Monday, July 28


"Teacher, speak Malay laaa.. we don't understand what you're saying," a teenage boy commented in Malay.
I smiled. "You don't understand English?"
"Yes..tak faham"
"What's your name?" I pointed at a young man.
"My name is Ahmad bin Bakar," he automatically answered, then looked at his friends sheepishly when he realised that he had just replied in English.
"Are you a boy or a girl?" I asked another young man nearby.
"A boy."
"See.. you do understand English," I told them.

I've always been told that the students in the last class are too weak to learn in the normal way. I refuse to accept that students, especially rural Malay students, can't be taught to improve their command of the language or their mastery of any subjects. I've dealt with much worse situations before and students had always surprised me with their integrity and diligence. Those who claim that kampung students and estate students can't learn English are not qualified to be called educators. I just have difficulties with dishonest, indisciplined and lazy students who give up before trying.

"Teacher, copy?" a boy was already holding his pen.
"No, not yet. You are going to read and understand the text before you write anything."
"Huh? I can't read," he said nervously.
"Oh yes, you can and you will read. That's why I'm here, to teach you to read with understanding."
One by one, they stood and read sentences on the board. They were the last class but they could read aloud. I had allocated enough time for them to read at least a sentence each. To most of us adults, reading aloud a sentence is nothing but to a student from the last class, that sentence might be the only English sentence he or she has read aloud in class this month. Maybe this year.
"Good, give yourselves a clap. You can read quite well," I said and they looked both happy and relieved.

Lessons are slow but they're learning something everyday instead of copying pages and pages of notes they can't read and comprehend. Dealing with growing teeenagers need a lot of tact, patience and firmness. I'm coping well, and being a Chinese Muslim teacher might have helped to command some respect from the usually naughty young men.

Lessons as a public speaker has helped overcome my nervousness of speaking in front of tall and burly teenage boys.
Vocal training as a choir singer and stage performer has helped me control the class with my loud voice without tiring myself out.
Lessons as a stage performer has helped overcome my shyness to act in public, and has helped greatly when I need to explain certain things and actions.
Lessons using ICT has helped me to prepare lessons using interesting pictures and the latest technology, which helps keep students interested.
My love of reading has helped me to give more information to students who are still 'blur' about literature.
Interestingly, I'm gaining strength indirectly from my teaching and their learning. Despite my present illness (yes, I'm coping although physically weaker) I can still perform well in class.

I'm thankful.
I'm hopeful.
I believe in my students' potential to improve in their studies, even when they're in the last class. Belief can work miracles.
Do pray that they'll improve and grow in their interest to learn. Prayer can move mountains.
They need all the help they need. Help can come in many ways.
They need a lot of motivation to learn. Motivation, sadly, is lacking. More often they get naggings.
They're their parents' hope for a better future... rural Malays and Indians (no Chinese student among them).
They're young Malaysians. They're the leaders of tomorrow.
And syukur alhamdulillah, I'm a contributor.


  1. Assalamu'alaikum Kak Aliya :) I wish you a speedy recovery and may your keen sense of determination and strong faith continue to inspire those whose lives you have touched, be it directly and indirectly.

  2. Waalaikumussalam wbt,
    Thanks for your kind wishes. All praise to Allah swt for His blessings

  3. I'm also having difficulties teaching these at-least-pass-BM-students.. We, the lecturers, are suppose to use English during class. But it's impossible since they only understand Malay.

    But I'm not giving up though.. I have high hopes..

    p.s. I sent an email to you via gmail. Kak Aliya baca ya..

  4. Start small, build their confidence before doing ore challenging tasks. Email in my gmail? Belum terima apa-apa lagi, humyrah...