February 7, 2011

new life as a chikgu

Last week, I had my first unofficial days of teaching. I was the go-to substitute for when other teachers couldn’t be in the classroom (how does the school normally handle missing teachers? I should ask…). I’ve taught a Form 1 class, and two Form 2 classes. I kept things simple, and just had the students introduce themselves to me, and ask me any questions they might have about my life or America. Mostly I just got more questions about my (nonexistent) relationship with Justin Beiber, and about my sisters. They love to ask about siblings (or is that the only question they know how to ask in English?). We also played two truths and a lie, which was almost a big mistake because my mentor walked in the classroom right as I was revealing which fact about me on the board was a lie: that I knew how to ride a motorbike. Needless to say, Wan seemed surprised and confused, given that I’ve asked for her help to buy a motorbike here. She asked me after class if it was really true that I didn’t know how to ride one. I explained to her that OF COURSE I knew how to drive a motorbike, and that I was just joking with the kids! … just something to add to my slowly growing pile of little white Malaysian lies. Others include that I go to church at home (that’s a whole other story to tell…), and that really did LOVE the chewy unidentifiable meat served for dinner last night! It was my absolute favorite!

Learning names here has been the most stressful part of this whole adjustment. I’ve had the same kids tell me their names over and over (seriously, like 12 times, or maybe 35 times) and I STILL can’t remember them. In my defense, there are several obstacles to successful name learning here:

  1. All of the girls wear headscarves and the same uniform to school, so the only thing to distinguish them from each other is their face and sometimes skin tone. All the boys wear the same uniform and the same hat to school too, and they all (obviously) have the same hair color, so telling them apart is difficult too (though not as much as the girls).
  2. Their names are words I have never heard or spoken in my life – how am I supposed to remember names like (I’m using phonetic spelling here) Wanny and Wetty and Shofo and Dini? I almost hugged a girl with joy when she told me her name was Sarah.
  3. My best guess is that about 75% of people’s names here start with A. One of the first name games I played with a class involved them picking an English adjective starting with the same letter as the first letter of their name, and pairing the word with their name when they introduced themselves (example: Marvelous Meredyth). Little did I know this game probably seemed supremely stupid to them considering we weren’t even halfway around the classroom, and we’d had 12 students whose names started with A (Ahmir, Ahmed, Aisha, Amira, Atika…). By the end of the game I let words sly that weren’t really even adjectives at all… I have to say I was relieved the game was over when Astrologist Akmad rounded out the class of 30.

The worst part about not being able to remember students’ names is that they are truly heartbroken when they ask me “Miss Mere, Miss Mere, What’s MY name?” and I shamefully have to ask for a hint, and usually even after the hint I get it wrong anyway. I’ll keep you posted on my progress on the name learning front, but I have to say the outlook isn’t good.

“When is movie night? When is movie night?” is all I hear from students these days, so I posted a signup sheet outside my door where they can write suggestions. I don’t even really know what genre they like, or what rating is appropriate to show, so I thought I’d get some ideas from the students. I think last year they watched The Sandlot and Toy Story 3, among others, so I wanted to get some new ideas… So far though, I’m not sure what insight I can gain from the suggestions, given that “Silent Hill” and “Another Cinderella Story” are listed side by side. I’m thinking Double Feature? Another personal favorite that made the list: “I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer”. I got a good chuckle out of this, thinking the student was just confused about the REAL title, until I realized that “I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer” is in fact the 2006 sequel to “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer” which is the 1998 sequel to “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” There’s nothing like a straight-to-DVD sequel to a sequel made 8 years later starring a D-list celebrity blonde whose career highlight was likely her single episode appearance on a 1999 episode of “Are You Afraid of The Dark?” Yes, I looked this up. Don’t judge.

Last week Imtiaz had a special ceremony celebrating last year’s Form 3 PMR scores. Imtiaz KB students received the best scores in the state! In the PMR test, students are tested in nine subjects, and receive grades in each subject (A, B, C, etc). Of the 41 Form 3 students, 36 of them got A’s in ALL NINE SUBJECTS last year. Can I just say these kids are BALLER?! All the parents came, and there were representatives from the state education department, and the Form 3 teachers were recognized and given gifts (a pen! woohoo!). It was a little bit hard to sit through a three hour ceremony conducted entirely in Bahasa, but I could more or less determine what was going on. I have to say though that the best part was being asked to sit at the “VVIP” table for lunch (a dream fulfilled!). At any event in Malaysia, there is almost always a VIP section and VVIP section… it’s pretty nifty if you’re VIP, but VVIP is the swankiest of the swank, the cream of the crop, the crème de la crème, the bomb.com - you get the drift. Never mind that the food served was the exact same, the chairs and tables were the same, and the tent was the same as everything else that wasn’t VVIP… everyone knows it’s all about the title.

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