Sunday, September 18, 2016

Email Address Conundrum

When I first started teaching Form Six students many eons ago, the only things on my mind were finishing the syllabus (I was teaching Literature, besides English Language) and polishing their abilities to retain information, organise information into the form required by the question and present the info in an academic fashion.  However now, things have changed.  Not only do I have to scrabble my way along the minefield of today's schools (mines that begin with e- or online-), I also find myself having to deal with social pitfalls.  Not MY social pitfalls,  THEIRS.

And one of the most interesting is their chosen email addresses.  Yeah well, let's deal with one social pitfall at one time.  One of the ways I make sure my MUET students at the very least know how to attach a document to their email is by asking them to send me their homework via email.  I do this because I want to ensure that they arrive at university campuses with rudimentary knowledge of online communication systems.  While focusing on this, I came across some very interesting (and sometimes breathtaking - in a choking manner) discoveries.  Most students I knew used very creative email addresses.  Some of the most creative I have come across in my last ten years of teaching were,,  Sometimes I even force them to change their email addresses when they ask me to check their resumes.  Imagine sending an application letter and resume to a top bank and there your contact email is or  I even got into a long argument via WhatsApp with an ex student because she had a tripleXrated email address (a body part was mentioned in slang) and she insisted it was who she was, and she wasn't about to compromise her integrity for money or fame.  Eventually she grumpily created one email address just for formal use.  I told her those people in the HR dept knew she chose that email tag because that was foremost in her thinking at that time.  What would her chances of success be???

Needless to say, it has become my mission to ensure that none of my Form 6 students will be allowed to leave school without changing their email tag for a better one.  Or at least create a secondary one.

It seems this is a worldwide problem.

49 People Who Really Regret Their Teenage Email Address

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots 
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.
by Wilfred Owen
Thought to have been written between 8 October 1917 and March, 1918

The Walking Wounded

When people talk about 'the walking wounded', they normally think of soldiers returning from a battlefield.  I usually think of a war poem I studied in university... Wilfred Owen's 'Dulce Et Decorum Est'.  Oh man, that was such a gory poem.  I could actually hear the sounds of the wounds... viscera spilling out into the open where it was never meant to be...

But today I am thinking of different 'walking wounded'.  In my many years of navigating the morass of relationships, I have been continually astonished by the level of woundedness I have encountered in people I meet.  They walk upright and smile when they would and sleep when they should... but they carry such deep injuries within.  I almost wish they had physical injuries instead... at least these injuries would be exposed to the air and dried sooner or later.  But emotional and mental injuries can live forever within psyches.  Like an abscess, they sit inert but causing pain.  And these wounds continue poisoning the people... causing new friendships to be ruined and new hopes to be dashed.

Sometimes I feel drawn to these people... and it is almost as if I can hear them crying out for help.  The problem is when I reach out to help (even though I have no idea what to do), their automatic reaction is to snarl back and flash their claws.  And what makes things sadder is that they may even hurt their loved ones, causing fresh wounds themselves. 


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The 'Fun' of Pre University Exam Registrations

Twice a year, the pre university exam results come out and excite ecstasy, happiness, horror and even nonchalant unconcern among the students.  The lecturers are usually just tied up in knots.  The ecstasy or despair comes later, after the analyses are done.  But I don't want to talk about that. 

Today is the second last day before the deadline of repeat exam registrations and already the kids have made my colleagues and I feel like strangling them. 

First, some of them buy the PIN at Bank Simpanan Nasional at the very last minute (which would be tomorrow).  Then they happily whatsapp the PIN to the poor teacher in charge of Exams, thinking everything will be fine.  They will have had two weeks to ponder their options... two weeks to decide which paper to repeat and therefore two weeks to buy this PIN.  But most will wait till the last minute.  Poor teacher will be struggling to access the website together with countless other Exams teachers all over Malaysia.

Second, despite countless briefings (at least two briefings every semester), the same questions get asked:
- Do I register myself or do I ask the Exams lecturer? (Ans. : The lecturer.)
- Do I buy one PIN per subject or one PIN for all? (Ans. : one PIN for all)
- Why do I need to whatsapp the picture of the PIN to Mdm J? (Ans. : Because you may copy the PIN wrongly if you retype it)

Third, almost every semester, some bright kid will msg the PIN image to my colleague, thinking that she is psychic and is able to know who the sender is and which subject the sender wishes to repeat.  Luckily my colleague is rather patient and just breathes fire & brimstone back at the hapless kid.  Sounds like a small matter, right?  But once repeated msgs and calls were left unanswered.  Later we found out the student was at work.  I don't know how my colleague managed it but the registration was successful.

I wish I could tattoo the instructions into the kids. If only they didn't look so sweet and innocent...