Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Go Figure!

I asked my Form 4 students to write three sentences, and they present me with few mind-boggling coded language:

1. I like caretaker child

Most likely to be deciphered as: I like to take care of children or I love to babysit

2. What you look2X my paper? Ha…

Most likely to be deciphered as: Why are you looking at my paper? Ha!

3. Frind2 I intesiy like felying gitar

Most likely to be deciphered as: My friends love it when I play guitar

4. U hive a missig call

Most likely to be deciphered as: You have 1 missed call (Yeah! My ‘interior’ students have their own handphone!)

5. Colour fivaret I is blue

Most likely to be deciphered as: My favourite colour is blue.

I asked my Form 1 students to fill in the blanks and add as many extra info as they want;

My name is ___________. I live in _______________. I am ____________ years old. I have a friend. __________ name is __________. ________ lives in __________.

Note: This is a streamed class where the better students are put together. Still the range of difference is quite far apart. Here the example of my students’ work.

My name is … I live in Kampung Tongod. I am thirteen year years old. I have a friend. Girl name is …. She lives in Kampung Bulot. She not kind my friends that other. I hope want to be an teacher. My hobbies are playing ball trellis, volleyball and leap tall.

My name is Aslelye. I am thirteen years old. I study in Sekolah Menengah Kebangaan Tongod, Sandakan. I like reading and sleeping. I come from a family of five. I’m the eldest child. I have two younger sisters. My father is a driver and my mother is a housewife.

My favourite subjects are English and Mathematics. My ambition is to become either a doctor or teacher. My father’s name is …. and my mother’s name is … . My father’s age is thirty-six and my mother is thirty five.

I have four best friends. My best friends’ names are Kartini, Marviana, Kaslinah and Welta. They live in Kampung Kiandongo and Kampung Malagatan Kecil. Kartini, Kaslina and Marviana are fourteen years old but Welta is only thirteen years old.

Kaslinah’s favourite subject is History, Marviana and Kartini’s favourite subjects are Mathematics and History while Welta’s favourite subjects are Malay Language, Science and English. I’m very happy because I have best friends. I think not having any best friend will make us feel like we are alone. So, if you have best friends, rejoice them, don’t make them sad…

I'll write more about my approach towards handling these students. Maybe you'd care to share some thoughts?

The Elusive City of Sandakan

Just another interesting episode (I think….) in my life that I felt worth written down, at least as a story to remember once I grew up to be someone later in life.

He already planned on not sleeping at all that night. It was 11.20 pm and he is right there in the school building filling in the forms he need to submit on Friday. It won’t be for another two days but he doesn’t have that. The plan was for him to leave in the next few hours and he will not be back until Saturday. Finishing up everything that needed to be, he signalled Wan indicating that he’s ready to leave. Wan told him to wait for a bit as he’s transferring soft copies of students passport photos that will need to be processed in the city. The photos are needed for students’ registration form for the Zone Level’s athletic tournament that is taking place next week in SMK Entilibon, 30 kilometres away from Tongod. As everything is all set and done, they switched of all the lights and fans and locked the door to the staff room.

It was quite dark that night, the first night of Muharram; the first month in the Islamic lunar calendar. Young crescent light could barely be seen amongst thousands of stars scattered around it. He trotted slowly behind Wan, letting the experienced one to lead the way. Wan has been teaching for almost a year and is a heck of an excellent teacher. From his limited observation for the last four days, Wan was always there at the staff room every single night, glued to his desk with numerous tasks and various ordeals that never seem to end. Admiration and envy. That’s what he felt about Wan. Just yesterday he was talking to the clerk when Wan’s name surfaced into discussion and she mentioned that he was the excellent teacher for last year. Not even a year in school and he is already the head of the Geography Subject. It was apparent so far that there’s no easy way to the top.

They reached the school quarters at around 11.40. It was unusually quiet. As they walked through the front door, the reason was clear. Karta, Mat and Seli were peacefully posing in their sleep. They were also planning to leave at 3 am that morning. Thus explaining why they get to sleep real early. He had a different plan though. He went to the kitchen and made himself a mug of thick hot Nescafe, just how he like it best and lay down in front of the television. He muted the audio of and watch the HBO channel. The movie was not the interesting but he watched it anyway. He’s not going to sleep. He will not risk missing the ride to the city. He realised though that the generator will be shut down in just a few minutes and he will be lying there in the dark with nothing to do. But he prayed that tonight will be just like the previous two nights. Somehow, the electricity was on for extra few hours in the morning. His prayer was answered and up until the movie finished and after few more channel switching, the electricity was still on.
Karta’s phone was the first one to ring. The next few minutes so was Seli’s followed by Mat. Evidently, those were their alarms but of all three, only Karta seem to respond towards his. He woke up slowly and headed to the bathroom….

Okay…. I think I’ll quit for now. Writing from 3rd POV is sooo difficult and confusing. Allow me to continue the story in my normal journal entry mode.

Haha… to cut the story short, we finally got ready and wait for the transportation that will take us to the Sandakan city which as I had previously mentioned, is about 200 km away. Here in Tongod, the transport come in the form of either 4-wheels drive pajero or pick-up and the local term for it is “Pirate”. Hehehe… nice uh? They charge RM 25 one way, which is not really piratey, considering the route that we’ve got to go through. On that particular morning, our pirate was Abang Din, a Tongodian who drives Nissan Frontier for a living. Due to the nature of my ‘greater size than others, I was the ‘lucky’ one sitting in front while the other 3 new teachers; Mat, Li and Aishah sat together at the back.

The journey started smoothly until we got into Tong Hup road aka Maxwell road; a jalan balak (timber woods lorries’ route). That’s where all the fun begins. We started to enjoy the rollercoaster ride up and down the muddy red-soiled road. And then…

....I can see that we are heading towards the steepy hill in front of us. It is clear that it is a well-trodden steepy route visited by lots of huge vehicles before. Abang Din shift the gear and start driving up the hill, everything seems okay in the beginning but halfway up the hill, the car stop moving upwards, but I can still feel and hear the tires spinning. Abang Din pushed the pedal to the max, but to no avail, we’re stuck! … Shifting the gear to reverse, we slowly move backwards – down the not-so-straight and all-over ‘holey’ hilly road. Thank god that we can still do that. I thought that Abg Din has given up and we’re going to have to go through other route. Shockingly, as we reach at the bottom of the hill, the car sped back up the hill! We did it! only mere metres more than we managed before and down we go again. At that point, I felt that I was the one to be blame. I am a freaking-heavy-almost-0.1-tonne-living-monster sitting quietly next to the driver unable to assist in any form. I was just about to courteously offer to excuse myself from the ride with hope of making the ride up the hill possible when I sense that we have been moving backward longer than before. “Maybe we’re really going for another route this time!” that was my thinking at that time. Poor me, I was wrong again, what abg din was doing is taking more distances from the hill to build enough speed getting up the hill. This time around, a lot of things crossed my mind, heck! I might die! I even promise to do lots of good deeds if we were to make it up the hill. Finally, after what I feel like the longest 60 seconds of my life, we made it up the hill. I was ecstatic. We continue our journey after a long grateful sigh by all.

The best is just yet to begin. To those who know me well, you’ll also aware that I’m the kind of person who can sleep anywhere in any condition, through any condition. So, I sleep. About an hour later, I woke up realising that we have stop in a middle of a Palm Estate. Apparently, the car was having a breakdown. We got down and check the condition of the car just to find that it was a major breakdown. It was around 6.00 am and the sun is slowly rising up. We waited. ‘Luckily’, another 4-WD passes by and stops. They got down and also try to help with the car. Nothing could be done about it. We were left with no other choice than to ask for a lift from the Good Samaritan. As generous as he was to give us a ride though, his car was full. Being adventurous (and desperate) we jumped on to the back section of the Hilux; the roofless section. So there we go again for an even more exciting rollercoaster ride at the back of a pick up.

It was a darn cold dawn. plus, we we’re moving quite fast. We have to either squat or sit in between petrol barrel and farming equipment. Not to mention, the floor was all muddy. I just don’t care; I positioned myself on the floor and rejoiced the fresh new scenery along the road for a while. I was quite worried about Aishah though; a lady teacher having to go through this adventurous orientation experience. I fell asleep… again, seriously!

We were up at the back of the Hilux for more than half an hour and we said our thanks and goodbye at the intersection of a main road. Apparently, according to Din (a Sandakan local), we have to wait for a bus to Checkpoint (another transit location in order to reach Sandakan – appropriately named so as it is a T-junction with each junction heading towards three different cities; Sandakan, Kota Kinabalu and Tawau). So, we waited. For almost an hour.

The bus arrived (despite the fact that it is not a bus at all, it’s just a renovated van with bells to ring). We paid RM 10 ringgit for another two hours trip. As we reach Checkpoint we board another bus (this time being a real bus-looking bus, despite the fact that it was made during the parameswaran era). We received a call from a friend while we’re on the bus, saying that he’s at Checkpoint and he’s going to give us a ride to the city. Down we go - off the bus and we hop on our friend’s van. From there onwards, we enjoyed a smooth journey to the elusive city of Sandakan arriving at 10.00 am, after an almost 7 hours of an understatedly amazing journey.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

I'm a class teacher

It's me again... from now onwards, I'll only be able to update my journal entries at about once a month coz the internet connection at my school is controlled by websense (I'm not complaining coz the connection still very much serve its purpose in helping teachers with lessons and useful info).
As the topic goes, I'm now officially an English teacher and last week was full with all the administration stuff; registering the students, distributing textbook and timetables... etc. It was a relief compared than the 1st day though, coz I have something to do and just as busy as the other dedicated teachers in the school. I felt the sense of belongings!
By the way, I'm now the class teacher for class 4B; Beta, the other class being named Alpha. My class consist of 28 young teenagers; 11 girls and 17 boys. They all seem to be nice kids (just like other teachers told me) As mentioned before their only problem is low confidence that contribute towards their low proficiency in basically all of the subjects. And yes, I've gone through their report books and red coloured inks dominate most of the pages. It's not going to hamper me down though... as my lecturers and friends advised me before, I have to be optimist and I'm seeing it as my opportunity to grow up.
Plus> I've also received my timetables and I'll be teaching form 1, 3, and four. Only three classes adding up to only 16 periods per week which is the average periods for us in the school. I'm not going to let the small amount of periods fool me coz I know that there's a lot of preparation and planning needed for this early stage especially with the virtually different sets of students here.
I think that's all so far bout my academic duty. I'll be posting some of my thoughts on what I've planned for my kids. Do comment if you like. Till I surf again. XOXO
Cikgu Faisal
1540/ Bandar Sandakan
p/s: Remember my promise bout the river? Basically, it's a very wide river with waist-deep clear water. A very refreshing place that made my life in Tongod even more enjoyable. But I heard that Cat's place has an even more beautiful river (but deeper, mind you I still cant swim! hehehe). I'll be checking it out soon.

Third day in Tongod

Hi all, it's the third day of my life in Tongod and I already have another interesting story to share with you. Hehehe... hope you guys are interested. As I have mentioned before, my school is in the afternoon session. Thus, we only prepare to get to school at around 11am and around that time today, we received the news that the water supply will be cut off for two weeks!!! I was shocked and speechless with the news and ask my housemates on whether this has happened before and how did they handle it. Apparently last year, they have had this incident of water shortage for 1 whole month. Huhuhu... And they said that what they did was clean and bathe in the river and bought water supply for food and drinks.

To cut the story short, that afternoon, I bathe in the Tongod river with the other male teachers. It was quite a scene... hehehehe... The funny thing about it was that we were swimming in the river at the back of our house and not far from where we swam was a suspended bridge where the students from the other side of the river has to cross over to get to school. So, there you got it! the case of students snooping over their teachers swimming in the river... hahaha! I'm quite sure though that their not looking at me in particular (for obviuos reason).

The evening that day bring us good news. Apparently, the water supply will not be cut off yet! So, till today, I'm still good. But honestly, I have enjoyed the experience soo much and wouldn't mind doing it on daily basis. I think that's all for now! I'll write more soon. Cheerios!


p/s: I'll describe bout the river in my next post!


Assalamualaikum and hello to all my beloved friends and lecturers. Aswritten above, that is the name of my school; TONGOD... and I haventfigured out what does it mean yet. Okay, first of all, brace yourselffor a really lengthy message that some of you might not findinteresting at all. For those who're willing to continue reading...thank you very much, writing is one of the only few type ofentertainment that I have around here.

I am now staying in the village of Lilingkuon and if you want to knowwhere it is, take a Sabah map and point at the centre of the map.Wallah! there is it, you've found the sub-district of Tongod. That'swhere you can find the abundance of small villages around the area. Myschool is actually located at about 195-200km from the Sandakan City.A journey to the city will take you about 6 hours in a 4 wheel-drive.It will also take you around 6 hours from my place to reach the Cityof Tawau (down South) and Kota Kinabalu (up North). So that is why myI said that my place is right at the centre of Sabah. WTH! itshould've been the capital of Sabah if not for its ultimateremoteness. The 6-hours journey that I mentioned previously is not asmooth ride to heaven. All along the journey, you'll have about 2-3hours of normal road route and during the remaining hours, you'll beenjoying the rollercoaster ride of your life. Have you watched any ofthe 4 wheel drive racing before? Imagine something like that minus theriver. The route consist of jalan ladang kelapa sawit (which is notthat bad) and ... jalan BALAK... (which is the interesting one). Weeven have to cross privately-owned road which requires you to pay upto rm500 unless we are staying in the inside (fortunately we are!haha...). So you can imagine that during the whole trip, I can onlyimagine of the worst possibility (I have previously been informed thatthere would be no electricity with only celcom line). I put myexpectation to the lowest possible coz I've learnt to be hugelydisappointed before. From the conversation that we've had with ourprincipal on the night before the journey (yes! our principal was inKK and treat us for a dinner at Tanjung Aru beach), he has informed usabout the remoteness of the school (2nd farthest school on land inSabah).

As I arrived to the school, I'm grateful that I have lowered myexpectation. By this, I didnt mean to say that my school is a hugebuilding fully equipped with facility but what I found is a basic'rumah atas' wooden school consisting of few classes. By the time Iarrive at the village, the electricity is still on (we have electricsupplied by generator from 8am to 5pm and 7pm to 12am). The PK 1 whodrove us bring us to the school quarters an now I'm squatting in thequarters together with 8 other guys (the principal, school driver,4teachers and 2 new teachers). Despite all the challenges anddisadvantages that I have faced in this place so far, I am indeed verygrateful to the great God! Alhamdulillah! I could not have asked for abetter principal who have been so friendly and accommodating so far. APK that is not so friendly the surface but really helpful anddilligent. The guys I'm living with? they're already like elderbrothers to me (I'm always blessed with this kind of people aroundme), they sincerely worry about me and always find ways to keep us(newbie) happy and entertained. The teachers (after 1 day of school)are very hardworking and proactive... they all remind me of my'kencang' friends in IPBA... they all seem to really care about theirwork and they don't just hang around and chat bout nothing. I guessone of the reason is they're mainly first-posted teachers and some ofthem has been serving the school for more than seven years. I hopethat this will inspire me to become a better teacher.

About teaching, havent had any chance with it since today was my firstday and lots of administration works goin around. the revisedtimetable will be ready in few days time. I am the 2nd teacher withEnglish option, the first teacher being a cool and 'rock' teachernames Mr Presley. I might be teaching fully english for form 1,2,3,and 4. We'll see about that. Students wise: there are 300++ students,very low proficiency, a lot of illiterate (bm and bi) up to form 5.There are 31 school in the Gabungan of Sandakan and we are ranked inthe 31st place, mainly bcoz of the standard of English. The principalwas quoted as saying that " the percentage could have gone up to70plus from 40plus if students pass english". So there it is, theburden lifted from the principal to the shoulder of this fat new guyfrom semenanjung. Huhu... i'm trembling at the thought of creating thechange needed for this school. Problems? the most imminent disciplineproblem in this school is truancy and tht's the only problem so far.It was said that 2 absenties per class in a day would be a miracle coz15-20 absenties is the normal one. Therefore, eventhough most studentsrespects the teachers very much, their interest in learning is verylow and most parents did'nt see the importance of education. That isthe challenge!
Finally, let's talk about some amusing trivia bout my school:

1) As an SMK, my school has 3 feeder schools, one named SK Kiandongofrom the village of Kiandongo (KIAN DUNGU)
2) My SMK is in afternoon session, coz we're sharing the same buildingwith SK... school hours; 12.25 - 5.45 (electricity was cut at 5).
3) As mentioned before, we're sharing the same school with SK.Teachers in SMK only received the 'insentif pedalaman'(incentiv e forrural teachers) at P1 level : RM500. while the SK teachers receivedP2; RM1000. Now, my school is pleading to get the same amount (fingerscrossed. pray for me!)
4) Just few hours before, we were told that we're gonna have toevacuate the house we're livin now as they're gonna build newclassroom building on our site. They might start as soon as next weekand we only get to know just now!
5) I am now using school's internet (in this quaint little staffroom)at night with limited connectivity which can only browse basic neducational website; no friendster, facebook n multiply for me. So, ifyou want to contact me, please use this email
That's all I have for now. Hope that you're entertained. Wish y'allall the best. Pray for the best for me. Cheers and Wassalam.

Cikgu Faisal

p/s: only celcom is available here... so my new number is; 013-8774294(do sms me please, calling might be a lil bit difficult at times butyour sms bring smiles to my face and connect me to the world outside).

Life might not be fair to you,
but...it doesn't give you the right to treat other people unfairly.
Life might not be fair to you,
but... you could make it fair to millions of life around you.
Life might not seem to be fair to you,
but... who are you to say so,
when you're destined to be great,
you're fated to something more!

(firus_azali_ 070108)
a poem written as a challenge to my own self,
without intention of implying it to anyone else.