Archive for the ‘Teacher's Professionalism’ Category

Thank you for going the extra mile

Sunday, December 1st, 2019

Compared to other professions, it is teachers who are likely to hear the most number of “thank you” said to them each day. —

GROWING up in the 1960s, there were traditions connected with festive seasons that still stick out significantly in my memories of childhood days. One of these was the giving and receiving of festival cakes and cookies that went on in our neighbourhoods. These and other traditions probably still exist but have evolved into different forms. Also, they have more likely become so predictable and routine that people just do them without thinking too much about their significance.

I remember the trays of festive goodies that would come from our neighbours during these festival seasons. Someone from the family next door or down the street, usually a younger person, would march up to our front door with a very important look on their face bearing in their hands a candy tray with different compartments, covered auspiciously with a beautifully embroidered lace cover. Bits of kuih baulu, jam tarts, ghee biscuits or love letters would peek through the eyelets in the lace, promises of the delights in store for us as we received the tray with both hands from the person at the door. It was a solemnly important event, this giving and receiving of festive cookie trays. We thanked the giver, wished them Selamat Hari Raya, Happy New Year, Merry Christmas or whatever the occasion warranted and asked them to wait in the living room or wherever was available. It was an important wait and the bearer of the tray sat basking in his own honoured position for several minutes while waiting for the tray to be returned. We had to return the trays immediately because they would be needed for the next house and the next giving. This was not yet the age of plastic bags and convenient disposable packs.

In the kitchen our mother would lift the delicate cloth protecting these cookies, take them out and lay them gently in a special container with a look in our direction which meant no touching or tasting yet till the whole ritual was done. Then she would wash the tray, dry it properly and before she covered it again with the tray cloth, she would add a little bit of sugar in the middle compartment. “We never return an empty tray.” This lesson stuck with us all our lives.

When it was time for Deepavali, it was our turn as the family’s children to be the bearer of cakes. We each had our turns at gift bearing when we were considered old and responsible enough to carry the gift tray properly and this we did with pride and great care. We made sure to balance the tray so that our lace tray cover cloth would not get stuck between the muruku pieces our mother had carefully arranged and that the agar-agar wouldn’t slip off the tray. And this time it was our turn to wait for that all-important moment when the tray would be returned to us minus the goodies but with sugar in the middle.

Looking back, I think of how special that whole event was beginning with the choice of the tray. Only the finest was good enough for this all-important mission of festive cookie giving. The tray was special, stored carefully and taken out only for these special occasions. There were no convenient éasy plastic packs or disposable boxes for the purpose of giving festive goodies. No handy wraps and gift bags which you didn’t have to wait for in the living room to be returned for the next giving. And there was no sugar in the middle.

When we returned the trays with the sugar in the middle to our mothers, they knew exactly what it meant. It was a way of saying thank you for sharing your special celebration with us by giving us all these cakes and cookies.Thank you for taking the trouble to select them carefully and arrange them in this beautiful tray and to send your son or daughter over to hand it to us personally. Thank you for covering them with this lovely lace cloth. And this sugar is a little bit of sweetness from us to show our appreciation to you in return.

We do things differently these days of course and sugar now seems to have earned a bad reputation. The act of giving and receiving during festive seasons has continued through the years and in many ways the task has been expedited, made easier by the ready to use pre-wrapped gift packs and food hampers, beautifully decorated cookie jars and bottles with ribbons which we find crowding almost every department store all year round with themes for every festival. Saying thank you also comes in myriad forms, many of which are electronic or virtual with amazing animation.

It is quite likely that compared to many other professions, it is teachers who are most likely to hear the most number of “thank you” said to them each day. After each lesson each day, some 30 voices or so lift up in sing-song unison and chant after their monitor “Thank you teacher/Miss… or Terima kasih Cikgu.” At the risk of appearing a little strange or soliciting unwanted questions about their personal stress or emotional state, I wonder if any teacher has ever stopped after that chorus of “thank you” and asked the students: ‘Well, what exactly are you thanking me for?” We ourselves may say “thank you” several times a day; to different people; when someone does us a favour, gives us a compliment, keeps a door open. Sometimes we just use these words to end an official e-mail when we can’t think of any other way to end the letter. “Thank you. Best wishes..”

But it is not very often that we back up our thank you with reasons for these words. What are we saying thank you for. Granted it may seem a little obsequious or overly ingratiating when the showing of appreciation goes overboard and when too much is said with a thank you. In fact, at times the two words “thank you” themselves can convey a universe of untold meanings which only the person who says it and the one who receives it understand. Superfluous words are almost always unnecessary, undesirable even, especially when they hint at insincerity.

At times I have even wondered at the appropriateness of the words “thank you.” I always feel a little amused whenever I see a school sign with the words in bold display. “Terima Kasih kerana datang ke sekolah hari ini. Thank you for coming to school today.’ I remember the comment made by one of my ex-colleagues, a much harried discipline teacher in a school well-known for its ‘notorious’ suspension list of students and various disciplinary problems.“ Hey, they should be the ones thanking us for allowing them to come to school. Or better still, the “thank you” should be for us teachers for coming in to work each day despite all we have to go through.”

Still, it would be nice sometimes if we could add a little more meaning to our words of appreciation. “Thank you for getting that file for me. You really saved me a lot of time. Thank you for the compliment. It really makes my day. Thank you for sending this on time. Now I can get on with my compilation.”

Sometimes it is nice to know what it is you are being appreciated for. It would mean so much more to hear a genuine “thank you” from our students each day other than during Teachers Day celebrations. Thank you teacher for taking the time to explain this problem to me. Thank you for going the extra mile. Even though it is our job and we are paid to do it, it would feel good to hear words of appreciation for what we do more often.

Sometimes a little sugar is good with the tray you give back and if sugar is not appropriate, then something else which evokes that feeling of sweetness in the heart and in the ears will do just as well most of the time.

by  Dr G Mallika Vasugi: Teachertalk
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Still teaching at 83

Sunday, October 6th, 2019
Dr Maszlee Malik (right) greeting the HIP mentors and school principals at the certificates of appreciation award ceremony. (NSTP/AIZUDDIN SAAD.)

WHILE we hear many teachers are leaving the profession, we cannot say the same for Datin Siti Hendon Abdullah Bajrai. At the age of 83, she is still enthusiastic about teaching and learning.

She volunteered to join the Highly Immersive Programme Mentor (HIP Mentor) – a programme by Ministry of Educationto that engage retired English language lecturers or teachers who are willing to assist primary or secondary schools with English language activities on a voluntary basis.

She has also recently graduated from Unitar International University obtaining her Master’s Degree in early childhood education.

Siti Hendon was one of the 28 HIP mentors awarded with certificates of appreciation by Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik at the Perdana Leadership Foundation recently.

The pilot programme was conducted at 27 selected schools in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Perak, Sarawak and Sabah from July until September.

“Teaching kids today is not the same as teaching the kids in the 80’s, which is why I want to keep learning and upskill my teaching methodology,” said Siti Hendon who was a mentor at Sekolah Kebangsaan Kampung Tunku, Petaling Jaya.

With decades of experience in teaching English, Siti Hendon believes that reading is key to learning.

Datin Siti Hendon Abdullah Bajrai

“During my sessions, I purposely chose to focus on kids who can’t read. I started by introducing them to nursery rhymes to help the pupils to recognise different rhythms, rhymes and sounds. After that, I started to familiarise them with alphabets then guided reading.

“When I was young, I didn’t have a good command of English as well but, I forced myself to read. With proper instruction and motivation, it is not impossible to attract pupils to learn and love English,” she added.

“It is quite hard to gauge the pupils’ progress in reading within two months’ time. However, I noticed that there is a change in their learning attitude. The kids seem to enjoy English classes more,” she said.

Having retired as a lecturer in her 50’s, mentor Teen Pek Chin, 72, said the reason she joined HIP Mentor programme is because she missed classroom interactions.

“When I first came to know about it, I decided to give it a try. I thought that this would be a refreshing experience. Through this programme, I would like to share my knowledge and experience to the pupils.

“Despite this being my first time teaching in primary school, I find the experience very enlightening. Teaching the kids is not like giving lectures to adults. They are very active and you have to know how to engage them with the lessons.

“I like doing fun activities with the kids. Although some of them struggle to write and read, they love singing along to the songs I played I the classroom. Along the way, I helped them with the pronunciation,” said Teen who volunteered at Sekolah Kebangsaan Perdana Jaya, Selangor.

During the event, Maszlee commended the mentors’ effort serving as volunteers and partnering with schools to create the English language rich environment in the pilot programme.

“The HIP mentors programme epitomises the true passion of educators regardless of age. I am absolutely astonished that our volunteers are of 60 to 83 years old. All of the mentors are exemplary educationists who have proven that age is only a figure.

“The success of the HIP Mentors programme requires the synergy of various stakeholders, working together harmoniously towards a unison goal. The goal is for our Malaysia students to be proficient in English and to communicate confidently using the language.

“Students must be exposed to various types of English language activities and use English during lessons. Immerse students in the language and encourage them to use English in different contexts and situations,” said Maszlee.

HIP was introduced by the Ministry of Education (MoE) in 2016 with the aim to create a highly immersive, language-rich environment that promotes the use of English in school. Through HIP, students are exposed to the English Language through a varietyof activities and have vast opportunities to use the language

By Murniati Abu Karim .


For the love of teaching

Monday, July 1st, 2019
Mohd Sirhajwan (standing) says he pursued teaching as his career to help others the way his teachers had helped him.

Mohd Sirhajwan (standing) says he pursued teaching as his career to help others the way his teachers had helped him.

Every now and then, news of teachers doing wonders and sacrificing for their schools and students break the Internet.

But not all of these stories have a happy ending. Some unite the nation in sorrow, like in the case of Sibu teacher Yap Hue Ling, who fainted while giving additional Man­darin lessons in school. She died soon after being admitted to the hospital.

Malaysians are fortunate to have many educators who are more than willing to go the extra mile for their charges. Though their stories may not have gone viral, their dedication is no less inspiring.

Special education teacher Dr Muhamad Khairul Anuar Hussin, 41, has been in the service for 22 years.

“I love teaching. For special needs students, I use approaches that depend on individual interests, abilities and tendencies.

“Each pupil has his or her own strengths which every teacher must know.

“Applying different teaching techniques and having individualised teaching and learning methods allow us to reach out to these students based on their individual needs. This paves the way for us to have a more personal connection with them,” he said.

Muhamad Khairul was among 50 educators shortlisted for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2019. He knew special education was his calling after he saw how much the group wants to be part of society.

Teh (in red) says providing additional guidance to deaf students is not an obligation but a necessity.

Teh (in red) says providing additional guidance to deaf students is not an obligation but a necessity.

With big dreams for the education system, he began his journey by introducing several programmes for special needs students. He started with what was within his capacity.

Some of his efforts include opening a preschool for visually impaired children while he was a teacher in SK Pendidikan Khas Princess Elizabeth, Johor Baru. He also proposed a home visit and an early intervention programme in the district’s villages.

“The programme allowed me to channel important information, like education opportunities provided by the government, to parents of special needs children.

“The programme has opened many doors for special kids to go to school, and for their parents and communities to get help.

“Many parents who live in poverty are not aware of special education schools,” he added.

His love for teaching is evident. Muhamad Khairul has even created braille books, newspapers, magazines and reference books for visually impaired students.

His initiative was met with high demand among teachers who educate the visually impaired and soon, he was sharing soft copies of his braille reference books across the country.

On why he goes out of his way for his students, he said he understands how difficult it is for them.

“I lost my hearing when I was only nine, so from a very young age, I’ve been exposed to the disabled community. Now, I want to give back.

Teaching is an altruistic profession, as many go the extra mile to ensure the success of their students, at the expense of their health.Harry Tan

Teaching is an altruistic profession, as many go the extra mile to ensure the success of their students, at the expense of their health.Harry Tan

“I really like to teach. My free time is filled with plenty of additional classes as I live within the school area and most students live in dorms, so it’s easy for me to go over and spend time with them.”

Despite being constantly occupied with planning lessons and attending classes, he makes sure he’s mentally and physically fit.

“Being a teacher requires so much time, effort, energy, brainpower and emotion. It demands so much of you,” said the father of four.

To be effective in the classroom, teachers must first take good care of themselves.

“It’s important for teachers to learn how to have a balanced lifestyle because of the demands and challenges of the job.

“The teaching profession provides a stable salary but our duties are challenging. So it’s important to lead a balanced life.

“Time management is crucial. Work done with commitment, sincerity and effort will lead to greater opportunities.”

In his current role as his school’s special education department senior assistant, Muhammad Khairul is working with the department to prepare a module that focuses on bread making, farming and cooking.

“This is a specially designed teaching and learning module that provides students with learning disabilities the chance to equip themselves with basic skills,” he said.

For Sabahan Mohd Sirhajwan Idek, who is an English Language teacher in Keningau Vocational College, teaching is a profession that allows a person to give back to society while encouraging them to be creative.

Mohd Sirhajwan has several awards under his belt, including the International Innovation and Entrepreneur-ship Excellence in Teaching Award. He, too, was among the Top 50 Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize finalists in 2017.

It’s personal satisfaction that drives the 31-year-old to put his students first.

“I find it very fulfilling to explore the many ways of educating the younger generation and society.

“My English was bad when I was a student. It was my third language since my mother tongue is Bajau and Bahasa Malaysia is our national language.

“Although I found it difficult to learn, I was so passionate about wanting to master the language that my English Language teacher in secondary school believed in me and gave me all the support I needed,” he said.

The experience made him realise how powerful teachers can be and it motivated him to pursue teaching as his career to help others the way his teachers had helped him.

“Many of my students lack confidence in English as they don’t have much exposure to the outside world.

“They have low self-esteem especially since we are from a rural area

Special education teacher Dr Muhamad Khairul Anuar Hussin spends time with his students during a scouts camping trip to promote social inclusion among mainstream.students. Muhamad Khairul says the trip is a compulsory activity in his school.

Special education teacher Dr Muhamad Khairul Anuar Hussin spends time with his students during a scouts camping trip to promote social inclusion among mainstream.students. Muhamad Khairul says the trip is a compulsory activity in his school.

“So I spend after-school hours to train and manage them for competitions to push them out of their comfort zones and gain experience in the real world.

“Initially they were reluctant to participate but with continuous support, their motivation grew.”

He often spends his nights and weekends training his students for these competitions, frequently reminding them that they are not defined by where they come from or who they are, but by what they are capable of doing.

“And there is no limit in what they can do.”

Mohd Sirhajwan connects classroom learning to the real world by conducting innovation competitions, entrepreneurship programmes, conference presentations and community events.

But these initiatives require time and funding.

“Students must be pushed to grab the opportunities that are out there because it will help them reach their fullest potential and enable them to discover and develop their capabilities and talents.

“I want them to realise that nothing is impossible so long as they put their minds and hearts into it.

“I push myself extra hard, too, because I want them to see that the world is their stage,” he said.

Excellent teacher (Guru Cemerlang) Teh Kean Hoe feels the added weight when he gives his students additional lessons but he tries to balance his work with enough rest and recreation.

Providing additional guidance for his students is not obligatory but is necessary, said the Bahasa Melayu teacher from SMK Pendidikan Khas Persekutuan, Penang.

Because there isn’t enough time to cover every aspect of his subject during normal school hours, additional classes are important.

Muhamad Khairul watches over an autistic student during a one-on-one individual lesson in his school designed for autistic students.

Muhamad Khairul watches over an autistic student during a one-on-one individual lesson in his school designed for autistic students.

“Deaf students need more time to understand the subject matter and these classes are important to help them prepare for exams.

“I often conduct additional classes on Saturday mornings for the Form Five students, which begin in January until they sit for their Bahasa Melayu paper.

“Most become more confident to face the exam after attending these lessons.

“I care about my students’ achievements so I need to provide additional classes for them.

“It brings me great joy and satisfaction to see these students succeed and pass their subjects, especially those who many consider ‘hopeless’,” he said.

Muhamad Khairul gives a talk to special needs students from SMPK Vokasional Indahpura, Johor Baru. He says special education was his calling because he saw the needs and desires of the group to be part of an inclusive society.

Muhamad Khairul gives a talk to special needs students from SMPK Vokasional Indahpura, Johor Baru. He says special education was his calling because he saw the needs and desires of the group to be part of an inclusive society.

Teh, 56, went through an arduous path before graduating as a full fledged teacher.

The Penangite recalls how despite scoring excellent results for his SPM and STPM, his application to enter public varsities was rejected.

“It wasn’t until after Federation School for the Deaf former principal Datuk Saleena Yahaya Isa wrote an appeal for me to the then Universiti Sains Malaysia vice-chancellor that I was offered a spot there.

“But it came with a condition that I must pass my first semester in order to continue my tertiary education with them.

Teh (in pink) balances his work with enough rest and recreation.

Teh (in pink) balances his work with enough rest and recreation.

“Saleena reminded me that because my entry into university was not easy, I should become a teacher to guide deaf students and become a role model to them,” he shared.

Teaching is an altruistic profession, said National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Harry Tan.

Often, he said, teachers become emotionally attached to those under their care.

“Once there is attachment, we will do whatever necessary to ensure the success of our students, even at the expense of our health.

“We give extra classes, spend more time on the field to train athletes, train choral speakers after school hours in the hall, walk the streets to get funds to repair the school, and make many other sacrifices.

“We even have teachers who offer their homes as temporary shelters to children who come from broken families, and pay for students’ books and stationery from their pockets.

By Sandhya Menon
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Transforming teaching, learning methods

Monday, May 20th, 2019
Dr Kee (centre) with her College Chemistry class from the American University Programme.

Dr Kee (centre) with her College Chemistry class from the American University Programme.

HIGHLY experienced faculty are the most valuable assets to an institution and often, the qualifications of university lecturers impact students’ decisions about where to study.

In addressing the upskilling of academicians, INTI International University and Colleges has integrated the world-class learning methodology Blackboard Learning Management System across its six campuses, with almost all programmes now being taught through a combination of both online and face-to-face lessons and activities.

The outcome has enabled today’s students to learn in an environment that leverages the platforms and technologies they use the most. It has also empowered lecturers to transform their teaching and learning methodologies to leverage new ways of teaching, assessments, monitoring and analytics.

“Besides advanced lab equipment for science experiments, I am using Blackboard tools such as ‘Discussion’, ‘Blog’ and ‘Self-Peer Evaluation’.

Dr Geeta said Blackboard allows students to view and create their videos safely, which are easily shared with all members of the class.

“Besides that, Self-Peer Evaluation helps students to see how they are faring in their work compared to their peers and this encourages them to work harder,” she added.

Completing her bachelor’s degree in Science majoring in Genetics at Universiti Malaya, she went on to complete her Master’s in Philosophy and PhD in biology at the same university. Dr Geeta was awarded the Toray Research Grant in 2005. In 2013, she undertook a Master’s in higher education majoring in teaching and learning from Walden University in the United States.

Senior Lecturer Dr Kee Hooi Ling, who has been teaching for 10 years at INTI International College Subang said: “The classroom delivery of subjects do not have to be passive and dry.”

“I advocate active learning methodologies as part of my teaching and learning approach,” she said.

Since 2012, Dr Kee has successfully used flipped learning as part of her teaching and learning strategies in all her courses, which includes Introductory Chemistry and Organic Chemistry for the American Degree Transfer Programme at INTI’s Centre of American Education.

“I like to explore different technological tools as I encounter them. Some of the tools I have utilised are ‘Raptivity’ to create interactive learning items, ‘Kahoot!’ and ‘Socrative’ to create engaging in-class formative assessments. “I’ve also used ‘Camtasia’ to produce online video resources, Google and Microsoft Forms for feedback and Blackboard as the learning management system at INTI,” said Dr Kee, who obtained her PhD in Chemistry from Washington University in the US.

She said that INTI has been supportive in providing ‘Camtasia’, for flipped learning. All these tools strengthen the learning process as they provide a “non-threatening” environment for assessment, and promote student engagement and participation.

INTI International College Penang School of Business, Law, Communications and Accounting senior lecturer Yee Aik Phoay teaches economics across foundation, diploma, bachelor’s and master’s programmes.

He said technological tools should be used in a timely manner to yield the best results in student engagement and knowledge retention.

“My current experimentation with ‘PearDeck’ has been very positive. This enables me to gather real-time feedback from the students.

“It allows me to design multiple choice questions to check their understanding during class.

“In addition, there is an option for students to share their thoughts by writing short texts. The drawing feature also helps me to gauge students’ mastery in illustrating graphs for economics,” he added. Elaborating on his teaching methodology in improving students’ overall performance, Yee said: “In my opinion, simplifying the content into a structured flow helps the students to grasp the essential concepts of a particular subject.”

This is then complemented by formative and summative assessments to reinforce their understanding, he added.

On completing his first degree in Economics, an external bachelor’s degree awarded by the University of London, Yee who has been teaching at INTI Penang for 13 years, obtained his Master’s degree from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

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25 get Inspirational Teacher Awards

Monday, May 20th, 2019
Dr Amin (middle) shares a light moment with several of the Inspirational Teacher Award recipients. - Bernama

Dr Amin (middle) shares a light moment with several of the Inspirational Teacher Award recipients. – Bernama

THEIR stories are about sacrifice and commitment in nurturing their students and for their efforts, they were recognised for being among the nation’s best educators in conjunction with the National Teachers Day celebration held in George Town.

The 25 teachers, recipients of the McDonald’s Malaysia Inspirational Teacher Award were selected because they had gone the extra mile in carrying out their duties, said McDonald’s Malaysia vice president and chief marketing officer Melati Abdul Hai.

She said they were selected from among 7,500 nominations sent in by the public in March.

“The increase in the number of nominations from 1,000 to 7,500 since the award was introduced in 2017 only shows that Malaysians see the importance of appreciating our teachers,” she said.

Melati invited Malaysians to read the stories of the 25 teachers at because their stories would encourage and inspire other teachers to help improve the country’s education system.

The Inspirational Teacher Award is a collaboration between the Education Ministry and McDonald’s Malaysia.

Meanwhile, Melati said McDonald’s Malaysia would provide complimentary breakfast vouchers worth RM4.5mil to more than 42,000 teachers in Malaysia in appreciation of their services in educating the children of the nation.

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Retired teacher happy student took his advice seriously

Thursday, May 16th, 2019
Retired teachers Nawi Ismail, 62, and Datuk Asariah Mior Shaharuddin, 66, after receiving their 2019 Tokoh Guru awards at the National Level Teachers Day celebration held here today. (Pic by SHAHNAZ FAZLIE SHAHRIZAL)

GEORGE TOWN: “I still keep the RM50 given by a student who said I inspired him to succeed in STPM,” said 62-year-old retired teacher Nawi Ismail after receiving his 2019 Tokoh Guru award at the National Level Teachers Day celebration held here today.

With a teaching career spanning 37 years, he began at SMK Panji Alam, Kuala Terengganu in 1980 and retired in 2017 at SM Teknik Kuala Terengganu. He currently gives motivational talks at the schools in the country.

Some time in the middle of last year, he delivered a speech at a school in Kemaman which sparked huge motivation for a student who was going to sit for his Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM).

“It was my usual speech. I could not recall what exactly I said to the students at that time which became a source of inspiration for one particular student.

“I also stressed that students who are weak in their studies but work hard to be successful are better than clever students who are lazy. I guess that piece of advice resonated in him,” he said.

As it turned out, the student received 4As for STPM. To express his gratitude, the student forked out RM50 for Nawi which was delivered through a teacher at his school.

Nawi initially refused to take it as he believes that it was part of his responsibilities as a teacher to help the student do well in examinations.

However, the student had insisted that Nawi keep the money.

“I learnt that he came from a poor family and earned the RM50 while working at a night market.

“I will not use the money, I will keep it to remind myself of an unknown student whom I have not even met personally, someone who took my motivational speech to heart and did well in the STPM.’

Nawi said he was proud to have made an impact on a student even after his teaching career had ended.

The former Bahasa Melayu teacher is one of two who received the Tokoh Guru award from Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Another former teacher who also received the award was Datuk Asariah Mior Shaharuddin.

Both of them received RM50,000 cheque, RM10,000 worth of gold medal and a plaque, courtesy of Bank Simpanan Nasional.

For Asariah, 66, her proudest moment was when she was appointed deputy-director general at the ministry in teaching professionalism development sector, where she was part of the team that proposed for the Maktab Perguruan to be upgraded to Institut Pendidikan Guru (IPG).

She said she worked hard with her team to ensure that IPG produced competent and quality teachers and improved the teaching standard in the country.

National-level Teacher’s Day celebration was held here at Setia Spice Convention Centre involving 3,500 teachers from around the country.

By Audrey DermawanMohamed Basyir.

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Pencil stub best Teacher’s Day gift ever, says headmaster

Thursday, May 16th, 2019
SK Tengkek headmaster Mohd Yusri Mohd Zaali (centre) with fellow teachers dressed in traditional Malay attire in conjunction with the Teacher’s Day celebration in Kuala Pilah. -NSTP/AMRAN YAHYA.

KUALA PILAH: In his 30-year teaching career, Mohd Yusri Mohd Zaali has received countless gifts and souvenirs from pupils during Teachers Day celebrations.

But, the one that stood out and left an indelible mark on the heart of the 51-year-old headmaster of SK Tengkek, Batu Kikir here, was a short, used pencil.

“I was the disciplinary teacher of the school at the time,” he said.

“Until today, I am still overwhelmed by the show of gratitude.”

Yusri said the pencil stub was given to him by a Standard Four pupil who was a slow learner.

“It’s a tradition for students to give presents to their teachers on Teacher’s Day, and this particular student was no exception,” he said.

“Perhaps she had no money, but still wanted to give me something.

“So, she wrapped her short, used pencil with a piece of paper torn out of her book and gave it to me,” he added.

When he opened the gift, he found the pencil with a “Happy Teachers Day” note written on the paper.

“I was moved to tears. She had a great sense of appreciation towards her teachers despite her shortcomings.

“It was the most meaningful gift I’ve ever had in my career as a teacher,” he said during the school’s Teachers Day celebration.

As part of the school’s theme this year, the teachers were dressed as Malay warriors.

“These costumes reminds us of the days of the Malay Sultanate, where it was equipped with various accessories such as tanjak, sampin and keris,” he said.

By Amran Yahya.

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NST Leader: To teachers, with love

Sunday, May 5th, 2019
Teachers change us, in profound ways indeed, one child at a time. The world is better for it. And so is Malaysia. We could not have done it without you, teachers. – FILE PIC

ONE child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world. Profound words of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani Nobel Peace Prize laureate and female education activist.

We cannot agree more. But this Leader is not about Malala, though we are jubilant about the work she is doing to bring education to girls who often get left out.

Because if one girl gets left out of education, that much less the world changes for the better. After all, we are all children of mothers.

This editorial is, however, dedicated to teachers — male and female — who have changed us immeasurably. The tools of teachers may have changed — chalks and blackboards have given way to touchscreens — but the goal of teaching has remained the same: to make us all better human beings.

Teachers change us, in profound ways indeed, one child at a time. The world is better for it. And so is Malaysia. We could not have done it without you, teachers.

Yes, a good teacher teaches. Of quadratic equations and differential calculus. Of polar wander and quarks. Of artful swoosh of the airbrush. But more than that, he teaches us how to learn from the world around us. Of bees and trees and how plants feed themselves through photosynthesis.

And on how to live a good life. Our teachers show us how to walk softly on this piece of Earth so that we do not harm the tiny insects for they, too, have a place here. If they perish, we perish too.

Little wonder George Bernard Shaw said teaching is the sole hope of human salvation.

The wisdom of the universe is such, they remind us. Have not our teachers implored us to stay away from aggression for it vexes our spirit much and makes us bitter? The world is made of people of many hues and treat them all the same, is one lesson we recall.

Did they not tell us that this world will attempt to trick us with its sleight of hand? The times were plenty when they implored us not to fall for it? All this has made us better men and women. This we cannot deny.

But yet, so little appreciation is shown for them. Some of them are harmed even. We must learn how to take their counsel kindly.

There is great wisdom in their years. Notwithstanding the burden they bear — remember they, too, have a home to keep and children to feed — they are there in school without fail to take us by the hand and help us negotiate this, at times, troubling world of ours.

Be our fortune affected by distress or our spirit be low, our teachers are always there for us. Be gentle with them. For if they stay away from us, we will lose the shield that keeps our distress at bay.

It may not be Teachers Day yet — Malaysia celebrates Teachers Day on May 16..

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Raising teachers’ profile

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019
Special educational needs teacher Dr Muhamad Khairul Anuar Hussin from SMK Taman Universiti 2, Johor, is one of the finalists for the Global Teacher Prize.

“No education system can outperform the quality of its teachers. When we bring teachers to the discussion, everything changes. How many panel discussions, how many events have we been to when people discuss education and not one teacher on it?”

That was the powerful message by Varkey Foundation chairman Vikas Pota on the undeniable value of teachers during his welcome address to the delegates at the Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF) 2019, themed “Who’s making the changes”, in Dubai last week.

In its seventh year, the GESF, described as the “Davos” of education is a platform to address the challenges of education with insightful talks, debates and interviews. Attended by government heads, education ministers, and education advocates from all over the world, a host of high profile endorsers are involved each year including Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, Bill Gates, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair.

The highlight of the two-day event is The Global Teacher Prize, a US$1million award touted as the Nobel Prize for teachers presented annually to an exceptional teacher for their outstanding contribution to the profession.

It all began in 2013 when the Varkey Foundation gathered opinions from 21 countries on the status of teachers across the world found that the profession’s status had dropped.

Shocked by the results, its chairman Sunny Varkey founded the Global Teacher Prize with one mission– to raise the teaching profession’s profile.

When the award was first launched, critics raised the question if the money would help raise the profile of the profession. The argument was that it would be more effective to spread about the money a bit rather than spending all in one place.

Ambitious teachers are the ones who enter this career to affect change. While the US$1million prize might only be for one lucky teacher who would receive the money in instalments over a decade, teachers are truly deserving of recognition, and there is much to be gained from sharing their experiences.

Malaysia too has its own teachers nominated and shortlisted for the Top 50 Global Teacher finalists. Engineer turned chemistry teacher Yasmin Noorul Amin made it to the list in 2015 followed by Noorjahan Sultan, a preschool teacher and Vanesri Kasi, a remedial education teacher shortlisted for the following year’s edition. K. A. Razhiyah, a special-needs teacher from SMK Panji in Kota Bharu, was among the 50 finalists for 2018.

These teachers are those who meet the demand for great teachers and make it their goal to improve the education quality for everyone. This year, Dr Muhamad Khairul Anuar Hussin from SMK Taman Universiti 2, Johor was a finalist.

A PhD holder and a special educational needs teacher, Muhammad Khairul developed an inclusive education model.The model prioritises social inclusion and co-teaching with mainstream students which he believes is the most effective way to equip them for work and independence.

Dr Muhamad Khairul said he was thrown into the deep end on his first posting out of teacher training college as a preschool special educational needs teacher.

Given only an empty classroom with zero budget, he had to get the class going for eight blind pupils.

Little did he know that besides visual impairments, these children also had a wide range of other conditions from deafness and autism to Down’s Syndrome.

He had a choice to learn to figuratively swim very quickly or give up. A year later he received a funding of RM100,000 for the special education needs classroom for his school.

Muhammad Khairul then went to further his studies and returned to a secondary school to continue his teaching career upon completing his postgraduate studies. And at the new school he received what he claimed as the best reward of being a teacher.

He met the two preschoolers he taught earlier in the first school, now already in Form Five. While it would be the most common education path for many students, it would not have been for these special students.

“Only a teacher would know that’s the best gift ever, perhaps better than a million dollar prize,” he jokingly said.

His earlier effort has changed the lives of his students that would not have happened without the intervention at an early age. It is a similar experience he went through because he had a teacher who inspired him when he was in school as a student.

Born deaf on his left ear and growing up in a fishing village, Muhammad Khairul went to a special class in Primary School. He said it was his teacher Noridah Ahmad who pushed and motivated him through education as the means to get out of poverty. From teaching ABC and 123 till he graduated with a PhD, he said, never did Noridah forgets to check on him till today.

With or without the US$1million, teachers are already the changemakers transforming our world.

“Education’s greatest days are still to come and teachers, as always, will light the way,” said Varkey Foundation founder Sunny Varkey at this year’s GESF. There will be more stories to come soon.


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Inspiring teachers will inspire learners.

Sunday, January 6th, 2019

BELIEVE this: when teachers inspire, students will aspire to greater heights. A teacher’s enthusiasm is infectious and can inspire students to take ownership of their learning.

We often speak about student-centred learning. What about teacher-centred learning? I am not alluding here to a teacher’s professional knowledge base, which is a given; I am referring to learning that awakens and informs a teacher about self-awareness; about the desirable and personal teacher traits she already has, or not; but needs to have. The need to learn about the essence of her true self – the store and substance of goodness she has within her as well as her shortcomings.

Remember, a teacher communicates to her charges more than the subject material she is teaching. She is engaged in a human relationship, the management of which will determine the nature of all future learning transactions.

Ministering to the young is not a cut-and-dried job; it is a vocation and not all have the passion or calling for it. Yet, one hopes that along the course of training or teaching, the said person will begin to find joy and meaning in the actual act despite the onslaught of impositions that see no end.

Inspiring teachers will motivate both themselves and their learners to aspire to learn with joy and meaning no matter where the school or what their level of learning may be. To learn with passion and love, one needs teachers with drive and a nurturing spirit; teachers with a growth mind-set who embrace wholly their calling even in the face of mounting challenges.

Yes, we may have all the technological devices at our disposal to make learning appealing but the best resource is still the human resource. Only inspired teachers, policy makers, and politicians, can tip the balance to make the difference, to provide the cutting edge we are looking for in our young.

From experience we know that a person has to be caring enough to become a teacher. She must care about who she is to herself (her true nature), and who she is to others. She must first FIND herself, before she can be useful to others.

An uncaring teacher can foul up on many levels – her own work, her students’ progress, and her callous attitude that results in lack-lustre teaching can prove disastrous to the system.

A caring teacher is a motivator who can stir enthusiasm and who seeks to inspire goodness and leadership qualities in others because she is a self-inspired leader. Inspired teachers are instrumental in making learning happen and they are aware that everyone can learn if suitably inspired.

But we all have our blind spots. These may prevent us from seeing what holds us back from giving our best. If we do not pause to reflect “How am I as a teacher?” and learn from it, we may resort to putting on a “teacher façade” that gives the impression that we know what we are doing. But, in the core of our being, do we really? It is not so much what we do in class that impacts students; it is why and how we do what we do, because only then we are being true to ourselves and our students; it is then that they see us as caring and inspiring persons.

We have to dig deep within ourselves for that sense of self-awareness to discern if we are inspired enough to do what we are doing and whether we have an innate desire to inspire and challenge ourselves and our charges to be the best they can be in a win-win situation. Inspiration is a seed found within a person who has potential, and this seed can become the driving force for growth of the individual because it is a form of energy that has creative power!

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