Tuition class or counseling session?

I had a tuition class yesterday. I gave the students notes about writing an email. I also explained the written comments that I wrote in the previous essay which I returned to them. Some of the common mistakes that I notice are mistakes in using prepositions and tenses.

We discussed that for an hour or so and after that the students continued with completing the email. Alhamdulillah things went quite smooth. We had few minutes left when I asked the students about “what had happened to few of your classmates who ……… (fill in the blank)”.

One of them who apparently is the bystander told me about the situation from his classmates’ perspectives. The funny thing was they started to ask me about my own experience when I was a student. It is a bit challenging to recall back some experiences which happened more than 30 years ago but I tried my best.

Knowing their current state as teenagers who are in a search of their ” identity”, I gave them my perspectives as someone with some knowledge in psychology. I challenged them to think about options and alternatives, choices, things that are controllable and uncontrollable. Some of the concepts seem a bit alien to them. They never thought that they should be accountable for their actions and seem to be egocentric in which blaming others is the best way to justify their actions. This has to stop.

They need to learn about being accountable. They should stop blaming others as an option to justify their actions. It seems that one of them finds it difficult to accept. I know that he might be unsure, perhaps afraid of being responsible and accountable. The thing is, they are adolescents. In a few years time, they will be adults. They are no longer children, and thus, they have to learn about being responsible and accountable of their actions and themselves. Goodbye to childhood, and welcome to adulthood! Indeed.

My 1st tuition class this year (2022)

I was involved in the tuition classes as an enrichment program that the school organized since 2018. Back in 2018, I had a little choice to say No as I was a part of the teaching staff. But I was entrusted to teach the low achievers who knew they were labeled as such based on their performance. I had a blast with them even though it was challenging to boost their self-esteem and improve their performance at the same time. I continued to teach tuition classes in 2019 but in 2020 and 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and whatsnot, the tuition classes had to stop for a while.

I was contacted by Ita last Monday (4 July 2022) if I was available to join their enrichment program again this year. I immediately said Yes even though I know that I will be a bit preoccupied with examination thingy and stuff this month. So, I looked up my old notes that I used when I taught English in 2018 and tried to find information about the current SPM format. Well, they have changed the SPM format for English paper (Writing). No more 350 words. Now, the word counts are between 200 to 250 words for continuous writing. Well, I learn something new with the new formatting. There is also a revised rubric to evaluate Part 3: Continuous writing. Having a former student who is also an invigilator cum examiner of the Paper 2 is a blessing. I contacted my former student and asked about the latest things to update myself.

She laughed at me when I said that I was nervous as I was entrusted to teach the high achievers this time around. She said: “I bet you will love it! Teaching such students is a challenge in itself, but rewarding. Just try it” I came a few minutes late as I stopped at Pekan Tiram to photocopy some materials. Cikgu dan kedai fotostat berpisah tiada. Indeed.

The shop owner and I had a small talk and he remarked “Lama dah tak nampak cikgu datang kedai fotostat“. I just smiled but he could see me smiling as I was wearing my face mask. Alhamdulillah I wore the face mask at that time, so I could hide my uneasiness after hearing him saying that.

I had a quick background check with Ita about the students. Knowing that some of them are from B40 families, I predict that they might not have foolscap paper. I brought some papers which I took from old examination booklets. So, I can give it to anyone who does not bring or have any foolscap paper.

What should I do with this examination booklet? There are few unused pages. The student had graduated (I checked with her personally).
Since UTM is really into sustainability and whatever, I will reuse the unused pages as foolscap paper. Tada…. I got more than 20 unused pages which I took from several examination booklets which had been used. There are 10 students in the tuition class. So I only used 10 pieces of paper.

There are a couple of students who brought their own foolscap paper but upon seeing that I have the left-over papers from the examination booklet with UTM logo, they requested me to give them too. One of the students tried to sniff the paper. “This is not a perfumed paper.” I told the student while rolling my eyes. With a cheeky smile, he said “Saja nak bau. Mana tau ada bau UTM”. Huh?

UTM does not have that budget to have perfumed examination booklet (tongue in cheek remark!). Our students are not that lucky to have such paper. Nevertheless, the paper from the examination booklet is thicker than the foolscap paper that they have.

While collecting the papers from them, one of the students said to me “Teacher, pelajar di UTM guna kertas ni ke ketika peperiksaan?” Well, with that question, I had to tell them the truth by saying “Well, I took this from the examination booklet. These are the unused pages in the booklet. I shredded the used pages and threw it away. I kept these as foolscap paper” . While nodding her head, she replied back by saying, “Saya suka lah guna kertas ni. Saya rasa bersemangat nak tulis karangan dengan baik” Errmm… should I believe that or what?

How to inform parents about their children performance?

There are many ways that teachers can do to inform parents about their children academic performance.  When I did my Latihan Ikhtisas, one of the ways that I did was to use Quizziz and send the report to parents.  This method does work to let the students know that we (teachers) always keep in touch with their parents and let them about their progress.

A week after I sent the email, one of the students told me this “Teacher, mak saya kata saya tak boleh tengok TV kalau tak baca buku.  Mak saya kata teacher hantar email ke dia ya beritahu pasal kuiz yang saya jawab?” [Translated: Teacher, my mom told me that I cannot watch TV if I don’t read books.  She also told me that you sent an email about the quiz that I took].  I looked directly at him and said “So, what should you do now? Will you answer the quiz seriously next time?”  He sheepishly replied “Saya akan ikut cakap mak saya dan saya tak akan main-main bila jawab kuiz” [Translated: I will follow what my mom said and I will not play around while answering the quiz].


What should I do?

I had a tuition class with the students.   Some of them are sad because of their trial results.  So, to cheer them up, I asked them to look at their exercise book where they wrote their targeted marks for SPM trial.  I told them before if they can get the marks that they set in their trial, I will give them RM100.  When I made the offer, I was prepared to spend RM600.  Of course, they don’t believe it.   After all, it is very rare for them to get such offer.  But I am not their typical teacher. 

Each of them was hesitated to let me know about their marks.  Alhamdulillah, I came well-prepared.  I looked at my handphone and searched the marks Ita gave me.  So, I read their marks one by one (well, they already know each other marks when Ita discussed their paper a week ago).   While reading their marks out loud, I checked their exercise book to see their targeted marks.  Ainsyah is the only one who able to reach the target.  She has improved a bit (well, from D to C is a good-enough improvement for her).  Let’s be realistic.  They know it is quite impossible for them to get a solid A (above 80%).  I don’t want to put unnecessary pressure on them by suggesting they should aim that high.  I told them to renew their target for the real SPM.  But I don’t let them know about the monetary reward that I will give if they can achieve their targeted grade for SPM. 

Why do I give them monetary reward?  All of them come from B40 family.  I want to help them to prepare for SPM by having their own money to buy stationery, revision book or other things.  So, that’s why I gave them the RM100 reward.   I don’t know how I can assist them since I am no longer at school.   Last year, when I was at school, Ita and I bought stationery supply to give to all of the SPM candidates.   I am planning to do the same this year in sha Allah. 

The monetary reward that I plan to give them for their SPM is also to assist them to buy UPU form (yup, they have to buy the code at any post office).  Even though they no longer have to fill in the UPU paper-version form like I did back in 1996, they have to buy a password/code to get accessed to UPU online.  The UPU form that I had to pay back in 1996 cost me RM100 per form.  That’s quite a lot back then (and now).  At that time, I worked at MPH Bookstore with RM450 per month (or more if I did lots of over time or OT). 

When I just started my Latihan Ikhtisas, the SPM results were announced at the end of March 2018.  I still remember Cikgu Mun, the school counselor used her own money to buy the code for some students who did not want to apply to any matriculation centre or Asasi via UPU because they didn’t have the money.  Their parents could not afford to buy it.  It breaks my heart.  I don’t want the students to stop from furthering their studies to higher level feel hesitated due to financial constraint.  So, by rewarding them with monetary reward, I hope that at least I can help them in certain way.  As a teacher, it is difficult to ignore such predicament that your students are experiencing.  After all, it is not their fault to be in that situation.  

Using song to teach grammar_Part 3

I am not a big fan of any singer.  But I do listen to good songs with meaningful lyrics such as songs by Richard Marx and such.  I have been listening to his songs for more than 10 years (since I was a teenager).  Little did I know that I will use his songs to teach students grammar.  Yup.  One of the songs that I used to teach grammar is this song.  This is not a break up song.  It is a song which could be interpreted as someone who is searching for his identity and finally has the courage to decide on something.  I used this song whenever I could (not only for the classes that I taught, but also relief classes).

I remember I played this song during a relief class with Form 3 SK (girls).  The girls love it!  They requested for an encore.  But when I came back to the teacher’s room, some of them commented that about hearing an English song playing in one of the classrooms and the students were singing (although this was not the first time).  Well, I was guilty as charge.  What a heck!  It is not easy to keep students motivated to learn English.  I have to be creative in this sense.  Indeed.

Ready to Fly by Richard Marx

I have been trying to open the door
To the secret of my destiny
And every new road I think is the one
Seems to lead right back to me

I have looked for a way to be wiser
A way to be strong
Now I see the answer was hiding
In me all along

And I am ready to fly
Over the sun
Like a rocket to heaven
And I am ready to soar
Right through the sky
Never dreamed I would find something to lift me so high
I have always had wings
But I was not ready to fly

Restless, hopeless, and misunderstood
Like so many others I know
So busy trying to keep holding on
When I should have been letting go

I was given the gift to find it
The spirit inside me
But I never really imagined
All I could be

The answer to all of my wonder
Was right in my hands
Now it is time for me to discover
All that I am

I have always had wings
Now I am finally ready to fly

  1. Identify the types of tenses from the text
  2. In a table, write down the types of tenses and the related verbs
  3. Identify countable and uncountable nouns
  4. List the countable and uncountable nouns that you can find from the text
  5. Identify adjectives from the text
  6. List the adjectives that you can find from the text

Teachers fork out own funds for lessons

When I did my Latihan Ikhtisas, it was quite common for me to buy my own teaching materials and stationery that I needed for class activities like mahjung paper, permanent markers, coloured papers, motivation stickers, stationery like pen, pencil etc. that I used as a reward, and not forgetting chocolates that I always have in stock as an instant reward.

Fortunately, even though I was undergoing my Latihan Ikhtisas, yet my monthly salary was still the same (minus no allowance given for Latihan Ikhtisas).  So, I didn’t feel the pinch when I had to spend on such things.  But things might be different for those who are undergoing their teaching practicum (undergraduate students).    A news article wrote about this issue.  You may find the article HERE.

Using song to teach grammar_Part 2

“Sooner Or Later” by Alan Parsons

Oh what a price we pay
For the things we say
And the closer I get to you
The further you move away

All the lies we tell
In the games we play
And the longer I think it over
The harder it is to stay

Sooner or later I’ll be free
To leave the past behind
Sooner or later you’re gonna be
The last thing on my mind
Little by little I’m finding out
The truth behind your eyes
Maybe if I don’t show
I thought you might like to know
You’re gonna be the last thing on my mind

You didn’t want to know
I could have told you so
But the moment I think it’s over
The further there is to go
Just a little word
Such an easy way
But the longer I think about it
The harder it is to say

Sooner or later I’ll be free
To leave the past behind
Sooner or later you’re gonna be
The last thing on my mind
Little by little I’m finding out
The truth behind your eyes
Maybe if I don’t show
I thought you might like to know
You’re gonna be the last thing on my mind

This is the song by Alan Parsons.  This is a breakup song.  Indeed.  Well, my intention was not to teach the students to be romantic.  It is far from it.  But as teenagers, they need to learn how to regulate their emotions such as handling with rejection, break up and whatsnot.  To motivate them to learn English is not easy.  Song is one of the ways to teach which is widely used.  There are numerous research done this.  One of the examples is by a team of researchers from Turkey.

I have not done any research on this yet.  It was something that I had thought about last year when I did my Latihan Ikhtisas.  But in the end, since I only taught one class for one form, it was difficult for me to “conduct” quasi-experiment.  Especially I got the students with low proficiency in English.  So, it is understandable the other class would got better marks than mine even though the teacher never used any song at all in her teaching.   But one thing for sure, the students do become more receptive towards my style of teaching.  Some of them are under my special care until this year.


Pengsan nak menanda

Pengsan nak menanda That was commonly uttered by me when I was undergoing my Latihan Ikhtisas.  I was often frustrated with their English proficiency but what can I say.  They do not like reading even though there is Nilam program and whatsnot in school.  This student will take SPM in few months time.  I don’t know how she will perform in SPM for her English paper.  I hope she would get a better grade than now.  

My second tuition class after Latihan Ikhtisas

I had the 2nd tuition class today with them.  The first one was two weeks ago.  Only three of them submitted the homework.  The other two did not but I noticed that Raiz did his (the best his could) but Aiman, he only wrote less than five sentences (what should I do with him?).  These kids need lots of TLC apparently.  

I bought 2 tins of biscuits yesterday.  Guess what?  Yup.  It is nearly finished.  A small portion left for the teachers 😀   Opsiee….  Well, to be honest, I never thought the form 3 would also had their tuition class today with Ida.  So, I offered some to the form 3 students as well.  

The boys requested that we did a rationale cloze exercise today.  Well, well, well, this is the first time they asked to do an extra work.  Normally, they are not this willing.  They also asked for a homework.  They requested to do a Directed Writing composition.  What should I do to retain this desirable behavior?  

Before the break, we did a quick revision on the literature part.  Aalia did continuous writing with her class (Advanced class).  Ita did Captain Nobody’s discussion as well on themes.  

For rationale cloze, one of the trickiest parts is to use preposition accurately.  Rationale cloze is easily known as “fill-in-the-blank” thingy.  Students would either have to fill in the blank (by choosing the most appropriate word) with words either a verb, preposition, noun, adverb or adjective.   For example, students would be given a short text with incomplete sentences.  You have to choose one word to make the sentence complete.  

It is not easy to select the accurate answer especially we are not native speakers.  Even I would be confused sometimes 😀  But, there are some principles that we can follow.  Knowing the principles of tenses, prepositions and whatsnot make things easier.  😀 (Easy said than done, huh?)   Well, it is all about practice.  

Everything was normal until 9pm.  Then all of a sudden, the night __16__ extremely quiet.  All we could hear __17__ the sound of flowing water.  A few of us noticed the sudden quietness and were bewildered __18__ it.  But my brother who has the most experience in the jungle, cautioned us to be quiet and __19__ still.  __20__, everyone was together at the campsite.

16        A         become            B            became            C            becomes          D         is becoming

 17        A         is                     B            are                   C         was                  D         were

 18        A         by                    B            at                     C         with                 D         about

 19        A         stays                B            stay             C         stayed              D         is staying

 20        A         Happily           B            Obviously       C            Surprisingly    D            Fortunately

Answers: 16. A,  17. C,  18.  A,  19.  B,  20.  D