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Friday, August 19, 2016

A Feedback on Educational Trip to Alagappa University 11-15 August 2016

VANAKAM! Never in my life, had i once thought of setting my foot in the Indian continent. When the opportunity came knocking on my door (thanks to Dr. Vijayaletchumy), i did not think twice before saying YES! The three hours flight journey to Tiruchirapally (TRZ) had kept me excited but the four days spent in Karaikudi had left me wanting more. Now that I am back in Malaysia, I was asked to write a short feedback. How do I do it? Where do I begin? What should I write? There are too many things to talk about. The whole experience, to me, was incredibly overwhelming and I thank everybody involved in making the trip a success and a memorable one! The welcome received from Prof. S. Subbiah - the VC, Prof. V. Balachandran - the Registrar, Dr. P. Madhan - the Dean, Dr. Nadarajah and his students, faculty staff and Alagappa University students was a reflection of the weather in Karaikudi – warm, comforting and humbling. Upon arrival, the staff and students wasted no time into teasing us with a glimpse of the Indian culture. The food served was as colourful as the saree worn by the students and the traditional Indian dance performed by them. The session with international students from Africa was equally intriguing! It was interesting to witness how well the international students had blended and adjusted to the local culture. The main crux of the trip was a two-day workshop on research methodology. Alagappa Univeristy has been generous to invite experts from different universities to share their vast knowledge with the fledgeling researchers. The insights given by Dr. A. Narayanamoorthy, Prof. Dr. Karunagaran and Dr. N. Kalaithasan had deepened and enhanced my knowledge and understanding of how an academic research should be written and organised. I personally could relate to the research approach propagated by the experts. The talks covered an extensive range of topics to include, significance of reviewing the literature, finding a research topic, arranging the chapters and potential questions for the viva voce! One interesting tip shared by one of the speakers was for researchers to review articles in high impact journals. From the journals, young researchers can learn not only about the data, but also about good research organisation and language. If food for thoughts was not enough, we were served food for our stomach! This trip has proven to me how food is the door to one’s culture! Within a short duration, we were treated to the multi-facets of authentic Indian cuisines: paratha, chapati, tosei, vaddei, appam, idiyappam, idli, roti puri, chutney, kulfi ice-cream (credit to Dr. Nadarajah), biryani, chicken 69, chicken tikka, spiced cashew nuts, gulab jamun and many other Indian sweets! But, to me, nothing beats the Indian masala tea served hot! Because of the rich experience and exposure the trip has offered, I hope there will be opportunities for future collaborations between Universiti Putra Malaysia and Alagappa University. Perhaps we will witness Malay Language Department in Alagappa University one fine day. Till then, for all the goodness and kindness, I bid “nadri” and “mintum sandipom”!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Blame it on the monkey!

As a part of the assignment for one of the English subjects, my students had to attend a mock job interview and had to have me as their interviewer. My students, all smartly dressed for the interview, entered the room according to the slots which I have allocated earlier. As I entertained one student after another, in comes a student who, I would consider, is normally quite shy in the class. He calmly placed his clear folder on my table and waited for my permission to sit. I noticed that he was very nervous so I flashed him my smile. I instructed him to sit and asked him to fill in some forms. While he was busy writing down his particulars, I took the opportunity to go through his clear folder. I smiled contently as I flipped through the pages to see his certificates all arranged in chronological order. "Good!", I said, breaking the silence. I continued to check his file when all of a sudden, I noticed that some of his primary school and secondary school certificates were all torn and damaged. I was shocked to see that some looked like they have been glued together. I quickly looked up to only catch my student gazing at me. The student gave me a blank look, expecting me to say something. Instantly, out of curiosity, I asked him to explain the cause behind what had happened? Without any expression on his face, he blurted the word, monkey! "A monkey?", I asked...what do you mean?" I looked at him and expected him to elaborate. He continued, "a monkey went into my room and did that". Indeed I was astonished. A feeling of sympathy quickly filled my heart as I quickly asked, "do you have wild monkeys near where you stay?" The student kept quiet. I thought he did not hear my question so i repeated it to him. He looked at me and while still maintaining his composure...he finally said..."No, Madam...the monkey is my pet!" Upon hearing his explanation, I did not know how to react nor what to say. A part of me felt sorry for him while another part of me felt like laughing. Only God knows how deep inside me...I gave out my loudest laugh. I am, in a way, thankful for having this as a part of my teaching experience.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

And the MAGIC word is.....

Student: Madam, toilet?
Madam: Can you please put that in a complete sentence?
Student: Madam, can I go to the toilet?
Madam: Say the magic word! What is the magic word?
Student: Errrr...toilet?
Madam: :P

Thursday, January 19, 2012


It's the beginning of a new semester again. As usual, I get to meet new sets of students. As part of the ice-breaking session, my students take turns to introduce themselves. As we went around the class, the students shared interesting information about their background and experience. I was glad to observe that they were having fun asking their friends questions. Moreover, they were using English. Then, we reached a male student who was sitting beside the window. He seemed rather quiet and reserved. He got up and shyly introduced himself before the other students interrupted and coaxed me into asking him about his marital status. Instantly, all eyes were set on me, triggering my curiosity. So I asked him the question. He coyly announced that he is married. I congratulated him. As my students like to pull my legs sometimes, I simply had to double-check his information. "So you are married, right?" I asked. He nodded. Wanting to know whether he has any children, I then asked, "with kids?" . The student looked at me in shocked. I was taken aback. Was my question too sensitive? Did it hurt his feeling? Was I probing into the part of his life that he wants to keep a secret? All these questions struck me as his face got red, either with embarrassment or with anger. With the same astonished look still apparent on his face, he firmly answered, "No madam, not with kids...but with a woman"!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Safety is My First Priority

I was returning my students’ test papers one day and while doing so, I went through the answers with them. I reached the part where the students were tested on redundancies. They were to pair two words to make them redundant i.e. “repeat” and “again” or “adequate and enough”. Well, one of the words was “first” which is to be matched to the word “priority”. Most of the students matched “first” to “number” while the latter is supposed to be matched with “total”. Trying to get to the bottom of this, I asked my students whether they know the definition of “priority” and to my surprise, most did not know. Resisting myself from reverting to the first language, I tried to define “priority” through the use of English, stating that as students, their PRIORITY should be to study. Upon saying this, I continued to ask them: “so, as a student, what should come first?” and they all answered “studies”. “Fine”, I said, feeling a bit satisfied now that my students finally know the word. Just to reassure myself, I proceeded to give another example. I posed another question that is of a different scenario. “So, if you were in the workshop, safety is your PRIORITY, right?” They immediately nodded and answered, “yes”! “So,” I said, “what comes first then?” And just as I finished my sentence, with utmost confidence, the class roared, “SA FETY BOOTS”!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

When is enough...enough?

i went into the class one day and my students started to share their dissatisfaction with the service provided by the university. Their complaints range from not having enough computers in the library to how slow the internet connection was and to how unpalatable the food in the cafe is. As a lecturer, my heart reaches out to these poor students. Soon, the debate grew hotter. More students joined in to express their emotions. Even the quite ones, from time to time, blurted their concern in one or two words or simply nodded in agreement. This heart-to-heart session suddenly triggered memories of my olden days. Taken back to the time when i too was a student- young, naive, but filled with vigor- I remembered that things were not a piece of cake for me either. Back in those days...we did not enjoy the privilege of having our own transportation to take us places. the only option was the public transportation- more specifically- the infamous mini buses. they quickly became our carriers as taxi rides would prove to be deemed luxurious! a trip to KL means waiting for long, grueling hours under the piercing sun for the mini buses to arrive. if we are lucky, the mini buses will arrive with only one or two passengers readily aboard. but lucky was not always on our side...it was so rare that it absorbed to become part of us. so most of the time, the queue would seemed endless and we had to wait for hours and hours to board the bus. The lucky ones would be able to squeeze themselves in while the rest had to wait for the next bus to arrive. at times, when we couldn't afford to wait for the next trip, we would risk our lives by just clinging tightly to the bars beside the bus's door, which was purposely kept ajar due to the large crowd. this "sardine-can" scenario was a common sight when the buses were too cramp with passengers. if we were more unfortunate, we would get shouted by the conductor to squeeze ourselves in to the back of the bus as to allow more people in. i say it was unfortunate because 1) we would be squashed and be squashing others to the verge of suffocation (imagine having to endure the unappealing smell of sweating bodies!), 2) it would be difficult for us to exit the bus as the pathway to exit was blocked, 3) some even was harassed by naughty hands of perverts! Those were the days. Then, there was also the challenge to complete assignments. we often had to bang our poor fingers on the-what now seemed obsolete or antique- the conventional type writer. imagine having finished one page and suddenly realising that you have missed one important point! we had no other option but to retype the whole page. sometimes, the ink ran out and we had to go out to purchase the ink ribbons. highlighting simply meant using the pink liquid that looks like nail polish or even adjusting the ribbons to have red ink facing upwards. After that, the ink ribbon had to be readjusted so that the black ink faces upwards. then, we were introduced to electronic typewriters that ran on electricity and batteries. this device was better since they keyboard is softer and quieter. it also allowed us to delete our mistakes through the use of the erasing tape installed in the typewriter. but the electronic typewriter was not that popular as the ink and eraser tapes were too expensive. when the computer was initially introduced, only the financially well-endowed was privilege to own one. PCs were so expensive that even the university cannot afford to purchase enough for the students. to add to the challenge, there were no microsoft windows. instead, we had to stare at the green writing of wordstar which was not a user-friendly software. we had to memorize all the keys and shortcuts. so with the introduction of windows...we were so relived. when the mouse was introduced...it was heaven! though many students still prefered the old typewriter, I have decided to give this so-called new, sophisticated gadget a try. as excited as i was, the scarce number of computers could have easily dampen my enthusiasm. however, instead of giving up, i persisted. i remembered having to wait in front of the computer lab as early as 7am just to secure a PC to complete my assignments. there were less that 20 PCs in the lab and whenever we had to attend class, we had to pack our things and let other students who was already by then queuing behind our back. Waiting for an available PC soon became the trend. we endured but never complained for having the chance to use computers for assignments was enlightening enough though at times, we run the risk of loosing unretrievable data or be annoyed by the printer that simply refused to print with correct alignment. then came the era when students can afford to purchase their own PC. yet again, the ratio was very little. Students PCs were highly sought after especially when your assignments were still not ready but the computer lab was already closed. We often had to scout for someone who owns a PC in the hostels. if we are lucky, the queue won't be long as no one else would be using the PC. of course, nothing comes for free so we had to pay the students for the time spent on their PC and for using their printer. i can't remember clearly but if not mistaken, we had to pay RM1 for every page printed using their printer. the funny thing is...at times, when the queue was long, we had to sleep first and be waken by the last person who had just finished doing their assignment. this meant that, we would start doing our assignment at 3am or so. to speed up our turns, the owner of the PC would set the rule that all users were to have everything written down before using the PC. in other words, we can only type the assignment and not waste time thinking about what should be written only when we were in front of their PC. Yet again...who are we to complain? We endured and embraced the challenges. Our top mission and priority was to ensure the assignments were submitted on time. even the bravest student would dare not ask the lecturers for an extension of dateline. Though life was quite tough back then, we survived. In fact, the challenges have rewarded me with a priceless lesson and experience. Despite the constraints, i enjoyed my life as a student and amidst all the calamities, i made many true best-friends-forever. though i was always on my toes, i made time to get actively involved in societies and clubs as well as scoring As in my favourite subjects. so on looking back at my own experience, i asked myself...when is enough ever enough? people can never be satisfied and will always be wanting more. so by sharing this experience, i hope that the new generations can learn to appreciate life no matter how challenging it is at times. if you spend time complaining, you won't have the chance to appreciate the abundant of joys that are already there for you. imagine the days when the stove was not invented yet...or the days when there was no electricity or proper tap water, the days when no one has ever heard of the washing machines or even any means of transportation. C'est la vie!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Can blogging be an effective tool in language learning?

I attended an internal seminar organized by my institute and a few papers talked about the use of blogs in language teaching and learning. Interesting thing to explore with my own students for the upcoming semester. Perhaps, I can compare two groups - one group will use blogs to learn English while the other will be fed with the conventional notes and lectures - to examine the effectiveness of blogging in language learning. Anyone else has the experience of using blogs in teaching?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Shall I Compare Myself to Thee?

I have a friend who likes to report everything that's good about her. She's like an open book...always bragging about how beautiful life is for her and all the good things that life has to offer her for the day. She tells us about her massive mansion...her excellent and intelligent children...her expensive and up-to-date wardrobe and shoe collection, her lavish car and even her husband's large income. From time to time she would invite friends to her exquisitely lovely abode just to exhibit her new, expensive, Italian furniture or even her new set of pots and pans, plates and cutlery and the list simply goes on and on and on. I do not know her intention of doing so but wanting to safeguard our friendship...I would like to believe that she means well. However, in the midst of all the wow...the ooohh and the ahhh... there is a friend of ours who happens to be affected by all the parade and charade in a bad way. She becomes stressed out when she reflects on all her shortcomings and weaknesses as compared to the other so-called "luckiest person on earth". With full conscience, she starts whining about her house, her kids, her clothes and everything around her. She even starts to question her husband about, what suddenly becomes, his "insufficient" income and how he should be giving her more pocket money. The question is...if such is the outcome...should she be comparing herself to those who may seem luckier than her in the first place? Why can't the comparison be made with those who are less fortunate so that we learn to be more thankful for what we already have? What is your yardstick for being lucky, happy or even rich? If happiness and fortune is defined according to the amount of material wealth you possess...then have you ever heard of the saying that money cannot buy everything? Can a human being find his/her ultimate satisfaction? Perhaps we should learn to appreciate what we are given before they are taken away from us forever. After all...happiness comes in different forms and sizes.