Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

What Happens When Friends Make 'Dumb' Decisions

Nothing happens.  To you, anyway.

The best thing you can do is just sit by them and hold their hand.  Maybe make some coffee.

How Can One Make The Best Decision

One of the questions I always get from people around me is..."What do I do now? How do I decide?" Such a common cry...

Decisions ...
they can drive us mad
they can bring us to grief
they can drive our successes...

Yet so many people don't know how to make the right decisions.

But is there a single formula for 'making the right decision'?

I only know what works for me, which is usually a combination of approaches.

The first thing I do is pray to God for guidance. (religious approach)
The second is to gather as much info about the issue as I can from books, people etc. The idea is to reach some sort of 'critical mass'... (common sense approach)
The third is list down all my choices from 1 to 10 and start writing out the consequences for each choice. (classic counselling approach)
The fourth is cross out the 'dumb' or 'crazy' choices that have unacceptable consequences.
The fifth is pray ... and go to sleep. (Roslyn's approach)

By morning, the choice to make will always be obvious to me.

So then, I take the sixth step. I go around and ask friends for their opinions.
In the end, I confirm my choice...which is usually what I decided in the first place, though not always. So what is the point in asking people? Nothing... I just wanted to hear their opinions. And I wanted to see if their rationalizations would sway my thinking.

But, of course, the worst thing to not to make any decision at all.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Treasuring The Moments In Our Lives

Today is another one of those days when I wake with an ache in the head and a weight on the shoulders. I walk into the office and I see all the letters on the table and in my pigeonhole and slipped under the door. And chirpy people breeze by, carolling,"Don't forget tonight's function ah! You're in protocol!"


So to destress, I take some time out to write.

My friends who've been with me since primary school know that I write when I am stressed. I write letters, I write notes, I write stories... and now blog posts. So far, I've written 17 posts just for the month of April...out of a total of 26 for the whole year so far.

...the best of times, the worst of times...

April 2009 is going to stand out in my thoughts for a long time to come....:/

Today I want to write about people and expectations. Everyone has expectations...of themselves and of others. And most people will have high expectations of friends or colleagues perceived to be a high achiever. Which, actually, is a natural thing. I, as a former Head of Unit and former Senior Assistant, am guilty of this.

I use the word 'guilty' because sometimes in the pursuit of an objective, I can forget that the person I am pushing (maybe, to the very brink) is still a human being; dealing with fears, insecurities, priorities and a frail human heart. He or she too has loves, hates, wants, needs...

So, when I am reminded, I back off and allow that person to be a child, a boy, a man or a be what they are, and not what they have the potential to be.

I think one of the most precious skills in life is to learn how to kick back and relax in the moment. For in the very next heartbeat, that moment is forever lost.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tangential Shifts

Sometimes things happen and your life goes off at a tangent along a different path...  you're not quite sure what happened but suddenly priorities change and you feel a slight but definite shift in your thinking.

You wonder if this is right. But you continue on down that path.

In the meantime, life goes on... what? did you think it was going to stop for you????

Ha ha ha ha... d.a.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I Have The Right To Be Depressed!

Sometimes I feel fed up.
Sometimes I feel like I want to shout at the world.

Why must I be happy all the time?
Why must I be cheerful all the time?

Don't I have the right to get angry sometimes?
Can't I sulk and pout and say "Enough!"

Why can't I shut the door sometimes and
....sink into a depression?
....wallow in a pool of misery?
....brood in my wretchedness?

Is it a crime? Is it something I'm not allowed to do?

You say,"NO, you of all people cannot be depressed!"
But why why why...???

I WANT to be depressed...
I have the RIGHT to be depressed.

Just for a short while.


Only Two Days And I'm Beat!

It's my second day in the new job and I'm dog-tired.

First day : Meeting with KPM and JPN officers from 8 in the morning till 5 in the evening.  I only left around 5.45 because I was getting info about my scope of duties.  Spent the night preparing 22 files and burning 22 CDs for Tuesday meeting.

Second day : Meeting with secondary school senior assistants and data officers (8.30 to 10.30 am).  Internal meeting to plan the year's projects from 3 pm to 4.30 pm.  Spent one hour in my room preparing files for Wednesday's meeting.  EO asked if I was informed that I was involved in the function on Thursday night (big VIP's welcome).  I just smiled weakly at her over my armful of files, CDs, LCD projector, laptop and purse.

Am sitting at the PC right now wrangling two CD burners.

Third Day Plan :
8.30 - 10.30 am : meeting with primary school senior assistants and data officers (location : Inanam)
8.30 am            : meeting to plan Thursday night's function (location : office)
8.30 - 5 pm       : meeting in SPA for all Maths and Science officers (location : SPA)

CLONING TIPS, ANYONE?????????????????????????


Friday, April 17, 2009

Royal Commonwealth Essay Competition 2009 Latest Status

I keep getting emails and messages about this competition but unfortunately I'm not affiliated in any way to the competition or the society. I merely blogged about it.

However, this may be happening because the essay website URL changed. And not everyone knows how to use Google.

So for those who want to find out about the essay, please go to or email your queries to It doesn't look like the results are available at this point in time.

As for me, I'm just an English teacher working in Sabah, the northern part of Borneo. About as far away from London as it is possible to get :)

A Death ... But Not Of A Man.

A man died yesterday. I didn't know him that well. I may have met him only a handful of times. What I remember was that he was a man you never forgot. All he had to do was enter a room and everyone would turn to look. He had a love of life that shone through in his laughter and his words.

But he died today and now I have a friend who is devastated. She too has a similar love of life. I admire her for her zest for living and just overall in-your-face vitality. But her grief is so strong.... I am so sad...I do not grieve for him for I barely knew him. Besides he is already 'safe' in the other world. I grieve for tears are for a woman left behind. I have faith in her strength and I know she will get through this. But what version of her will emerge at the other end of this tunnel of pain? I am selfish because I still want the old fresh and mouthy lady. I just fear that she may never be the same.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Would I Want To Be Young Again?

Trying out a new widget...Meebo. Useful...and helps me keep track of all my contacts in multiple IMs. In fact, I'm chatting with an old friend right now.

Topic now is "Would we want to relive our life? Would we want to be 15 again? Or 25? :)

To be 15 means I'd be back in Form Three, suffering exams and books and maths sums and history facts...I'd be in St Francis Convent, involved in mass drills under the sun, swinging ribbons to marching music. I'd be spending my afternoons finishing book after book of past year exam questions. Oh no, I'd never want to be 15 again.

To be 25 means being a young teacher in La Salle, being assigned all the tasks no senior teacher wanted. Like DEBATE! Hahhaha...and afternoon practices and weekend camps. I'd get to be secretary of the PTA. I'd be asked to be head of the Davies sports house or assistant to the head. Now that would mean long hours in the field, yelling at the students to run faster, jump higher or just shout louder. I'd be asked to drive the school van...funny no one ever asked me if I could drive it. I had fun...but nah, I wouldn't want to be 25 again. Too little pay and too little say :)

I think I'd rather be the age I am now. People listen to what I say...if only because I'm older than most of them :) I also have lots of memories and experiences in my heart, mind and soul. And oh yeah I get more money in the pay packet!

It's hard to believe that in ten more years, we'll both be half a century old. Well, she's a bit younger ...but thereabouts. Malaysian women are supposed to die around the age of 80. So I've got at least 40 more years to live....whoa, so many more things that I can do... unless I get called home earlier.


My First Day At The New Place Of Work

The first day at my new place of work say the least, instructional.

I arrived at the KWSP building and went straight to a meeting at another section. Call it what you wasn't a meeting. It was a series of briefings; seven in total. To make sure we didn't run away, they had breakfast ready, 10.30 a.m. tea break, 1.00 pm lunch and 5.00 p.m. coffee break. Now I remember how I piled on the kilos in my six years with the department.

They packed everyone into a small room, where we sat shoulder to shoulder and then began a powerpoint marathon. By the time the day was over, my head was spinning with all the programs and reports I had on my plate.

But it wasn't all bad. I met so many old friends.
Jake; now Sipitang PPD. Lookin' good as ever, despite his new status as weekend husband.
Sufri...hey, man, watch the chocolates and cigarettes!
Rafidah ... we managed to exchange some info that will help a young lady in Lahad Datu
Myrene, long 'lost' friend.
Setia and Sharifah, transplanted PK1s, just like me.
Lily, long not seen...
Ben, smile never changing...

And it didn't take long before Sufri was trying to troubleshoot my notebook. I tried to troubleshoot its LAN connection a few months ago and succeeded. But I totally messed up its wireless connection.

And I also met my newest superior, W anihim, Timbalan PPD.

When I went home at 5.30 p.m., it was drizzling. So apt.
Juliah says I'll come around. I suppose I will.

Monday, April 13, 2009


One of my favourite singers is Alanis Morissette....she has this absolutely spine chilling way of delivering a song.  I don't know anyone who can sing a song like 'Uninvited' the way she does.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Teacher Debate Zone Level Fiasco

Tonight, my debater friends at the Zone Level Debates in Kedah are upset.  According to some amendments to the rules, teacher debaters who have won the competition or been awarded Best Debater at national level beginning 2001, are automatically disqualified.  Unfortunately this little piece of information didn't reach the debaters.  Two of the Sabah BM debaters were disqualified and they were almost in tears.  Then one of the English teachers debate team coaches had to step in as a BM reserve debater.  According to Jamilah (one of the debaters), the hall was in an uproar.  FIVE states were unable to field teams thanks to said amendment.

Why didn't we know about this?  Did our liaison officer drop the ball?  If so, why is it that five other states didn't know as well?  At least Sabah was still able to field a team. But whatever the matter may be, the organisers could have done a better job.  They could have just announced it this year for implementation next year.

Now hearts are broken and minds are frustrated...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Career Paths

I was discussing career paths with old friends and we realized that with all the new changes in the Ministry of Education, the old ways of thinking of our work and the old preconceptions about places of work (insiders know what I'm talking about) don't apply anymore. Teachers can decide to work towards becoming administrators or academic Form 6 teachers or Teaching Institute lecturers or time-based teachers or even joining the department and ministry divisions.

There's no place that is 'better' than the others because there are so many new posts now. More opportunities...although, frankly speaking, the schools have MORE posts...if only because there are so many more schools than institutes or offices.

Now that I've been dragged (literally!) into the PPD, I have to be more on my toes about this... PPDs don't have many posts up for grabs :(

Last year, I filled in the application for the DG48 Form 6 academic teacher post. That would mean leaving admin and going into academic teaching. Is that better? I am not sure. But here's the thing that's been worrying me... all this while, I have been teaching subjects that my principals have been ordering me to teach and these subjects were more often English, Literature, Science and Maths. Despite the fact that my majors are Chemistry and TESL.
However, if I do get the Form Six Academic Teacher post, there is a high possibility that I'll be asked to teach Chemistry. Well...wouldn't that be something? I've only ever taught Chemistry Form 4 for ONE year. And it was to an Arts class (don't ask me why!).

Here's a snippet of memory from that class long long time ago - pre PPSMI :

Me : Okay, jadi jelas sudah kah cara pengiraan mol? Jadi untuk mengetahui bilangan atom, kamu darab Angkatap Avogadro dengan bilangan mol ini... (I did a quick conversion from 1/2 to 0.5)

Students : Waaaaaahh...cikgu, pandai oh kau. Macam mana ko tahu itu 1/2 boleh jadi 0.5?

Me : *stunned speechless*

Students : *seeing the look on my face* Tapi indak apa bah, cikgu. Kami tidak faham pun, ko ajar saja.

So judging by the sheer lack of practice (and challenge) in teaching Chemistry (what more Form Six Chemistry), I'm going to have a very interesting time teaching Chemistry...should I be required to.

I'm so not looking forward to this...

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Last Official Day In School

Today is my last official day in school.  As in the last day that I'll be teaching and the last day that I'll be in school full-time.

It is very different from my last day in the Academic Management Sector.  There are benefits to working in the education offices but the major pull in school is the people, students and teachers.  In the office, everyone is busy handling his or her own work.  Most of the time, the work doesn't overlap.  So you get used to being on your own from 8 to 5.  But in school, EVERYTHING overlaps; from the teaching to the canteen doings to the field activities.  I can walk from my office to the canteen and take half an hour because every room or every person I pass has something to say or discuss.  Sometimes I never even get to the canteen.  But in the office, I can walk around the office, ACTIVELY looking for people and they are all in their cubicles, on the phone or deep in files. 


Perhaps I'll be online most of the time then...

Robbie Burns would be apt now.

The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!
(The best laid schemes of Mice and Men
oft go awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!)

So I'll just leave it all up to God.

Monday Blues To The Power Of TEN!

It's still only Thursday but I'm already suffering Monday blues.

Received a call to tell me not to forget to go to the office (read that as the PPD : new place of work) on Monday and that I had a meeting to attend that day itself.  "Oh btw, there are reports to submit...could you ~do~ them?"


Well, maybe I can't do them as maybe Monday will be my first day on the job.  Maybe lah....

Argghhhh, this is what I do not like about moving on to a new job.  I'll be picking up the reins and the headaches as well.  People also keep congratulating me...but they are not aware this is not a fact, I'd be losing out on two allowances: the incentive for teaching in English and the Senior Assistant allowance.

The relevant terms in the title of the letter are : Arahan Perpindahan Setara.

I'm so not looking forward to Monday... : (

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Energy Boosters

When I go around bolstering people, I like to imagine a halo of energy around my head and shoulders and that I'm sending a stream of energy out to others. While I talk to them or listen to them, I'm 'supplying' them with energy.

But I forget sometimes that I need energy myself, especially when I'm fresh out. Today I was feeling low and depleted, especially after I left my Form 5 class. It was my first class with them after they found out that I was leaving the school and they were not happy. Then I read some posts online and remembered that the state teacher debaters were checking into PSPN today. After a few smses, I realized that they were low on motivation, thanks to some incidents. I knew I had to go to PSPN. But I badly needed backup and so I asked Henry and Eric to go along. I knew they could give a lot of input to the team members and they could also reaffirm their support of this particular team. At the same time, they could also 'support' me.

So when I went through my powerpoint slides, I just kept looking over to the two seated at the back of the room and in a funny way, felt re energized. As if those two were batteries :)

Sounds weird, doesn't it? But I'm glad they were there.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Sabah English Teachers Debate Team Roll Call

I still remember the day I was conscripted into the Sabah English Teacher Debate Team. Julia Jock just came up to me and told me to get ready. I must've have not said much because my memories of that block of time has huge holes in it and she didn't react adversely. I mean, if I'd said no, the matter would've gone into a longer exchange of words, right?

However, I DID remember thinking,"WHAT??? Teacher debate??? Do they think we have nothing to do???" Well, since then, I've found that every newbie to the Ministry of Education English Teacher Debate competition would have a similar reaction. However, in my case, as it was JULIA who called the shots, it was far better to go along than to attempt an escape. All who have had similar dealings with Julia Willie Jock would agree with me.

Well, it's been 15 years since that fateful day. I will never forget receiving the Crystal Vase from the Prime Minister himself... and I even got a little crystal trophy of my take home and keep. And the competition has gone from strength to strength. The organisers in Institut Aminuddin Baki keep doing it better and better. This year (2009) marks another milestone. The powers-that-be have decided that the teachers are ready for University Debate-style pressure. The motion will only be given to the teachers one hour before the competition. Ah, what glee. Not.

But honestly, I'm happy about it. This is a sign that they (said powers) have decided the English teachers of Malaysia have attained a respectable level of competency in debates. Somehow, over the years, despite the lack of support (in terms of training), the teachers have been able to acquire skills in debating so as to appear half-decent on a stage...okay, okay, I'm being sarcastic here.

Let it be noted here though, that I have never regretted being involved in debates (1994 till now) and that I've made many friends in the course of the debates (boh students and teachers).

Okay, time for ROLL CALL! Line them up and here they are....:)

1994 National Champs (INAUGURAL COMPETITION) - Alor Setar, Kedah
Rachel Goh Siew Lay, Johanna Sibyl Disimond, Neil Mah, Roslyn Tunggolou, Wan Hailah

1995 National Level Semi Finalist (Johor)
Johanna Sibyl Disimond, Neil Mah, Kenneth Chye, Lu Gen Wah (Sandakan), Wan Hailah or Rachel Goh?

1996 - 1999
No information (please email if you have this info)

Annabelle Funk, Mior Azman bin Musa, Azlina

Annabelle Funk, Mior Azman bin Musa, Beatrice Lye, Royani Abd Hamid

2002 National Champs (Kota Kinabalu)

Beatrice Lye, Annabelle Funk, Audrey Koh Sui Ean, Annie Molly, Fidelia Mathew Sipaun (replaced Adrian Robert)

2003 National Runners-Up (Penang)
Beatrice Lye, Annabelle Funk, Audrey Koh Siew Ean, Perry Ronald Lim, Henry Nicholas Lee

2004 National Champs (Shah Alam)
Perry Ronald Lim, Albert Harry @ Alexander, Audrey Koh Sui Ean, Geoffrey Allen Sabayoi, Tok Fen Fen

2005 National Runners-Up (Seremban)
Perry Ronald Lim, Albert Harry, Tok Fen Fen, Alvin Chan, Gan Si Wah Roselind

2006 Zone D Level Runners-Up (Labuan)
Perry Ronald Lim, Alvin Chan, Albert Harry, Tok Fen Fen

2007 Zone D Level Semi-finalists (Putrajaya) --- Sarawak National Champion
Perry Ronald Lim, Alvin Chan, Albert Harry, Henry Nicholas Lee, Tok Fen Fen

2008 National Champs (Melaka)
Henry Nicholas Lee, Alvin Chan, Robert Moisi, Anuthra Sirisena, Ann Doreen Dorall

2009 Zone-level Semifinalists (Kedah)
Christie Koh, Nor'ain Hadhira Ayob, Jennedy Peter, Mohd Syaharil Madlan, Jason Lakasa

SMKKL Debaters 2009

Government Team : Mohd Shafie, Jim Kevin Kotiben, Kezia Busak Tommy
Opposition Team : Kezia again, Afourth Brendan, Dephnie Dewi

The SMKKL debaters are in Form Four and a sharp, lively bunch...
I won't forget them in a hurry :)

Friday, April 03, 2009

Student Debates

Today is a very good day.

It was the KK District Student Debate Finals (All Saints vs Lok Yuk) and my student debaters wanted to go because they had caught the debating bug. Both the teams in the finals were pretty good - competent debaters but I believe that All Saints won because they were more polished and the motion was biased towards their side. Well, IMHO.

Motion : Science Is A Threat To Humanity
When I thought about this motion a few days ago, I had problems thinking of approaches for the negative. How do you prove that science is NOT a threat without talking about the benefits of science? Sure enough, the Lok Yuk team talked about benefits and the All Saints team fired back, saying that they weren't doing their job, which was to show that science is NOT a threat. And that's the dilemma for all debate teams who draw the negative side. You must be very careful to prove why the motion should be rejected, WITHOUT offering alternative points. Very dangerous oh...

And perhaps the Lok Yuk team knew this, which was why they came off as less confident than the All Saints team. I absolutely liked the All Saints' first speaker. He looked and spoke like Ian Michael Wong, one of my former students in La Salle. Cool and persuasive. Chindian looks...and language proficiency. Ya lah, I know not all Chindians speak with the words flowing off their tongues like water...but you have to admit quite a number do, especially those in urban areas. In Sabah, anyway. Both teams' second speakers were female and both did the reply. Reply speeches are very very important. That is the last opportunity for both teams to make their stand and emphasize their points. Many a shaky team has been saved by a powerful reply speech. And many a judge has had his/her mind made up by reply speeches. When I asked Fen Fen (she was squiring the St Francis Convent team) who she thought would win, she wanted to reserve judgement until all the three speakers had had their 8 minutes onstage. But I waited till the end of the reply speeches before I asked again. She looked at me, smiled and said,"All Saints." I believe she made up her mind after the Lok Yuk team's reply. I felt that the Lok Yuk speaker could have done better.

The government's reply was by a sweet-faced young lady. It was masterfully done but the analogy used was an old one - chess & checkmate :P

Personally I thought the first speaker from All Saints should've done the reply. With all due respect to my sex, males have the advantage of having low voices that give the impression of command. Sweet voices and higher registers just cannot compare. This is why when I have something serious and important to impart during my meeting, I deliberately lower my register.

The three SMKKL teachers (myself included) were able to bring a total of 14 students (9 Form Fours and 5 Form Threes) to SMK Agama Inanam for the finals and I was happy to see them mixing freely with the other debaters and exchanging numbers (I assumed this from the pieces of paper being exchanged.) It also helped that my debaters were a friendly bunch :) Mr Six Footer especially drew a lot of attention.

This year, SMKKL has established itself as a school capable of producing debaters worthy of attention. I am SO chuffed about that. It's also absolute proof that without effective teachers, students can't really do much. They need the guidance and the clearing of the way that teachers/adults can do. It also helped that this group of students were able to think on their feet. They just need more onstage time and more practice.

I want to see this school go far beyond all expectations... it will take time but I'm going to try my best to help it happen. Even though I'm leaving the school by the end of the week.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Time For Changes Again

Today I received a call from the PPD's PA.  I was to go down to the PPD and meet the boss that very day.

My heart dropped.  I was in class at that time and having a good time with my Form Sixes.  At the same time, my student debaters were in SMKA Inanam, fighting it out with SM All Saints students. 

But the writing is on the wall...and I have to toe the line.

I was given only a week to comply with the transfer.