It is very common for people to disagree on a certain issue or decision. Sometimes teachers can get emotional out of it as they don’t see the rationale of the decision. There is no right nor wrong in the decision but as a head of a school, I carry the authority for the final decision. Recently a decision was made to cut down the celebration time of long serving retiring teachers though a few long serving teachers before this had the privilege of the whole day celebration on a school day. All lessons were cancelled and the rationale was that celebrating or rather appreciating the long serving teachers was also a form of education. But my rationale is that the celebration need not be long but meaningful. That way, the students would not miss their official lessons for too long and yet get to learn the values in the celebration. This had caused a few teachers to become very emotional and started to raise their voice using words that would tantamount to disrespect for the head. When this happened my heart would tell me “reprimand the teacher in public as she has caused me to lose face” and you would definitely feel better after this. But the soul in me told me that “two wrongs do not make a right” and reprimanding the teacher concerned would hurt her badly and would affect her work. Afterall this teacher is a dedicated teacher and it was just one of her moods. So I calmly explained to her the rationale of the decision and not respond like “tit for tat”. A few of the senior teachers came and told me that previous principals would not tolerate outbursts like that and I replied that I don’t either; but I have made it known to her that she is wrong in her outburst. Three weeks later, the teacher came and apologised to me.
It is very common for some young teachers who would not be able to control classes with some of the more rowdy students. One teacher broke down and could not proceed to teach the class at all. She claimed the students did not respect her and the students need to be disciplined. To give support to this teacher I would always ask the teacher to call me immediately there was trouble in the class and I would enter the class to teach the students some discipline. That way the message is clear to the students – be disciplined and show some respect to the teacher as she has the shadows of the headmaster with her all the time.
It is very common for teachers to be given subjects that are not their specialisation or totally not to their liking. It can subjects like Physical Education or Civics. And more often than not, they would just teach for the sake of teaching and the lesson can be very boring to the students. For example subjects like Civics would end up with students copying notes, notes and more notes. This need not happen if teachers use their creativity. Here in one of the sharing sessions, teachers are asked to engage the students in discussion on a particular topic. One of the standing instructions which given to the students is that whatever that is not taught should be read in advance and in this way, lively discussions can be held on the topic concern. Students can also be asked to critique the contents of the topic they have read
I was privileged to be invited to share some of the best practices in my school with teachers of SMK Taman Yarl on 25 February 2012
That’s the usual comments or remarks that you can hear in almost every school in Malaysia. A teacher’s job is not just about the number of lessons per week he gets. It’s also about the other duties – extra curricular activities, clerical duties, ad hoc committees for a function, permanent committees for various functions, examination coordinators etc, etc. In most schools, most of these portfolios seem to be equally distributed, but are they? For example take two teachers who are in charge two clubs respectively – one active and one inactive. The former may have activities almost every week and the latter just the minimum as required by the Ministry of Education. The former’s workload is perhaps many times heavier than the latter. The same goes for the administrative duties – the workload varies. It is not the number of portfolio’s that a teacher holds that counts; it’s the type of portfolio. What we do to resolve this issue is to map out every non-teaching portfolio to the number of hours required per week. For example the teacher in charge of magazine may need an extra two hours per week and her committee members half an hour extra. Another example is the scout troop which holds an activity every week throughout the year and goes for camps every school holidays. This is worked out into the number of hours required per week. So for every teacher, the extra hours of workload per week can be computed for the portfolio he holds and adjustments are made to ensure they are fairly distributed. It is almost impossible to very accurate in the computation of the hours required for each portfolio, but this is definitely better than just distributing the portfolios without working out the number of hours required
When the minister announced this policy, it created a lot of questions on the best way to implement it. A few schools were chosen as pilot schools with close supervision from the department and officials and the practices of these schools were shared with others.
This school has taken the stand that for a student to take part in a sport, it has to be for a least an hour. There is no point in getting a group of say 40 students lining up to serve a badminton shuttle or kick a ball, as has been done in many schools. Students will get bored this way and getting them to stay back to touch the ball for a few seconds is really defeating the objectives of this policy.
What we have done is to match the facilities the school has with the optimum number of students (players) required for a game. For example, we have a volleyball court, and the maximum number of students that will be involved is 14 (7 per team). From all the facilities, we will know the total number of students that need to be involved for a single day and therefore a week. With the limited number of facilities that we have, each student can play a game only once every fortnight but they play it well and enjoy the game for at least one hour.
Most schools organize some form of extra classes for examination bound students in Form 3 (Year 9), 5 (Year 11) or Upper 6 (Year 13). These extra classes may take various ways. Some may organize after the trial exams by regrouping the students based on the ability and getting different sets of teachers to teach those groups. There are issues on this arrangement as there is a need to revamp the timetable and other non examination classes are affected. Additionally, there will be movements of students into groups and time wasted in these movements. Other forms of extra classes are “teaching to the test” about three months before the examination for the weakest students after school hours. But problems arise in getting the students to attend these classes and slow achievers find the lessons which are geared towards the examinations, too difficult for them to grasp. There is also a problem of class control; some classes are too big for the teachers to handle and when the lessons are held in the afternoon after school, students get tired and agitated during these classes. Many slow achievers lack the foundation to pass the examinations and these lessons are deemed too advanced for them. Teachers might also do remedial during the months leading to the examinations but most of the time, many of the students do not even have the basic fundamentals which should be mastered in their primary schools. There are students who couldn’t even construct proper sentences and there they are in the extra classes preparing them for the SPM (Year 11) public examinations.
The other problem with extra classes is continuity and coordination amongst teachers. All teachers in a subject panel are involved and they take turns to teach. Some have not taught these students before and may not know the ability level of the students.
The school has decided to do away with scheduled extra classes for examination bound students and has instead embarked on a program we called “One Teacher One Child Program”. In this program, all teachers are to “adopt and tutor” at least a child (student), who is amongst the weakest in the school from the beginning of the year. We have 100 teachers and therefore at least 100 of the weakest children are tutored personally for at least one hour per week outside the normal school hours on a day and time decided between teacher and student. The lesson is recorded in the teachers’ record book and checked by the vice principal every week. We believe this program has advantages over other so called “extra classes” as remedial learning starts at the beginning of the year and not after the trial examinations. The other advantage is that each teacher is the counselor/teacher to the child and what problems that the child faces can be resolved with the teacher. Even though this program is for all levels, the students who will benefit most are those from the lower forms as they would be able go through numerous cycles of this one-to-one tutoring. Those at Form 5 and Upper 6 may only benefit for a year and some of the weakest of the weak of this form may be already too late to be rehabilitated, but as the saying goes, “it’s better late than never”.
The Indian food stall has been vacant for many months. Many potential stall operators have tried and failed due to competition from other stalls selling other types of food with almost the same pricing. Knowing that renting out this stall again under the same arrangement will almost certainly meet with failure, a creative way was found to rent out this stall. To compete with other stalls on almost similar price and on the same type of food would be undesirable. We know there is a group of students who can afford more expensive high end food and hence a decision was made to redesignate this stall as ‘high end food stall’. This stall would be allowed to sell any food under the sun (subject to halal conditions for both Muslims and Hindus) for RM4 – RM6 so as not to compete with other stalls, thus giving the better off students (and teachers) the opportunity to enjoy better quality food. This stall will not compete with other stalls on the pricing but rather value for money. For example this stall can also sell ‘nasi lemak’ which is also sold by the other Malay stall but the ‘nasi lemak’ must be of a higher end (RM4 – RM6) – maybe ‘nasi lemak with satay’.
On 22 Feb 2010, eleven principals and four lecturers from Institut Aminuddin Baki, Genting visited my school. These principals were taking the Strategic Leadership on ICT at that institute and this visit was part of their benchmarking coursework on how ICT is being efficiently implemented in all aspects of the school. I was honoured to give them an overview on the ICT implementation in the school, focusing on the six core strategies – Infrastructure Development, Change Management, ICT in Teaching-Learning, ICT in School Management, Developing ICT Literate Students, and Smart Partnership with the Corporate Sector
In the Malaysian school system, the performance of each school in the public examinations is measured by the average numeric grade, in which the lower the better is the performance. This is because the grades A, B, C etc is designated 1,2,3 etc. Each year awards are given to schools which show vast improvement over the previous year. But not many people are aware of the flaws of the present award system. If we study literature on school effectiveness, we would know that the yearly academic achievement is to a large extent influenced by the entry qualifications of the pupils. On a good year you may get students with good results but on another, students with poor results which will effectively influence your school public exam results in a number of years from now. What is more important is the measure of “school effects” – to what extent the results of the students are attributed to the efforts of the school. This can be measured to a certain degree of accuracy using sophisticated statistical methods and has been carried out in Britain for many years already. If we check on the BBC website, we can find the ranking of schools based on the public examination results and also on “contextual value added”(CVA) – the measure of the “school effects”. We will find that there are schools ranked very high in their academic results but mediocre in the CVA – an indication that the good academic results is due to intake of good students and not due to the effort of the school.