The Influence of Youth Underground Culture (anarchism) on Students’ Essays

•March 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Its a hectic week for me because this is the exam marking week. Language teachers are often stressed out around this time of the year because we have so many essays to mark.

Marking the students’ essays is both a mentally challenging and stimulating experience. I enjoy reading unique original stories from the students. I like reading about their takes on certain issues. Kids don’t lie about things. Most of them are still so honest in their writings, they are still unable to write manipulatively. Thus, I often find the students essays as a treasure trove for new discovery of ideas, talents, previously unknown information and sometimes hidden problems faced by the students themselves.

Today I read an essay by a student I’d call  Mac Alfie here. It was a very unique essay. It was an essay about the greatest day of his life. He started the essay by talking about how he was expelled from school last year and about how his name was in the discipline master’s black book.

Then he wrote about four different youth gangs in town namely The Emo , The Sharp, The Metallic  and The Nazi gang.

An Emo Cartoon:

He wrote that he was a member of the Metallic gang and that he and his gang members hated the Emo gang because the Emo gang members were gay. I thought that the way he reasoned this out was ‘cute’! How did he know such things right?

He said the Sharp,Metallic and The Nazi gangs were friends and that they were fighting for democracy, rights, freedom, community and girlfriends. I thought the last reason for fighting was rather weak. He even cited a few lines which look rather synonym with the taglines of anarchists parades I had often seen in some magazines in the past.

This is not the first time I’ve seen such writing though. I’ve seen few other essays written with a lot of reference to anarchism.  I know the proliferation of the Internet has caused information to be disseminated rapidly worldwide. Certain foreign ideologies have reached our shore at the same time  the penetration of foreign goods, products, services and ideas is taking place.

One of the ideas behind anarchy movement is shown through this banner:

Why should this be a cause for concern?

Well-google the meaning of anarchy , then you will know. I think many urban youths had been exposed to this culture. This underground culture may not pose any major threat to our country now as most of the followers are still in their late teen ages. For some of them this might be just a temporary phase for them like in the olden day when rock and roll lifestyle was the mode of the day.

However, in 10 to 15 years time , these young generation will be the back bone of the country. With the emergence of other issues around us such as globalization, rapid development, human capital (the issue of quality), racial unity, religious tolerance and etc-would this generation be able to withstand the compounding forces of external and internal influences upon the structure of the society. Will they unite guided by traditional and religious moral values or at least basic common sense, or will they succumb to the entrapment of anarchism in the name of total freedom and total progress?

Think about it my friends.

Project Billy get a Breakthrough….

•March 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Yahoo!!! Billy passed his English test.

When our students pass their exams, we feel happy for them. When our weak students pass, we feel even happier for them because now they know 4 sure we didn’t talk nonsense when we told them they could do it if they put their hearts to it.

Today, the public exam results are out and guess what? Billy and the gangs managed to pass their English test. I am just so over the moon.

Last year during the meetings with the principal we talked about how we were worried about a group of students who were very highly likely to fail in the exam. They were the ones who had low TOV marks and were often absent from schools. I told the principal I was worried about Billy and a few of his friends P, F and E. But P  was not that risky. He had sound English basics. F was very bright except for the fact that he was entangled in some issues (God bless this boy, he had gone through a lot and he had worked so hard). E was weak but compared to Billy, E was a few steps ahead due to her willingness to seek helps whenever she doesn’t understand things. The principal asked me whether I thought they had chance to pass, I told her that the students’ situation was ”highly volatile’ as in of course they ca pass but it all depends on their efforts and their attendance to school during the last few weeks before exam and of course on their attendance to the exam itself.

It didn’t take any extraordinary effort to teach them last year -But I could recall that it required me to be extra compassionate to my students. I had a personal tagline for my teaching mission last year which was ”Project Billy:Billy won’t fail”. There were few things I did to help him particularly but I guess he must have seen how much I wanted him to pass and he had worked really hard not to let me down. Way to go Billy!

So, the 2009 Billy Project’s Verdicts are out today :

Verdicts for Billy Boy

Verdict 1: Billy passed

Verdict 2: He had worked hard

Verdict 3: He had answered all the questions and didn’t leave any questions unanswered.

Verdict 4: He had done his best to pass the test.

Verdicts for MadamTess

Verdict 1: The sleeve -rolling teaching techniques worked for Billy and the gang.

Verdict 2: The intensive and focused teaching approaches had worked.

Verdict 3: Compassion and constant motivation had helped Billy and his friends persevered.

Verdict 4: Madam Tess did an a ok job last year.

So, cheers to a success.May this success lead to another success.

Bloopers, Blunders and Silliness

•February 12, 2010 • 1 Comment

Moments of Weaknesses in Teaching

1 – I had a busy week once. I was so stressed out and couldn’t sleep well. I had to set 3 alarm clocks on my Iphone. One particular morning I woke up at 4.30 ( the first alarm clock) after dreaming about waking up. I still felt very tired and sleepy so I went back to sleep. While sleeping I dreamed that I was already in the shower. I woke up at 5.00 am (the second alarm clock) again. But I was still too sleepy, so turned in under the warm pillows and within minutes I dreamed of putting on my clothes and getting ready for work. At 6.00 am sharp the alarm clock rang again, I got up and was about to go back to sleep when a ray of light penetrated through the thick curtain and there was a school bus honking at my neighbor’s children outside. I rolled out of bed and was out of the shower and the house in 10 minutes.

2- I was at a meeting the whole afternoon. I was really tired. I had spent several days and nights analyzing the take off value marks of the students, and working on their expected target results. I didn’t have enough sleep the whole week due to the stress. So, once I reached home from the meeting at around 5.30 pm I went straight to lalaland.. In about an hour I heard a loud honking outside (the very same school bus was sending the neighbor’s kids home). I jolted out of bed again, breathing heavily thinking that I was already terribly late for work. I got up to go to the shower …then I noticed I was still wearing my work clothes.

These are some of the typos in worksheets I have collected over the years
1. Pahapress these paharese = paraphrase these phrases
2. Analuze thi statement =analyze this statement

Silly Questions
Questions asked while in the classroom.
1- How old are you ? = Fine teacher
2- How are you ? = Thirty
3- Where’s your friend = toilet teacher
4- Where’s your book = at home
5- Where were you just now, I was looking for you ? =I don’t know teacher.
6- Are you clear about what you need to do for this task Hero? No, would you like me to help you with it ? No.

Sarcastic Remarks
1- Class, I’d like to tell you something. Yesterday, I waited for you to hand in your works but nobody did-so I was wondering if you might be needing extra time to work on it. Do you need extra time? When is the best time for you? Does 2012 sound ok?
2- Jim and Perry, I notice that you really find the classroom conducive for sleeping. I think it would be a great idea if you could bring your pillows, bolsters and mattresses to school next week? I’ll inform the school management about this special arrangement. Ok?
3- Kathy and Julie, you two look really tired this morning and I notice you haven’t even touched that reading exercise. Why don’t you two take a break and just relax for ..hmm..let say 5 minutes?

Remarks in Report Card
1- Good effort Jeff, you have managed to improve your grade from 36 to 39.
2- Well done Janice, you have managed to keep your position ( No.43/43).
3- Don’t give up Damian. There’s till time to improve ( 1 week before public exam).
4- Saly, hang in there. Don’t give up yet. As you know learning is a life long process and academic excellence doesn’t necessarily means a successful life.

Instructions in given in the classroom.
Madam Tess: Students, as you read the passage, why don’t you circle any new difficult words before we talk about the main ideas and the details of the passage?
Students: Ok, madam.
…………………After 8 minutes of reading, Madam Tess walked from table to table and she notice some students have either underlined or circled every words in the passage including all the a, the, an, and and.

Imposition , Proposition and Compassion

•February 6, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Its a beautiful Saturday afternoon. The sun is still shining brightly and the sky is almost blue with soft layers of fluffy clouds adorning the horizon. The green palm trees outside my house are stirring coyly at the greeting of the soft breezes from the sea five kilo meters away from here.

Image from
Today, I can’t seem to stop thinking about these three words ; imposition, proposition and compassion.

The word imposition is rarely used today. It sounds like an odd word. This could be because we are living in a more liberal world where the act of imposing something on someone else is seen as an abnormal behavior in this modern society.

However, the practice of imposition hasn’t been totally eliminated from the context of our society as it is still being perpetrated either deliberately of subconsciously for various different reasons by various different people. defines imposition as the laying on of something as a burden or obligation,something imposed, as a burden or duty, an unusual or extraordinarily burdensome requirement or task and the act of imposing by or as if by authority.

Proposition on the hand means the act of offering or suggesting something to be considered, accepted, adopted, or done.

Meanwhile compassion basically means a deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.

These three imposing characters are my ‘special guests’ in this blog today because they made up the cornerstones of my life as a teacher and I often reflect on them.

As teachers, we are often looked upon as agent of knowledge, distributor of knowledge and facilitator of learning. We are good at being all these.

However, the generation of students we are dealing with now are just like the generation of students we once were except they are more exposed to so many things in their lives.

Their world view is different. The values they were brought up in has also evolved from the previously consistent and standard traditional values most of us were once raised in.

As such, the students acceptance of us as teachers might differ radically from the way teachers were once accepted and obeyed decades ago.

The problem is, as teachers , most of us still tend to practice the traditional teacher-centered approaches in school. We dish out our lesson suing talk, chalk and board technique. We dish out handouts and notes to the students. We intervene in their personal conflicts just so lessons won’t be interrupted and we can get on with our job.

This is understandable as it is the easiest way to deliver the syllabus. Changing teaching approaches takes time especially in the context of some schools in South East Asia. We have to deal with shortages of fund, IT tools, time constraints, and prohibitions on some teaching approaches deemed deviating from the standard national syllabus.

Lately however, some initiatives were started to reform the education system. Even so, students still have hard times to cope because the whole process is imposing unnecessary, unpleasant, undesired, boring, exhaustive and demotivating conditions on our students.

They knew the era they are living in. They knew what to expect from the teachers. They expect fresh new approaches to teaching. Instead of being asked to write a 5 pages argumentative essay about ”who should be responsible for the well-being of senior citizens” they expect to be given samples of court cases involving elder neglect and to carry out mooting session during their English lesson.

The bright students feel so frustrated during lessons due to the teacher’s insensitivity to their varying levels and needs. They feel rage, anger and disappointment-feelings that they have to deal with without anyone to talk to them and making them feel they are ‘being bad”.

The imposition of slow changing teaching approaches caused by various constraints frustrates our young students, making them to withdraw and recoil to the state of apathy towards the education system and everything that is taught in it.

Proposition. Some students nowadays are really bright and talented. They come from good background, raised with strict moral and religious standards. Yet, when they come to school things start to change. They start to feel unhappy about a lot of things. They take parts in so many activities yet at the end of the day they feel exhausted and drained and they complain.

It is easy to play the devil advocate, side with the students and join force in lambasting the whole education system. After all, we knew its not perfect and that there are just so many things that need to be worked on.

However, did we know that when students came to us to complain , 9 out of 10 times it is not because they are sure about the flaws of the system but because they are just unsure about how to cope with the whole things. We do not need to side with them and attack the very system that is there to nurture and protect them.

Proposing tips, advices and techniques that could help them cope with their workloads better might be the best idea.

Playing the devil advocate, playing on their side against the school, fellow colleagues and the system is definitely not a good proposition. It will come back and complicate our professionalism.

Whenever some students come to talk to me about other teachers or about the system in general I’d say ” so you think you can’t cope? so how are you going to sort this out? so you think that teacher is being uncaring? could it be that he wants you to develop your independence? so you don’t like the system and you feel its relevant? maybe we just have to make it relevant to us before it choose to make us irrelevant to it? When they talk about my colleagues, I’d say I sympathize with you but I can’t say anything against my colleague. I will listen to your problem that’s it”…

Proposition is good , its a neutral ground for teachers, its just a proposition a prospective point of action. Its a nudge not a shove or a pull.

Compassion – I remember during my first year in the training college I was asked to write an essay about the most important qualities that a teacher should have. I remembered writing about compassion.

Compassion is such a beautiful word – I believe it is derived from the words comfort, patiently, and passionately ( as in with all dedication, faith and commitment).

A teacher has to be a man or woman of compassion or else she or he will have many ‘enemies’ in the school.

A teacher can’t fake compassion. You can’t pretend to be compassionate just so you will get better students’ appraisal for the term.

Students- they can see through us. They look into our souls. They can tell whether we are compassionate or not.

Some teachers can be very strict yet at the same time are very compassionate.

Some teachers shield their compassionate side due to the fear of being seen as a weakling by the students.

Some teachers are good at channeling their compassion by coming up with programs that could help the students in their academics or in other areas of their lives.

Whatever it is though-we can’t be heartless when dealing with students. You see [ this is my weakest part as a teacher]-everyday we will enter classrooms, to teach our respective subjects or sometimes to replace our colleagues. We will come across many students, from various different races, background, look, appearance, styles and colors.

Some students will gain our liking instantly while some will need some times to warm up to us. In dealing with disparity and differences in background, appearance and capabilities we need to have a compassionate heart.

I have soft spot for students who are really weak in their studies and also for those who come from very poor background. Sometimes I have to stop myself halfway from being overly concerned about them. But I can’t help myself from caring so much about my students. My superior once labeled me as the champion of the students’ plight.

I apply these three concepts to my parenting skills as well. As much as I can, I avoid imposing undue burden on my children and family members, I propose instead of impose ideas and most importantly I show compassion for them.

I spend a lot of times with students in school and it is undeniably hard for me to spend equal amount of times with my own children at home.

However, I make it a point to live the same values in both my professional and personal lives.

Writers’ Voice, Idiosyncrasy and Honesty

•February 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Every action has its consequences, hence its is advisable to think hard before doing anything..

Everything I write about here will have direct consequences on my readers and also on myself. Thus, I really need to think deep about what I want to write and the manner in which I need to write them.

It seems almost unavoidable my sentences seem to always begin with I-despite trying to change my sentence structures, the word I keep littering my sentences bringing about that foreboding feeling of being egocentric and narcissistic.

Focusing on the ‘I ‘draws the boundary between the writer, the idea and the readers. The ‘I’ is like a prominent Ara tree on the river bank, the ideas are like the river while the readers are like the passing wind. The ‘I’ can’t be too stoic or else it will be broken by the strong wind. The ‘I’ needs to be malleable enough to allow the wind to travel through its branches and foliage, to explore it yet not to be broken by it. The river of ideas will still be there, but whether or not the wind crosses over and marches towards the Ara tree will depends on the strength, charm and charisma of the Ara tree-the writer.

Ideas, meaning , concepts and interpretation are fluid notions in life. They keep changing and ebbing away with circumstances. A writer’s concept of self though need to be constant and consistent. Good writers are normally able to do that -they have one identity and they stick to it till the end of time. Even if they evolve there’s always this elements of idiosyncrasy in their styles of writing and in their perspectives.

Consistency is not known to be my style. I am a Cancerian (if you believe in zodiac like I do), a water creature and I change like the changing water tide. No matter how hard I try to be consistent, from time to time, there’s always internal psychological demands to keep altering and keep changing my approach to writing, to seeing things and to interpreting and expressing them.

There are ‘professional’ risks in this I am sure due to the fact that no one like to read works from writers with unstable temperament or inconsistent outlook on life.  It degrades the possible credibility of a writer or thinker.

But identify-and self concept as a writer , let me tell you, is not easy to sustain especially for someone who is still trying to find the niche in this whole world of writing. I will do my best regardless, to adhere to a slightly stricter definition of consistency and stylistic integrity in my writing. I wouldn’t want to be perceived as a writer with a bad self-image.

Self Image -as a person, as a professional and as a writer. Out there, I am sure there are many people with really healthy self-image that they never question their own identities. I however have some problem with self-image due my personality and the transitory situation I am in now.  There are times I feel I have it all in my personal life and also in my career  and I should not seek any further. However, there are also times I tend to analyze life too much and I begin to see the shortcomings and weaknesses that I felt needed to be tackled or fixed.

Earlier, I came across some pictures on the web and one particular picture grabbed my attention. It was the picture of the famed Cat Lade Miss Jocelyn Wilderstein. Many of us are familiar with this name due to the extensive media coverage on the life of this person in the past.

So, as I read more about this lady, it occurred to me that all this lady wanted was a sense of security, affirmation, love and a sense of consistency in life. But then what she did to achieve that was just beyond me. But, in my heart, what really bothers me is that the realization of the fact that sometimes unknowingly we often try very hard to please other people around us. We try very hard to please people in our private social circles, people in our profession, writing critics and readers. Sometimes we work hard battling off competition, imposed conditions  and conflicting stances on things that we lose our true sense of self.

The more we want to fit in, to conform or to adhere, we strip layer by layer of our real self.  Sometimes we hide, sometimes we run, sometimes we give, sometimes we take, sometime we lie, sometimes we expose the truth, sometimes we manipulate the truth, sometimes we exagerate, sometimes we conceal the truths and in the end we no longer know what’s the truth and who we really are.

A columnist I knew once told me that in the past he used to care so much about the way people think of his columns. Nowadays however, according to him, quoting his exact line ”I don’t care anymore. I am real in my writing, with my warts and all”. Well, he’s a retired corporate lawyer so I guess he can afford not to care too much.

As for me I think I will keep to being the real me in and through my writings, no matter how dull that might can be.Some people might not agree with the way I look at things, that is understandable. I do not want to make people feel as if I am imposing my ideas and values on them. It would bring more satisfaction to know that my readers do understand that I am here merely to share my thoughts, observations and reflections on my experience  in the world of teaching .

Image courtesy of yahooimages
I wish for my readers to picture me  as a teacher busily working in her garden, erecting the white fences around the beds of flowers and  planting more orchids, roses and frangipani on the compound of the garden and to see themselves as passers by who can either jump over the fences to pluck some  flowers or just wave a cordial greeting before resuming the leisurely stroll along to the other garden

Education-the process, the pedagogy and the drama….

•January 30, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Hello and welcome to my blog…

A wise man once said  that, if we look back upon  our lives, we will find that the moments we truly lived are the moments when we have done things in the spirit of love. When I look back upon my own life I could recall that they have been so many things I’ve done in the spirit of love in the past. One of these things was deciding to become a teacher in the first place. Despite being one of the easiest decision to make, it has also opened the doors to an endless journey of self-discovery, life long learning and endless exploration of a myriad of inter-related issues in life.

So, here I am again indulging myself  in this passion for  writing and blogging. After keeping so many blogs on various websites  and often ending up rambling  on things that benefited nobody but myself alone ,I finally decided that it was  time to write about something that would not only benefit me professionally but also might offer some insights about the world of teaching to others who are just like me still searching for ways to be an effective teacher.

Thus for this blog, I will write about  education issues, teaching related issues, especially English Language Teaching and Teaching of English as a Second Language.

I have to mention that my English is not that superb! I am a user of English as a second language myself , something that often makes my job as an English teacher more difficult in a way because I can’t seem to model the perfect target language for my students. However, at the same time, my status as ESL user  helps me to empathize better with my students. Most times  I can walk in their shoes and this helps me prepare lessons that really address their needs.

I believe strongly in the practice of reflective teaching and that the best teacher in life is experience. I am not a great teacher at all even though I have to admit that I do put conscious deliberate efforts to deliver marvelous lessons. I just don’t feel I am even close to being a truly effective teacher yet.

Sometimes, I get so disappointed with my lessons delivery that I felt so ashamed of myself and feel unable to face my students. On the contrary,the things that often make me feel proud of myself  sometimes are the things I do informally for the students, activities done  in addition to what I did with them in the classroom or my interaction with them.

Teaching is a demanding job. You can’t afford not being a perfectionist in this field because you are dealing with human, with people as your raw materials. You need to get everything perfectly planned and carried out.  Errors made in this field, be it in term of approaches to handling students, delivery of lessons, administration of examination and handling of students’ affairs issues may affect generations of members of the society.

It is a field where one has no choice but to embrace and embody all that is good and honorable in life. One cannot pretend to be a great teacher, if one does not master the subject matter. One cannot preach or teach or instill moral values if one doesn’t  believe and practice them.

Notwithstanding, I still see myself as a constant learner and practitioner in this profession. There are just so many things to learn from this profession, from the management team, colleagues, staffs, parents and ultimately the students. After eight years being a teacher, I have learned a wealth of skills and knowledge from members of my school and also from my working interaction with other members of the teaching profession.

There are times things get too hectic in school and we get stressed out and feel exhausted. The thing is however, in education, the exhaustion and the pressures can feel so ‘delightful’, they act as impetus for constant flow of  activities, continuous chain of action and endless contemplation for improving the quality of one’s own practices as a teacher. The stress and pressures in the teaching field are just like black sweet coffee in the morning, potent, strong, potentially dangerous to health but very much needed to fuel inspiration and aspirations.

So, welcome again my friends.