The view of Fal River in Falmouth
As part of my TESL course, I had to complete 4 teaching practices, 2 in UK and 2 in Malaysia.
Part 1 : 1-week experience in a primary school in Plymouth
Part 2 : 2-week experience in SMK Tun Sharifah Rodziah Alor Setar
Part 3 : 1-month teaching practice in Falmouth School, Cornwall
Part 4 : 3-month teaching practice in SMK Sultan Abu Bakar, Kuantan
The map of Falmouth in Cornwall ( and Plymouth in Devon )
All of us TESL trainee teachers started our practical training at a primary school in Plymouth where each teacher was required to teach a few different subjects. Team teaching was a common practice there. We were assigned different classes and were asked to teach English and also to introduce certain aspects of Malaysia to the young students. Our finale was presenting and teaching traditional dances and songs to them. We even brought telekung, baju kurung and baju melayu for them to wear as part of our introduction. We even prepared some food for them to try. The kids were curious and willing to try anything. At first, they were quite shy and distant but after a few days, the ice was broken. They were inquisitive and asked a million questions. They had no problem in speaking their mother tongue but had some problems in writing and reading. It was an area where we could offer some help. This experience had opened my eyes to the importance of class management and discipline. It was an area that I definitely need to improve...
During one semester break which lasted for 3 months, we returned home to Malaysia for a long holiday and also for our teaching experience (it is called ROS nowadays) in a school near our homes. So, I decided to do my practice at SMK Tun Sharifah Rodziah, Alor Setar for 2 weeks. I chose it because it is an all-girls' school. Little did I realise that I would be coming back to the school as a permanent teacher and staying there until today. Our lecturer from INTEC, Liz Robbins, came to Malaysia to monitor our progress. She went to all the schools in various states, including Kedah. I was planning a lesson for her to observe but at the last minute, my lesson was cancelled because the school was holding a religious celebration for all students. I had to apologize to Liz for cancelling the lesson and offered her to observe me the following day. Unfortunately, she had to go to another state and we said goodbye after I had taken her around the school compounds. I taught lower secondary students back then and they were definitely different from the kids in the Plymouth school. The SMKTSR girls were shy and less interactive, even though they were of similar age. They had low to medium English language proficiency and I had to use both English and Malay in my class for them to understand. I also made friends with the other teachers there, especially the English teachers there. After I finished my short stint there, the principal offered me a temporary position if I were to come back again. I thanked her for the offer but that was to be my last practice until 1997, when I came back from UK for good and started my career at this same school. This was pure luck. No cable whatsoever.
Marjon is a well-known teacher training college, especially in sports. All students had to undergo teaching practice or TP at a school around Devon or Cornwall as part of their courses. The education officers there had selected some school for us TESLians to do our TP and even looked for accommodations for us to stay. Norhaniza and I were chosen to go to Falmouth School in Falmouth, Cornwall and we would be staying at a farmhouse in Flushing, Cornwall. We had to ride a boat early in the morning to cross the Flushing river to get to Falmouth town and be ready to return by 3pm or 4pm in the afternoon. The boat ride was an adventure but the farmhouse was definitely a challenge for us! The landlady informed us a few rules for us to follow and most were okay except for one. The house heater was set to a certain temperature and we could not turn it up or down. We discovered on our first night there the coldness had seeped into our bones. Even several layers of clothes could not protect us from the freezing cold of the night. So we made the decision not to return to the house the week after. We had to inform the college of our situation and they were willing to find us another house in town. Thankfully, they found us an accommodation near the school. The landlady was friendly, (and so was her cute dog. We did our best not to accidently touch it and kept the door to our room closed all the time. ) She would serve us breakfast, it was either bread, cereal or kedgeree... rice, served with smoked fish. Yummy.
We were given a class each to teach Literature. There was no English language subject like in Malaysia. Activities were planned around the events in the book chosen. We also observed other teachers at work. In one class, which was held in the ICT room, the students were busy writing fictional newspaper reports on the computer, about the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues. Some classes have a teaching assistant (ancillary) to aid the special needs students. She would be sitting beside the child throughout the day and helped him or her study. I recall the day when I was observed by my lecturer. During that particular lesson, I was feeling very anxious because besides my lecturer, the teaching assistant and the original teacher were also present...! Alhamdulillah, the lesson went well and immediately after it, my lecturer, Sarah North and I reflected on the lesson. There were some good points and also areas that needed improvement. Besides teaching Literature, I also had to introduce Malaysia to the students since most kids here didn't know much about this country. All in all, it was a rewarding experience that offered me insights into a different approach to teaching and learning. We didn't have a lot of time to discover Falmouth since the time not teaching was spent mostly on planning and preparing the next lesson... t'was a pity.
My final TP was in the summer of 1996, in SMK Sultan Abu Bakar, Kuantan for 3 months. All of us were assigned to a few school but we managed to rent a place and stayed together. It was a shoplot which had been renovated into living quarters. There were some good and bad memories there which I would rather not say here. This would remain our little secret, my TESL friends... 😂
I had two supervisors. The first was a lecturer from Semambu Teacher Training College who came to observe my lessons. Unfortunately, he was not pleased with my methods and the way I wrote my lesson plans. You see, back in the UK, the lecturers there were not very rigid and they did not ask us to write our lesson plans in detail. So, I became a bit disheartened and upset. It was my own shortcomings and I was thankful that I eventually passed the local supervisor's evaluation later.
The other supervisor was our own college lecturers who took turn to come to Kuantan for a month to monitor all of us. They were happy to be in Malaysia. We often spent our weekends at Telok Chempedak beach together to relax our mind and ease our tension.... I felt more at ease with them compared to the local lecturer. Perhaps, it was because we had known them longer and was on first-name basis with all of them. But, I was happy to meet several teachers at that school who took us under their wings and treated us like their younger sisters. We spent time shopping and dining together. Their friendship certainly helped reduce the awkwardness and first impressions. You guys are in my Doa tonight...
Since we were in Pahang, we managed to squeeze in some time to go travelling to Tasik Chini with our lecturer, Dr Katy Salisbury. Masliza was our unofficial guide since she hailed from Temerloh. We visited the Orang Asli village by riding a sampan. We tried the Sumpitan and chatted with the villagers. On the way back, we stopped by at a restaurant in the middle of nowhere . I was shocked to discover that the price for a plate of nasi goreng was around rm6.00. Remember, guys - this was still 1996. Not 2016.
Dr Katy Salisbury
(Image from marjon.ac.uk)
Now that I have experienced both systems of education, I can honestly say that each has its pros and cons. One thing I really like in UK is that teachers can wear anything they like to school, as long as it it decent. Here in Malaysia, there are guidelines that we teachers must follow. How I wish I could just wear trousers or jeans and blouse to class instead of baju kurung most of the times... :p