Sunday, October 6, 2013

What Makes a Good Teacher

I believe there are many differing views on what it means to be a good teacher. I shall try to distill a definition from my three decades of experience as an English teacher in both public and private institutions of learning. For me, a good teacher is someone who is able to create meaningful learning opportunities that maximize learning. Implicit in this definition is a teacher who plans his or her lessons in such a way that they facilitate learning. Every lesson has to be planned, whether it's written in the form of a lesson plan or the planning is done in the head.So, here are the keywords in my definition: create, plan and facilitate.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

What can we learn from this stump? Read about Lessons from a Stump at:

Monday, August 19, 2013

Dateline: Sri Lanka, August 6, 2013

There I was climbing up the steps of this ancient heritage site: Sigiriya. At one of the stops to catch my breath, I was standing next to a French-speaking group when the local guide called out: Venez ici. Regardez! La statue de Buddha. Elle est plus grande! Imagine my excitement. I was able to understand what he was saying. Je peux comprenais! Bravo! 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

In these hazy days...

The flats, about 0.6 km away, lost in the haze

Woray ! Woray !
Da haze is back!
Woray ! Woray !
I yamback, yamback,
Yamback to rob and planda
In da kaver of da haze.
-Extract from the Songs of a Bandit
In these hazy days, I try to look for that sliver of light in our economy to cheer me up but this is what I see: a Myanmar teenager working as an apprentice mechanic in a motorbike shop; a young man from India selling newspapers in my neighborhood; Indonesian and Nepalese men and women manning foodstalls or working as waiters in coffee shops and restaurants; Bangladeshis peddling imitation branded clothing in Chinatown. For the last 30 years, our government has been doing the same thing, bringing in cheap unskilled labor from neighboring countries. Can these immigrants help propel our country towards Vision 2020 which is only seven years away? But then again, the man who hatched this vision doesn't even believe in it anymore. So, what does it matter? Just hatch a new vision and give ourselves another twenty years!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I Have a Dream...

This "great" idea about starting an English speaking course has been brewing in my coconut for over three months.What's so great about starting an English speaking course? Well, I think it's amazing because I believe it'll enable learners to speak fluently and confidently in English in 15 to 20 lessons - something the majority of Malaysian students aren't able to do even after 12 years of schooling!

Now, why am I telling you all this?

I've been through what Michael E.Gerber calls the first dimension of the entrepreneurial personality: The Dreamer. In this Dreamer's dimension, I was inspired and aroused by the idea that I was going to realize my dream. But "when and how?" This question brings me to the next dimension: The Thinker. To quote Michael Gerber, "The Thinker asks the questions essential to formulating the business model-the form the dream will take visually, emotionally, functionally, and financially-as well as the impact the Dream will have on its customers, its investors, its employees, its suppliers, and its strategic partners".

Although I haven't thought out the business model in detail, I do have an idea what it takes to execute the idea. I have started to work on the curriculum and the lessons.

The entrepreneur would also have to be a Storyteller. This is the third dimension where the Storyteller is the "one who evokes excitement when the Dream is conveyed to other people". I believe that I have a compelling story to tell that will resonate with my target audience.

Having gone through the dream, the thinking, and the storytelling, now comes the most difficult part: the Dream needs a Leader who can move the Dream forward in the right direction. "The Leader possesses the five essential skills of concentration, organization, innovation, and communication, through which all great things are made real in the world".

Do I have what it takes to push my idea forward and take it to where I want it to go? Well, time will tell. For now, I'm working on the lessons, and once they are finished I'll have to get into the Leader mode.

You can read more about How Ordinary People Can Create Extraordinary Companies in Michael Gerber's "Awakening the Entrepreneur Within".

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Importance of Having a Good Subject Line in Your Email

"Don't Miss This!"

"Your $12 into $4000 in 7 Days Online!"

Don't they look familiar? Like me, you probably receive countless spam emails in your Inbox on a daily basis. Yet, we can learn from these spammers in crafting our emails. Without fail, most of the spam that I receive has arresting subject lines like those above. Yet, I have received emails from friends and non-spammers that either don't have a subject line or a subject line that doesn't spell out the purpose of their  intended message.

Let's say you are writing an email to a client to correct an error in the invoice sent out by your company and you have this as your subject line: "Invoice". This subject line does not give an indication of the purpose in sending out your email. The subject line could be rephrased thus: "Error in Invoice No. 45601". This would tell the reader what the email is really about.

A good subject line will also get the reader's attention. Quite often I have deleted emails that don't have a clear or arresting subject line. You may write a good email message, but there's still the danger of your email being deleted without the recipient having read your message if you have a lame or an ineffective subject line.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

 Woman in Red

                          Water color, courtesy of One Academy undergraduate.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Charming Cherating

This Chinese New Year I made my way to Kuantan and onwards to my favourite spot in Cherating. As I've stopped swimming in chlorinated swimming pools, the few annual trips to any sea is something I always look forward to. There I was, soaking it all up in the South China Sea when anidiom nibbled at my toes and I found myself out of my depth! Gr-up-gr-up-gr-up...I was gasping for breath, struggling to keep my head above water when something gave me a swift tug and, before I knew it, I was plumbing the depths of the more than 5000 m deep South China Sea. I guess by now you're already saying that all this doesn't hold water - it's all bunk, a load of baloney!

Yeah, baloney, alright. I'm just having fun with some water-idioms. Good thing it wasn't a sea snake that nibbled my toes!

Saturday, January 26, 2013


What can we learn from famous personalities, be they scientists, business icons or artists?

I can still recall the vivid tale we read in our science book eons ago about the discovery of the Archimedes Principle: the upthrust experienced by a body immersed in a fluid. Apparently, he proclaimed Eureka! - a word derived from the ancient Greek word heureka, meaning I find - when he stepped into a bathtub and understood that the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of the part of his body that was submerged. The story has it that he was so excited about his discovery that he ran naked through the streets of Syracuse shouting Eureka!

So, what can we learn from Archimedes apart from the amusing spectacle of a disheveled-looking flasher shouting Eureka!?

Was his discovery of the Archimedes Principle the result of a stroke of good luck, much like striking a lottery? Like Sir Isaac Newton who discovered the law of gravity after an apple fell on his head, Archimedes's discovery was not pure luck. If at all it was luck, it was luck that was caused by the collision of two speeding cars: HARD WORK and OPPORTUNITY.


Apart from the one-in-a-million chance lottery winner, success for most people comes from hard work and perseverance. If Archimedes had not been thinking and working hard in trying to solve this problem, I doubt if he'd have had his breakthrough Eureka moment.