Selamat Pagi, Good morning, as I continue into the final two months of my Fulbright grant, I realized I never posted in detail about day to day school life in Malaysia. School days at SMK Mahmud start with assembly at 7:40AM, and the day is split up into 30 minute periods lasting until 2:40PM on Monday -Thursday and 12:00PM on Friday for muslim students to go to the mosque for Friday prayer. SMK Mahmud offers classes for students from Form 1 - Form 5, and even has a special pre-university class known as Form 6. Unlike US schools that have students moving every time the bell rings, in Malaysian public schools, the students stay in their classroom throughout the day and teachers of different subjects come to the students. Lots of the coursework is of a similar focus with classes in the local language (Bahasa Malaysia), Sciences, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Art, Math, and English. Chinese and Indian students also have the option to take Tamil or Mandrin courses, and Malay students take coursework in Muslim morals. There are also classes offering household skills, and even a motorbike mechanic class.
I work with all forms, rotating between about 30 English classes of varying levels. I always accompany the students usual English teacher, and lead an English game/activity in conjunction with their comprehension level. These activities vary in everything from vocabulary scramble races, speaking competitions, English geography, and even writing prompts. The Malaysian school system is entirely exam based, meaning students must perform extremely high on Ministry of Education examinations in order to matriculate into higher level classes, and for hopes of entering a public university. As a result lots of coursework can be rote memorization and textbook oriented. I have gotten the sense that my students enjoy my language activities, as they deviate from the textbook and allow for very personal and creative answers.
Outside of my daily schedule you can find me around school hanging with students and teachers eating Nasi Lemak (my Malaysian favorite dish) in the school cantin, or helping out with science and outdoor sport classes. I spend time preparing projects, writing grants, and doing write-ups/paperwork for the Malaysian American Commission on Educational Exchange (MACEE) and the Malaysian Ministry of Education. I also keep very busy working with other Fulbrighters on English Camps. I mentioned before about my Environmental Sustainability English Camp to Cameron Highlands. Keeping with the same theme, we recently led an Environmental Conservation Camp, to a local elephant sanctuary.
I have also been leading several after school English speaking workshops. Our most recent project was a series of scary stories. The goal of the scary stories project was to engage students in the medium of creative writing and bolster English language proficiency. I noticed that students had a strong predilection for the genres of horror, scary, and ghost stories. To supplement English language classes that focus on analyzing poetry and short stories, I wanted to give students the opportunity to try out these writing styles in a genre that would inspire them to go above and beyond straightforward essay composition. Collaborating with fellow teachers in the SMK Mahmud English Language Department I developed a creative writing curriculum to focus on reading and analyzing scary stories, discussing the creative writing techniques used, and give students the opportunity to employ these writing styles in their own pieces. I was very impressed with the creativity of their short stories/poetry. With the help of a grant from the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur we published a book featuring a selected collection of the top student stories and artwork.
One last school project I would like to highlight is CLICK Camp. Back in May, I wrote about my experiences taking my students to CLICK Camp 6.0! a competition sponsored by the US Embassy where students get to develop a social enterprise and pitch their idea to a panel of funders for seed money. Here is my students final project video to improve trash and recycling issues in Raub. I am so proud of all their hard work to make this project come to fruition.
Well, I'm off to go get another plate of Nasi Lemak...let me know in the comments if there is anything else you are curious about with regards to Malaysian school life!