Monday, July 30, 2012

23 Takehana

This is my second visit to 23Takehana. We were on our way home and we stopped by Autocity in Juru for dinner.
The place was filling up with cars as we drove in. But Takehana was still quite empty. We were promptly served.

Other half ordered this. The Takehana Bento. It had all these mixed of sashimi, chicken stroganoff, unagi dofu and sushi. The set came with chawan mushi and a piece of jelly for dessert too.

If you aren't too hungry the set would be good for two. There are enough helpings to go around. Other Half said the tuna sashimi was buttery and nice.

I had this, the Teppanyaki Bento. It had everything... Fish, squids, prawns and shimeji mushroom in fried mixed vegetables. It wasn't spectacularly nice though. The mixed veg was rather peppery. Again this would do for 2 people. The reason I chose this was because everything in it is cooked! 8)

Our girl had the Wakayama Ramen. The meat was really tender. The order was an overkill. She should've just picked from our Bentos cos we really had to stuff ourselves.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

London Olympics 2012

Went back home to see our parents during the weekend. I wasn't even aware that it was the Olympic weekend. The Olympics is one event which used to be a major highlight for me. But these days, there seem to be so many things that need my attention. But this time, it was Mom who got me started on it.

Mom who had never seemed to take interest in such things surprised me by telling me quite a bit about the Olympics. I was surprised when she said she intended to watch. I gave a non-commital answer as I had just spent 3.5 hours behind the wheels. But at 3.30 a.m., I dragged myself out from the bed. I turned on the TV, something which I have not done for eons.... Mom came out from the room and soon we were watching the Opening ceremony together. Off and and on, she would disappear to the kitchen to do the housework. Yup! Mom is never the one to sit still. For as long as I can remember, we could hear her working through the house in the mornings... And I think for as long as she is able, she'll continue to do that...


My favourite part of the Opening... lighting of the Olympic fire. Thought it was a nice touch, youths and unknowns. The future and the masses, ordinary folks like us. The Opening was a little hard to understand if you don't know your world history, compounded by our commentators who don't seem to be inspiring viewers with snippets of information which would have made things nicer and clearer. The UK has a long and complicated history, and it's also one that is woven into the rest of the world. We had to put up with the same bland delivery that has been the norm. Should have just used the syndicated commentators minus the voiceovers.
As in every trip home, we'd try to get our fix of familiar food... kampuan and wanton with foochow meatballs in loo-chek.
 
There were also other makan sessions. Took our parents and aunty for dinner at Happy Restaurant where I met our Transport Minister. We were a given a treat by him. In a small town that we grew up, most of us sort of know each other. The Minister's family is no stranger to ours. Yet as I watched him, I couldn't but help feel sorry for him because people are generally quite fed-up these days. I know I am.
Cendol... James' Cendol to be exact. James is not here these days.

This is his grandson. James is apparently in KL. He has set up business there, with a friend of ours from what I gathered. The cendol is doing well, as it should cos I think it's way better than the famous Kimberly Street cendol. Son was usually the one who would ask to go for cendol but this time, to our surprise, our gal requested for a bowl before pushing off.
 
Had a good time... As we grow older (and sometimes crankier) good moments sometimes become hard to come by because they get buried by the crankiness. But this was a good trip...cherish the moments.
 
I went home this weekend and watched the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics..... with Mom!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Hair...

This is a hair cutting tool... and I think it qualifies as a collector's item. Still in a pristine condition, I still use it to cut my gal's hair. Yup, my girl still prefers her mummy to cut her hair. And I think that's awesome! An honour. Lol! At an age where most kids will want to go to the hairdresser, she still prefers me to cut her hair.... Not that I have not tried taking her to one. I did recently but she insisted that I do a better job.... 8)

The hair cutting tool above belonged to Mom. She used to learn hair dressing... and used it to cut our hair when we were younger. She gave it to me because she said I'd put it to good use. You can open it up and slide in a blade and can start thinning the hair. I think it's at least 50 years old, cos she bought it when she was very young.

Hair cutting (or dressing). I've been doing it for both my kids. Son only started going to the barber in the last 2 years. His secondary school had strict hair length which had to be adhered to. We got one of those trimming tools and Other Half was the resident barber.

For my gal, save for the one time that I took her to my hairdresser and another time when sis-in-law trimmed her hair, every single haircut has been done by the mummy. My kids aren't too fussy about all these nitty gritty stuff. Today, I just realized that I have been doing this for over 20 years! When I stopped cutting for the elder one, there was the little one. And in realizing it too, it dawned on me... memories are made of such mundane things as haircuts.

And this little tool... it has become a family heirloom, silent as it may be, but has passed through 3 generations!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

More on Educational Failure

H is one of my many students. He is in Form 1. One look at him and you know that he has learning difficulties. He should not be in a normal school. He should be in a special needs school. At the beginning of the year, when he did come to school, he would sit at his desk quietly and do nothing. On some very good days, he would do my work.... but those are rare moments. His classmates tell me that he doesn't do any work for other subjects.

He can copy, I noticed. He scrawls but his writing is legible. Trying to get him to work is a battle of wills, one which I feel is a waste of time (though I'm still at it) because he totally wears you down. And there are others. He reads poorly and current arrangements won't improve things for him. Allowing him to do as he pleases is bad cos Other students see that he gets away without doing work and they follow suit. Another kid, F will do the same. F is not as weak as H but of late he's getting to be like H. And lately both have begun to retort. The hormones have started kicking in. 8( Often times, they will try to wear the teacher down by just refusing silently not to do their work. School has little meaning for them. And at the rate it's going, I don't think it's going to have any meaning for them any time soon. I have another group of Form 5 students like that too... Even the school counsellor who is supposed to be a Kaunselor Cemerlang refuses to have anything to do with them...

So what can we do. There are 30 kids in the class. Every single one of them has major problems with their 3Rs. One girl used to get almost every word wrong when she copied from the board. She has improved somewhat because I hound her for every word.... But she is still very slow. Teach them the word 'Hi' but when the next day comes it will go back to being 'he' again. 30 kids who can't count or read properly. I find myself playing the role of a remedial teacher increasingly. The next class before them isn't that far ahead either. Somehow, somewhere, we have failed.

It used not to be this bad when I started teaching 20 over years ago. And I do not know whether it's because they've been dumbed down by all the crutches.... and lack of required attention or even commitment from the system. Maybe it's the teachers. Then it could be the parents. But whichever excuses we want to pick, I think we're producing an awful lot of educational failures.

Why do they even come to school? Why do parents send their kids? When you send your kid to school, you send with the understanding that the school will polish them up and turn them loose, with the right attitude and skills. These kids deteriorate as the years go by. Many would enter Form 1 with that innocent look and leave in Form 5, probably having played truant, smoked, slept in class, failed most subjects or be just plain recalcitrant.

For those of us self absorbed people who think that they are not our problems... well, think again. These are the future snatch thieves, Mat Rempit and what have you not. When one leaves school without skills necessary in today's complex world, needs and desires will tip us over into the forbidden zones... and that is when educational failures become menace.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Educational Failure

I think our education system is a failure... I don't know. Maybe it's just at my school. The recent reshuffle of English classes for Form One has been a nightmare. After 6 months of working on one set of extremely difficult kids, and settling into a manageable routine, midway through the year, they decided that students needed to be divided into sets.... based on their scores in a Diagnostic Test.

And so, I find myself back where I was in the beginning of the year, with more students and worse attitude problems. It's amazing what 6 months can do to impressionable kids. They can be really incorrigible. And this is where schools fail and we produce educational failures.

Marginal people think marginally. Marginal thoughts are seldom sensible. And so when you allow marginality to thrive, you get a lot of worse than marginal behaviour. Students holler to each other in class. They stand up and walk at whims and they don't do their work. When other students walk past, they hoot like monkeys. How did we allow them to get to this state?

We are told to use reasoning... they don't work long. Without fear, they don't last. Experts always argue that there is no one approach for all, no shoe fits all. Well, reasoning is also not the shoe that fits all. Some kids will climb over your head if you try to reason with them. And that's what I am getting with this last set of the form. And now that my own class has been infused by untrained elements from the other classes, I find myself staring at a hopeless cause. Should I just throw in the towel and let them rot? After all, I see most teachers doing that. It's fasting month now... in a while many of them would probably be busy focussing on selling bras to cookies in the staff room.

Last year I had the same thing happening to me. One teacher retired and they dumped all her bad classes on me.... unsettling me from my classes which I had been teaching for 4 months. A good head would have assumed the responsibilities herself... but these days, heads are seen mostly taking the easy stuff for themselves.... Another reason why we are producing educational failures.

At one meeting, one suggestion even came up that we make questions for school tests easier so that the students' marks will look better. With everything recorded online, such scores contribute to the general score which is used to rank a school. Try imagine what school heads would do.... to get their schools noticed so that they get noticed. And for PBS (the reason why we have different sets for English now), we are supposed to have a file labelled the 'Showcase File'. Bah humbug! This is where we put the evidence that tests students for placement in bands. Show off.... At the same time, we are told that all students must at least clear Band 3. Reality check! Not all students can get onto that Band 3 bandwagon. So how? What the bosses aren't saying out loud and clear is we must place them in those bands.... Cos all these contribute to the ranking of the school, I guess. Good ranking, they look better. You see, sadly, many heads take their positions as the launching pad to the next one. What many care about is basically the window dressing more than the reality.... Then again, maybe my perception is skewed and our education system is producing great students...

Educational failures, where getting somewhere is not about the hard work that is put in. It's about window dressing, knowing the right people, being the right race and so on. Oh ya! The ISO thing too. And how not.... Cos most of us are products of a failed system too. A failed system that implies apartheid is okay... and one that uses religion to sanction it.

But if one thinks one is immune because one is in the group that has the upper hand, well think again. Educational failures does not just mean they are academic failures. These are the ones who leave schools with no skills, safe for being disruptive and callous. They are going to contribute to rising crime rates. They are the ones who will contribute to social problems. We cannot afford to churn out educational failures. It's time to take a look and do right.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Empty Nest

Most parents today go through empty nest syndromme. Our nest isn't quite empty yet but our boy has finally taken the step into the next phase of his life. Uni life has beckoned. And in a while, he'll be his own man, independent of us. We've shared the first part of his journey. This is the intermediate... where we'll guide him less... where he'll live away, on his own and make most of the decisions for himself.

Other Half commented soon after we sent him off that our house felt a little emptier. Am thankful for our Lil One... who isn't that little anymore, come to think of it. She was really sad her bro was leaving her. Cried buckets. For the past two years, they've been roommates.... One of the things my gal kept bugging her bro in her sms to him were questions about who his roommate is. I guess in her mind, she is his roomie and she misses her bro.

We told him do his STPM instead of sending him off to college like most of his friends. Having him around for the extra 2 years was good. Bro and sis had a chance to bond in a way that might have been quite improbable had he gone off earlier. And it was also a time of healing for many misconceived perceptions and thoughts. It gave us a chance to move on, on a very pleasant footing. He'll be missed at home.

In recent years, I've seen many turmoils in many families. Kids have everything these days but it strikes me as odd that many of them feel that they don't have everything. Parents are in a rush to send their children out to study, to graduate as soon as possible, to grab as much as possible.... Parents work hard to provide for their families. And I don't blame them. Private education is expensive. And public universities are so difficult to get in if you are not a Bumiputera. The recent STPM has again shown it so. It's heartbreaking to see and hear of so many who did well but were not given courses of their choice. Some, like my boy didn't even get an offer too.... and it's not that he had not done well enough. It's just that the system is so skewed and ingrained with racism. But we had already decided long ago not to send him to a public uni.....

Empty nest... Among my own friends, many took flight and sought greener pastures elsewhere (and they were among the best and brightest lot) because of our skewed policies. They left behind empty nests and many longing hearts. As a parent, I would want very much for my kids to be near me, especially as we move along in years. But as a parent too, I too would want them to realize their potential and dreams. It's unfortunate that the country of their birth does not ensure that...

Empty nest - families should stay together or at least nearby. Many kids grow up without the benefit of family interactions; with cousins, aunties, uncles, grandparents and so on. Such interactions would have benefitted all...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

MBMMBI

This is the acronym for Memartabatkan Bahasa Malaysia (or is it back to Melayu again... they keep changing the term) Memartabatkan Bahasa Inggeris. This is supposed to replace PPSMI, teaching of Maths and Science in English. Plus we now have PBS or school based assessment for the Primary and Form One students. Exams are going out of the window. No more PMR in Form 3 soon. The only exam for secondary school will be SPM.

So going by the changes that our education system has been undergoing, and can be seen undergoing, one might be forgiven in thinking that our education system is truly keeping up with the changes in the world. But most will agree that our standards have jatuh a lot. Some even label it chronic although the Minister of Education says otherwise.

We are trying to keep abreast. Facilities have gotten better. When PPSMI was started, billions were spent on curriculum content development and equipment. Free laptops, projectors, rewiring of classrooms, etc, etc. But much of the money spent never saw a day of use. Power regulators sat in classrooms gathering dust and casings for projectors became bird homes. But the underlying reason was PPSMI had no chance basically because many teachers were incompetent in English, due to the dumbing down of English over the years..... in the name of nationalism. Actually whole generations are now cacat in English.

Then PBS AND MBMBI... Glam sounding acronyms. I feel PBS actually is a good move cos it takes the pressure of exams away. Learning can be fun again.... that is if teachers are truly motivated and change with times. But that is so not happening. A relative was just telling me her son's teachers seems to be taking lots of leave. Kids come back and tell their parents all kinds of tales about their teachers, most of them dealing with issues like not teaching, boring, lazy, etc, etc.... I think not all teachers are like that but from the stories that I gather from parents, the latter group seems to be in the minority these days.

And why not... recently, in my school we had to reshuffle the students for English lessons. Students were divided into sets, according to their mastery of English. The thing is I realize that students are sometimes sacrificed due to incompetent management. It just amazes me how quick certain people are at coming up with excuses why these 'sacrifices' are needed. Sacrifices which are required because of their own lack of imagination and perhaps incompetence. I wonder if it's okay for their kids to be in victimised as such. Kids get eaten up by their environments. That's on one end of the spectrum. On the other end, when the same people find that legalities suit them, they play by it, even demand it. I label this hypocrisy or cakap tak serupa bikin. That's why we must play by the rules more than go by consensus, musyawarah, if you want the arabized version. Cos musyawarah becomes a liability when the group is made up of birds of the same feather. Take a hint from the ongoing 'water crisis' in Selangor.

And oh yes... One more thing. If you ever wonder why kids are so lazy to think these days... I think this is why. Rearranging students into different sets mean teachers are privy to each other's work. And guess what? Sometimes you might find students' books not marked. But when they are, their answers are mostly correct. If you bother to check further, you might discover that teachers discuss most of the questions with them. So if I'm a marginal entity, why think when the answers will be given eventually? Everyone wants it easy. And some students tell me their teacher does not require them to do their corrections too.... of course they could be lying to get out of a sticky situation. Go figure out what kinds of values our kids are getting from their role models at school.... Monkey see.... Monkey do. We're getting lots of em....

One more thing. Easy come, easy go. Critical thinking, reading and writing... they are not skills which will just drop onto your lap. They require much hard work. MBMMBI, there're lots of lessons there, not just for the students but for the parents too..

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Handphones In School

Long break from blogging. Been bogged down with so many things. And laziness has also crept in. Also, there were major events taking place.....

Putrajaya gives nod for handphones for schools. Good idea? Well, many articles I read seems to indicate so. Today's classroom has changed and is still changing. Learning is suposed to have undergone a total makeover. And I agree.... if you truly appreciate and understand its benefits... and can exercise self control.

Gadgets and mobiles in school. I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I think it's awesome for teaching and learning. On the other hand, the reality I'm familiar with tells me that it's just going to be an added distraction, a super one.

Instead of sleeping in class because they are so bored and disinterested or just plain couldn't care the least.....

hurling these small little red birds to hit just as ridiculous things on screen might just make their eyes come alive. As it is too, many don't pay attention... so I guess the mobiles might train their already adept fingers to message faster, teach them the art of multi-tasking and helping them stay awake with something that they re truly interested in. Well, the SMS language will certainly thrive. Not too bad since the world we know today is getting short on attention span. The old style of writing is almost a dying skill.

Gadgets... I think tablets are great for learning. Ebooks will definitely be more fun than the boring textbooks which undergo changes only after every decade. Apps might add more fun into learning; and will definitely enhance classroom activities. The problem is many teachers are still noobs at this technology. To un-noob them I think is an uphill task. Recently, I attended a course on NetSupport. And guess what! The teacher as well as the people from the PKG who were the trainers were absolutely boring. And they seemed clueless at times. Now, how can semi clueless and uninspiring trainers produce inspired teachers?

In our skewed system, the selection of teachers are also skewed. Instead of getting really good people, we take in the mediocre... Again... Mediocrity breeding excellence? Only in Bolehland. Teachers who do not put in effort to upgrade themselves are aplenty these days. That's why one finds so many pasar malam wannabe traders in staff rooms.... Raya is coming soon. Silk, batik cloths will be making their presence felt. Cookies and cakes too. So will tudungs, bras, underwears, shoes and corset too.... for those who must present a pseudo shapely look after all the stuffing.

Handphones.... Is it a good idea? I think we might not be quite ready for the slew of cons. The pros are plenty, I know. But I just wonder whether this is a good idea. In schools like mine, discipline is already a problem. Students have become so emboldened in recent months that some actually have begun smoking in classes right before classes begin. Handphones will just add on to the already deteriorating situations. The mindset is not there. It's not ready. And while I acknowledge the good that it mighf bring, as a parent I'd rather not have my kid bring a mobile to school. The pitfalls are too many... Disinterested kids are disinterested for many reasons... Not just because learning is boring. ....

Handphones in school.... bad idea unless we jam signals during classes. Or change the mindset.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Grand Delusion?

Delusions - a belief held with great conviction despite contrary evidence that that belief is not true. Many of us would have created our own delusions but usually sense will prevail and we snap out if it. But some of us live in a delusional state, for reasons known and unknown.

This thought on delusion came up after reading this. The reality is this.... Matriculation is for the elite; with race preceding results. Form 6 is for the masses, for those whose parents cannot afford private colleges. There are many with good results but because they come from such families and are not Bumiputeras, Form 6 is the only path.

The Minister is right in the sense that Matriculation is a better choice because it offers an easier path to the local universities, not because of it is of better quality. Over the years, I've heard of students with less than 6A(s) in SPM but scoring a CGPA of 4.0 in Matriculation. Meanwhile, it's not uncommon to hear of students with up to 9-10 A(s) getting less than 3.0 in their STPM. Students with 4-5 A(s) go into Matriculation and are almost assured of places in the local universities. The same students will have very much less opportunity via the STPM path. Some universities reserved more than 70% of their places for certain courses for Matriculation. Go figure, 70% for 20,000. 30% for 80,000 to fight it out. If this is not elitist, don't know what is.

Some universities offer their own Matriculation programmes known as Asasi Sains. And these are more or less assured of places too. In the end, the Form 6 students are left with the crumbs. It's okay to have multiple systems if the level of difficulty is the same. But the general perception is Matriculation is easy. Word has it that out of the estimated 25,000 matriculation students, 2000 scored 4.0. That's almost 8% of the total.

In last year's STPM, 12 students had straight A(s) in 5 subjects and 298 scorerd 4.0 (0.58%). Now that is out of 80,000 candidates! So, all the smart ones go into Matriculation, get better facilities (supposedly) and places assured (almost) at local universities. We inadvertently create classes within our society with taxpayers' money!

STPM is tough...well, at least the old format was. It's acknowledged as one of the tougher exams in the world. Matriculation on the other hand has problems being recognized even out of Malaysia. But what is more insidious is how Matriculation plays a role in making Malaysia more racial. It's only in recent years that its doors have been opened to non-bumis. If we are serious about creating a true 1Malaysia, it time to have one system or parallel systems with equal standards.

Delusions are pathological. It indicates that there is falsehood, incomplete information, illuision, dogma, incomplete or skewed perception. Delusions create more delusions and give birth to selfishness, myopia, lies, etc, etc. We have been living under many delusions......

We claim to have one world class education system but none of our universities are at the top.

We claim that our national car is comparable to other makes but it hasn't made any real impact anywhere. In fact, we Malaysians, have had to pay more for 'better' cars...

Then on the other end of the spectrum....
The people claim that crime rate has gone up... but the top Man in Blue says it's only a perception.
The man on the street claims that the cost of living has gone up, data shows that inflation is creeping along fine....

Delusions or cold hard facts.... It's so difficult to see them for what they truly are....


Friday, July 6, 2012

Bossypants ...by Tina Fey

This book took forever to finish cos time was a bit on the scarce side. So I read only on the treadmill... which is a once (and sometimes twice) a week affair. I almost wanted to put it down cos I couldn't quite get what it was about but began to enjoy it as I progressed.

Am not sure whether it's an autobiography. Tina Fey is a comedienne. I asked Other Half whether he had seen 30 Rock and he said yes. I thought we usually watch the same stuff but I guess this must be what used to be his daily half an hour dose of sitcoms in those days when we still had ASTRO. I would sometimes be knocked out by then cos sitcoms used to come on at around 11.00 p.m.

She writes about her childhood, how she got a scar on her chin (I think). She's straightforward in her comments, seems quite down to earth in the way she talks about growing old minus all those repair jobs. Comedians have a way of putting things across. Sarcastic yet quite often the things that we want to say but can't quite get it out. Reading about how she describes herself, one might think that she's not so pretty. I googled her... She's actually quite a beautiful lady. And might I add, some recollections were hysterically funny, among them growing up with her gay friends...

Bossypants... Women today are bossypants. It's a nice feeling. Having a career is fun. It gives gratifications which is decidedly different. She writes about how thirty-five turned faster into forty than MacDonald's food turning into cold nonfood. It's true. That' s supposed to be the most exciting time in one's careers. You're probably just becoming really good at what you do. Promotions are just starting or have just come your way. There are more responsibilities.... unless it's our civil service cos if you are not of a certain race, you'll be most likely be remaining stagnant.... Anyway, time moves fast when you are busy....

And I supposed to that's why women are putting off having children later... but she there was this snippet which I found profound.... sort of.
Work won't drive you to get a mammogram and take you out after for soup. It's too much pressure on my one kid to expect her to shoulder all those duties alone. Also, what if she turns on me? I am pretty hard to like. I need a backup. And who will be my daughter's family when my husband and I are dead from stress-induced cankers? She must have a sibling.
And so at 41, she had a second daughter... I found out from Wiki.

This is not my usual kind of book but a good change. I won't say it's refreshing cos that part sort of only came in the end part, you know the sudden illumination kind of thing. Another reminder for me that if I persevere with books I sometimes feel are not so interesting reads, they still can have interesting outcomes and provide good input to me.

Took a while, this book number 15.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Time Flies....

Was clearing some stuff around the house when I came across this old newspaper cutting, of my gal's first day at school. I snapped a pic of it and kept it. It so happened that the newspaper reporter was doing his rounds at her school that day.
Time flies... kids grow up way too fast. Her big bro is leaving home to further his studies. She'll miss her big bro. We will miss him too. One by one they leave home, just like we did years ago....
 
When we held our boy when he was born, we knew he was ours for a limited time.... to enjoy (and of course to torment us at times too, especially during the tumultous teenage years). Those years are knocking on her door now... 8( I hope it'll be a calmer ride - for her and us.
 
Each phase comes with it its own challenges and fun.... And it reminds us too that we are moving on... as young as we might still feel in our heart, the kids' leaving their age of innocence behind is a constant reminder that change is taking place.
 
The circle of life.... The Lion King. I remember feeling impatient about wanting to grow up when I was a kid. I realised that the adults of my kiddy days were right. There wasn't any need to rush in growing up. Everything will happen in its own time. We should just each moment that we are in. Live the present. Embrace it. Each one is one of the many smaller pieces that make the bigger picture of our life.