New series of T4 talks

T4 After a hiatus following the Canterbury Earthquakes, it is with great pleasure that I announce the return of The Teacher Trainer Trains (T4) series. In a partnership with CCEL Language School in Christchurch, I will be conducting a series of talks about the use of Applied Drama in English language learning. The first session is targeted at adult learners of English, the second at the teachers of the school, and the third at a Japanese group that is visiting Christchurch.

The talks range from 45 mins to an hour, and cover the theory as well as give examples of the implementation of applied drama in real live settings.

The Powerpoint of the first presentation can be found here.

While in no way a complete paper, the slides give an idea to the ideas the talk covers.

For any enquiries, please contact Abdullah at:

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Filed under Applied Drama, NZ Teaching, Presentations

Turning Point Education, NZ

It has been more than 3 months since I began my new career here in Turning Point Education (TPE) in Christchurch, NZ. Within this time, I feel I have grown as a person, a teacher, and what’s more, a trainer.

The experience that one gains when working in a new environment can be nothing short of exponential, if one has the drive to venture forth and explore. In this short amount of time, I have taught students of various nationalities and backgrounds, gained newer insights to teaching techniques, and most important of all I believe, made new friends.

Here every student is unique, and is treated as such. The student is treated as an individual, and is given individual treatment where the instructors are encouraged to take a genuine interest in their development and well-being. This, I believe, could only be made possible by the very nature of Turning Point Education being a boutique language school, where quality is given preference over quantity.

The Managing Director of TPE, Bronwyn Hardaker, is unlike many of the operators of schools and training institutes that are available in the market who seem to care mainly about facts and figures. She believes in implementing family values into the institution, where the students feel like they are a part of something bigger than just a short stint at another language school, just to get that job, or just to be able to live in NZ. They feel like they belong to a family.

This unique (though not new) view on education has provided me with a model to think about in planning future courses and programmes, both as a teacher and a teacher trainer.

I highly recommend Turning Point Education to anyone who wants to make a difference in their language education, especially if they are interested in working or staying in New Zealand.



Filed under NZ Teaching


It is with great pleasure that we announce the next T4 MUET Speaking Workshop will be held in collaboration with Mr Marcus Fung, Director of Alpha Achievers, starting on 8 June 2010. The workshop is comprised of several sessions, which will be conducted once every week.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  This workshop is not designed as a short-cut, a ‘spot’ the exam question cheat sheet, or a compilation of set phrases to memorise and regurgitate. It WILL, however, focus on skill building and practical techniques to improve the participants’ communication skills, as well as focus on key areas needed to score in the MUET Speaking Paper.

Mode of instruction: in-class lectures and activities, as well as take-home assignments.

Target participants: Anyone taking MUET, regardless of age.


Venue          : Alpha Achievers Tuition Centre

Adress         : NO. 88A, JALAN NAKHODA 2,

Booking      : Mr Marcus Fung (07-5540740)


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Thank you Mr Hafiz Rosli

The Teacher Trainer wishes to thank Mr Hafiz Rosli for the courtesy that was shown during the recent T4 Public Speaking training session. I hope the session was beneficial to you and your staff, and it was a pleasure to have met you all.

We will discuss further collaborative ventures soon.

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Image credit here

One of the biggest challenges that an English teacher has to face is the lack of participation from the students, especially if you are teaching in Asian countries as opposed to many European and American countries where students are generally actively participating in the class.

There are many reasons for this, but a lot of it can be attributed to a collective ‘Asian norm’, which can be loosely defined as follow:

1 – It is always better to keep silent and make a mistake, rather than make a mistake and embarrass myself in front of the class.

Many Asians would gladly keep quiet and then laugh at their friends who are brave enough to actually try. Some would relish the humiliation that others endure. Some would just be glad that it wasn’t them. The smarter would choose this as a learning experience, where they gain by learning from someone else’s mistake. Whatever it takes, as long as the mistake is not theirs.

2 – Boy and girl interaction complicates classroom interaction.

Though this may not play as big a role as it once did, this factor still accounts for some reluctance in communication. First of all, it would be very embarrassing to make mistakes in front of any member of the opposite sex (this is normal everywhere around the world). However, the level of self-preservation becomes stronger in many Asian cultures, especially Muslim cultures, where inter-gender communication may still be seen as a taboo. This factor complicates many other forms of interaction in the learning environment. Nevertheless, there are certain ways a teacher can get around this, given experience and time.

3 – It is easier to be spoon-fed, rather than to actually have to speak + It is easier just to sit down in rows without having to move about to do groupwork.

As a point of comparison between typical ‘Asian’ types, and non-Asian types,  I remember teaching an international class in one of the language centres where I used to teach. A Korean girl would roll her eyes and speak Korean to her friends, and her friends would all laugh, whenever I told to move about or get into groups. However, this would be the direct opposite of many Arab students, as they usually relish the opportunity to speak and make their voices heard (they usually have VERY loud voices in class).

Malaysian students would not usually be so expressive or vocal in their disdain, but there would be some initial grumbling or discomfort, especially if it is new to them. Interestingly, in my experience, it is the students from so called ‘premier schools’ who are very much used to the teacher spoonfeeding them. Mixed ability or lower ability groups are usually the opposite, where they enjoy any form of teaching that doesn’t require them to sit at their desks the way they normally do.

Of course, there are many other factors involved, but generally, the three factors listed here sufficiently describe the problem at hand.

What is your take on the matter?


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Defining your position with your students

Picture credit: Pn Intan Haryati

Very early on in her career, a teacher is faced with an incredibly difficult choice – determining how she is going to present herself to her students.

Does she take on the no-nonsense approach? The kind of teacher that the students can’t mess around with… The kind of teacher that students listen to and respect, because when she says something she means it…

Or does she take on the friendly teacher approach, where the students all like her and like to be around her because she is so fun and sporting?

It may not seem like a big deal to the experienced teachers among us, but trust me, sometimes this is what determines what type of teacher a teacher trainee will be in their career.

Let’s look at two stereotypes.


The Pros: When you choose this option to shape what type of teacher you are going to be, you will have a much easier time in the classroom. Students are generally quiet when you are in class, because they know you are going to knock their blocks off if they misbehave. This does wonders for classroom control and classroom management. You will find that your homework is done usually on time, and the students will be very polite in front of you for fear of incurring your famous temper, that could lead them from the shame and embarrassment of open class humiliation to the possible sharp, vicious pain of the rod (rotan/rattan) on their butt-cheeks as they are sent to the Discipline Master, or worse, the Principal. You rule.

The Cons: It is true that students listen to you, and fear you, but they may not necessarily respect you or love you. They may be well-behaved in front of you but will definitely be whispering words that would make a nun blush behind your back. In some schools, some students go as far as puncturing your car tyres, or even worse scratching deep gashes into that Proton that you love so much. You may rule, but you do so at your own peril.


The Pros: Click here if you want your students to like you. Choose this approach, become the darling of your students, and get the most presents on Teachers’ Day. One is usually able to deduce this by the amount of Hinode Shop trinkets that litter your desk. You’ve got it all, from tiny panda keychains to windmills that chime like a music box when you wind the blades. You are the saviour of all Hinode Shop outlets. Moreover, students smile and greet you with warm words when they see you. If you’re lucky, they will genuinely develop love for you in due time.

The Cons: While you are the darling of their hearts, this does not guarantee that the students will listen to what you say. In fact, ask any experienced teacher and she will tell you the exact opposite. The nicer you are, the more students are inclined to believe that they can exert power over you. This means more students not doing homework, more students not listening to what you say in the class, more students telling themselves “oh, she won’t mind” when they go against your rules. As an added slap in the face, when they start slacking off, their grades start to suffer too. When this happens, guess who is going to take the fall. Yup.. that’s right… You. But your students will like you, don’t worry about that…

There are of course other stereotypes, other templates to choose from, but the main decision would usually lie somewhere between these two routes.

What is important is to experiment early on in your careers which approach works best with which type of students. Trust me when I say that no two students are the same. Just ask any of the experienced teachers out there.

So, which one do you think you are?


Filed under Step 1: Defining who you are

Why are you a teacher?

Why are you a teacher?

Why do you want to be a teacher?

It can’t be the money. In Malaysia we’re among the lower paid professionals, as opposed to Singapore, where teachers are among the higher paid government servants.

It can’t be the fame and glory. There’s almost nothing glorious about standing at the front of the classroom, yelling at the top of your voice for the students to quiet down.

It can’t be the hours, because contrary to popular belief, teachers do not just clock in at 7.20am and clock out at 2.30pm. Teachers wake up at the crack of dawn, clock in at school at 7am, clock out between 3pm to 5pm, go home and take care of family matters until 8pm, and then continue marking books, preparing lessons, completing backlogged paperwork, write reports and so on, sometimes well into the wee hours of early morning. Then they sleep for a few hours, and then drag their bodies out of bed again at the crack of dawn again the next day, beginning the cycle all over again.

So if it isn’t these things, what is it?

Well, it could be a number of things, couldn’t it?

It could be the high you get when the students are in stitches laughing at your jokes, as if you were an Apollo stage stand-up comedian.

It could be the excitement you get when you see the students completing your tasks, and seeing the understanding dawn on their faces as they absorb the knowledge you have passed on to them.

It could be the pleasure you get when you know that you are in fact shaping the very future of those bright young minds, that you are and always will be an integral part of thousands of lives.

It could be the feeling of utmost satisfaction when many years have passed by, and suddenly out of the blue, a smartly dressed executive calls out your name, and asks you if you remember teaching him once upon a time, and that because of you he is where he is today.

It could be all these and much, much more.

What could your reason be?


Filed under Step 1: Defining who you are