Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Projek Kalsom 20 Experience

So last weekend I went on a programme called the Kalsom Movement, which was conducted by MASCA (Malaysian Students’ Council of Australia). The Kalsom Movement was established in 1994, and it is a programme that aims to help educate and motivate secondary school students in rural areas of Malaysia who have the potential but need that extra push to help them fulfil their potentials. You can read more about The Kalsom Movement at

I participated in the capacity of a facilitator. The programme was brought to my attention by the Deputy Director of the programme, and I found it intriguing and wanted to be involved as well. Alhamdulillah, I was able to attend and be part of a wonderful experience.

The programme runs a full week, but I was only able to attend the first two days of it (last Saturday and Sunday) because I have a job to go to on the weekdays. The first day was about preparing for the programme that would be run the next day at the school that we were going to, SMK Dato Syed Ahmad. We reviewed the modules and activities that were going to be conducted and rehearsed them to make sure that we were ready for what was going to happen the next day. The prep-day was great, since I got to make new friends and be in an environment where everyone was very passionate about being there and helping out, since they were all volunteers too. Added to the fact that most of them are or were, in one capacity or another, part of MASCA, which represents pretty much the best of the best Malaysian students studying in Australia, and you get a really inspiring bunch of people.

The second day, we had to wake up super early in the morning to get to the school in Kuala Nerang before the students arrived in school and set up the hall in which we were going to conduct the programme. Then when the students arrived, we conducted what we had planned the previous day. We did three subjects with the students, namely History, Mathematics and English. Needless to say, I was most useless during the Math-section, but I got to contribute my share during the History and English parts, so that was good.

All the facilitators got to groups of 4-5 SPM candidates to help out throughout the day, and I got a group of 4 students that were very shy-types. It was tough for my facilitating partner and I to even get two sentences from them at any one time. But I think by the end of the day, we got them to come out of their shells ever so slightly, since we had to do some activities that required acting and performing and presenting things, so that helped in getting them to be more comfortable with speaking up. At the end of the day, our group even won the most points from all the competitions and became the best group of the programme (admittedly, even we were astonished by this turn of events). The programme adjourned at around 5.30pm and by the end of it, we were all so pooped, but all of us had smiles on our faces, saying that the exhaustion was well worth it.

I really liked being in that environment, around all the facilitators, where I felt that everyone was so competent and passionate about what they were doing. Not only that, they were a fun-loving bunch of people as well, so while getting things done, we were always up for a laugh about something or other. I don’t think it’s very common that you find yourself in a situation where you’re in a group of people that you can instantly be productive while still have good fun with. Thankfully, I get that feeling when I’m school too, so I am very grateful that that’s the case.

A question that was asked to me and continued to hang over me throughout the programme was “why are you volunteering to teach, while you are already a teacher?” I already teach as a job, why did I choose to do the same thing in my free time? I’m not entirely sure. Maybe it was because it was an opportunity to work with MASCA, an organisation I have always liked because of the programmes that they run and the people that run them. Maybe it was because it was an opportunity to give back to the community, and I am enthusiastic about doing that in whichever way I can, even if it was something I was already doing as a day job. Or maybe it was because teaching is still my passion, and when presented with an opportunity to teach, it’s hard for me to say no because so much of me wants to say yes. But then again, it could also be a combination of those reasons, and maybe even more.

I was glad I participated. It was an amazing experience, with great people and wonderful students as well. I encourage anyone and everyone to participate in such activities should they come your way. It really is an awesome experience and you learn so much while giving back to the community.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Getting Feedback

I like feedback. It’s like the thing that drives me forward in whatever things I do. It helps me to achieve my objective by pointing out what I should do more of, and what I should probably do less of. But of course, the feedback goes through my own mental filter which includes the question “how does this help me achieve my goal?” and other such silly questions.

Within this week, I’ve received a couple of interesting pieces of feedback regarding two different things. The first is feedback about my last blogpost, where I expressed my views about polygamy. Some friends of mine from school said that the view I hold isn’t a very common view to hold. One even said that it was the first time they had ever heard that point of view coming from anyone they knew personally.

I knew that my view wasn’t the majority stance on the matter, but I didn’t know that it was that rare to find someone who shared my way of seeing the matter. It may be the majority of men are very confident about their ability to be just and fair, and are perfectly capable of allowing their spouses to feel the way they do when they tell them that they’ll be taking in another wife.

This of course led to further discussions, and I like to participate in that kind of discourse, where we dissect and unravel a certain topic to get to the crux of the matter as well as expand the discussion further to make us think about the matter more critically as well as within a context, while at the same time getting to see the matter from a different point of view. I treasure these discussions very much.

The second piece of feedback I received was from a student that I taught last year. I asked him what class he was in this year, and he said “G”. (The school that I teach in streams its classes according to the students’ academic performance, just so you know) The student was in the “D” class last year, two classes above the “G” class, so I asked him how he slipped down to where he was. It went something like:

Me : Kamu dok kelas mana lani?
Student : Saya dok kelas G.
Me : La, camana bleh jadi camtu?
Student : Dah BI saya dapat rendah.
Me : Oh. Awat? Saya ajar teruk ka?
Student : Dak aih, mister ajar elok. Saya ja yang tak dengar cakap.
Me : …

The way I was trained, it is the teacher’s responsibility to ensure that her/his students learn, and a student’s failure to learn only reflects the teacher’s failure to teach. So when I found out that the student had moved down two classes, I felt gutted. Like I failed the student. It’s not a very good feeling, to say the least.

I guess that’s why I asked the student if I was to blame (saya ajar teruk ka?). Because I immediately felt a certain guilt within myself. The kid is a nice kid, and maybe he didn’t say I was a bad teacher because he was too nice for that, letting himself take the fall instead.

But yeah, I can’t shake off the feeling that I didn’t do enough to help that particular student in class last year. I did a lot, and I really tried, but I guess it wasn’t enough.

The feedback from the student was much appreciated. It allowed to reflect upon my own teaching practices and really ask myself the question of whether or not I’m doing enough for my students.

I want every success in the world for my students, but if I can’t even teach them to construct full sentences, I shouldn’t expect too much. Indeed, one would question if I am even qualified to be a teacher.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Earlier today, I listened to not one, but two stories about men having second wives. The stories came from women, so of course they had their slant on it, but, as I imagine it would be the case for most Muslim men here in Malaysia, they’re somewhat alright with it. The women that told me those stories even theorised that the number of men taking second wives have been on the rise.

Of course, a lot of those men legitimise having more than one spouse at a time with this verse from the Quran:

“And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice].” 
An-Nisa’ [4:3]

My own personal stance on the matter is that I am not for polygamy for myself. It’s not that I am doubting the Quranic decree or anything. I just doubt my own ability to be just between my spouses. Indeed, I don’t even know if I’ll be capable of keeping one wife happy, let alone several.

I’ve heard the view of some women on the matter, and for the most part, they are never happy about it, not it coming from other people’s husbands, let alone their own. Should I have the assumption that my future-wife will hold different views from them on this matter? I highly doubt it. Most women who are in a polygamous relationship seem to barely tolerate it, rather than embrace it.

I can’t imagine putting my future wife through that. We’ll have enough troubles of our own, enough things to fight about without having to worry about another woman in the mix. Some men have it in themselves to put their wives through that. I just don’t.

Again, my main reason for not being a proponent of polygamy is that I am not confident that I will be equal and fair towards my spouses. Even the Quran says that:

And you will never be able to be equal [in feeling] between wives, even if you should strive [to do so]. So do not incline completely [toward one] and leave another hanging. And if you amend [your affairs] and fear Allah - then indeed, Allah is ever Forgiving and Merciful.”
– An-Nisa’ [4:129]

I’m really just happy to have even one person, a partner to go through the ups and downs of life with man. And I hope that she’ll be happy to have me.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

"How To Write A Great Essay About Anything"

Yesterday, while I was perusing the twitters, I came across an article that was retweeted by a teacher friend of mine. The article is entitled “How To Write A Great Essay About Anything”. 

The writer outlines what a well-structured essay looks like. He uses the analogy of the Spartan fighters who used a square battle formation, putting their reader and their main point in the middle of the square, and protecting the centre from all sides. It makes much more sense when you go read his explanation than my poor excuse for a summary, so if you’re intrigued, you can go read it here:

It reminded me of another academic writing tip that I received from one of my favourite lecturers while I was in teacher training college. She introduced us to the formula PREP, which stands for Point, Reason, Evidence, Paraphrase.

So basically, a good paragraph consists of these four essential ingredients, in that order. Firstly, your paragraph needs to have a point. What are you trying to say or argue through that paragraph?  (e.g. - Teaching is fun.) Then, give a reason for your point. (e.g. - This is because a lot of activities can be done in the classroom that are both interesting and rewarding.) After that, you give evidence to support your claim. (e.g. - In teaching English, we can use language games, songs and even movies to help convey the content that we want to get across to the students.) Lastly, you paraphrase your point. (e.g. - There is indeed fun to be had in the classroom.)

Those four ingredients make up the bare bones of your paragraph, and if you are able to get your points in order, those points become the bare bones of your essay. The final thing to do is just execute. PREP has helped me and numerous other classmates get through writing assignments throughout our studies, and to that particular lecturer, we say thank you very much.

When I look back at how I write my blog pieces though, I don’t write in that format. Indeed, I don’t even know that I have a format when writing a blog piece. What I basically try to do in my blog posts is to get down in writing what is going through my mind, and how I think up of the points and words are usually how they end up on the page.

So my blogposts are not really essays per se, since they’re not trying to sell you anything. I’m not trying to put forth an argument and getting you to believe me. Most of the times, I’m just trying to tell you what’s been on my mind, and if it comes off argumentative-like, then it wasn’t by intention. That’s merely how it ended up sounding like.

So in that sense, it is closer to creative writing than academic writing, since I’m just writing to express. And if that makes my writing not great, then I’m alright with it.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Thinking About Death

If you ever bothered to read the short-stories that I wrote between June and July last year, you’d notice that I quite a few of the pieces incorporated death in them. Somebody died, or was implied to be dead or something like that.

Personally, I have never lost a loved one yet. There are the loss of distant relatives here and there, but no one I truly was close to and had an active relationship with. Which should bring about a bit of head-scratching when thinking about why I felt the need to write about death so often.

After having a think about it, maybe it’s for the very reason that I haven’t experienced the loss of a loved one yet that I explore the phenomenon through my writing. Writing about it allows me to delve into the characters’ feelings and take on their perspective of the events.

Most people who know me in real life would vouch for me when I say that I am an emotional creature, in the sense that tears come to my eyes rather easily, be it from songs, stories or sand. Okay bad joke.

But on a serious note, I can’t stand the thought of losing even one of the people that I hold dear to me. My lips would shake and I’d struggle to disguise my teary eyes as the consequence of a yawn. Even imagining not having them around makes me shudder.

But death is inevitable. It’s as natural as growing up. No one can stop it. Even if one had the capacity to, I don’t think they’d want to stay that way very long. Steve Jobs once said that death is not the end of life. It is part of it. Thus embracing death is the only logical thing to do. Understanding that we will, one day, go into our graves never to breath again is crucial for our own emotional and spiritual balance.

I like how the Malay language puts death. Sure, there’s the word “mati”, but that can also be applied for electrical appliances or car engines. The term used specifically for living organisms is “meninggal dunia”, which translates to “leaving this world”. It’s beautiful in that it does not portray death as an end of one’s journey, but rather the continuation of one’s journey, into another world we are yet to be familiar with.

It’s like that saying that says that a human on the Earth is like a horseman resting in the shade of a tree in the middle of the dessert, from which, after being rested, shall move onwards with his journey to his destination.

I try really hard to see death as just as essential as life, but I know that when the time comes when someone is taken away from me, I’ll be incredibly affected by it and be an emotional bag of tears for a very long time.

But hey, tomorrow is promised to no one, and is certainly not promised to me. Who knows, I might actually leave before I can experience people leaving me. It is all in The Almighty’s hands, and to Him we put our trust.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Of Feedback and Persistence

So a couple of days back, I announced on my personal facebook page that I was writing rap songs and posting them on soundcloud, and provided a link to my soundcloud page ( ) and asked for a “congrates”, being sarcastic to myself more than anything.

There was this one friend of mine (and yes, I do regard him a friend) that commended me on my lyrics, but added to the comment that it would be better if I let someone who was used to rapping do the rapping bit. In other words, he thought that it would be better if “real” rappers did my rapping for me.

Now I welcome feedback very much, and I appreciate honesty too, so I am thankful that I have a friend who isn’t afraid to give me his honest opinion on my work. But as much as I appreciate the comment he gave me, I am inclined to not accept his piece of advice regarding letting other more experienced rappers do my rapping for me. Let me tell you why.

Any “real” or experienced rapper went through a phase of being a beginner and sucking at what she or he did (I am of the opinion that this rings true for any endeavour in life). Nobody started out “real” or “experienced”. They gained that experience by firstly deciding to do it in the first place, and continue doing it, even when they didn’t sound all that good. They persisted, doing it for years and years, until it became part of their identity, and no one could say that they weren’t “real” or “experienced”.

I realise that what I’m going through right now is a sucky phase. I am not going to sound good. Even if I sound good to myself or some other people, I am still not going to appeal to many people, simply because I haven’t been doing it long enough, entailing that I haven’t gained any “realness” to incorporate my identity with what I’m just starting out to do.Thus it feels out of place, my voice in a rap setting. It needs time to settle, and for me to find a way of using my voice which is both true to myself, yet sounds just right. That takes time, so I’m not giving up anytime soon.

And if I were to quit now (like, stop rapping, just write for other people), when will I ever gain that experience? When will I ever get to be “real”? When will I ever get good enough to do what I want to do? The answer is most likely, never. And I can’t have that.

I got into doing it because I wanted to, because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and I feel that I am able to one day bring goodness to the world by doing it, even if just a tiny bit. I like that friend of mine, he’s a good guy. But when you’re shooting for something, you have to believe in yourself enough to go through with it, no matter what anyone else says. Persistence yo. <—nok horip dah start yo yo dah Anwat poyo giler dowh der siaaa.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Comfort Zones

Wahai orang-orang yang beriman! Mengapa bila dikatakan kepada kamu ‘berangkatlah (untuk berperang) di jalan Allah,’ kamu berasa berat dan ingin tinggal di tempatmu? Apakah kamu lebih menyenangi kehidupan di dunia daripada kehidupan di akhirat? Padahal kenikmatan hidup di dunia ini (dibandingkan dengan kehidupan) di akhirat hanyalah sedikit.” 
— Surah at-Taubah [9:38]

I came across the above verse just now, and besides the quite literal meaning of urging the believer to go to war for the sake of Allah, it also made me think about comfort zones.

A comfort zone is basically that place or situation in your life that feels the most like pillows and blankets on a rainy day. You just want to stay there forever and ever because you don’t really have to do anything to feel awesome. No pressure, no stress, just remaining in one spot and being comfortably comfortable there.

It may come in the form of a job. You’ve reached a certain point in your career where you’re on cruise mode. You just go to work, do what you’re already adept at doing, come back and repeat the whole thing again tomorrow.

It could come in the form of personal relationships. You’ve got your group of friends that you’ve basically known for years and years and that hasn’t changed much. You know them and they know you, and you’re don’t really like the idea of talking to anyone else outside of your established circle, since that would entail shaking things up too much and you might risk the established order of things you’ve made for yourself within your own life.

It could also come in the form of your spirituality. You decide that what you’re doing right now is pretty a-ok, you pray five times a day, what you miss you ganti balik, you go for Friday prayers, you derma to people in need whenever anything bad happens. You’re doing great.

But the ayat up above sort of questions our attitude towards our comfort zones. It begs the question “are you alright with all of this, when something (way) better is out there for you, if only you would get off your ass?” To me, it forces us to shift our views of our comfort zones and is asking us to adopt a healthy aversion towards it.

Being in a comfort zone is, of course, comfortable. One doesn’t really have to exert much force to get things done and keep the wheels of life turning. But we have to ask ourselves, what good is being in this zone for us? Are we growing, in our professional, personal and spiritual lives by being in our comfort zones? How are we helping ourselves?

Don’t get me wrong here, bukan aku nak mintak kita jadi manusia tak bersyukur. Being able to have a comfort zone should be reason to be hugely thankful. Some people can’t afford to live as comfortably as we do.

But knowing that, are we just going to sit there and say ‘alhamdulillah’ that we’re not in war-ridden Palestine and go about our daily lives? Are we just going to look at a homeless person and say ‘at least aku ada rumah nak tidur malam ni,’ and be happy that you reminded yourself of a blessing that was given to you?

Our are you going to do something about it? Something that won’t necessarily make you feel comfortable, that will have you sacrifice some of that comfort in order to do your part to restore some semblance of order in the bigger scheme of things?

I don’t know man. Every time I find myself in a comfort zone, strangely enough, I find myself being uncomfortable with it. It’s like, there are so many things to do out there, and I’m just chillin’ over here doing pretty much nothing? I feel like I’m squandering the life that’s been given to me, the opportunities that have been dikurniakan to me. It’s like I’m saying ‘no’ to life. 

And on the End Of Days, I’ll be questioned about how I spent the days in my life. What am I going to say? ‘Oh, I had all this time and I spent it binge-watching Suits from the very first season to the latest episodes’? As scary a thought that might be, I still find myself doing it. And it’s unhealthy, to say the least.