Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Syntax Error

Lower Secondary Maths is made up of 2 papers. In one paper, students are not supposed to use the calculator. But sometimes, slip ups happen and students use the calculator even though they know they are not supposed to.

So how do you know that they've used the calculator???
Syntax Error
This answer!!! ROFL!!! My colleague was having this nagging feeling that her students had used their calculators in their exam when they were not supposed to. But she had no proof... But with this answer.... this coming from today's student who will salin bulat-bulat anything their calculator tells them even though after they tekan silap the buttons.

Our kids are so dumbed down that they just don't bother to know how to cheat smartly. Plus they're so lazy to think that anything that appears on the 'almighty' calculator is considered a probable answer. Sad state this shows too.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Mango..

It's this not so new makan place in Lorong Merpati. I've passed by that place many times but somehow never stepped into the place even though it's a huge place. This is a makan blog with no real food pics cos we were without our camera when we made a on the spur of the moment decision to give it a try.... after church.

The place is nice. At one corner you'll find some private air-conditioned rooms... actually they're not that private cos you can see clearly inside... all glass facade. The surrounding area feels nice and comfy. Comfy chairs with glass tables - you can see your feet as you makan! LOL!

The crowd was quite okay when we were there; made up of families and young people. But you get a feeling that this place is probably trying to rival Rock Cafe which opened last year in Simpang Kuala area.

We over ordered but their prawn salad was nice. The 3 flavoured fish was a disappointment; its sauce too goey and when it's cold it kinda loses its appeal. I enjoyed their claypot tauhu with egg quite a lot. The mixed vegetable was boleh tahan while their chicken stir fried in ginger was quite appetizing. Bill came up to about RM90.. which is a bit on the high side for Alor Setar.
This song was playing when we were paying our bills. Be totally prepared to be freaked out by the drinks prices. For 3 cups of what tasted more like flavoured drinks (probably from the box souped up with some pop), it was RM20!!! Blackcurrant, sour sop and orange juice (which tasted like it had been mixed from powder!) in plastic cups! Cheap soft plastic cups with a straw stuck in the middle!!! At that price, we were expecting drinks in tall glasses with some touch ups!!! Suffice to say, we were freaked out!
And after we finished paying, this song came into the air.... I supposed that's how the proprietor liked it. Maximum profit from their drinks!!!

Overall, Mango is a nice place with lots of potential. The space and their ambience would actually make a nice venue for a garden wedding reception with hawker style fare. But I hope they serve out their drinks in a real glasses. RM6.90 for a glass of drink (the kind they serve) in Alor Setar is a bit pricey. Put in some big screens at different corners, sports, movies, songs.... you might actually have a winner there!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

One Thousand Gifts ...by Ann Voskamp

One Thousand Gifts

When Dear Old Friend came, she left behind this book for me. Books have always been one of the loves of her life. When I think back of our friendship, books have dotted and enriched our friendship too. There have always been books or talks about books for as long as I can remember. And poem, psalms.... those seem to excite her so.

One Thousand Gifts... in a way, this book is so her too.

A term that the author holds on throughout the book - Eucharisteo, which is a Greek word for the combination of grace, thanksgiving and joy. When we understand the grace of God, there will be gratitude. And in gratitude, one finds joy. A very simple formula but one that eludes us most of the time. Find and apply the Eucharisteo in our daily lives, and we'll find joy. I get what she means because of late too, I find that when I can let go of those things that tie me down, life somehow becomes happier. And though I sometimes still fail, I'm still convinced that the lenses provided by the Word of God helps me shape my perspective so that does not become too warped... but sesat-ness is a situation which I still sometimes find myself in.

Giving thanks, understanding the grace that has been extended to me and finding that elusive joy or happiness - Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving for the small and big, learning to wait (that's difficult for me)..... a real book to hold and to turn the pages; this I've not done for a while too.

It helps to list down the gifts that come our way, simple as they may seem sometimes but they add on to the little happiness in us and as time passes and moves on, the list grows, little happiness turns into joy; and is often times sustained because the sheer volume of joy there picks up its own momentum... and it becomes contagious sometimes too! That I can identify too cos as I kept this blog, as I wrote down my thoughts, it has changed me too... count your blessings, name them one by one.

Definitely one of the more inspirational read so far for the year!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Kungfu Panda 2

Mid morning, and Daughter suddenly called out and rattled off the movie schedule for the day. She had set her mind on Kungfu Panda 2 and weaved a subtle ambush into Other Half's mind. And so, the afternoon itinerary set, we got ourselves to Big Cinema at Alor Setar Mall. It, being the first holiday weekend, the place was filling up by the time we got there. We got into the line and by the time it got to Other Half's turn, they were down to 5 seats. Beggars can't be choosers and we took what was available; which meant separate seating. The other option was to wait for another time... which I wasn't keen.

I am not one of those animated movie fans but I notice that each time I go in for a Dreamworks movie, I am usually entertained and would watch through the whole show even though I had told myself that I'd read a book if I get bored with the movie. The movie started with a wayang kulit flashback of Lord Shen - the bad guy or peacock of the show. Yup! The bad guy is a peacock and his honchos are the big bad wolves. Then there are the rakyat, portrayed by the docile kambing and pigs. Atypical characterization based on good ole fairy tales. It never ceases to amaze me how the movie makers can make Panda annoying yet so adorable. If it had been a local flick, you'd be annoyed to no end, by the bodoh-ness of a character cos they always go overboard in doing it. It didn't take me too long to figure out why Panda had to master the 'inner peace' for himself but the story line and lessons behind the movie are nice touches. Elegance in simplicity. Easy lessons to digest.

Our animated movie industry here has a long way to go to catch up with such kind of productions. Anyway, how to with our brain drain. I won't be surprised if some of the people involved in its production are Malaysians - those who got were drained out by our lopsided system here. As usual, in the hands of the real pros, the way they are able to bring life into the animation, the addition of little details all make the audience connect quite easily with the characters.

There's going to be a sequel, that's almost certain. Too good of an opportunity to let go, all the money that can be spun off from more spin offs.

Been a long while since my last movie. I always thought that movie theaters will go the way of the dinosaurs but looking at the way families, young people and people generally crowded (and paid) at Big Cinema to watch the movies, looks like it'll still be around for some time. It's good for families to be able to lepak together and do something enjoyable.

Friday, May 27, 2011

At That Kiddy Age

2 Barrels

Barrels 1 finally got his bath and what a transformation he underwent! He finally got his colour back! .... minus the fluffiness of his fur! Amazing what 'peer pressure' can do. But Son said, this Eastern version of Barrels had never been very fluffy to begin with... something to do with Asian Barrels being less hairy, I supposed. LOL! I'm not so sure. Time plays tricks on our minds sometimes. I must dig into my old photos and see whether he was ever that fluffy!

At this kiddy age... the age of wide eyed wonderment, where everything is still an amazing discovery... that's where my gal still is at but I feel it slipping away bit by bit.

WYSIWYG - that's how she reacts to her surroundings. If she is happy, you know it's for real. If she is afraid, you now there is no pretense in it. She displays the enthusiasm and pleasure for the simple things in life in a way that I'd find hard to emulate. And because of that I know Other Half relishes all those little games that they still play together.... those lil 'Boos' from behind the stairs, etc... contagious laughter, happiness... sheer joy.

Lil tasks they do for you gladly. No whines, no complaints. Everything is simple for them at that kiddy age.

Then they grow up. And life becomes a tangle of complications. The age of innocence fades into the background. A new age emerges... Books I read say the Terrible Twos are terrible years for the toddler. I think it's a misnomer. It should be reserved for the teenage years. I think both parents and teens (on hindsight) would probably be able to identify with the terribleness of this stage.

They question and argue; compare, assert and demand. Where once, your company seem to be enough, they shutter themselves in their rooms. Mobiles, chats and FB become their lifelines.

And then, after all that 'madness' and time of bewilderment, a light bulb suddenly goes back on.... you get your kid back. Another phase, this time more of equals....... then it's time for them to spread their wings, find their own footing, seek their destiny. You let them go, but you hope they'll come back too. You let them make their decisions but you hope they'll always remember their connections with you.

So, this kiddy age... I'm thankful for this opportunity to share it with my gal. Cos in going thru it after a gap which also gave me time to be a little wiser, I realize too that our relationship with God is like that too.

That wonderful kiddy age.... I think it would be nice if many facets of these wonderful years are preserved as all of us journey on. At this kiddy age, Barrels 1 and Barrels 2 are as real as you and me.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Barrels 2

Barrels

This is Barrels and Barrels 2. We've had Barrels for more than 15 years, hence his shrunken look compared to Barrels 2, well worn out, he looks from all the handling. 15 years is lifetime for a real dog. Barrels has gone many places with us. Somehow, he has always been around. My parents got him for my boy when he was still a little kiddo. I can still remember that we got him from Jusco in Ipoh. Somehow, my boy took a liking to the small but cute little stuffed dog. And over the years, Barrels always held a special and dear place in our home.

Our girl somehow also has great affection for Barrels. She has a small hill of soft toys but somehow Barrels would be one of her permanent fixtures on her bed. Bedtime seems incomplete without the company of Barrels. And that's how it has been for both my kids. Sometimes I would listen to both my kids argue about Barrels. The older one would dog-nap him and bring his little sis near tears. My gal makes a tiny house out of box for him, which she puts on her bed. She says it's Barrels' house. He goes to sleep with her almost every night, just as he did with her brother for many years.

Over the years, Barrels weathered washing machines, trips, play... basically stuff that you'd expect a kid to put a soft, small, cuddly toy through. A couple of months back, my gal and boy refused to allow me to put Barrels in the washing machine. Somehow Big Bro managed to convince his lil sis that the ordeal would separate his head from it's body. And a while after that, my gal showed me Barrels thinning chin. They were worried about Barrels' wellbeing.

And so began our quest to track down another Barrels. Much to our disappointment, we discovered that Barrels was no longer in production. We kept an eye out for his like whenever we went shopping. No luck. Then we turned to EBay. A couple years ago, Other Half googled for Barrels and found 5 on sale. But they were all in the US. The sellers were not willing to ship to addresses out of the US. In our last Google attempt, we found out that there was only one Barrels left. We were at odds end trying to figure out a way to get it. And that's when I remembered my old friend; one of my few friends (I think) who will be game enough to humor us in our quest to get Barrels 2. She managed to get Barrels 2 for us and even transported him bagged up in their luggage back to Malaysia!

Stuffed Toys

This is Barrels 1 and Barrels 2 with Aurora, another latest addition to our family of stuffed toys. From another continent, across the Pacific into our house, Barrels 2 and Aurora! And prior to that, we even got to view him on Skype before he made his long journey! Stuffed toys and growing up.... I heard that Barrels 2 got properly introduced to all of her boys' 'friends' when he arrived at their home! So adorable, at an age when everything is so innocent!

I think this is definitely a tale that will definitely bring on more than just a smile when we talk about it in the years to come.... the tale of Barrels 1 and Barrels 2. My gal says Barrels 1 and Barrels 2 have hit off famously and are now very good friends!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Old Friends

Old friends are like comfy blankets. You feel a kind of familiarity that often words can't quite describe. Good old friends come with its own area of comfy zone.

An old (and dear) friend came for a visit with her family. This is friendship spanning time (over 30 years!) and space. It's been years since her last visit to my place. I don't know when we will be able to visit them, as the Pacific Ocean sits between her place and mine. Perhaps a few more years down the road when the kids are all grown up or when we get really bitten by the traveling bug.....

Didn't take many pics cos I was too busy catching up.... now I wished I had taken more. They'll be something for the kids and I to look at as a fond memory in years to come.

Son and Eugene played chess. The little guy is good! They had one under their belts each!

I took the day off from school, allowed my girl to do the same. As time was short we squeezed in what we could without making it too hectic. Quick stops for local goodies, a stop at the Paddy Museum. For the boys, this trip was like a field trip!

Paddy Museum

This was at one of the picture exhibits upstairs and this time I actually took the trouble to read a few... Spot the mistakes!!! Aiyo! These people should just get someone proofread it. So malu-fying... LOL!

Paddy Museum Display

The kids had a blast playing at home too. Watching them play, I learn this. You know how we adults often plan our hols.... there are certain places we must visit, certain schedule we must follow, etc, etc. What do kids do during hols when they get together? Play together!.... For them a good holiday is when they get to play with other kids. Earliest lesson or perhaps instinct on how we are drawn to relationships, and how people add flavors to our lives. Sometimes, along the way, we forget that. We insulate ourselves without realizing it.

What makes a holiday fun and meaningful is not just the beaches you go or tourist spots you visit. It's the people you spend time with that makes it more fun. When you finally do have time to recall a trip made, it's the people related antics that bring a smile or warmth into your heart. I guess this is one of the things in life that makes life more meaningful; the sharing of lives with others. Our spouses, children, family, friends.... they are the ones that make this trip which I often refer to as life's journey, more meaningful.

Technology has enabled us to pick up where we left off and continue. It has even enabled us to see each other face to face ever so often. But nothing beats time spent together, no matter how short, to remind us this blessing that we have. And for this opportunity, for the effort that Old Friend and family made, it's a blessing!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Shock Wave (Dirk Pitt 13) ...by Clive Cussler

This is a thick book. Took me a while to get to the end cos I've had quite a few things to attend to lately. But I stayed riveted because it was basically just that... riveting. I finally finished it this evening. This is the first of Dirk Pitt series that I am reading.

The novel begins with a background to the main plot. Australia, the dumping ground for felons. The clipper which was transporting Jess Dorsett, a convicted highwayman and Bess Fletcher, punished for stealing out of desperation ran into a typhoon and sank. The captain managed to construct a raft and transfer everyone onto it. There was an attempt to mutiny by the convicts. Anyway, Dorsett and Fletcher were among those who survived the terrible ordeal at sea. They became castaways on Gladiator Island.

Fast forward a few generations. Their descendants have become very rich, made by the discovery of high quality diamonds by Bess Fletcher on the island. Arthur Dorsett is a cruel man who thinks nothing of life. His mining activities became lethal when his mining method became a acoustic plague that kills everything in its path, hence the title Shock Wave. He has 3 beautiful daughters. 2 are like him while Maeve, ran away to escape her father's clutches.

Some parts of the novel seem so improbable but the way the author weaves and mixes facts with probables made everything seem possible, hence my mind kept going back to the novel whenever I had time to spare.

All ends well but not totally. The hero survives a certain death but loses his love. I might be reading more of this series, though.

Number 17.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Stork Came ...

...big, huge and with a belly filled with goodies, it flew from China
DHL
and deposited this.
Box
We ordered our iPad2 online. Just didn't fancy lining up with all those diehard iPad young fans, who can stand and stand in line for it. So, we took the easy way out. Tapped on our keyboard, sent some digital instructions, paid via plastic money and finally it arrived! This in an age of the world getting small like a kampung.
iPad2
My new upgrade!!! Wohoooo!!! Thinner and faster, they say. I am looking forward to it being lighter on me. 33% less in thickness translates to a noticeable weight reduction. For people like me who have to climb up and downstairs every day, a lighter load to lug around makes a great deal of difference on my pair of knees.

Anyway, in Apple elegant and minimalistic simplicity, transferring everything from the iPad to iPad2 was very painless. iPad1 goes to Other Half... my turn to get the new toy. 8) He's been glued to his iPod lately, squinting his eyes on the videos and articles. Everything is going to be 4 times bigger after this when he gets the iPad. LOL!

The iPad is something I truly appreciate. The books that I have inside ensure that I am never in want of ideas of quick exercises whenever I go into a class. It beats the scramble to search for books in my drawers or on my table just before I enter class. Of course too there are many other uses for me too but this is one makes me really, really pleased.

Now for accessories... a connector to the projector would just about complete my collection of connectors for it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Favoritism...

How easy is it to show favoritism? Or perhaps I should be phrasing it the other way. How difficult is it not to show favoritism? All of us are guilty of this one time or the other.

Favoritism wears many hats. Some call it cronyism. In Malaysia if you are somebody's crony it means you will get big contracts, awards, etc, etc. To be a crony means you are favored over others. You get picked even though you may not be the best pick. You get to be rich faster because of your connections. If you are not a crony... then too bad. You wait for the crumbs to come your way or be really independent.

In Malaysia we have a policy of favoritism. It used to start of with with lofty ideals, that the poor get help but then it got hijacked and became of policy of favoritism; NEP or the New Economic Policy. It is a policy that favors one race over the other. It is a policy that seems to imply rights by birth or colour of skin.

In South Africa, many years ago, favoritism was known by its another name, apartheid. They whites felt they were set apart from the savages. They felt that only they had the right to own lands, be in power.... the same mantra that they are favored. We used to condemn them too. We threw in our support with the world to crush it. We, with our own set of double standards! LOL! ... a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Inn America, they had the KKK, the white hooded brotherhood, the white supremacist, who felt that they were the favored ones. And other inflicted so much cruelty and injustice because they feel they are supreme.

Favoritism, call it whatever name, the crooked sway it represents. It corrupts us. For our kith and kin, we sell everyone short. Wrong become right, gray becomes white. Sometimes, gray remains just that, gray! ... with no effort to make it right.

In recent days, as the list of scholarship recipients (post SPM) is released, we question whether there is 'crookedness' in its award too. Since there has been much noise made about its recipients lately, now more have been awarded but we read about many top scorers being sent to places least expected, given courses unexpected.... such is the case in Malaysia now. We preach piety, we proclaim transparency but when it comes to actions, sometimes it makes you wonder whether or not hypocrisy is the best word used to describe the circus-like acts here.

In the Indian subcontinent, some are favored more over others by birth. The caste system favors by birth. Woe to the one born in the lowest caste for you are cursed to a life of being ostracized. You are deemed unclean even though you are also created of the same human flesh and blood. Favoritism that condemns one to a life of hopelessness.

The end of NEP but not the end of favoritism. A new term coined... a grand term. Ketuanan Melayu. A master just by birth even though you might be a hopeless bum.

Martin Luther King Jr once said he had a dream.... he said that he dreamed that one day, all man would be born equal...."I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Read his full speech here. It's inspiring.

But time and again, our penchant has been for favoritism. It's easy to see why. When we favor, we are making sure that our family stands to gain. None of us is insulated from it. We favor because instinctively we want to share our bounty with our kith and kin. We favor because it makes us feel good. It makes us feel needed and relevant. And it makes us feel powerful. Giving is sometimes associated with power.... that people depend on us.

But I think we should be mindful. In church last Sunday, as I was flipping through my Bible, I am reminded of these verses in James 2:9; But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.....

Sometimes we show favouritism but we use guises to cover it up...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Step On A Crack ... by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge

Finished this in a day, took about 3 hours... had the whole day free today, it being Teacher's Day. 3 hours of uninterrupted reading; bliss!!! 8)


Step on a crack, break your mother's back
Step on a crack, you'll soon be eaten...

Old nursery rhymes are meaner than you think and very violent too... but that is another rambling for another day. And that's how the novel begins.

Anyway, this is Book 16 for the year. My reading is really slow this year. Distracted; but mostly welcomed ones. 8)

It's a book that tugs at the heart strings not because of the main story plot but more because the hero of novel and his wife have such big hearts. They have 10 kids of various nationalities. But his wife dies of cancer....

Main plot centres around greed. Greed for millions sees the most preposterous plot being hatched and executed. Ruthless, efficient, arrogant and cool; the villains act without morals. It started of with the killing of the First Lady, just so that they can kidnap all the bigwig attendees. They are taken hostage during her funeral. Being high profile people, the kidnappers demand more than 70 million dollars in total for their freedom.

Turns out the bad guys are not foreign bred terrorists. Bad people come from within and without. I was captivated by the hostage situation and Bennet's life crisis unfolding simultaneously. Guess that's where the thrill lies for me. The human element is provided by Maeve's (his wife) courageous fight and losing against cancer and how the kids and family rallied together.

Enjoyable read.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Chinese Curry House

I noticed this house when it was first renovated some years ago. Since then, I had forgotten about it until my friend told me that they serve nice curry... Located opposite Allianz Insurance in Jalan Lumpur, which is off Jln Tambang Badak (in the vicinity of Sentosa Hotel), the place looks quite classy. Yesterday was Teacher's Day and Bee Lee had dropped by to see us at school and we decided to give this place a try. I couldn't find the name of the restaurant but when we walked in, the lunch crowd was still there. And it was already close to 2 p.m. by then. Anyway I shall just refer to this place as the Chinese curry house ala nasi kandar.
Curry House
The interior has a woody feel. Even the ceiling looks woody... even though it's made of concrete. I think they've stained it woody style. Nice workmanship. When we entered, I noticed that everyone seemed to be eating almost the same food. You have to pick the dishes you want; very much like the nasi kandar style of serving. You choose and then they send it to your table. They serve quite many types of curries, from the the many trays that I noticed was there.
Curry House 1
This is what we ordered. Actually we didn't have much choice as many dishes were already emptied out. We took the cuttle fish curry, mutton curry, crispy salted fish, fried egg and fish head curry.
Curries
The fish head curry is the only dish that is served piping hot. And the curry is quite flavourful, sourish and light; quite different from the other fish head curry that I've tried. It's quite appetizing.
Fish Head Curry
The restaurant is airy and pleasant. I like the ambience. The plants made the surrounding quite comfortable. The decor is actually quite classy by Alor Setar standard but unfortunately, their tables smell. Wooden tables need more care if used as a makan table. They could use serai (lemon grass) spray to neutralize the 'rag cloth' smell actually. The place has a great potential to become a hit actually.

The outing was nice. We adjourned to the ais-kacang makan place in Tmn Lum Sum for some ice and to continue our conversation after this curry place with no name. I might go back there again another day; at an earlier time so that I can get to sample more of their dishes.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Wait

Everyone of us waits. We spend our whole life waiting. We wait excitedly for happy occasions. We dread the sad and inevitable occasions. We wait and wait.... it's the state of waiting that makes the difference; happy, excited, worried, dread. But no matter how we feel, we still have to wait for the end to the waiting.

We cannot wait to for the time to come when we can leave home. We wait for our results. We wait for our friends. We wait for special days. We wait for our wedding day. We wait for for our first baby. We wait for more. We wait for their first day at school. We wait for them to graduate. We wait for them to get married. We wait for our first grandkid. We wait and wait.

We wait for our first interview. We wait for our first job. We wait for our first promotion. We wait to retire. Every waiting brings with it its own set of high and low.

We wait for our headaches to go away. We wait for the holidays to come. Then we wait for it to end.

And we, women wait for our period every month. We wait for it to come. We wait for it not to come. We wait for the signs that a baby is on the way. We wait for the cramps. We wait for the discomfort. We wait for it to be over. Then we wait for the cycle to repeat itself. Then we wait for the cycle to cease. We wait for another phase of our lives. We wait and wait....

We even wait for our time to come, when we have to leave this place.... our whole life is about waiting... and while waiting, we are supposed to fill up those moments. How we fill it, whether the anxiety rules over us, whether we learn to make the best of it, the joy and anticipation that comes with the waiting.... Those feelings are the colours of our lives.

So we live and wait, wait and live.... kinda in a rambling mood today.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Death and Life of the Great American School System ...by Diane Ravitch

This took a real while to complete because it's non-fiction. But I wouldn't call it a dry book because i found it to be rather educational. What got be interested was a review of it I read somewhere; one of those educational articles that I read from one of my news aggregator.

The American education system used to be good and admired by many. Many of the world.s top universities can be found in America. But like everything else around, we always feel that reform is needed after some time; even for tried and tested ones.

The author was one of those who embraced the reforms enthusiastically but somehow changed her mind. I like her candidness, and willingness to admit that perhaps the reforms they instituted may not have been the. As the business success got into everyone's heads, we begin to feel that the business model can be applied to education. Statistics and data become the yardstick of success.

The problem with data is, once we begin to use it as a yardstick, it makes us lose sight of what education should be. We forget that there is more to education than just making sure that students can answer the questions and score. We forget that attitude shaping is also important. We forget that attitude plays a more important role in getting us ready for a useful life; to have good character and able to make sound decisions that benefit self and community. We forget to prepare them to face life's trials and tribulations with humor and courage. We forget to stress on the importance of compassion.

These days, even in Malaysia, we moan the lack of so much in our graduates, yet also fail to see that our system of squeezing as many A(s) by filling up our children's time with tuitions, extra classes and every filled minute of worthwhile work. We are getting students with better scores, better overall passing percentages in public and school exams. Yet many of us feel that something is still amiss.

This book invites us to ponder about such things after bringing us through the reforms that America's education system has been put through; by the politicians, philanthropists, business lobby groups and individuals. Teaching or rather education is often more than just imparting knowledge. It's the inculcating of good habits, the teaching of writing skills which very often make us think, of literature which seems to provide us with that little bit of reminder or even encouragement in times of turmoil and joys; the abilities to express them as a form of release.

An academic research but a worthwhile read. Recommended for those who want to understand our own system cos there are many similarities one can draw from here. The author is a historian and gives a good historical perspective. In that perspective and outline, we should be able to learn from the mistakes made too.

Book 15.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Blogger.com Down!!! ... and Water Tales

Blogger has been erratic these last few days. And I guess they must have use a backup to restore everything cos I lost one of my posts which I put up on the 13th... May 13th. Hmmmm! Many years ago, right just after I was born, Malaysia was plunged into her worst racial unrest. And lately, many people say it may have been orchestrated. Anyway, to get back to the reason for this post...
Blogger
Anyway, I 'lost' a published and scheduled post each but Blogger says it's temporary...

And surprisingly, I didn't get all worked up over it. Must be a sign of mellowing down with age... LOL! Anyway, at least Blogger keeps us updated with what they're trying to do to restore everything, which is more than I can say for many services here.

To sidetrack a bit again. A couple of days ago, I was driving out one night when I noticed water gurgling on the road.... a water pipe had burst and it was creating a small brook on the road. Being conscious that water is a precious commodity, I quickly called up SADA (the water company) to report it. I was asked whether it was outside my house to which I said no... but I gave the usual necessary details when making a report.

Then the operator asked me the specific location.... I said I couldn't but I could give him the directions to the location (it's supposed to be a hard to miss area). He asked me for my contact number which I did. He said they'd call me if they need more directions. I expected the repairs to be completed by the next day....

But guess what? They must have ignored my report cos I saw repairs being done only 2 whole days later. There was a burst pipe.... a report was made. I even gave my number just in case they cannot find it. But I guess they found it too much of a hassle... cos in the end someone else must have made another report after they cannot tahan seeing so much water on the road, a day or so later.
SADA
This is a screen captured from SADA's website. They can put up all sorts of nice sounding phrases about the need to conserve water and report leakages on their website but when it comes down to their job performance, the civil-service mentality is still there. Also, take a look at the spelling errors for both languages.... 'pysical' and 'kasajahteraan'; and that's just spelling. If you look at the languages used, both are just as bad as each other. Can't they just find someone to proofread the stuff (and refine the layout) they put up so that it doesn't become a laughing stock?

Writing about SADA reminds me of my long standing water pressure problem... these days my garden hose sputters and chokes (with greater intensity if it's between 6 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. cos that's when I can hear my neighbour's pump humming away); air and water interspersing each other. The funny thing is the pressure flow and ebb with the frequency that my neighbour's pump comes on! I am sure if I call in the 'water people' again, they are going to tell me to fix up a pump to compete with my neighbours. It's supposed to be against the law to fix a pump before a reservoir but who is going to care. So all those talk about needing to look out for the welfare of the poor??? Mostly it's just talk to score the right points. Cos if everyone in my housing area fixes up a pump, I wonder what will happen to the water pressure in the kampung just a stone's throw away from my area.

I called in a plumber to clean my water tank the other day and when he saw my water pressure... water was trickling into my upstairs tank... he told me I should fix up a pump. I said fixing up a pump is not a problem. I'm still trying to hold on for as long as possible, keep to the rule of the law cos I still think it's not fair on others. But I don't know how long I can hold out some more. The water pressure might become so low one day that water might only trickle into my upstairs tank at night... and when that day comes, I might have to break the law too.... all because some people want water to gush out from the garden hose... and one friend says it's in SADA's best interest that people fix up pumps... they use more water, SADA earns more.

Water conservation, anyone???

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Under Siege

We seem to be a society under siege. We construct walls do defend imaginary threats to our bangsa and agama. We whine, complain, threatened.....

Yesterday started with a downpour, a welcomed one cos it has been extremely hot these couple of weeks. As usual when it rains in the morning, the absentee rate at school goes up. And there is a big increase in the number of latecomers as well. Truth be told many of us teachers actually feel happy when the problem students don't come to school because of the rain. There is more peace.

I had a class during the first period. And since it had been raining, there were stragglers. Once upon a time, my teachers used to make sure that we greeted them properly before we entered the class. These days, such manners are lacking where I am. Anyway, this morning I had a couple of late comers. And this is how it went...

Boy sauntered in. I stopped him and asked him what he should have done. He stared at me blankly. I rephrased. He said nothing. Then I asked him what he would do if he visits a friend at the friend's house. He replied he would knock on the door. I asked him what he should follow it up with.... he said nothing. Then he said rather righteously and accusingly that he was late because of the rain. This time, I retorted that I didn't ask for the reason why he was late. I said it seemed obvious that he was late like many that day due to the rain. And i had no issue with that. I told him one need not be a genius to see there will be some students who would be caught by the rain. I wanted him to tell me what he should do whenever he visits his friend after he knocks on the door and is acknowledged. Finally a grudging answer, "bagi salam". I told him that I require common courtesies in class. In the process I thought I felt his resolve (don't know for whatever reason) melt away. Lesson went on as usual after two more almost similar encounters....

I notice that defensive responses is the norm these days. Students behave like they are under siege whenever we try to hold them accountable to their behaviour. Thry seem to feel that we're out to find fault with them. They feel that each time a teacher reprimands them, they're being wronged, or that people are out to make life difficult for them because they relish seeing them made squirmy. While part of the fault lies with the students, maybe due to upbringing, teenage rebelliousness and other reasons, I guess in a way we are responsible too for conditioning them to feel like that. Way too many teachers ramble and rattle, not forgetting nag and yell at students for the slightest bit of mistakes. We create big hoo and hah over little things. I sometimes see teachers trying to exercise too much control over the students' lives. And I think that only serves to antagonize many of them.

Life has generally improved a great deal for this generation but manners have not. Once I used to teach in a rural school where students might have had rather colourful exposures due to the proximity to the border towns. But those students were generally well mannered and polite with teachers.. These days, I find many students obnoxious bordering uncouth. Perhaps it's our fault too for not drawing clear lines with them. Hazy lines cause behavior to become hazy too sometimes.

Under siege... That's how I view my students yesterday. They behaved as though they we under persecution....

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

1Malaysia Free Netbooks

Slightly over 300 students in my school are getting free netbooks; and that is almost have the school population. I read over a year ago that the PM proposed to give away 1 million netbooks worth about RM1 billion under this 1Malaysia free computer programs. The requirement is that the family income does not exceed RM3000. Last year newspapers reported abuses of this program in Sarawak where teachers purportedly allocated the computers to their own children. And then there are those who sold their their free netbook for profit.

I read somewhere too that the recipients of these netbooks also get to subscribe TMNet Broadband at discounted rate. I wonder the benefits of this program. I am sure there are many other projects which can be carried out at school with this sort of allocation. Need to do research to prepare their folios?? I guess that can be done at school. With so much money there are so many facilities that can be provided.

As for the 300 over of my students who will be getting this windfall? I don't see much tangible benefits except that this is a freebie. First and foremost most of them can't understand English well enough to want to read any academic stuff or get involved in any online intellectual discourse. What I do know is many will probably spend more time after they get their netbooks (and broadband subscription)playing online games and perhaps even more time chatting. Talk to any teenager and see what their main preoccupation with the computer is and you'll see what I mean. One rarely sees kids poring over articles at the computer. What one is more apt to see is a kid glued to the screen displaying any of the popular online games.

And parents! I think many of them will now have kids who tell them to shove off since the netbook is given to them. We might be seeing a new wave of 1Malaysia netbook related problems from this. Probably the one good thing out of this might be the cyber cafes now have serious competition. LOL! Kids don't need to hang out there. They can play in the safety of their homes. Parents will have a great babysitter in the netbooks.

Netbooks to encourage self-learning? Even with guidance also, many of them are already not interested. So how can a netbook help? It's not like the MOE has digitalized the textbooks. And even if they have done it, what about the others who didn't get their netbooks? What about those whose parents earn just slightly above RM3000? They too can claim that they cannot afford to buy netbooks for their children. The price of sugar has just gone up 20 sen. Chicken is also getting more expensive. In the coming months, we are going to see prices of more things going up. Battery prices are up. Prices of butter has gone up too, I heard.

I think we are carrying this 1Malaysia thing is wasteful. What comes easy is seldom appreciated. What is given freely often times makes us lose our competitiveness too.

An official was reported to be saying that recipients cannot sell their free netbook as there are records. This is Bolehland, where follow-ups run out of steam very quickly or leaks; just like the Puduraya new bus terminal. Built to be the state of art bus terminal, the double decker busses can't really go in. The other joke is the roof leaks! .... just like many leaking (or falling) roofs of new buildings built in the last decade.

1Malaysia netbooks!!!! If I didn't know better, I'd think that this might be one way to unload all the old stock now that the iPad is slowly eating into their marketability.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Where Are We Heading?

One in four Chinese kids drop out from school. In racial Malaysia we like to break things down into familiar bite sizes, and race is one of them. We want to be a first world nation by 2020 but we're lagging behind the Asian powerhouses like tiny Singapore and (tiny) Taiwan and Korea; 3 countries which obtained their independence around the same time as us. In fact, when we gained our independence, we were in a far better position than these 3 countries. Today, our students trail their counterparts in these countries where a Maths and Science are concerned.

My boy tells me that their teacher gave them Maths past year questions from the 80s and they found it exceedingly tough. I give my girl the equivalent of the exercises done by Singaporean kids her age, and she finds it tough too. I use some of their passages with my Form 5 students and they cannot handle it. And those passages I gleaned from their Primary 6 workbooks!

But my girl lucky in the sense that I put in effort to keep her abreast. Most kids her age are already lagging, just going by our national curriculum. Sometime early this year, 400 000 English textbooks for Year 1 had to be recalled because they contained too many errors. They had to do a reprint of it. Before a textbook hits the desks of students, it has to go through a few vetting steps. Whatever happened? Lack of competence among those in the vetting panel?

So what has gone wrong? Racial politics, I guess, is the root to this problem. For too long we've been stoking this 'siege-mentality' among different races. And this siege mentality takes on different forms depending on race. So, we get disunity, suspicion, laziness, complacency, etc, etc - those sort of stuff that causes us to shoot ourselves in our own feet.

Chinese students who attend vernacular schools have poor command of English and Bahasa Malaysia. Despite being Chinese, I also believe that having vernacular schools does not help with national integration. I thought the former Mission Schools (like Convent, ACS) were ideal for national integration but somewhere along the line, everything started to get racial and the quality of instruction dropped. Values began to be eroded. As a result, even parents like us who grew up in the those mission schools flocked to sent our kids to the Chinese schools where we feel that at least, they are taught to be hardworking and diligent.... but Chinese schools don't seem to encourage that sort of inquisitiveness that many of us hope for. It's work and more work for them and most of the time it boils down to how much each of them can retain and regurgitate!

But that does't mean that national schools are doing any better. Nationals or kebangsaan school kids are only mono-lingual too; in BM. Their drop out rates is almost like the Chinese kids. Despite education being free up till the age of 17, kids still drop out.

I teach in a school at the fringe of the city. It's been years I think since I last received any student competent in English. Majority of my students come from national schools. I am usually left with the arduous task of making them understand English. My colleague who teaches Maths is having an equally horrendous time trying to get these kids Math competent too. Simple times table, basic fractions... Questions have been dumbed down so much that it defies logic how students cannot seem to solve the simple equations.

Something seems to be amiss here. Kids who come to us have gone through 6 years of primary schooling. Yet on my first day with my Form 1 kids, they listened to me with blank looks.I've had to go back to the basics. I do really basic stuff with them. I make them copy passages so that they learn to process vocabulary, grammar and structure. I go after them incessantly for their attitude. Many of these kids, especially the boys are not interested to learn. The lack of discipline and the right attitude show. In short I find myself doing the stuff that primary school teachers do with them because anything more would be beyond them.

The quality of English teachers is also on the slide. It is not uncommon to find English teachers themselves unsure of their grammar or groping for the right words. Neither is it uncommon to find English teachers uncomfortable talking in English. You may also find English teachers with postgrad qualifications not able to string correct sentences. And it is also normal to find that English teachers sometimes struggle in attempting to answer the students' questions too. And English teachers today don't read much as well! How then can they improve? I've seen some teachers who have taught English more than 10 years still finding difficulty trying to make sense of the tenses, singular-plural; basic stuff. As a result they make glaring errors when they speak.

If we are to study the education systems in the 3 countries above, we'll find that they pay close attention to the quality of their teaching staff. It affects the quality of instruction. Our system here does not seem to award scholarships to the best and brightest to pursue a career in education. Our best and brightest always seem to end up in medicine, law and those careers with glamourous sounding names. Ask a good student whether he wants to be a teacher and you'll get this horrified look on their faces! So we get a mismatch of talent. We are now getting the mediocre to train the future generations of our country. And we expect to be of world class using mediocre instruction.

Leadership is also another area. We lack leaders who can lead by examples. School heads on the whole seem more interested in the title and of course higher pay that comes with the title. Many bosses today are more interested to be tuan than of service and maybe that's part of the problem. I was talking to a colleague today and she said that bosses shouldn't busy themselves with the nitty gritty stuff. I disagree because the nitty gritty, the mundane are the things that we need to tackle in order to move forward.

And so after beating round the bush, we come back to its root. Racial politics... the creation of this siege mentality that pits one race with another. And its offsprings, Suspicion, Jealousy, Greed, Laziness, Incompetence, Pride, Injustice are sucking our nation dry.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day...

Mother's Day was yesterday... this year I sent a bouquet of flowers to my mom... and it made her day. I can tell cos she called me immediately, which is so unlike her. 8) Mom loves flowers!

Mom is not a very educated person, denied that opportunity by the era that she was in, when education was thought to be wasted on girls. But she's smart cos I have observed over the years, the way she does her things and think things through..... and she was a good mother above all. It's mainly because of her that my siblings and I are where we are today.

Mothers are the glue of a family... it's true that in her days, most fathers brought back the dough... but it's the mundane tasks that mothers do that give the sort of stability in our lives. You can count on going home and things would be ready for you. It was unimaginable that fathers would run a home doing those things moms did...the routinely mundane. Yet I think the mundane sums up what makes a house a home.... clean floor, kitchen table with real food, someone to holler to "I'm home" when we get home from school or anywhere, clean clothes - nicely folded and smelling comfortably familiar, always having someone to ask where things are..... mothers seem to be always there. It's a comforting presence and company.

No matter how liberated my world is today, I think most men would find those household tasks mundane. A young man I know once told me that he cannot understand why his mom wants the floor to be mopped everyday. I really don't know too... except that it's to keep the house clean for everyone, clean enough just in case the kids want to roll on the floor. My son often argues with me over such mundane tasks... Yup, sometimes the answer may not seem logical but somewhere along the way, not too long ago, right about the time when the first kid came along... many mundane tasks began to become routine cos that routine seems to be required of what is called home. Mom did that for us, for so long and so many years. I know I cannot expect Dad to be doing that...

Mothers... they give warmth to a home. Today, they're expected to wear many hats. I wonder how the menfolk would react in the same situation.... juggling the home and career; the incessant going after the kids - physically and verbally.... the never ending objects which we seem to keep finding on the floors, etc, etc.

As for me, I owe lots to my mom, I know. As I grow older, I carry with me, many age old wisdom and perhaps too the illogical practices. But somehow they feel so right and seem to be fitting into my life too. And I wonder too whether I'd be able to be that comforting presence in her twilight years too.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Typical Day...

I don't really know what qualifies as a typical day these days cos it can change... but for now this is how a typical work day for me is like.

I've to be up by 6 a.m. And it's straight to the kitchen from the bed. My kitchen will be abuzz with activity once the light comes on. Depending on the menu of the day, there'll usually be either some blending, steaming, frying or boiling. I've 40 minutes to finish preparing breakfast, then pack them for my kids. Cups of drinks (they're usually Milo with milk, or just plain milk or freshly blended juice) will be there for everyone to gulp down before they leave home.

Then the washing and clearing up... so that I'd not get overly 'mang-chan' when I get home from work later. Coming home to a messed up can be a rather stressful event. Once that's done, a quick shower (real quickie) and then change into my work clothes. No time for all those make up thingy. Then I'd lug my bags into my car.... and if I can steal some more time, water my plants before I leave the house. My keladi plant is thriving and needs to drink a lot.. 8) And while I am at it, might as well do the rest of the plants too. But I am glad for the water timer that Other Half has fixed up. It at least keeps the plants watered on those really harried days.

Then it's off to work. Work used to be therapeutic... I get out of the house, meet friends but lately there are lots of things that defy sensibilities. Sometimes I wonder whether I should be a stay-at-home mom, maybe there won't be all these mad rushes. But I enjoy my financial independence too....

Once I get back from work, it's back to the grind of housework. Dinners (thank God for the catered food on certain days), clothes to hang (and fold sometimes), plants to water, cleaning up.... the same mundane tasks cos I can never win this battle against the dust (and cobwebs).

Nights.... nights are mostly occupied. Lessons, sit downs with my gal, badminton (yay! I still have my own night out) and sometimes dinner with friends. Kids cannot be left alone to do their own work while they are still marginal people. Even those coming out from the marginal world still requires lots of reminders...

Weekends (and holidays) mean I'll have more time to potter around and do my stuff. And that's when I do my grocery shopping. Free time is a luxury. I do have free time but most of the time, I don't feel like going out after work...

But I am thankful for my day help who comes in and do the general cleaning, and also all those household gadgets that make my life more manageable... robot vacuum cleaner, washing machine (I don't know what I'd do without it), water boiler with timer, pressure pump, etc, etc. They make my work less strenuous... I've been watching my friends and neighbours with maids... notice that many of them hand wash their clothes and I wonder why they don't use the washing machine.

When I first got married, life was harried but not as harried as today. Maybe in a decade or so, a typical day might one that involves us just cruising along slowly....

A time for everything... and this happens to be a busier juncture.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Books on iPad...

There are so many apps for reading on the iPad and iPod. My 2 favourites are Stanza and iBooks.
Stanza
Stanza because I can transfer books on the fly from my computers. It's a 'Look Ma! No Hands!' kind of transfer. All you need to is to grab the book via wi-fi. Downloading it into the iPad (or iPod) is effortless. But you need to install the desktop version into your computer. And while you are at it, you might want to also take a look at Calibre for ebook conversions.... yup, ebooks come in many formats and sometimes they need to be converted. 8)
Stanza Library
This is how the booklist looks like. I use Stanza mostly on my iPod. I think I've more than 100 books in it at last count. And to make easy for me to locate the books I have not read, I categorize my books into 2 collections - 'Read' and 'Not Read'.
iBooks
iBooks is another apps that I use a lot, mainly on my iPad as many of my reference books are in pdf format. Reading pdf(s) on the iPod takes lots of effort as you need to scale and move the page around a lot. With the iPad, reading is comfortable enough.
Postcards 1
My most recent preoccupation... 'chopping up' my books and scanning them so that I can put them into my iPad for easy reference. This is one of the books which I bought last month. It is now in my iPad. These days my iPad comes in very handy when I need quick exercises in class.... grammar, comprehensions (short and long), ideas, etc, etc...
Book
This is another book which I recently chopped up. As you can see, it's a comfortable enough size for the eyes. At the bottom of the screen you have all the pages of the books. Touch on any and it'll bring you to the respective page. At home, I can just print direct from my iPad straight to my HP Laserjet 1536 dnf. With the right connection kits, it can even be projected; and that is one of the things that I plan to get when I get my iPad 2.
iBook Shelf
iBook library is really quaint cos one has the option of choosing the view of shelves with books on it; just like a real library. This page is my English Reference pdf collection. I've lost count of the number of books cos I keep adding on to them.

But for both iBooks and Stanza, books can also be added via email. You can email yourself books and open them in the apps. Easy and hassle free. There are many other readers out there, some of them really good from what I have read but for now, these 2 will suffice.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

And At the End of the Tunnel...

... indeed it wasn't light that awaited. It was the light from the oncoming train, not chugging, mind you, but zooming in at breakneck speed; literally knocking the breath out of me.

This qualifies as an "out of the blue" experience. Today I went to get my revamped timetable. Not suspecting anything amiss, I happily went back to the Staff Room. There, I nearly flipped when I saw my new timetable. They had taken out 3 of my Form 1 classes and replaced it with 3 Form 4 classes.... 4 months into the school year! So out goes my Kontrak Latihan, the silly Headcount, Rancangan Pengajaran Tahunan, name lists, and what other things which I may have missed out. Just like that! And on top of it, I am told to take it as a challenge. LOL!

So I did what I had to do. Saw the boss, and I am told that it's because I am more experienced. Now I don't buy such kind of excuse after being repeatedly reminded that all teachers are the same. There is a teacher available to fill the vacancy and now I am told that I am supposed to be 'better' suited to teach the students. Does that mean that I am more competent too? I am going to sound like a sour grape but I can't help it cos these days we are all supposed to be same! Never mind that this sameness goes out the window when they give out the APC every year. Or am I to understand that APC is not meant for teachers competent in their subject matter but those who excel in buttering up? Sameness!!!! LOL!!!!

Into the 5th month of the year. The school year is already midway! I know my students well enough to know which one is more likely not to do his work or corrections. I know which one is more likely to be disruptive or sleep in class. The students also know what I expect of them. There is a rapport now which is supposed to help in my teaching and their learning. And now they have to get used to another teacher and I have to get used to another set of students; all in the middle of the year! Disruption! Whose welfare are they actually watching out for? I feel it's definitely not mine or the students for that matter.

Musyawarah? These days the style of management is more of you-do-as-I-say. Many bosses these days pandai cakap but cannot buat their own cakap..... read as cannot walk their talk. And because they want it easy, things are more likely done with strokes of pen than actual real ground work. Ground work requires real effort. Abuses are common.... by the heads and the people assigned to do the heads' biddings. It's easier to just take the easiest path so that you can continue to eat your bowl of whatever in peace (in the office).... Ever wonder why many people grow fat in their jobs these days? They don't cover the grounds themselves.

Comments given by well meaning colleagues.... it shouldn't be a problem for you, take it as a challenge, never mind, etc, etc..... Yeah! The change is not a problem for me. I am competent enough to handle any level and basically I can also choose not to care, hence never mind. But the thing is, I did care. I cared that I have to start midway when it can be avoided. I think it's not good for the students, to have to adapt to another teacher. Everyone has their own style and they need time to adjust too. Instead of upsetting one group, we're now doing it to 2 sets of students. I mind that I won't know my new sets of students well enough to identify them by name, cos now I have to start all over again, at a time when I am supposed to be preoccupied by other more pressing needs that come at this time of the year. I mind that students don't do enough written work.... and I am bothered that my time has to be wasted redoing all the mundane stuff again. I mind that my bosses don't care two hoots that I have to feel flustered with the already silly paperwork. And it could have been avoided had they taken the trouble and sit down to discuss with us... collectively!

The way this is done? It tells me my bosses don't care about my input. That they twist and turn their words to their convenience, that they don't really care about the students either, whatever is done, it's more to facilitate their own programs. It also tells me there is no passion in our work. If you care and are passionate about something, you will say something when it is taken from you. I just learned that many don't feel anything.... they don't care. I've also learned that many people can say 'kesian' many times, but those are more mere than real. Kesians are actually excuses to be incompetent.

And what else? I'll survive this headlong crash. Bosses and tunnels? I just learned too that bosses are the trains and not the light.... LOL!!!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Light At The End of the Tunnel?

You'd think that you'd see the light at the end of the tunnel that you are in if you keep walking it.

Entering the 5th month of school and I find myself still 'chasing' the students for the same thing - bad writing, mindless copying, untidy work... the list though is slightly shorter is still made up of the same thing.

I am still amazed that kids today have bad, no, let me rephrase, extremely bad handwriting. Makes me wonder whether they learned how to write at all. Read somewhere that the keyboard is slowly nudging handwriting out, making it obsolete. Today I found myself teaching a girl how to write her 'e' so that it doesn't make her words even more difficult to read. And I thought handwriting is something they work at in primary school. For those teaching in schools where compliance and a sense of responsibility among students is present, such problems are not common. But in normal day schools like mine, often it's hard to go beyond the kids' attitude. They are just not bothered!

When I think back of myself as a student, I was really compliant.... compared to my own students. Though my teachers used to complain of my squiggly writing, my work was generally neat and complete. Today, majority of my students hand in half completed work. And if I don't punish those recalcitrant ones, I'd end up with a big number not doing any work at all. If at all I give homework, I can count on at least a third not completing it, if I don't check it there and then in class.

Checking for work done these days involve flipping through individual exercise books cos some have learned the art of handing in empty exercise books. They expect to get away by the sheer presence of their exercise books in the pile of books! What I do these days is to immediately correct their books... and for it to be possible, I've had to tailor my lesson for the day to ensure that I have adequate time to go through each student's work. The students have 'wizened' up to the constant 'punishment' that I mete out instantly and quite a few prefer to do their work now, though completing them is still an issue. Who says punishment doesn't work? All those psychologists who keep saying that we need to engage them verbally only should go into the classrooms and teach!

I've given up trying to give them any homework for now because I find instant and immediate action much more effective. And if they can complete their work in class it's far better than them taking it home and not doing anything about it. And completing it also means that they can't feign forgetfulness of the previous lesson. I've learned that it's quite impossible to engage a student who does not want to assume responsibility or take pride in his work. But you still can get compliance if you are really strict with him cos the aversion for punishment will make him do his work. So, no matter how hard I try to make sure that I engage them, discipline and its enforcement is still necessary if not, a must. Kids when given a choice would choose the path of least resistance. Life is way too good for them and they don't feel that sense of hunger that seemed to spur us, the earlier gen, to do well. So if discipline becomes the path of least resistance (because of the more 'pain') they'll prefer to do their work than face the 'pain'.

One comforting thought though is that the people on the list is getting less... but those who remain there are totally hardcore! There's an old saying... spare the rod, spoil the child.... I think it still holds very true.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Weddings...

There has been a flurry of wedding activities these past 12 months or so; with many of our church kids, now grown up, getting married. And so it was with great joy that we witnessed yet another one over the weekend, this one particularly even so.
And this is also the first time Other Half and I actually attended dinners from both the bride and groom. 8) Started off with dinner on Friday from the bride's side. Both Other Half and I felt like 'ancients' at a table of young adults... how time has flown. But we enjoyed ourselves. Dinner conversation was relaxed, fun and we had lots of laughs, basically with the kind of energy that one can expect when one is with the young people! Karyn gave a heartwarming speech to the bride... and of course the groom too.

This was followed by the church wedding and dinner from the groom's side the next day. Am happy for both MY and BP; MY especially since I've more or less watched her blossom into the person she is today; though she is her own person, I still see bits of her mom in her. Eow Sim would be very happy.

Weddings, I think are one of those few events in life which I feel have a way of profoundly affecting me; I think probably on many of us generally. The joining of 2 lives, the journey that they'll make, the commitment, friendship, patches of highs and lows, kids, pain, joy...; it generally sums up a good many parts of life's facets.

When you see the soon-to-be minted couple making their vows, it will always somehow remind you your own vows, or perhaps even remind you of those days, long ago, or even if not that long, that warm feeling that you feel yourself or seeing the glow in the faces of the bride and groom. Sharing a wedding is also a reminder of the greater possibilities, with someone there rooting for us.

In days of old, marriage was used as a tool to form alliance. The Bible refers to the Church as the bride and Christ's sacrifice on the Cross for the Church. I've begun to understand this allegory better. A good marriage is I think the closest thing on this side of the divide where it is possible to see an almost complete willingness to sacrifice oneself for one's spouse; an alliance to something better, hope of better things to come.

A weekend filled with reminders that life is about the people around us... no matter what shortcomings we each might have; life is more meaningful when shared.