Friday, November 28, 2008

I Can Now Opt For Pension Scheme

Oh, great great great news!

40,000 Civil Servants Given Option Of Pension Scheme
November 27, 2008 18:17 PM

PUTRAJAYA, Nov 27 (Bernama) -- About 40,000 more civil servants will be in the pension scheme following the government's decision to grant back that option to all those who had earlier chosen the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) scheme.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the move was to enable these civil servants to enjoy the medical and other retirement benefits provided by the government.

"All this will be good for them in the long run," he said after presenting the Public Sector Quality Awards to the recipients at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre, here, Thursday.

When I was a young teacher (very wet behind the ears!) attending an induction course years ago, one of the course presenters told us about the EPF and pension options. But the gist of his presentation was that EPF was the better option of the two. This, plus the fact that I was thinking of leaving the service for greener horizons, influenced me to opt for the EPF scheme. But what I didn't know was that I would lose all medical benefits once I retired. And to top it off, there would be no gratuity for me.

As time went by, it became clear that I was not leaving the service and that I wanted wanted wanted to be in the pension scheme. Whatever happened, I liked the idea of being able to go to government hospitals and paying the minimum. Even if, judging by today's economic climate, this minimum would most probably be a scary sum. I was also worried about my ability to handle and organise for myself the EPF monies I would receive.

I used to think it would be a snap. But after watching several friends and relatives retire and fritter away their EPF, I felt worried.

One friend tried to be smart and put his money in unit trusts. In the past ten years, the money has transformed from a big green mountain into a dry brown hill. He's now had to give tuition to minimise the damage to his 'hill'.

Another friend was persuaded to go into the demolition derby world of business. Apparently it was a can't-lose situation. I won't detail his current circumstances. Use your imagination.

An aunt used her EPF monies to pay for favourite relatives' pilgrimages to the Middle East. Also pilgrimages to the altar of capitalism. We have a few altars in Kota Kinabalu: Centre Point, One Borneo, Karamunsing Complex, City Mall.... Now she worships at the altar of frugality. But frugality out of necessity. There is a BIG difference between being frugal because you want to and being frugal because you have no choice.

For your information, these three examples are of very reasonable and intelligent people. However, it looks like life has a way of going its own way...and not necessarily the way we need to have it go.

I suppose the point is, if you cannot manage your money, OPT FOR THE PENSION SCHEME! So I have been brave enough to admit this to myself and will fill in that form in January.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

DG44, DG48, DG52 Form Six Academic Teachers

First, a little background info for my friends not in the service.

In December 2007, we attended a briefing where we were asked to nominate teachers for DG44, DG48 and DG52 posts as Form Six teachers in school. As my school had four Form Six classes, we had one DG52 post, three DG48 and five DG44 form six academic teachers posts. These teachers were not going to do any admin. We also had one DG44 Form Six Senior Assistant post and one DG44 Form Six Cocurriculum Coordinator. This was a great thing for teachers in school...at last they had another avenue for promotions, other than going into administration (as a principal, senior assistant or dept heads) or becoming GCs (master teachers). Of course they had to teach Form Six students, which isn't exactly a walk in the park. However, the people in the briefing room weren't exactly happy. And I knew why.

Blow Number One was that the senior assistants in school (myself included) were to remain in the DG44 grade. I could foresee problems in overseeing a school with many people in higher job grades than myself. Some officers said it was not a problem as I had the 'jawatan' (pronounced in a stentorian tone). Well, my response to that is YEAH RIGHT (best said in a sarcastic manner).

Blow Number Two was that although I was in DG44, I couldn't apply for the post as I had not yet sat for my PTK3 DG44 exam. Well, I'd say 'Luck of the Irish..' but I'm not Irish! Haha... Anyway, Lilian Too had already predicted that 2008 was not to be a good year for me...so I suppose the drought was starting early.

My principal and I rushed back to school as we were given only three days to prepare our nominations. We did it but up till today, I'm still feeling the repercussions. We couldn't nominate ALL the Form Six teachers as some of them didn't fulfil all the criteria (they were too young or had not passed their PTK). And some teachers felt that we should have nominated the senior teachers who were due for promotion. But I kept explaining the criteria to them over and over again. I even photocopied the briefing notes (handouts) for them so they could see that one of the documents required was the 2007 teacher's timetable. So if the senior teacher was not a Form Six teacher, he or she could not be nominated. But it took till March before EVERYONE finally were satisfied and settled down. Well, at least as far as I know. At least I no longer had people coming to my room to ask sadly or despondently or disconsolately why why why the teachers in the list were chosen. They weren't senior, they weren't long-serving teachers of the school, they weren't excellent (with reference to the APC)...etc etc.

One would think that we didn't make things clear during the announcement in the first staff meeting. But we laid things out as given to us during the December briefing. The nominated teachers MUST be Form Six teachers. And they were nominated even if they had only served three years as a DG41 teacher. Perhaps some teachers heard the term 'DG44' and immediately lost track of the rest of the briefing. Some of the teachers in my school have worked for almost 20 years and they were still in DG41. This was perhaps their last perceived chance...

When I attended meetings with my other senior assistant comrades, I found out that the same (or almost the same) thing was happening in their own schools. And when I go online, I surf forums and blogs afire with the same issues. What can anyone say? I suppose the implementation of the promotional exercise could have been carried out better...but as they say, walk a mile in the person's shoes first before you judge him.

In October, a second Form Six promotional exercise was announced. This time, it was open to DG41 officers with at least five years in the job grade and with options available in the Form Six list of subjects. I waffled for a few weeks before I too filled in the form. A senior colleague's advice was to grab the opportunity for the DG48 job grade. Such opportunities didn't exactly litter the ground. When I dropped by the Education Office and met one of the officers in charge of the promotion exercise, he also asked me to make sure none of the teachers in my school falsified documents or details. I was thinking that anyone who did that had to be suicidal (career-wise) or not using his or her brain. But for the officer to say that to me, I suspect that perhaps he had come across suicidal or brainless people.

So what's in store for me in 2009? I'm not sure but I hope for better things.
Well, Lilian Too said 2009 was going to be a good year for me ;)

IAB Lecturer Offer!

Well, actually, it was an offer to attend an interview :)

Two days ago, I went to the office and was told by a colleague that I had an offer letter from IAB to attend an interview for a post in Genting Highlands. She was very amused because she had received one as well (along with three other teachers in my school) and not one of us applied for the posts offered. (The posts were the usual DG44, DG48, DG52 pemangkuan...)

Some would think..wow, a great opportunity! But I think not.

First, I've already applied for a DG48 post as a Form Six Academic Teacher (more on this in the next post). The possiblity of my getting it is pretty good (fingers crossed!).

Second, should I be successful in this IAB interview, I would have to move from comfortable familiar KK (and also home!) to the wild woolly highlands to work. I'd have to look for a place to stay, a new school for my son, my husband would have to re-establish himself all over again work-wise (he is not a civil servant easily transferred anywhere) and I suspect that the ensuing costs would far outstrip any possible extras I hope to get as a DG48 officer. I also still remember the four months I spent living in IAB (as part of my Masters course) and the thought of living in Bentong (or elsewhere) and driving everyday up to IAB doesn't exactly inspire exaltations of joy. Don't misunderstand me. I salivate over the IAB library and the highlands are b e a u t i f u l. But when the mists come down over the buildings and I can barely see my hand before my face, and worse, when I think of living in or around or near KL.... I begin to feel the atavistic instinct to fight or flee. The highlands and KL are great places to holiday in...but not to live in. Not for me, anyway. And the place is very scary at night. Very.

Third, I think I am more needed in my state than in Genting Highlands...and people who are needed will be better appreciated. Heh.

I called an old university mate Dr Ahmad Rafee Che Kassim who is currently serving in IAB and he told me that if I want a work environment that challenges me and supports my interest in research (and a future PhD qualification), then I should try my best to ace the interview. But if I want to put my family first (the dilemma of most working ladies!), then perhaps I'd better stay where I am. I also called my Master coursemates working in the Institut Perguruans to check whether they got the offers. No, they didn't. Most probably that's because they are already under BPG and not to be poached. Other people who I knew received the letter were a principal and PKHEM in Tambunan and a PK1 in Kota Marudu.

It looks like all those with Masters and PhDs were posted the same letter. Well, my interview's at 8.30 a.m. today and I won't be attending. I also sent an SMS to the officer in charge, informing him of my non-attendance. It is always politic to be courteous.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

First Real Day Of Holiday!

Today is the first real day of the year-end holiday!

Yesterday didn't count cos I was at work till 4 p.m., sitting in a data meeting at the KK District Education Office. I didn't really mind that much as the officers in charge of the meeting were funny and cheerful. As usual. Well, they have to be as they were asking the schools to fill up a database. Usually a finicky messy crazy job. I didn't have to do it as my data officer was there. My job was to carry the school chops, school letterheads and responsibility to approve.

Now what shall I do today?

I plan to start off with a good hearty breakfast. Keeping in mind my latest resolution to try and make my blood as alkaline as possible.

Next I may go to Karamunsing Complex to see what the Laptop Fair has to offer. Not that I want to buy a laptop. My Inspiron 700m is still serving me well.

Then I may check my ebook folders. I've been downloading so many ebooks that I probably have a few hundred that I haven't read yet.

Yes, that should make for a memorable Saturday.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Burn, baby, burn....!

Actually, the topic should be 'Burnout, baby, burnout...'

Burnout is every teacher's problem. Our work requires us to feel for our 'clients' (i.e. students) and in the process, treat them like our own children. The thing is, the emo can only be spread around so far...

January launches us straight into sports activities (nothing can bond teachers and students together like sweating out on the fields...) and before we can even take a breath, it's already March and that means TESTS! For the teacher, this means cranking out 'quality' test papers, watching the kids take it and then marking them. Then it's analysis time, headcounts, item analyses etc etc ad nauseam. Overlapping the tests will be other cocurricular activities like debates, spelling bees, quizzes, choir competitions ...more ad nauseam. And guess who will plan organise referee these activities? Teachers la...

I've run from debates in the morning to dramas in the afternoon and when I drag my exhausted body home, it will be to pick up a red pen to mark some 450 essays (5 classes of English x 50 students x 3 essays each). And in the mix will be some naughty kids, a stressed friend or two and a demanding boss.

One or two weeks' break would help to ease the strain some...if there are no school activities then.

June July August September will be a blur of lessons, meetings, exams and reports. Mid October will be what a literature teacher would call resolution time. Time to analyse, finalise and report everything. By the first week of November (like now!), most teachers would be feeling like a wet rag wrung out and hung out to dry. The right adjectives to use would be dried up, shriveled, shrunken, withered, dessicated WILTED...

Coincidentally, www.yourdictionary.com says the antonyms are fresh, blooming, alive....

Well, that's why the year end holidays are so important. We teachers need time to destress and to soak up lots of pampering, coddling, indulging...HEALING. It takes a lot of indulging for me to feel fresh, blooming and alive again. Speaking of indulging, I was at TecAsia this afternoon...hmmm, saw lots of tech things guaranteed to help me feel alive.

Sigh, can't wait for the holidays...

People and Their Conflicts

Doing admin at my place of work has made me realise how important people and their relationships with each other are in making sure the organisation functions well.

I also see that there is no such thing as black and white, as in Mrs A is wrong and Mr B is right. Usually the conflict will have its roots in something else and most often, it's a 'minor' thing. But like a burr under a saddle or the pea in the princess' bed (remember the fairytale?), the 'minor' thing festers and festers and in the end, something blows up.

So as an administrator, to ignore 'minor' things and to discount people's opinions and WORSE..to take sides, would be the beginning of major troubles in the organisation.

For example, one of my friends' troubles began when she asked a very very simple question: Are you divorced? But the one who was asked that question took such violent offense that ever since that 'minor' question, she took every opportunity to undermine the other. Even to the point of dragging in others into a protest. I almost ran myself ragged trying to smooth things over. In the end, both moved to other workplaces.

Another friend stood his ground in a conflict and chided another colleague over her unbecoming behaviour. In consequence, he earned her undying enmity. Both are still in the same organisation (my school la...what else?) and just today, he spent an hour just venting his grievances. He's more outraged over her latest shenanigans than anything else. Frankly I don't see how he could've avoided the problem. Sometimes you shouldn't run or avoid a conflict. Just wade in, with all guns blazing....if you have to, then agree to disagree.

I'm more of the peaceable sort myself. But people who underestimate my capacity for verbally loud or physically violent resolutions normally regret it. Got lots of training in my secondary school (good ol' Convent!) Heh heh...and it's also a bonus that after the 'bloodshed' is over, I feel really good. All detoxed, I guess.

Hmmm... doesn't sound very Christian, does it? But then again, I never did truly understand that turning-the-other-cheek bit. Personally, I've found that a tight roundhouse of a slap can be very useful in extreme situations. Or at the very least, the promise of it.

That's one of the things a teacher has to master: the ability to deliver messages through body language or facial expressions. It's very easy to control a classful of rowdy people just by using your eyes and your body language...if you know how. The principle works with adults too...:)