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October 4, 2011

As a typical kiasu teacher, i brought back my students’ essays. Since SPM is nearing, the students somehow got their mojo back, and had been passing up their essays. EVERYONE OF THEM. YAY or NAY? Lol…

As a teacher, i was ecstatic about this miracle. But when you have THREE Form 5 classes, you tend to morph into your human form. Basically i was struggling to survive this exhausting, never-ending round of mental, physical, and emotional battle. Nearly every piece of writing, requires code-breaking. It was THAT tough.

So i decided i need some time off. Then again, procrastination never needed a reason or an excuse. Lol.

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While I was procrastinating, I had a good read on Sweatlee‘s (pretty cool Malaysian blogger) article on her internships. That was good enough reason for me to put down that pile of incomprehensible scribbles, and logged onto this blog.

I was pretty inspired by her, you can say. Her resume is pretty impressive, and she is young and fired up. Then i thought, why not i try to share on what i’ve been through. It does serve as a good reflection. Hmmm.. enough of detouring, how should I start?

..

..thinks…

…still thinking….

OK.

Coming from a family of educators, my parents have their very own unique ways of upbringing. For starters, we were not given pocket money!

*GASPS IN HORROR*

We have to earn them.

Since really young, age 7-8 to be precise, we were given a tiny notebook each – to jot down whatever house chore we did. And from there, we were paid.

Sweeping floor : RM0.50

Washing toilets : RM2.00 (each)

Ironing clothes : RM0.50 (each piece of clothing)

etc etc.

So it becomes kinda funny, as the house gets cleaner when we were broke, and also when we started owning our cell phones. lol.

Thinking back, this practice helped us to be more responsible when it comes to money. We understood the value of money. And we got to help out at home. It was far from glamorous having to work for lunch money in school when our friends splurged on junk and ice-cream…but i learned to be thankful for my parents’ unconventional ways.

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And my parents also felt that our personal development is as important as our academic performance. At the age of 12, we were already encouraged to work during school holidays. Since in Malaysia, we get nearly 2 months break year end, my brothers and I would work for the month of November, and enjoy the fruits of our labour in December – be it travelling, attending camps, buying Christmas gifts and so on.

Since I am already *whisper* twentyfour… We are looking at 12 years of various working experiences. If you have already lost interest, i suggest you visit 9gag.com instead.

I shall only touch on the jobs, that paid me. If not the list is going to be a lil too much. lol… Most of my jobs were not fabulous, but every piece of me, is built from different lessons and experiences encountered in each and every one of them.

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My very first job – When I was 12, I worked at a wet market, selling vegetables with my aunt. I dreaded the idea of being seen in a market by my peers. And I can’t recalled how i was persuaded to do that job, but i had great fun. From a kid who loathed veges, i started to know their names. The vendors there treated me like their princess, often giving me lil treats here and there, and taught me cunning trading skills. It was highly entertaining for me to see gullible customers falling for our so-called discounts and VIP treatments.

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As for the next job, it was the job i hated the most. Since i was an underage, it was quite hard to find a place that would hire me, so i found a job in a glove packaging factory. I HATED THAT JOB. SO MUCH HATEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…. Lol.. Won’t really go into the details, but let’s just say i do get rubber-phobia, if that even exists.

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Then, I was accepted as a waiter/cashier for the Taiping Zoo Cafe, the first job that i thoroughly enjoyed. The working environment makes all the difference as we were a huge team of youngsters, working in such a touristy place, soaking in the holiday excitement. My duties included doing check outs for both the cafe and the kiosk, making toasts, buttering the corn in cups, restocking, cleaning up, and so on. That was also my first opportunity to hang out with Malay kids, getting to know them and later discarding whatever pre-conceived racist thoughts I had. I too finally learned that there’s a difference between using ‘aku’ ‘kamu’, and ‘I’ ‘you’ with the Malays; as I unknowingly misled a 16 year old Malay boy that I was interested in him @_@ Was kinda cruel when I had to break his heart during is confession. …

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The Lady Boss took a liking in me, and later recruited me to be her cashier at her newly-opened mini-market in a housing neighbourhood. She was very generous in showing me her accounts, and the printouts for the received stock… From there I realised that the profit margin for grocery is actually really small, and everything depends on the quantity of the sales.In that store, I had to make a lot of spontaneous and firm decisions as I would be left alone for most of the time. Probably not that wise to leave a 16 year old with such huge responsibility lol. I probably screwed up quite a bit.

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That year, I was also doing a casual favour for a church friend, by helping out at a Scripture Union bookstore. Since she was not chinese educated, she could not understand the mandarin written Christian books and resources, and the whole store needed huge reorganisation. So for weeks, i was there sorting out the books, reorganising the shelves, doing artwork to redecorate the shop, selling the goods, handling the Christmas shoppers… It was tough work, but very satisfying to see the makeover come together.

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As Chinese New Year came nearer, my aunt asked whether I wanna try my hands in sales, for Yeo’s in a supermarket. The pay was quite lucrative as the commission was reasonably high. IT WAS OMGOSH FUN OKAY! Well, mainly because I was the only girl worker, in the drinks department. *gedik mode* We were not called by our names, but by the brands we represented. So I was Yeos, and my bffs at that time were Marigold, Carlsberg, Tiger, Nestle etc. They were like ‘oh no, you girl, you cannot carry, too heavy, let us do it’ all the time. lmao. And we had no rivalry at all, as we helped each other to market our stuff to the festive season shoppers.

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Finally, SPM came and went, and I was left with a reaaaaaaaaaaaaally long break. At the age of 17, I realised I probably should start venturing into a less physical job. My parents suggested that I should tutor. Well, I was quite over-whelmed by that idea. It was so confusing for me, because a part of me was so against of following the footsteps of my parents into the teaching field; while the other side of me was pretty sure I could kick some ass in teaching. I mean, I taught dance and choir, and those fun stuff were pretty fun to teach; but could I teach academic subjects?

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Nevertheless, I took up the challenge.

I had two doctor’s kids under my care, to learn written and spoken Mandarin. From there, my little tutoring circle grew, I started giving classes to a Malay boy who was studying in SJK(C), and later a medic student and friend, who wanted to learn spoken Mandarin. Dad too began giving me more opportunities to give talks and conduct workshops in his school. With more exposure, and garnering more confidence from others in the field, I was also paid to conduct special workshops in other schools. From that moment, I was pretty sure, that teaching is my calling.

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Seeing my igniting passion for education, mum got me into SJK(c) Hua Lian 2 as a replacement teacher. It was a huge transition for me, from small classes to managing 40 rascals in a class. lol. When I was still teaching in that primary school, our SPM results were announced. Immediately I was put in the spotlight. All the teachers, and my students were SUPER EXCITED to know how i fared. The pressure and fear was immense for me. But by the grace of God, I was blessed with 12 ‘A’s. And guess what, the celebration extended to my lil kids. They happily congratulated me with their notes and lil gifts. Out of so many odd jobs I had attempted, none beats the fulfillment from teaching.

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When it was time to apply for scholarships, my parents said to apply for everything, knock on all doors, and see which one will God open. And I did. But I made sure I applied for the teaching scholarship. My first scholarship offer from The Star Newspaper came the same day after my interview. It was too early for me to make a decision. So i turned it down. Patiently I waited, and the JPA scholarship came. I went for the orientation, and both my parents and I did not feel the peace. Going to Japan sounds great and all, but is engineering really what I wanna do with my life?Because I was still quite sure that God wants me to be an educator. Maybe he wants me to lecture in Engineering?

There was still no news from Ministry of Education yet, but with my parents’ prayers and blessing, i left the orientation, and turned that offer down. When I went back to Form 6, after turning down JPA, I was ridiculed by students and some teachers. One in particular scolded me for being stupid for giving away my spot to a fellow Malay. I was treated like a traitor for ‘the generations of the dragon’. *true story*

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Yet, I sucked it all up, went through Form 6 for less than 2 weeks, and my teaching scholarship CAME! I was jumping around, I was laughing tears of joy, and I was just a huge bundle of excitement. To top it up. my scholarship was a twinning programme with one of five universities overseas!

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Now we jump straight to the chapter in Auckland, New Zealand. Upon the first week of our arrival, our lovely seniors who were working at Foodtown (supermarket chain) asked whether we wanna work. At that time, we still could not differentiate the notes and the coins but that offer was too good to let go! Getting a job in NZ was really not that easy, especially for international students. It helps to know somebody in that particular business to get a working shot. So, I was a Check-out Operator, earning $13 an hour.

In the beginning, Foodtown was a lot of fun to work at. Customers were usually pleasant and very very chatty, colleagues were a whole lot of crazy bunch. Mannn, I just remembered a few nice supervisors we had.. Gosh I missed them…

But after a few months, the job became stale. Assignments piled up, fatigue grew, temper rose, but the saddest part was, more and more FUN friends were leaving Foodtown, and meaner people were filling up the spots. In the end, I too had enough and quit.

Then I started doing casual jobs like becoming a camp counselor for an Australian Cantooning Camp, working in Christian Resource Center and proof-reading academic essays…. Until, I managed to get involved in MATES.

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MATES was under the leadership of Ann Dunphy, from University of Auckland, and aims to get university students to mentor at-risks students from low socio-economic status with their transition from intermediate to high school. Our group was the pioneer of this mentoring programme, so we had a lot of trials and errors, and we tried to keep improving. The last I heard, MATES has grown BIG and next year there will be a stage 2 paper on Youth Mentoring taught in the BA degree, with MATES mentoring as the practical component in University of Auckland. Ann has been really nice and welcoming, so i am definitely visiting her during my NZ trip this year end. In fact, she just invited me to one of the sessions for the new term, as a guest speaker! So much coolness! Lol…

with Darlene, one of my mentees

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Us three Malaysian Mentors (First Batch), with Ann Dunphy (Founder of MATES)

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Through the recommendation and guidance from our beloved programme coordinator, Sheryll Mcintosh, 5 of us were selected as the summer scholarship holders of University of Auckland – we were paid NZD4000 to be research assistants for the summer! Our project supervisors were really nice, trusting and lenient. Sometimes they even asked us to go enjoy the beach and not come in for work LOL. My project involved creating a literacy programme for the Maori students, while my friend’s was on the collaboration of police with the university to help the Samoan drop outs.

That summer was mind-blowing, figuratively and literally. I had never done so much referencing and system bookmarking in my whole life. It came to the point that I could do citations and reference for any book, any article, any source of writing without any help from any software.. Truly, it was a great learning experience.

*too bad we never actually took a pic with our supervisors 😦 *

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And then, I came back to Malaysia, finished up my final year in KL, and did my practicum teaching in Catholic High School. I LOVE THOSE STUDENTS TO BITS, though they were challenging in the beginning because i took over their favourite teacher. Smart kids are very easy to teach, and you tend to look forward to their piece of work, because their ideas can be so unpredictable and worth the anticipation. I had a high time teaching them, and the farewell was utmost saddening.

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Then, our posting took forever. Instead of bumming around, I went into SRJK(c) Hua Lian 3 as their new replacement teacher. The pay was only RM25 a day, but this was the best training ground for me. As a replacement teacher, I had to teach in any class when I am required to. So, in 3 weeks, I taught kindergarten kids, to lower primary, and to higher primary. Though I enjoyed my 3 weeks, I was too thankful for having my teaching option for the secondary school kids. LOL. Primary kids zaps all me energy everyday lmao.

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Finally, *phew* I was posted to this small town, in the state of Kelantan… To read more on the adventures I had so far, just browse through ‘Teacher Thoughts’ entries, albeit not that many of them. *major fail*

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So, after 12 years of employment, what do I treasure the most?

The slightly impressive resume

The growth *politically correct answer*

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