When children’s needs come first

  • Education
  • Sunday, 30 Sep 2018

Teachers who attended the NiE teacher workshop held in SMK Taman Majidi 2, Johor Baru, gather for a group pose. Also present were Magnum Johor state manager Alan Lim, Muhammad Hilmi (seated, second and third from left, respectively) and Shyamala (standing, fourth from left).

Improvise and adapt to tune in to the primary mission of education: teaching

HAD The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) programme taken on a persona in a recent workshop for teachers, she would have been the envy of many.

She was nothing short of a celebrity – especially in the eyes of teacher Santhanalakshmi Pachiyappan.

The teacher, who has 23 years of experience under her belt, had nothing but praise for the pullouts that the programme has been producing since 1997.

To make her point, the NiE enthusiast whipped out a large clear folder that contained her collection of past issues of the Star-NiE pullouts. They were neatly filed and protected in punched pockets.

“I’ve been collecting the pullouts ever since I began teaching,” she explained.

“I find the pullouts comprehensive and suitable for students. They are able to relate to the activities.

“I personally feel that it is a different environment and ambience that I create in the classroom when I use the NiE pullouts with my students,” said the teacher who teaches Forms One and Three in SMK Taman Daya, Johor.

Santhanalakshmi was one of 23 participants who were present at a Star-NiE teacher workshop that was organised by the Johor State Education Department in SMK Majidi Baru 2, Johor Baru, recently.

The workshop was one of several sessions that were organised under the flagship of the English for Better Opportunities (EBO) project spearheaded by Star Media Group.

The project, supported by several corporate companies in Malaysia, aims to provide many avenues for immersion programmes to enhance young learners’ abilities to read, write, speak and understand the English language in authentic settings.

This NiE teacher workshop, sponsored by MagnumCares, is one such platform that showed teachers how the newspapers allow students to exchange ideas and opinions, express emotions, and present information.

For Santhanalakshmi who “enjoys working with different things in the classroom”, using the newspaper at least once a week gives her personal contentment.

“It makes the class come alive! So I would really recommend the NiE pullouts to teachers who have access to them. As teachers, we must create a learning environment that are full of surprises,” she said.

Star-NiE freelance consultant trainer Shyamala Sankaran reminded teachers that as professionals who are skilled and trained, “never take what you have learned in any workshops and plant them wholesale in a classroom because the context, the students, and the facilities are different.”

“Ask yourself: how can I use this for my children? We need to learn to adapt, improvise, and adapt,” she added.

At this workshop, the teachers were expected to put on two hats: at times, the “teacherly” hat that required teachers to look at the situation as an educator; at other times, they were asked to put on their “student” hat and look at the situation from the student’s point of view.

Johor State Education Department English language supervisor Muhammad Hilmi Ismail was pleased that another workshop was being conducted under the NiE programme.

“Based on the feedback we have been receiving from the teachers, the sessions have been fruitful, very fun, entertaining and resourceful for the teachers to bring back to schools,” said Muhammad Hilmi.

While students were very much engaged in digitally-based fun activities like gaming, Muhammad Hilmi felt that striking the right balance was equally important.

Positive emotions like curiosity and optimism could also be injected when keeping students abreast of current news from the newspaper.

“The programme is useful because at the end of the day, the students will benefit from it. We can’t just depend on the textbooks.

“We need to tap into other resources. The teachers get the whole idea of how to utilise the newspaper when trainers come in to demonstrate,” he said.

As resources are limited, Muhammad Hilmi hopes that such hands-on workshops will still be made available to teachers and students in time to come.

“We want teachers who have gone through such workshops to share what they have learned. It is quite impossible for all the teachers to undergo such training due to limited resources and allocations.

“We hope that this can be a continuous or annual programme because of the positive feedback from the teachers.

“The hands-on practice and the materials used make this a very straightforward programme,” he added.

Teacher Alia Nur Dodgson Tariq from SMK Taman Daya 2 has been trying to inculcate the habit of newspaper reading among her students in Forms One and Four.

“Having the newspaper helps my students read a lot. Access to the newspaper helps them to pick up new vocabulary.

“At first it was a bit scary for them. After some guidance from the teachers, they don’t find the newspaper boring. They realise they can find interesting stories from the newspaper,” said Alia.

“Having the newspaper in the classroom works like the Internet in the classroom. So when we need current news and want to discuss issues, it helps the students to be in the know right now.”

Alia, who has been teaching over the past seven years, has also been adventurous in trying out some of her own activities with the newspaper.

Using news stories, students rewrite the stories and become broadcasters in their own “newsrooms”.

“This helps with my oral activities. The students enjoy role-playing. They like to pretend that they are broadcasters. They have fun and learn new information at the same time. And I have fun as well. There are positive vibes all around!” said Alia.

MagnumCares is a corporate social responsible (CSR) unit of the Magnum Group (Magnum). Since 1968, Magnum has been championing communities it operates in.

Magnum Group CSR and public affairs executive Jennifer Chin, who was present at the session, was impressed by the teachers’ commitment to making English language learning fun as many teachers were seen “jotting down some useful tips and notes” during the session.

MagnumCares hopes the participating teachers continue to be role models by instilling the “sharing is caring” spirit.

The foundation would like teachers to bring the experience learned at the workshop back to the classroom.

By sharing ideas and tips picked up from the session, MagnumCares hopes that the participants’ colleagues would also continue to make English fun and interesting for their students.

Chin said: “By doing so, we strongly believe that students will be motivated to learn and even improve on their English language proficiency. At the same time, teachers will benefit from this teaching method, too!”

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