(pictured above: Cikgu Kamariah from SK Gong Balai)
Being a teacher is not an easy job. Despite the challenges of the past year, our teachers have truly given everything they have. From making home visits to connect with students struggling with remote learning, renting external venues to deliver quality virtual classes, to rallying support from the community to support a child’s education.
Our teachers have shown incredible resilience and compassion to their students. Without the traditional classrooms, we’ve seen teachers stepping up to prove that learning can happen anywhere, as they explore new creative ways to teach and interact with their students from afar.
Much of their work is invisible. So, in conjunction with Teachers’ Day, join us in celebrating their stories – and commemorating teachers nationwide who are ensuring that learning never stops, and that no student is left behind.
Rallying support to ensure every family has a smartphone
In the small village of Gong Balai in Marang, Terengganu, many students in Cikgu Kamariah binti Awang’s class didn’t have a smartphone. “Not many of their parents owned a smartphone either,” she said. Most of the locals in the village are farmers and fishermen in the B40 (bottom 40 percent) household income group.
Cikgu Kamariah stepped in to launch a donation drive, to help ensure every family had access to a device for remote learning. “Thankfully, with the support from individual donors, we were able to help contribute smartphones to the families without one. This allowed our students to continue their studies remotely,” she said.
The teacher from Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Gong Balai also had to be creative, in delivering lessons through all social media platforms – including Facebook, YouTube and TikTok. “Even if some parents had a smartphone, most of them were not able to install the latest application due to the device’s low storage or RAM. This meant we had to continually engage the parents to understand the most effective method in delivering our lessons, through various platforms. In addition to online teaching methods, we also relied on ‘offline’ methods, such as delivering worksheets and learning materials in advance to our students,” she added.
Her biggest wish for her students is to be able to ‘see and learn beyond the blackboards’, and engage and interact with students from all around the world, in order to inspire them to continue learning.
“Through digital platforms, I am continually encouraging my students to be brave and confident in speaking up with their peer. I regularly hold sessions enabling my students to speak with students overseas in English using Microsoft Teams. I hope that these sessions will help build their skills and confidence, and that we should be proud even when we communicate using local dialects. Anak murid saya adalah inspirasi saya selamanya. Siapalah guru tanpa anak muridnya (My students are my inspirations. Who are we teachers without our students).”
Building her own studio to deliver interactive and engaging virtual classes
Many teachers including Cikgu Wan Zanariah from the Negeri Sembilan Matriculation College, started learning to create on-demand video lessons with Microsoft PowerPoint, enabling their students to learn at their own pace and time.
This was especially important as many students during the initial stages were still adjusting to remote learning and navigating fluctuating schedules. But as remote learning extends, teachers had to become creative to engage and interact with their students.
“My internet connection at my house was not reliable. Hence, I started renting a shoplot that had faster internet connectivity to conduct my online classes. We started with just a table and a laptop. Over time, we invested in new equipment so that we were able to produce higher-quality classes, enabling our students to have a better virtual learning experience. Soon, my small studio was fully equipped with lightbox, microphone, a second screen and even a green screen,” she shared.
On what has kept her going through this period, she said, “It’s extremely rewarding when students express their appreciation through simple messages or comments during or after a lesson. These may seem small, but it encourages us to become better for our students to get the best learning experiences.”
Bridging the distance for students with special education needs
Cikgu Nurul Nadiah from Sekolah Kebangsaan Rengit, Johor, was worried during the initial stages of remote learning. She teaches an Integration Class, comprising students with special education needs and learning difficulties.
“I had to explore many new teaching methods and upskill myself, such as learning to create interactive video content and using new digital applications that would engage my students better. Despite the challenges, my students are always passionate to learn,” she said.
On how the use of technology has improved her students’ learning experience, “I’ve incorporated a wide range of solutions to help keep my students engaged. These include Minecraft Education Edition projects, e-learning and video assignments. In fact, my students were able to improve their confidence and speaking skills through the video assignments, including students with speech impairment. Getting them to complete a task can be challenging without the face-to-face engagement, but we are grateful for the support from parents.”
On one of her most unforgettable moments, she shared, “One of my students, Adeef, didn’t have a computer but was very keen to participate in a Minecraft Competition which was organised by the Ministry of Education last year. I lent him my personal laptop, and I’m very proud to share that he became one of the champions! It’s amazing how much our students can achieve against all odds when we provide them with the right tools and opportunities.”
School in Johor collaborates with teachers in other countries to incorporate best practices locally
Cikgu Mohd Fadzli bin Ishak, from Sekolah Kebangsaan Taman Bukit Indah, Johor, is a firm believer in the importance of technology for classrooms of the 21st century. Not only has Cikgu Fadzli been organising webinars to help other teachers adapt to remote teaching, he has also actively collaborated with teachers overseas via the Microsoft Showcase Schools network, including schools from the United States, Netherlands, Hungary, Spain, South Korea, the Philippines, and Indonesia, to incorporate global best practices in his school.
“Students may not have the opportunity to use technology at home. So as teachers, we are responsible to ensure our students are ready for the future,” he said. Prior to the pandemic, the school has been organising digital sessions after school on weekends, designed specifically for parents to gain exposure to the platform being used and the skills they need to know to enhance their children’s digital learning experience.
In recognition of SKTBI’s efforts, the school was named as one of the three schools in the world to receive the “Biggest Impact School of The Year 2019-2020 for Microsoft Showcase School” award. They were also the only school in Asia to receive this award, edging out 325 education institutions from 58 countries around the world.
Cutting through the noise
It’s an unspoken etiquette to mute our microphone to avoid any noise distraction during a virtual meeting. But what happens when you are the presenter?
“My house is located right by the main street where traffic is always the heaviest. There was a period when construction work resumed right in front of my room with its heavy machinery clanking the entire morning. There were also times when it rained so heavily, I could not even hear my family members in my house, let alone conduct an online class,” said Cikgu Shamimi Shamsuddin.
During the first Movement Control Order, the teacher from Maktab Rendah Sains MARA Bentong conducted her lessons remotely from her home in Jalan Meru, Klang, one of the areas which were under strict lockdown. Unable to travel during the period, “Once, I had to work in my car just to escape the noise!” After a few months working from home, she finally gained approval from the authorities to travel interstate back to her school.
On her hopes and aspirations for the future, she shared, “My only hope is throughout this disruptive time, educators and students would rekindle their love for knowledge and get down to our basic need – quality education. Only with the thirst for knowledge can students be motivated enough to manage themselves to self-study with whatever resources they have. The same goes for teachers – only with the thirst for knowledge can we equip ourselves with ways to deliver and manage our curriculum better. We aspire nothing than students to fall in love with the wisdom we pass on.”
Leading digital transformation through a shift in mindset
For Cikgu Hajah Noridah, then-Headmistress at Sekolah Menengah (SM) Sains Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Kuantan, Pahang, changing the mindsets of her teachers was a critical priority.
“Remote teaching was a new experience for all of us and we recognise that our skills were limited when it came to using digital platforms for e-learning purposes. I started with a survey to better understand the needs of our teachers and following a few discussions, we quickly organised briefing sessions and trainings to help our teachers familiarise themselves with the available digital tools. From there, our teachers became more confident in using digital platforms such as Microsoft Teams for their lessons,” she said.
She was subsequently appointed as the new Headmistress at SM Sains Seri Puteri Kuala Lumpur effective May 2020, where she continued to champion the school’s digital transformation. She adds, “My hope is that my students will be able to realise Malaysia’s aspiration under the National Education Philosophy and fully manifest a digital culture for the nation. This will help strengthen the future of our academic, and further accelerate the nation’s digital education.”
These are stories among many other invisible moments, and you don’t have to look far to find more.
Across our nations, our teachers have been at the forefront of accelerating innovation in education. They have worked individually and collectively to find solutions and create new learning environments for their students to allow education to continue.
Terima kasih Cikgu, for all that you do!
Happy Teachers’ Day from all of us.