It feels rather preposterous... unbelievable.

And that Principal... the parent said that he claimed to have sent the teacher bully out. Bullies are people who are beyond reason. They have this arrogance that they are untouchable. This teacher bully had to let people know that she was not sent out... and so she posted in her group chat as well as the school Morning WhatsApp chat... how she had been persecuted, how only God knows her sufferings... and she posted too...'pertukaran ini adalah atas permohonan saya sendiri." Unfortunately God is a very convenient subject to use and fall back on because He actually is neutral when it comes to human issues. Tell me, who has seen God come down and campur tangan personally?

So who is now lying... the teacher or the principal? Lol! He meant agreeing to let her transfer means he was the one who sent her out. Such is the exchanges that have been told by the parent to me... It sickens me to know that people like this have no qualms about such bad behaviour. It is disheartening that our system seems so helpless to do the right thing. People always hide behind the veils of their religion... their gods... and their lies. And it is precisely through their cries of religiosity that takes away the hope of our future. I had actually moved on but this issue had to drag me back squarely into WGH's little domain... macam he cannot let me move on. Lol! Adjectives to describe... petty, trivial, vindictive, selfish, spiteful, uncharitable... Well, if he has to drag me back into his smelly cauldron by being inept, then here goes...

An issue like this... it was weaponised by the very adults who are supposed to be the guardians of the students. For some reason... he has to paint me the villain. He has this great need to justify. I questioned him over the teacher bully... who cursed students to go die on a regular basis... and that is wrong for some reasons best known to him. Never mind he sent me and my friend out... but to keep lying and lying... what is it with him? And almost 80 students had to get B for their Kelakuan because I must be punished for being the noise about the teacher bully.

This is Post Number 13 on one school... this has got to be a record for me. I better look into putting all these into an e-book. Will try. These last 3 posts would not have been necessary if the school had just been compassionate with the students. As many of the other posts too... triggered by his lies, and needs to justify. Also.. the principal seemed to have a score he needs to settle. Little minds always seem to feel that. Sad that a school with such potential has to have a head who can't seem to lead.

Btw, this feels so ridiculous cos it is just unbelievable that such a thing can happen. I have had to ask myself many times whether this is for real... cos all these... it is also an indicator of a failure of the system to pick the best and right people to head a school. And the heads are supposed to have attended this special Kursus Kepengetuaan... Gosh! They churn out such people????

Earlier posts on this issue:
SMJK Keat Hwa 1: Sijil Berhenti Fiasco (Part 2)
SMJK Keat Hwa 1: Sijil Berhenti Fiasco (Part 1)



Tuesday, March 26, 2019

SMJK Keat Hwa 1: Sijil Berhenti Fiasco (Part 2)

A parent of a former student called me up... over this..

Asked about her daughter's Kelakuan thingy on her Sijil Berhenti Sekolah... she told me that the clerk showed her the forms and 3 things were missing from the her daughter's form... not the Sijil. On the Sijil only the HM's signature is supposed to be on. The Kelakuan (Behaviour) grade, Attendance and my signature. For days I have been wondering if I had made mistakenly wrote Baik, thinking it for an A, or I did not fill in at all. So it is the latter.

And I was wondering too if I had passed the forms to one of the teachers in the rush of my most interesting and hurried transfer... it must have been the case.

Was told by the parent also that the school clerk who typed the Sijil Berhenti said she called me many times and I did not pick up the phone. Lol! I only saw one missed call. Or maybe the clerk was trying to imply that they had called me many times. The Principal said to her that he must convened a meeting of the teachers who taught her daughter's class to modify the grade... over a matter so small. Unbelievable.

In the haste of that hurried transfer... I made a mistake. I am sorry to my students because that mistake has also shown how vindictive and irresponsible the school can be. However, the chain of command in the school totally failed to function here too... Nobody picked up the mistake when I passed the forms through a teacher. Maybe I had even asked for a favour. But if those forms had been collected from me, the Penyelia Tingkatan missed the blanks. The PK1 did too. The Pengetua didn't even checked. The SU SPM didn't also. The teacher who distributed the SPM result slips and certs also didn't. I count 5 whammies. If this is how a Kluster Kecemerlangan school works, wonder how the rest of the schools are functioning.

So who actually filled up those grades? A teacher or the clerk? Under whose orders? If it is the clerk giving the grades... oops! If it is the teacher, then how come every student was given a B?  What was going through the person's head as he/she put in the grade? Did the person ask? Did the person bother? However 6 years of my time there tells me that if I base it on my understanding, it is very likely that the person couldn't care the least.

Well. I always feel that what goes around will come around. It is kind of like recycling. So, if today we as adults fail to do the right thing, the coming gen will bear the consequences. The 6 years in SMJK Keat Hwa 1 has taught me that is mostly the case most of the time. And that sort of philosophy is clearly seen from the adults who are supposed to be the role models.

As for this Sijil Berhenti fiasco. The Principal told the parent that he must convene a meeting of all the teachers who taught the class. No wonder why he could not take any action on the teacher bully of the school or show leadership after the freak storm that left a trail of danger for weeks after that. The teacher bully involved a teacher from a different race in a predominantly Chinese school. It is very likely that he was afraid to take any action because of that. Similarly too, why he had to lie again and again about the nature of our transfers. Until today, he cannot come out and say that we did not ask for the transfers. In all likelihood, he was the one who engineered it... to get that teacher to willingly apply to transfer out on her own free will...

The transfer thing was indeed an interesting study. We recently bumped into a former colleague of the school. He asked my friend who was transferred out together with me over the teacher bully case, if we really did ask for the transfers. Lol! This Principal... he is a master of words. He knows that once the seeds of lies are planted, there will always be this confusion.

There are many ignorant ones among us. But there are those who understand and know how he operates too. The thing is, these people choose to remain silent because they feel it is none of their business. Imagine a kids taught by such kinds of people....

The transfers were so sudden..... everything was cleared in a haste. But it is a good lesson for me about how transient things are in life actually. It is a reminder to keep things simple in life. Do what is beneficial and do no harm. Life is a circle. A circle comes around. In the agama circle... you have karma, dosa-pahala.... everywhere there is this reminder.

The current principal of SMJK Keat Hwa, WGH is a master of tai chi of words... good luck to the school for having such a head. He is also a person who will push as much of the burden of responsibilities to his underlings. Lies can only be sugar coated that many times before they crack. Majority will sugar coat...

Oh ya! A funny thing that came out of this... I am no longer a staff of the school. Yet I was asked to go back to the school to sign those forms (according to the parent who called me. But there has been no official letter or any calls regarding this matter at all). It's been 3 months since I officially left. Lol! And the office never once called me about this matter except the one missed call yesterday morning.

My failure to sign the forms... is also a failure of Wong Ghee Hong as the Principal to ensure that I 'serah tugas' before I left. The school told the parent they want me to go back and sign the forms... do I have that authority? I wonder if his signature is valid on any school documents after he retires.

You see, we had no chance to do that. We went to the office to seek an explanation for our transfers. Instead, there was this very angry looking man who refused to say anything except, "This is not my problem'. He repeated it like a mantra. He seemed only capable of a few words only during that 3 minute conversation. He refused to accept our letters seeking an explanation. He even asked the office boy to remove us from his office. There were 2 other teachers in his office doing his work. The whole conversation was recorded on 2 devices... yet he lied. Such is the lie that makes SMJK Keat Hwa 1.

So, it is a no wonder that teachers in this school are muted....


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

SMJK Keat Hwa 1: Sijil Berhenti Fiasco

Haih... so there is word going around that I gave my last year's class at school Kelakuan B on purpose and the Attendance was left blank. The thing is I think I forgot to fill in and passed it back to the Form Supervisor... cannot remember whether it was last year or in the chaotic one day of moving stuff out of my little chicken coop room at school during my surprise and very quick transfer which the Principal claimed my colleague and I had arranged ourselves.

We had to move our stuff very quickly. And the joke was, I passed the keys of the room that I occupied to a colleague after the very whirlwind move. That colleague didn't even have the chance to pass the keys to the office the next day cos they cut the lock to the door. Now, why would they do that? Cos could have just called us for the keys but they chose to cut the lock... Makes you wonder what kind of 'thoughts' they had... cos not like they didn't have my number. But nah... they had to bring out the cutter...  If you apply some PAK skills here.. you'd be wondering why about that juvenile-like reaction.

A blur since September last year...

A freak storm blew off the roof of the Form 3 block in September. It's already 6 months since the storm and the block is still without roof. From a promise of immediate repairs....
After going through the harrowing experience on that morning, the weeks after were surreal. Partly because, in between were the the teacher bully issue and the chaotic environment that we were in. Looking back, I guess I should not have bothered about the things going on at school. I should have just stayed in my own little corner and minded my own business. After all, for 6 years I had done mostly that. Students be damned, if they get injured.. not many cared anyway. But well...

It was a nope... I had to be nosey. On the day of the storm, soon after the  wind stopped, what was left was a trail of destruction. And then, I remembered the projectors in the classrooms. It was raining and I reminded the Guru Kanan that we should try to salvage them. By 11 that morning, after a few of us teachers carried the students' bags and sent them to the hall, my colleague and I went up to have another look. It was still raining. Thinking that the projectors would be such a loss, we climbed up the tables and removed over 20 over from damaged classrooms in total. I think we saved the school about RM30k, maybe more. But nah! Actually there was no need to do so... they don't appreciate stuff like that.

In the weeks after, my colleague and I spent most of our free time opening up every single unit to dry them. Not a single unit was damaged as a result. Silly us! In that time, the teacher bully case came up.

Even more comical (but should be alarming) was in the weeks after the storm, no briefing was given to the teachers how to handle the situation. Debris was still everywhere. Again, the nosey me, together with a few other teachers went round and tied the barricade tapes in those places where clearing was taking place. In our free time, we would walk around the school, minding the students to clear off those areas.

There were a few close calls where falling metal beams or pieces of roofing fell as students trespassed those areas. I think the parents of those kids do not realise how close some of their kids had come to having something land on them and potentially snuffing out their children's lives. Mind you, in all those weeks, there were no instructions forthcoming.... not a single briefing for the teachers, no assembly to address the students. SMJK Keat Hwa 1 was a school in crisis! But we were left to our own wiles.

Then my sudden transfer with my colleague because I bising too much about the teacher bully. The Principal claimed my colleague and I had worked out the transfers without his knowledge with the PPD... how he could claim so when we were given the rudest treatment when we went to see him to ask him why.... (3 minutes which I can replay at will).... that remains a wonderment to me at how smooth he can weave himself in and out with his smooth talking ways. The excuses (and lies) made by him were not necessary. Yet, he did it... sometimes it's best to just leave things be... but nah.. he had to keep justifying himself. Wonder why?

So, then I thought things have somewhat settled down again after all the flaks the past month. Then the SPM Sijil Berhenti issue came up. I am truly sorry that my students had to go through the process of asking for amendments to be made. It was an oversight on my part which I am truly sorry to my students.

But this also highlights the typical failure of the check and balance system put in place. The Form 5 Supervisor was supposed to have noticed that when the forms were in her hands. The PK1 and Principal should have taken note too cos the forms are passed up a chain of command. I remember when I was SU of SPM in another school, my then Principal would check through the certificates herself... that also, after reminding me countless times to check that everything be in order before the certs get to the students hands. (I think I will write more on this)

But what happened here is, I made a mistake. The mistake was missed by the Form 5 Supervisor who collected those forms. Then it was missed by the PK1/Principal who were supposed to oversee this thing. And finally before distribution, the SU SPM did not ensure that the certs were all properly completed. Class teachers were supposed to be the final check. The teacher bully was allowed to give her B grade to the very students she cursed and bullied for 2 whole years! And that kind of action is supposed to be okay? Where is the check and balance? Why do we even have all those 'pangkat' people sitting in their places then?

And so, when I commented about how this check and balance mechanisms failed, apparently some hell broke loose. Taking it as personal criticisms, those teachers went ballistic. Where earlier they had agreed to amend the Sijil Berhenti, it now became a personal thing. A poor student was asked to pass a message to me to delete my comment regarding the matter. I wonder if these teachers understand the responsibilities of the positions they are holding. I made a mistake, to which I readily apologise. But for them not to see that they failed  as the check and balance mechanisms goes to show many things too.

These same teachers stayed on the sidelines when the same kids were bullied and had to go through all sorts of unthinkable things the teacher bully did. Many kept their silence because they felt it was none of their business. But a perceived criticism of them failing to see to the students' well-being was enough to unleash this perceived injustice on themselves, and what a show it was... ranting and venting it out on a student. And they readily agreed that these students who had no justice served to them in the teacher bully case had to be punished with another whammy. The other class who got all B happened to be my class. Where is the check and balance people who were supposed to watch out for the kids?

The same kids are victimised yet again. By the school this time.

So one day in the future such bullying behaviour is a norm and their own children become victims, it would be interesting to watch their responses. I hope they continue to stand by the sidelines. Yet some will say that their children were bullied by that teacher too... But as parents and teachers, they did not make a concerted effort to stop that bully. And she got worse. To make matters worse, when the issue of race is brought in, everything becomes even more muddled. As teachers, we must always be colour blind. Yet in such matters, even teachers get muted or blinded by race. What kind role models are we? How do we answer to the God we purportedly pray to everyday?

Hence too, it makes sense why so many Chinese kids I see are rather subdued in school... compliance is often by force or pain, or just by plain acceptance.

The reason for this post is simple... apparently students went to see the Principal regarding the matter and he retorted they deserved the B grade for Kelakuan. He is rather annoyed that some students like my posts, I supposed. We talk about developing character for the 21st century. How can we when students are taught that a wrong can be condoned? In a school.... where teachers are supposed to role model them, we role model them this way.... values be damned.

Anyway, back to my 2018 Form 5 class. In my class there is a very special student whom I always reminded my students to watch out for. For 2 years I always reminded his classmates to encourage him, and watch out for him. I would not intentionally give him a B because he is a good kid who has come a long, long way. I spent many hours thinking about him... And the school has no compassion nor the concern about such kids... in this school you are only valued if you have something to contribute. If you are ordinary or below ordinary, you are sidestepped. Everyone is just a statistic unless you are a privileged one. Lately, I am hearing that a lot... "if you are privileged."

Oh ya! One thing about this class of mine... it happens to be one of the 'back' classes. I am sure if it had been the first class, the Kelakuan thingy would have been avoided. They would have moved mountains to change it. The thing is, this supposedly last class that I was class teacher of... their results are rather outstanding this time around.... these are mostly kids I will 'label' as comeback kids.... for which I am very proud to have been part of their journey. These are kids who have learned to cross the racial boundaries, learned to watch out for each other despite many differences... many are beginning to believe in themselves in remarkable ways....

So, this Sijil thingy... I make no excuses for my oversight... but my mistake is also a reminder how the system in this school fails to take care of the kids. It seems like it is more about the teachers than the kids. Kids get bullied, they try to seek a solution and help from the Principal. Yet the same kids get bullied by the teachers via this way. Sympathy??? Nah!

The irony now is this is now the school wielding its power. You see, if I had been mean in giving those kids a 'B' for their Kelakuan, then the school should protect them from me. Instead, they weaponise this by trying to get the kids to feel that I am this mean teacher. Plus they ranted and raved to a student. Is that professional? Where is the logic? Where is their decency? It feels like the oldest game being played out here... us vs them. And I have no interest in it actually. I apologise (to the kids) because it was my mistake. I could have been so tired or blur that I put in a Baik mistaking it as the best... but for whatever reason also, the many layers of check and balance in the system should have caught my mistake and rectified it. Unless there is no interest in the students best interest at work here. It is a no wonder the teacher bully got away... as long as you are one of them, toe their line... they will protect you... want to curse a kid to hell also okay. I wonder who the juvenile is here...

Oh ya! In frustration, I messaged an upright Board Member and told him how this can happen. But preach whatever too... in the end, other things will be more important.

Each time, I thought this school can be pushed to the background, surely something must come around to tickle me into some action...

SMJK Keat Hwa 1
... as long lives this and this gives life to thee... Shakespeare's sonnet 18.

I guess this will remain the most memorable school in my career.

For a complete picture of the incident:







Saturday, February 23, 2019

SMJK Keat Hwa 1: Teacher, Is It Worth It?

   It is the time of the year when results are out or are coming out. This is usually a busy time for me as students will come for chats to explore options. Over the years, this time of the year would be the time when there would be quite a few such impromptu sessions. 

This year, it is different. We to had meet for yumcha sessions instead. Boy! It’s a challenge trying to keep up with the young who feel that 12 midnight is still young like them. Been a long time I even stay out of the house past midnight. Lol!

Anyway, in one of the conversations, a former student asked if it was worth it, 'chasing' the teacher bully and getting transferred out from the school. I told her that I was anticipating it because the Principal didn’t seem to want to do anything about it and I had applied pressure that would make him retaliate. In fact, I had told a teacher in late October that the Principal would do that. At that time, the teacher said that would not happen. Turned out my gut feeling was right.

     Then she asked why I did it. This was because she said many of the students I stood up for didn’t appreciate what I did. I told her, how could I expect any of them to appreciate what I did. Anyway, I wasn’t expecting any. They were teenagers and for 2 years, they had been on the receiving end of verbal curses and intimidation. I told her, if a teacher comes into a class and berates, curses or scolds a student, wouldn’t the rest of the class just sit out quietly, and in their heart, hoping that she will continue with that one particular student and not zoom in on them? 

     Survival instincts would kick in and everyone will just hope that it would not be them who get the showers of verbal assaults. In such kinds of classes too there would also be less cooperation and trust among each other. It will be each person for his own because when ‘attacks’ come, you need to survive.

     It wasn’t the teacher I had issues with. It was her behaviour. Actions and behaviour which were unbecoming of a teacher. And so, there I listed those behaviours as put forward by the students to the Principal in their meeting on the morning of 31/10/18. You find them in 3 sessions of meeting. They are taken from 3 sessions of recordings. 
  1. Teacher making the class monitor complete and mark her attendance monthly/daily. Even after being admonished by the Principal, she continued to do it by asking another student to do it because she was angry at the class monitor for going against her. 
  2. Using her position as a class teacher to intimidate the students. There have been incidents of previous batches who had their Kelakuan in their Sijil Berhenti bad because she didn’t like them. 
  3. There was a case of missing funds (PIBG and magazine) which a student’s parents complained to the school. When the parent insisted that the money be returned, the student became a victim. He failed his BM consecutively during F5 until the trial exam, where he got an exact pass for the paper.
  4. The same student had his BM Lisan SPM given a score of below 10 marks. When the external examiner came and pulled his name out for a moderation exercise, he used the same material and the marks given were significantly higher.
  5. The students were worried for their siblings in the lower forms because they were worried that this teacher would take it out on them. An example was given where during a PT3 Lisan exam, for no reason, when a candidate entered the room, he was asked whether he was ‘so-and-so’s’ brother. Students talked about their older siblings’ experiences, all of which pointed towards a verbally abusive teacher. 
  6. Students talked about the teacher being on her mobile phone during lessons most of the time and not teaching. Apparently she would be scrolling on the phone. 
  7. She would also punish them by making them sit outside the class for 1-2 weeks for not completing just one question of a 50 or 100 questions exercise. Those students would sit out of the ‘class lessons’ for that duration of time.
     Now, these were the list of complaints put forward by those students. I asked the student if she would be okay with such kind of behaviour from a teacher. Silence ensued... 

The point is, many seem to think that I went overboard by pushing for a solution from the Principal. She said some students said they joined in the ‘fight’, and was looking for drama. I told her I knew that. You have victims, bystanders and what have you not in any scenario. 

This was a straightforward issue. It was regarding an abusive and unprofessional behaviour of a teacher. How do we condone and tolerate such behaviour? Worse still, apparently too, she had always been like that, for more than a decade in SMJK Keat Hwa 1. Did she become meaner over the years?

A final point... the human mind is myriad of complex mix of emotions and logic. Many said that they learned to deal with her by shutting their ears and minds while she ranted and cursed. That's logic at work. But how many of us ever paused to thank our lucky stars that no one had actually snapped emotionally and mentally because of her abusive behaviour? That is where emotion might have taken over and caused permanent loss? So, what if one day, one kid... perhaps on an emo-roller-coaster…. is in class and the teacher curses her... and something snaps? 

A Form 5 boy from that batch was killed while riding on his motorcycle one night early this year. What if he had been one of those boys who had been cursed? One of her regular curses was “Aku sumpah kamu mati dilanggar lori.” Such curses... they do not belong in the classrooms, what more coming from a teacher. In BM, we can sometimes be melodramatic and use phrases like “Kita yang bergelar Pendidik.” So what if kita yang bergelar Pendidik ini menyumpah anak muridnya mati dilanggar lori.... and it did indeed happen?

So, is it worth it??? I told her I am actually past caring about the transfer. What I may still care about is the shame that I feel because it was allowed to continue... that my former colleagues were divided along racial lines and could not stand as one to stamp out a bad behaviour. The curses of this bully teacher should be on their children too…
What right do we teachers have ... to strut around, some with the canes or heads held high up and say... “Saya cikgu, you kena dengar cakap saya?” We lost our credibility the day we made excuses for all the things listed above….. Kids are sent to us to be shaped and moulded.. but we let them loose as damaged products. 

For a complete picture of the incident:
SMJK Keat Hwa I: Beyond the Facade of Pride 2
SMJK Keat Hwa 1: Kisah Seorang Guru Pembuli
SMJK Keat Hwa 1: Beyond the Facade of Pride 1



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