Monday, November 05, 2007

A change in the winds.

I went to see the lecturer at the scheduled conference today. Accompanying me were two of my housemates who came in as moral & emotional support. As you could predict, I would have given much and lengthy thought over my decision on what I will do. I've done more than my time of praying, so what was left was for me to attend the "battle".

The outcome of the conference was good. I believe (that I will and always will) have the passion for writing (amongst other passions however). My passion for writing is something that will prevail, and that is probably what that has kept me on at my tertiary studies, in the onset of trouble during practicum. Of course, the study of more efficient creative writing techniques as well as more developed research and interviewing skills will aid me in the quest of my becoming a better writer in the long term is indisputable.

What is my decision? Well although I did aspire to come here to read Education in the hopes of becoming an educator here, I have come to believe that my skill of writing would (& could) be put into better use as one in the Education field not as one in the classroom but out of it.

The advantage of having the background understanding and study of theoretical and curriculum pedagogy places me in a suitable position to write about it based on my understanding and experiences that I have had of it in the past two years of the Australian setting and of the Malaysian context.

Hence even at this juncture of my journey, it is of essence that I know & do believe a path has been prepared for me to exit my studies gracefully with a qualification in hand. The options of transferring my completed studies to a more suitable program is one that I will have to give more thought in detail in the coming week where I will negotiate with my Head of Education Faculty.

However for the time being, I still have two assignments to complete. This will be my focus for this upcoming one week, after which the decision has to be made of the next step in the path which I will pursue for the betterment of my own future.

Wish me all the best!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Be Still.

Hi readers...not sure how many of you read this blog. It is a bit hard to gauge since not many leave comments in any way. I've had a hiatus from writing here in the past 10 days as I've been busy. How's the practicum, I am sure you may be asking?

The practicum itself was an enjoyable experience. However, one cannot assume success from outward appearances, but always at the heart. I've enjoyed 5 days of practical but was dismissed prematurely. Hence, I'll be going to the uni next week to resolve the situation.

My mates reckon it could be a case involving racial undertones as well as premature judgment & prejudice. Coming from a different cultural background sometimes contribute to such situations.Well, we'll see how the case progresses when I go in on Monday.

Keep tuned, folks!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

ECP3002: Day 1 at a Catholic Primary School.

Thursday was officially my first day at a primary school. Even though it was the first day of the practicum, I did not find it as hectic or busy as I had stayed for almost half a day with the children during Orientation on Wednesday. It must be admitted that I was feeling a little bit at unease on Orientation, and the extra hours and extra day I spent with the children helped me to ease into the mindset and also possibly made the children feel more comfortable with me (or more for me indeed!)

Just to add more details to what we did on Wednesday, the class went for a swimming session at a public state. It was exciting (for me because it was my first time joining a class for swimming!). The children really enjoyed themselves there although they possibly only swam for about 13 minutes and possibly had taken more time to change into and out of the swimming attire than swimming! On Wednesday afternoon, the children watched possible the first third of the cartoon movie “The Incredibles”, which is part of their unit for Term 4. The children continued watching another third of this movie today after their lunch.

The children in this class with Ms. J (she’s married btw) and another class, Mrs. C collaborated together to write out the unit plans. Both classes watched the movie together, and undertook learning for the same unit as well as similar lessons. The difference that exists maybe the style of teaching that is demonstrated by the homeroom teacher, as well as to differentiate for some of the students in the class who may need differentiation with the learning of the curriculum.

The children have a routine that they follow when they come into the classroom each morning. However, they do not enter the classrooms till about 8.30am when the morning bell rings. This is among the routine that they perform when they enter the classroom.

  • Put their bags away on racks.
  • Take out their homework folder and hand in their homework.
  • Take out the Red sheet (reading log) and place on the table
  • Change Readers
  • Get morning talk ready
  • Hand tuckshop in (Mon, Wed, Fri).

I believe a routine helps children to ease into the mindset of getting ready for class and learning for the day. After the children have done that, the teacher will take roll for the day. Once she has done this, one of the children will take it to the office. The teacher also checks for the homework and the red sheet (reading log) each day.

There was Assembly after morning tea, and students from all year levels gathered in this room beside the Year 1 classrooms. One of the Year 3s presented a very beautiful moving message conveyed through powerpoint, videos, a play, singing and dancing. I believe that they must have put in a lot of time and practice to put in this performance for Assembly. The children from the other classes also enjoyed the Assembly as well.

Among one of the enjoyable aspects during the Assembly was when the teacher was called out to take a Raffle ticket from a jar. The Raffle tickets was given as part of positive behaviour management reinforcement strategies for children who “made good behaviour choices” during morning tea or lunch time.

The fact that the prize presented was a Tuckshop voucher for $1 did not matter, but all the students were awed by the “tuckshop voucher”, and this seemed to motivate the rest of the students to give a louder applause when the receiving child from Year 2 went forward to collect his prize.

I also enjoyed understanding the management and the workings of a Catholic school as up to this point of time, I had not been to one. I find it much more enjoyable as I also share and believe in many of the core values of the Catholic faith. Over all, the first day of the practicum was found to be a very enjoyable experience.

There are many so called "Catholic" and Christian schools in Malaysia, but the question is how many of them are actually run the way they are here? I'm not too sure how many of these schools have management that has been returned to the govt, but I do hope that it could be run voluntarily, as I do believe that there will be parents back in KL who would still aspire to have their children sent to these schools too.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Practicum at a catholic primary school.

When I checked my mail this morning, I received word from Sally, the administrator at the uni that they found a placement for my praticum. Apparently it's at St.S's, a Catholic primary school.

Well, if you are wondering, there is a vast difference in the way that private and state schools are run..I'm quite excited, but at the same time afraid of the prospect. So I guess I won't really be waiting that much after all. Maybe about three days later (than others) anyways. I have one week and a half more to myself to do the things I need to do after all! =)

Tomorrow I'll still be going for the volunteer work at D.H. So, yeah I have to start thumbing through the behaviour management part of the text I just borrowed to get ready for D.H tomorrow.

See ya guys later!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Importance of being Volunteer.

Eversince practising writing the Queensland Cursive writing, I have been noticing other cursive signs (out on the road even on the bus). *LOL*. I realise that there are different styles of writing the letter "r" and you know what? They are both right!

(okie, this is beginning to sound inanely seriously retarded for someone who has too much time on her hands)

Michael (who is an Aussie mate of mine) noted that a lot of employers LOOK HIGHLY at volunteer work. Because we give up our time to help out an organisation, as volunteers we can ask for a reference letter after a period of time. It must be remembered and understood that there is a minimum wage in Australia, and award wages go up to 15AUD p/hour here, and if we go without being paid, that's considered rather "charitable" of us..

The fact now remains that although I am not actually "employed", however I can still use my "volunteer work" as a sort of reference. I am just wondering how come I never thought of that before? Hmmmm....

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Today I was late for lecture! Actually I thought that I'd be the latest, but when I arrived, I found out that less than half of the students were in attendance....the class ended an hour before the anticipated due time. Oh well..

Anyways, the point of this entry is to inform all that I WAS supposed to start my second practicum in a primary school next week. However when I checked with the staff at the uni today, apparently the schools were "overpacked" with student teachers undertaking practical experience at the same time.

For me, I'd rather wait till the present cohort of students are done with their pract. That way I have more time to prepare before going in. I just can't "rock in" into any school without any information nor background knowledge, or planning (for success).

So yes, that means I have to call up D.H and tell them I am going in for volunteer work for the next two weeks. At least that will help me (mentally, & emotionally) to prepare for the behaviour strategies aspect of the teaching that I have to undertake. =P

Anyway, to prepare for the upcoming pract, I was advised (not too long ago) to borrow this book called First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher by Harry.K.Wong, from the uni library (which I did. The book is written by a team of husband-wife teachers from America. I've read some portions of it so far, and still trying to get the hang out of it. Some of the strategies that Wong recommends do make sense, but there are some which I find are a bit unorthodox (and I've not heard of before). As such, I am trying to do some research and validate if his strategies are effective or not.

I've also borrowed the Queensland Handwriting Resource for Lower Primary CD to which I will be printing out worksheets to practice my handwriting on. =P Oh well....All in the day's work of a teacher...

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Volunteering: Term 4 in new class.

Today I started volunteering for the first Tuesday in Term 4 at D.H. When I came in, I realised that there was about one or two new practicum students in Mrs.M, so I was assigned to a less busy class under Mrs.H, also in the same year level.

Helping out in this class is really FULL-ON! There really isn't a minute free...! The class had Mathematics for the first half of the session, following a spelling activity in the second half.

For Maths, Mrs.H reviewed place value, talking about Hundreds, Tens and Ones. I was assigned to an indigenous student... He was one of those who needed much attention and the teacher knew that.

For Spelling, they worked with a worksheet working on words with the double vowel sounds "_oo_". The teacher also worked with the students on suffix "_en". They had to add suffixes to nouns to become words such as "oaken, ashen, brazen" etc. Words that I wasn't even familiar with! *LoL*

When I say spelling, it doesn't mean that they memorised the words and the teacher dictates it out. Actually, the students already DO do some kind of "spelling" when they compose words, but so far, I have not seen the same kind of spelling which I am used to in Malaysia that they do here. So when I say "Spelling" it doesnt mean the same kind of spelling that we are used to back at home.

During morning tea, I realised that Mrs. M didn't attend the normal Tuesday P-3 departmental meetings today. I guess this could be attested to the fact that she had new pract students who had come in and she may had to attend to them.

Right before morning tea, Mrs.H did Handwriting exercises with the classroom. As I looked at how she taught them handwriting, I realised that I too needed to practise mine in order to get ready for the lessons at pract as well too as I didn't know how the script goes...

After morning tea, Mrs. H did reading groups with the students. The students were assigned to 3 groups (one with me), one to Mrs.H, and one to the teacher aide. I was assigned to a Sudanese boy (who could read fairly well, but still needed assistance), a new Aussie white boy (who just arrived on Monday) and the same Indigenous boy (who had gone for Reading Recovery earlier). We read this book "Rascal" one of those books that came from a literacy reading series.

One of the strategies that the teacher asked me to use with this group was to look for words ending with "_et". So after that, the two boys took out their reading exercise books and wrote down all the words ending with "_et" we could come out with. When they were done with it, I asked them to compose sentences using these same words we had just made. Mrs.H then explained that the reason for this is because she was going to work with the same words on Wednesday for literacy.

I could see that both the teachers had different styles to managing the class. In this class, they did not have those "good behaviour" sheets to stick on the table for raffles and prizes. The students had less time to muddle on their own, and she was very much more strict with the students.

The students also did a lot of Procedural writing activities, as it was displayed all over the classroom. They had also done a Science display where they had done a bicarb. soda, balloon and vinegar experiment. I asked some of the students who were standing nearby when they were getting ready to go out for morning tea. They could explain to me what the experiment was all about.

Among the first things that I saw as I entered the classroom was that the Student Profiles were displayed on the wall. Each student wrote a paragraph (or more) to describe themselves and their interests. Based on those profiles, I could immediately work out whom among the students had advanced reading and writing skills. For the two students that I worked with, it was evident (if not obvious) that the short description of their profile matched their literacy skills...

For the term unit, the teacher explained that they would be doing Diversity (which is same for Mrs.M's class, except that the latter might also be doing an author study on one of the australian authors, Mem Fox, which in my opinion is more interesting though)... =P

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Volunteer work debrief

It's been a while since I have written here... and there's been much that has gone through in the past couple of weeks, which I shall touch on briefly.

I just came from the school (I didn't debrief in the past 2 weeks before this). Today is the last week of school before their holidays. the university is currently having their 2-week holidays, so I am coming in during my hols (lol).

Anyways, the past couple of weeks, I have observed how the teacher worked with the children on their modelled writing and their shared writing. The class is currently doing a unit on fairy tales. Last week, the teacher modelled to them how to write a letter to their a character of the fairy tale of their choice, and they had to choose a character to be. The activity requires the children to roleplay characters, and also had an indepth understanding of the story in order to be able to do that. The students who had difficulty would go to the bookshelf to take the respective storybooks to re-read and get some ideas from there.

All this while, I have only done reading with one literacy group. So today, I realised that the students worked in
rotations for their literacy group. For the students who were not reading, they were given other literacy work.

On Friday, which is Pupil-Free day, the teachers are going for some kind of professional teacher training workshop. My lecturers in class said that if there is an opportunity to observe a Reading Recovery class in session, it is an excellent opportunity to observe the strategies used in place to aid the students who had difficulty reading.

For the sem after the break, the children will be moving on to another unit, which is either MemFox or diversity in Australia. Anyways, after the break, the teacher told me that I could go and help out in another Year 3 class, as it would enable me to watch another class in action and see a more holistic picture of the education system in place.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Accountable stakeholders in Education.

On another note, lectures has been great since the potluck. I invited one of my classmates over for a potluck at my home(Aussies call it "Bring a Plate" thingy).

I hope to have more socials in future. However today we had a lecture to do with Curriculum Planning. One of the things I noted was that we had to brainstorm for ideas on what "Outcomes Based" learning is after viewing this video that our lecturer put on in class.

What I was really annoyed was no one seemed to be contributing ideas to the discussion, and didn't want to put in anything on the list. Here we go again.....

In my opinion, all learning just happens to be outcomes based, because everyone wants to have proof that some kind of learning that takes place. It is impossible to have it in any other way, and even taking a photo of a child working at a play based activity is "some form of Outcomes Approach" learning.

The only difference is how the outcomes approach framework of planning is implemented, by using inquiry style of questioning and scaffolding to the teaching of the lesson. So I decided to risk it and put in my own thoughts where I said "it is providing accountability for student's learning for all stakeholders involved".

The lecturer was pleased with that account.... I say, just put whatever you seems feels right to you into the context.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Volunteer: public school (Day 2).

It's taken me a couple of days to debrief, as I have had a psychosomatic moment in the past couple of days....

Tuesday was my 2nd day at the volunteer school. It hasn't been raining for the past few days, so the weather had been really clear. It took me about 20 mins to walk from home to the school.
I would say that helping out as a volunteer is good, as there is not the stress that is there when one's role is as a student teacher, vs to that of the volunteer.

Debriefing here (anonymously that is), helps me to look at things from the perspective of both a volunteer, a student teacher, and to put things into perspective especially what I know about learning skills of Year 3 students.

In the morning when I came in, the teacher had changed the morning reading groups from after morning tea to before morning tea as she had extra help (which is me! he he). It was good to have experience working with students who displayed diverse skills in reading (from beginners, to intermediate, and to one entire group of advanced readers who could read, write and answer well).

Since this weekend is Fathers' Day (in Australia as far as I know), Mrs. M did guided writing with the children. They discussed about the fathers, and Mrs. M wrote some sentences in regard to fathers on the white board, and then copied that again on the blackboard.

Some of the children started their writing with "he is... he does"... Mrs. M addressed this problem by saying, "is this how you write an essay? How can anyone reading your essay know who you are writing about? It could be about the postman or the milkman that you are writing about if you don't address who it is you're writing about in your writing".

The children quickly changed it to "My father's name", "My father works as a"....

As usual after that, we went to the library thereafter.

During morning tea, Mrs. M. asked me if I wanted to join them for the staff meeting which took place during the morning tea. it was an enriching experience. There were a couple of student teachers and volunteers too from my varsity.

The principal addressed some issues of which were included planning of literacy topics for the 4th semester which included learning and working with spelling strategies, as well as behavioural issues for this child who had newly enrolled in Mrs. M's class the week before. The only thing I noted was that quite a number of the staff did not bring any planners, or something to write notes in..

(so I am still wondering how they were going to remember any of those things that were addressed during the staff meeting....)

Anyways one of the main things I noted about this school is that after a few hours (I'd say it takes at least a few hours to be able to get a feel of the environment), as a student teacher, I could feel a difference in the way the school is run.

There seems to be a degree of freedom that Mrs.M gives to the children in the way she manages her class. It's not as strictly controlled as the one where I went to during my pract, and I could perceive the way that she demonstrates the trust in the children. I would say that I could see that the children are a bit more relaxed and are not as "guarded" with what they say to the teacher.

I only perceived this after having attended the staff meeting, as there seems to be a general sense of "camaraderie" and friendliness. It would have been fair of me to have made any judgements when I was in class, without having seen the rest of the staff at work.

I was discussing this with an acquaintance later that day, where to compare an environment where the context is so tightly controlled and highly disciplined, and another where the children the teacher demonstrates and gives a degree of freedom to the children, and trusts them to not get into trouble...... I prefer the latter.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Volunteer: public school (Day 1).

After many weeks of pausing, waiting (and not doing anything but freaking out), last week I finally called up a school to do volunteer work. I managed to get a school on the first try. Actually, I didn't know which school to call up so my friend, J. asked me to write down the names on pieces of paper and pick lots. *lol*. Not exactly the best way, but it worked. So there!

I managed to get a school on the first try ......which was really great, because I wasn't really sure which school to call up as they all looked like really great options. On the same day, I went to the school to personally sign up as I wasn't free any other day.

So today I woke up really early feeling much excitement in my bones! I arrived at the school, D.H (which is a block south-west walk from my university). It was really not exactly the best day to go in as apparently on that very day, all the schools were having Testing for the Year 3, 5 and 7s. The deputy principal was really busy, and I sat waiting in the office for about half an hour before anyone could direct anywhere (yes, principals and staff are always busy, you know?). So I had to excuse them for that.

I was directed to a Year 3 class *yeah!* There really wasn't much more me to do on that day, so I took two children (who had only just arrived not too long ago) and did some writing & reading activities with them, as they were not doing the testing. There were about 20+ students in that classroom, with about 2 middle-east students, and 1 new student who just arrived (and had to do the test!). That's strange in my opinion anyways.

I did manage to have a look at the Year 3 Test papers. It's not exactly a test that students can study for, as it just assesses the student's literacy and mathematical skills, and there are no pre-set questions or ways to help students. It is done as an on-going assessment, whereby students who do not do as well will be allocated assistance (or funding) by the govt. for remedial work. The questions were actually quite tricky, and the students had to read the questions on their own. Today they were assessed on the numeracy part (hence, the teacher was allowed to read from the paper), but tomorrow the students will assessed on the literacy part of the paper (and hence, have to read everything on their own without the teacher's assistance).

When the students went off to the library (after doing an hour of testing), one of the girls in the classroom by the name of Caroline, spoke to me and took me around. She was one of the longest as she had to repeat a year in the same class and knew her way around. (She acted like one of the student leaders, although she technically wasn't an assigned one, lol). The class went to the library, where the librarian (who had her arm in a bandage due to a blood clot) read a book to the children with a stern looking expression on her face.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Education Is What You Make out of It.

To clarify my point, I would like to tell you what happened today at lecture. It was one of those early 8a.m morning lectures where you arrive in class groggy eyed, sometimes without having breakfast. For Asian students, that can be a really daunting task...but I did. Nevermind, but that's another story.

Anyways, my lecturer Deborah G. told us of the 4th Year students who bring back disheartening reports after their final primary school practicuum (the one where they have to teach a mostly multi-age classroom class).

The thing is that at university (at least at mine), student teachers are taught the different learning pedagogies set out by the government board and supposedly adopted at school. i.e, such as using play based pedagogies, having a more child, or learner-centred classroom context, etc.

But the reality of the situation is that many primary schools still adhere to the traditional context of teaching and learning, which is really teacher-centred, although it may not be as wholly teacher-centered, rote memory based or worksheets centred at traditional Asian schools, as they incorporate some form of classroom interaction in the classroom. Many students find it disheartening that what they learn at universities, is not the same as when they go out to the real place.

This morning I was seated with a group of female students. For me, it was disheartening for me as they were busily gossiping about how the entire education system was not working for them (this is in Queensland), and going on and on negatively about the whole entire education system.

There I was thinking, hmmm..... if they think their system is bad, wait till they come to where I come from!

It was a surprise for me because I had never expected to hear such comments especially within a tertiary education context, or within a white community. Perhaps I had thought that only Asians would think that way, but it was probably I expected that white people would be more optimistic or enthusiastic about what they expected or wanted. Nonetheless.

Of course, the next thing that came to mind was what a friend of mine, Tom did. The words that came to mind was "Education is what you make out of it". More so for a teacher.

I believe that a teacher needs to be of strong will, and have an idea of what they believe in order to be able to an effective teacher. ( In this context, it does not take into account teachers who have never had professional training). Rather, it is what the teacher knows her/himself to be right, and sticks to it without being overwhelmed by the entire education system. I believe that the will to be strong is what one needs to survive.I have done it before.

I believe that others can do it too.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Social Development: Importance of "Blowing Water".

It was my first EC P-3 Curriculum Planning lecture cum tute this morning, and I was late! You could say that my lecturer, D. was not too pleased about it with everything that has happened. :-P

I will state that the rest of this entry will be about the maintanence & continuation of relationships, and its important regardless whether with both children, or adults. I had already made a prior appointment with D. after class, and she gave me some feedback which I found difficult to understand. Apart from that, we were going to have a group assessment task which was causing me undue stress from the anticipation of having to work in a group context, as I am the only Asian in class!

Out of desperation, I contacted a mate from Hong Kong, John who has been in Australia for almost 3 years now. We later went for lunch with his "Aussie mom", Mary.

An Aussie Mom is basically an Australian family or couples who volunteer to take on international students and act like their "substitute parents" for the duration of the time the international student is studying at that particular univeresity.

It was interesting to meet Mary, who spoke with an Australian accent, but had almost indistinguishable "asian features". To which I found out that she IS a child of mixed parentage. Ah, that explained it.

Anyways, some of the rare pearls of gem that John, "the man of few words" surprisingly dropped onto my platter among which included are:
  • to learn to "blow water" as the Chinese call it. The english translation for this phrase is "compliment" or "persuade" which I am atrocious at. I must admit that I can be utmost willfully blunt at times (if I am on the opposite end of partiality of a motion which is not my cup of tea.)
  • to learn to compliment and praise people where attention is due.
  • cultivate a relationship with the person in charge. This is regardless of the context. I guess having close contact with the person of position helps a lot when you need support with the implementation of ideas or to have a head-start with a project. :-)
  • John explained that every "head" or the person in position has their own style of looking at things. He said it was good practice to ask this key person for their feedback. This has some play with matters of people relationships. Of course, if the key person had initially given the green light to initiate a project, it would show them in a bad light if they refracted it later, right? This is not only relevant at university, but at home with parents or at work depending on the context.
It is difficult for me to "change" my ways, as I can have the will of a bull, and my temper is just as fiery although I have not red hair. I'd say that learning to "give-and-take" is important in learning how to maintain relationships. It is essential not only as an educator, but modelling to your own children as a way of maintaining peace & harmony at home, especially if there are a few siblings and they start arguing and fighting! Young people or inexperienced people who have such mentors, are able to demonstrate it as "deferred imitation" (ability to recall and act it out) and internalise it as part of their own behaviours.

Having individuals who are well versed in the arts of diplomacy is an asset to every organisation as they help to create calm in the midst of a storm and saves companies losses to threat of a situation which is tense. :-)

Australia: Primary Connections Syllabus

Wednesday was my first lecture cum tutorial for semester 2. The course content was Science and Technology Education.

The text used for this semester is Primary Connections, as well as the current Science and Technolgy syllabus published by Queensland Education. Primary Connections is an "innovative and exciting new initiative linking the teaching of science with the teaching of literacy in Australian primary schools".

It seems that Australia is currently trialling the Primary Connections syllabus, which links the key learning areas (or subjects) of science and literacy which will supercede the current Queensland Science syllabus, as well as the rest of the science syllabus used in the other states of Australia.

According to hearsay at the lecture, the govt has spent about 3 million dollars and is serious about its implementation, as the finances used to publish and republish syllabuses all over the different states costs the govt more than needed.

It seems ironic that New York city with approximately the same number of population as Australia is using ONE education syllabus, whereas the entire nation of Australia with about the same number of population has over 4-5 different education syllabus published for each state. This is a total waste of the taxpayer's money which could have been put to more productive use.

Related links:
Primary Connections

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Experiences of a Canadian Teacher in Thailand.

There can be days where I totally "go into my own cave" and isolate myself away from the madding crowd, but today is not one of those days!

In fact, I am feeling on top of the world right now. At the Christian social mixer at uni tonight, I was introduced to yet another student from Malaysia who commenced studies in BECH without going through my former college. She's 32 years old, starting from Year 1, and this is her first degree! (and all this while I thought that I was old!)

Wait, actually two as of this moment of writing! One is a mature lady whose name is Maria, and is from my previous college. *laughs*. She's a mother of two grown up children (wow!). As she is Malaysian, it would be most interesting to know how she will be able to cope and handle the Australian context.

I had the most interesting conversation with Tom, a Canadian gentleman who is undertaking his first semester in Masters in Education, and has previously worked in Thailand for about 8 years. He told me how he handled his Grade 2 class in this international American school, where he
  • wrote personally to both the parent and the child before the start of the year. Both child & parents had to sign a "contract" stating that they agree & understand the ground rules presented in the classroom. This contract will be referred to throughout for the rest of the year.
  • asked the child to be present together at the parent-teacher conferences. Therefore, there would be no secrecy between the parent, child & teacher.
  • expected the teacher-student to co-own the class.
  • used a blog to interface and connect with his class children, parents and distribute home assignments. The teacher would read the letters written by parents to the child in class.
Of course, the other teachers in the school felt *threatened* by his actions, as he presented himself to be somewhat different from the others. I would say that I did have my fair share of such strategies which I implemented with my 4 yr kindergarten class a few years back. It would be most fair to say that I think that the parents really did appreciate the effort that I took to keep in contact to communicate with them, as well as creating an online photo gallery (which no other teacher in the school did).

Although this was only my exposure to an American international school where I had worked as an assistant for a short period of time before leaving (gasps!), but it gave me some understanding of how American schools were managed nonetheless. I am not sure how the other teachers in the school felt, but that was not of my concern, as I was the one who was enthusiastic to do my own part as a collaborator of parent-teacher relationships, and to make it a good one.

One of the questions that was on the tip of my tongue that I wanted to ask him was how different is Canada from Australia (or at least in the part of Queensland where I am at).
His answer was:
  • Canada is a Commonwealth country.
  • Has a Queen (Queen Elizabeth 2, who else?)
  • Has almost similar issues with the indigenous groups.
  • Has almost similar issues with the implementation of a National Curriculum.
  • Has similar issues with political-correctness of child handling & management in schools.
Summary: Canadians will have less trouble adapting to the Australian context as compared to Asians anyways. Which is what I wanted to know as it confirms my understanding of the western culture and values.

National Aboriginal & Islander Day Observance Commitee: 50th Anniversary

The flag above represents the indigenous people of Australia. Today my uni celebrated the 50th Anniversary of NAIDOC at the quadrangle. For this occasion, there was:
  • free balloons
  • free bush tucker tastings of emu, kangaroo and crocodile meat (although I only tried emu meat. *yummy*)
  • sausage sizzle.
  • some band playing. Not sure who.
NAIDOC stands for National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee. The aim of NAIDOC is to promote the rich Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage to all people on a regional, national, and even International level. It is also a celebration of the uniqueness of Indigenous traditions and cultures and recognition of the on-going struggle for justice and equality for Indigenous people.

I gave my balloon away to my lecturer, Karen. I thought she might like one as she looked stressed out after a long day's work. Ha ha. I would loved to have taken pictures, but it was a pity I didn't bring my camera. It was really a grand affair.

There are indigeneous children in the primary school classes that I meet when I go out on professional experiences which you may not realise at first, or you may have trouble differentiating those from PNG. Each nation has their own type of indigenous people issues and culture. Like Malaysia (with our bumiputras), Canada, America (the Red Indians), New Zealand and maybe many more others that I do not know about.

What among the creations I like of the indigenous culture are their their mural paintings as it can be quite eye catching and striking, and I have bought some of their created artefacts in Melbourne last year. There is also a display of all things indigenous in the museum in SouthBank, Brisbane. However, picture photography is not allowed due to cultural reasons.

Related links: NAIDOC

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A cheap laptop for each child: $100 only.

Nicholas Negroponte, chairman and founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Labs founded OLPC: One Laptop Per Child.

It's vision: to provide children around the world with new opportunities to explore, experiment and express themselves.

Its mission to:
tap into the children's innate capacities to learn, share, and create on their own. Our answer to that challenge is the XO laptop, a children's machine designed for “learning learning.”
Source: Laptop. Org

Of date, as many as 11 organisations have signed up to participate in this worldwide international project. Among which are AMD, Google and Red-Hat to provide the green XO Laptop. Intel has just recently joined the group amidst previous allegations that it was producing their own cheaper version of the laptop, the Classmate and undersell it below cost in an attempt to undermine the entire OLPC operations.

Among the features of the the XO Laptop includes:
  • Processor: AMD 433 MHz
  • Memory: 256MB SDRAM
  • Storage: 1GB Flash
  • using a free bespoke Linux open source software which allows users to access and alter the code designed by Red Hat.
  • low power dual-mode display between colour and B&W screens to reduce power consumption.
  • dual wi-fi antennas.
  • sealed green rubber keyboard.
  • 640x480 video camera.
  • 3 USB ports.
  • SD Memory Card slots
I reckon that I would get this laptop if not but just for the experience of having a cheap, functional & hardy laptop with all the basic necessities that I could wreck havoc on without worrying about spoiling it. It's definitely something you would give your child to use without worrying about them accidentally formatting or deleting your important data in the computer!

Related links:
Laptop: Laptop.Org

BBC: Factfile XO Laptop

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The development of critical thinking in our children.

Now you might not think that the case of Nat Tan is very important. You may or may not have heard of him. However it is important for me because of my current education training in Australia.

Nat Tan is currently a blogger in Malaysia who was arrested by authorities recently. The reasons for his arrest is still opaque as current. OPAQUE it states! Yet you may ask how is his case related to this blog of mine? In fact it does very much.

I really do believe that I am fortunate to have had the experience of coming abroad to Australia to be able to further my studies. Not many people are as lucky as I am to be able to come here, as the finances needed to sponsor a child to further their studies have cost my parents many a pretty penny.

After having been abroad here in Australia, and the experiences that I have been through in the past 1.5 years have opened my eyes to what Australia truly offers, and what Malaysia has been. Now I am not condemning my homeland, because it is what it is. However, I have found the attitudes of those of the institution that I am currently pursuing my education at to be severely lacking in terms of international perpective as well as open-mindedness. Which is not what the case should be.

Related to this entry is understanding of what basic human rights and benefits such as those found in Australia, which I have come to appreciate.
  • the freedom to question the policies made by the government
  • to argue and criticise their political leader's decisions
  • the availability of university and tertiary places for aspiring students based on meritocracy, and not on ethnicity and political connections.
  • the establishment of businesses without the need of having to have an indigeneous partner
  • minimum wages
  • the fact that workers are paid by the hour and have to be paid by the hour.
  • Freedom of religion. The freedom for one to convert in and out of one religion versus to those of the muslims in my country where you are born a muslim and die a muslim. Converting out means rehabilization for months (and months) by the Muslim law of courts and social ostracisation. You could lose your baby and your family.
To the Australians, how many of the citizens actually take this for granted? These human rights practically is of non-existence in the country where I come from. It is ironic that I have come here to learn about the education system in Australia only to find that yet the understanding of these socio-political and cultural issues on an international level is so severely lacking especially among the many tertiary staff that I have across recently.

I am expected to learn to teach children how to think critically, yet these same lecturers do not seem to display the same "skills" as how they should treat us to be. At the same time, although I do believe that whatever I am learning here is good, it will not be able to be put into practice successfully in a context like Malaysia.

My point is that although Malaysian teachers can be trained to teach the children how to question, argue and think critically, it is difficult when both culturally and socially, there is no support (especially from the higher authorities) but we are being caged in a square box when teachers are trying to teach children be round instead.

When students are not allowed to speak against the administration and management of the universities, or join rallies, how does that help our rakyat to think make decisions nor think critically?

Citizens of this land (and especially those who have lived their lives in many westernized nations) seem to be living in a time-warp and "protective bubble" where they constantly are on strike on existing issues such as Worker's Rights, higher minimum pay, homosexual and gay rights, female rights, in-flux of immigrants are what they consider to be "issues".

People in Australia, as I have come to know, are very particular about human and individual rights. This concept is practically an "alien" concept for many Asian international students who have never been exposed to such liberality before.

I was having a discussion with my cousin who had to "fight" just to enter a local Malaysian uni in Malaysia. The opportunity for a student of other ethnic groups only exists for a student who has performed sterlingly well in order to "quality" to enter a local university. Yet we both believe that these experiences has created him to be a much stronger person that he has come to be now. However, the same experiences has led him to have very much bitter experiences about the way the administration of things has been done by the authorities.

I really do believe that our country Malaysia has much to teach us. To appreciate the freedom and the power given to us once we have tasted it, and to continue fighting for it so that others we could not be complacent in the lives that we lead.

So now the question arises, would you want to raise your children in a place like Malaysia, where basic necessities do not come freely but you will be taxed less and your children learn to be strong along the way, or would you rather have your children be brought up in a first world developed country, and have their basic human rights given, but they take the basic necessities for granted, and are taxed heavily? What do you reckon?

Feedback is appreciated.

Related links:
Blogger's Arrest: Politically Repressive
Nation by Nation: Human Rights
Cultural issues: Japan learns dreaded task of Jury Duty

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Strength of Character: The foreign Student Teacher.

Mood: Annoyed.


It's been a while since I updated. Nonetheless here is a short entry which I feel has to be written. I just returned from a social Christian gathering at uni later, where I was introduced to a new international student who has just enrolled in from an institution I was previously enrolled in. I shall address her as Newbie for the sake of this entry.

Now Newbie was telling me that she would be enrolled for 3 years in Australia (which actually entitles her to apply for PR in Australia), as this qualification enables her to work in the centre as a Childcare Adminstrator. Anyways, to get to the point.

Newbie wanted to ask me questions in relation to the professional experiences here. As one who was trying to be helpful, I needed to know some background information about her before I can give her the tailored information I need to give here.

When I proceeded to tell her that for the first professional experience she would be undertaking requires a lot of hands on "cleaning" and sanitising, I was given the answer hence where she was required to clean prior Montessori equipment and she was used to that. I was guess what I was trying to say is that, in Malaysia, there is the cleaner to do that and they are supposed to clean up but in Australia, the Group Leader or the Assistant has to do those jobs. Change nappies. Do all those roles.


Of course, the next thing I was annoyed with her was that she spoke in her own vernacular dialect with me, which is Mandarin. It's not that I do not think that students should not speak their own vernacular tongue, but the way I see it going, Newbie had better start speaking in English. The first obstacle she will have to go through once she starts her pract is that she has to speak in English to the children. I am not trying to present a very negative picture here, but I am just being very realistic.

Unless a student teacher has a very workable grasp of the English language, it will make things even more difficult if she has trouble listening to the children's accents and usage of slangs. Even for me (whose command of English is considered commendable) had difficulties understanding the slangs that the children used when out on practical experiences. Having a workable command of English helps the adult to "guess" what the child has to say, especially if they are prone to using slangs in the classroom, which I have been made very aware of since I started my practs last year!

I can only imagine a student who has a poor grasp of grammar and the English language trying to complete her Professional Experience 5 in a primary school. The mentor will have very scalding remarks and on top of that, the student has to work doubly hard just to buck up on her English language pronunciation to just prepare the literacy lesson plans (I am not kidding!! I've been through that and it was tough!).

Student teachers are expected to "model" the language spoken in primary schools (in class that is. :-p). Due to that reason, it is important that they do not speak the typical way (like how Malaysians are used to especially when out socially), as they are expected to "model and teach the usage of the English language" to the children.

Of course, finally I would like to say is that you cant assess the children which will be brought up here (which there was a 2 year old Chinese kid in the gathering earlier) in what you will assess them against of what you had used to know in a Malaysian setting. This is as the kid will grow up, and develop an Australian accent, and be assessed against criteria set out by the Australian Education system (with some differentiation maybe in some individual areas in relation to physical or social traits). Heh.


As I have said before, unless you have previously worked in an international educational setting, you will have to prepare yourself to be mentally prepared to experience culture shock. Which I believe she is, although her face shows disbelief to what I had to say. Well, if she doesn't want to believe, only facing it first hand will knock her off her high pedestal.

I know that it is very common for new students to compare the way they have lived in another country, to the "new country" in which they will be spending the next 3 years of their life. Unfortunately in my experience, it is common to do that. Disbelief, I shall state. Oh well. That's life.

On the other hand, one of my mentor friends wanted to introduce me to an American girl who is an exchange student in Education. I was trying to disassuade him, because I thought myself of no use to an American exchange student as frankly speaking, there is less of a difference in say Americans vs Australians, compared to that of Australians vs Malaysian culture.

Americans and Australians adopt an almost similar (but maybe manifesting some differences) in terms of culture. But apart from that, development of independence, individualism and freedom of speech, I feel is almost practised in both nations. However, since I do not know the American girl's temperament, I guess I should not make any judgements yet.

I am just thoroughly very much annoyed with the Newbie Malaysian girl. She will get off her high horse in time.


SilverFox thinks that by my writing of this entry, I am trying to sell out my Malaysian mates, or that I am cynical, which I am. However, what I am trying to point out is that there is a lot of politics and parties involved, ESPECIALLY in the Education Faculty, at least for where we are based now. She just has to toughen up and fight her way through the system. Well, I did at least.

It is the survival of the fittest in the jungle out there that will make it through in the end.

Related links:
-Exploring Culture Shock Moments: Canada program for Immigrant Pre-Service Teachers.
-Cross Cultural & MultiCultural Issues in Advising: Mount Holyoke

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

ECP 3001: A debrief (2007)

You know, professional experience should be handled in a very "professional" manner. Much more so at a tertiary level. You would expect universities be able to handle this, and assist students in negotiating the timing of the practs to succeed, not to fail. Am I not right?

Yet at this point of time, we as students do not have much information to go by. Yes, the staff has apologized to the students (if they felt marginalized by the delay in preparing us for the pract). The fact which has occured is yes, we do feel marginalized as a group. They cant throw us out as students to pract (and further more this is our first Primary school level pract) where everything else is different from childcare or Prep level.

Yes, it will be our first pract at primary school. How can we go for any more pract meetings if we have to go for pract during the school holidays? The meeting for "presenting your professional experience folder" is ir-relevant if we have already gone for pract, without attending the relevent pre-professional experience meetings.

Further more to add to the insult, we also have other assessment components which requires a compulsory attendance to pass all aspects of the course. This is very frustrating for us students who have to negotiate with the pract. mentor, who may or may not understand our situation. Which looking at the circumstances, at default, is already putting us students at a huge dis-advantage.

I am really dis-satisfied with the way the university has handled this aspect of our practical experience on their part. It has left a very bitter taste in my mouth.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Debrief: Implementation of play based program.

It's been a while since I have written. It'd take me a while to remember what I have learnt in the past one year since I have been in Toowoomba.

The reason I am reflecting now is because an acquaintance, (technically my financial sponsor) asked me specific questions about the education system in Australia. I can only share my experiences of those that in Toowoomba, since I was only there all this while.

After experiencing both the Montessori and the Play-based pedagogies educational settings, without looking at it from a biased perspective, I must admit that the implementation of a play-based curriculum is actually much harder than of a Montessori one.

Many of the centres in Toowoomba (as far as I know) employ a play-based curriculum in the setting. But as far as the implementation goes, that is about as far as similarity goes. In a private based centre, the staff are very particular and rigid about the keeping and following of rules and regulations. This is to maintain the image of the school as funding comes from the patronage of the parents.

In a government & public funded centre, there is also an emphasis on following the rules and regulations. However, the following of these rules & regulations are done on a voluntary basis from the staff's own initiative and behalf, as not so much as to follow rules & regulations blindly, but that to maintain that the centre keeps its standards.

A play-based curriculum employs much observation skills and initiative on behalf of the group leader/teacher of the class-room. Materials that are provided in the classroom are the normal standard materials that are found in the classroom, but it is the teacher's skills of observations, planning, implementation and evaluation that makes the difference to the programme that is being employed. The children is given free-choice and access to materials which are set at the children's eye level..

*to be continued later, if I do that is...*

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