Sunday, January 22, 2012

No Rest for the Weary

This is a very long post, quite likely the longest one yet, and that's saying something. However, this is because its the only post I'll be able to get in for a while, due to reasons that will be explained. I personally suggest that you read this extraordinarily lengthy post over the spread of several days, as per the asterisks.


It is always important, in life, for a person to have a moment of respite once in a while; a time to lay back one's head and rid one's mind of all problems and crowdedness of life, and just... reflect.

Not that I'll be getting a moment of that oppurtunity these Chinese New Year's Holidays, nope, most probably not one bit.

What is it in the minds of teachers that make them want to get everything done so quickly? I mean, yes, its good to finish the syllabus early in the year, so that more revision can be done before the exams. But does giving a tonne of homework to the students really help accelarate the learning proccess, or is it just a waste of time?
Unfortunately, I suspect the former. But sometimes, enough is enough, you know? Tell you what, I'm sitting with my back to my wordesk right now, and I'm turning around and geting my "homework file", the place where I keep my homework separate from the rest of the books. Let's open it up and see what we have in store for the Chinese New Year, shall we?
Here's a few strips of paper, from cutting and pasting notes in my exercise book. These go in the bin. And here's my Buku Miscellaneous (that's actually what I wrote on the cover), used for miscellaneous purposes. Not really homework.

And underneath, yes, here's our homework. An English directed essay, which shouldn't be a problem once I stop trying to avoid it and actually put my pen to the paper. Underneath are a bunch of other English papers, and near the end, there is a Summary Writing section. Ah, summary writing - summarising in writing is my weakest point. I'm often too long winded, as you can see right now. But English is easy, and shouldn't prose a challenge; we'll put that aside for now.

But what's this purple book? Aha this would be our History homework. Oh yes, my greatest enemies are the things that happened in the past - i.e., history. Technically, this book is supposed to be a reference book, a neat summary of the whole syllabus. However, it is severely incomplete. Every line is riddled with blank spaces, begging to be filled. What do we have to do? We have to open up our text books and complete the lines of phrases with the exact same wording used in the text book. And yet, for the past two weekends our History teacher has given us no rest, but rather homework, of copying out the contents of yet another reference book into our notebooks. Come on, History teacher of mine, how many times do you think we have to go through the same chapter before we know enough to pass a simple exam?

And underneath that purple History book - oh! The sight of my next piece of homework is enough to put me off my entire holiday! And yet, on the front it appears to be such a simple piece of homework. A few sheets of writing, photocopied and stapled together, lie in the file before me. What do you suppose I've been told to do with it? Well, basically our homework with these pieces of paper can be divided into two parts. This thing in front of me, photocopied and stapled together, is a Malay essay written by a past student, which, while the essay was reputedly good to earn the writer a decent grade, still contained a number of grammatical errors. The first part of our homework was simple - detect, eradicate, and correct as many of those errors as we could find. That was reasonable enough - students sift through the essay, word by word, keeping their eyes peeled for the mistakes of their brethren scholars, and in the proccess, repair on their own usage of grammar while at the same time noting the writing style used in the essay, and gaining the wisdom that has been penned down on that paper. A perfectly reasonable way to educate students on the art of writing, to perfection. Then why do we also have to copy out the whole essay from beginning to end? What do we benefit from that? That's the second part of our homework. After eliminating all the mistakes, we have to copy out the perfect essay, just as it was written before, but without the errors. Does there not exist point, o revered Malay teacher of mine, where so an amount of a good thing becomes so great as to cease being useful and merely becomes a burden?

But the teachers reply, you've got a week of holidays in front of you, so why wouldn't you have enough time to do that much homework, which is relatively little when compared to the amount of work that could be done in that time? But think, teachers, of this: We students are humans too. As humans, we only have limited time on this world, and as much time as we have is precious to us. Every so often, during the trials and tribulations of a working life, we are given time to rest our bodies and minds of all the exhaust that has been laid upon it. So why is it, teachers, that during this time when we will be absent from your classes for a prolonged period, you choose to burden us with immense amounts of homework, so that we may bring school into our homes and learn during the holidays? Can such homework even be considered as learning? We have a week of holidays, and you want us to spend some of that time doing homework. Ask yourselves, would that time be time well spent? If any amount of knowledge is to be gained during that time, then all is well and good. But to expand a simple work into a difficult and time-consuming one simply because you are able to do so is not the right thing to do.

I am a secondary school student, and this has been my rant.

Oh, and there's also a bit of Mathematics homework in this file too, about Graphs of Functions, but Mathematics is always easy and I'll finish that in no time at all.


I remember reading a sort of parable once - not really a parable, in the normal sense, but something to that effect - about corns and potatoes. The corns scorned the potatoes for growing underground, and prided themselves on standing so tall. The potatoes, however, replied that they were growing nonetheless, even though it didn't show. Said the potatoes, they grew slowly in silence, while the corns held their heads high for all to see. However, when the delinquent passes the fence, he sees the ripe corn, and not the potatoes, so that is what he will steal.

It went something like that anyway. I never gave it any thought at the time, but it didn't seem like the parable made any sense, nor did it seem applicable in human life. Unless you were a farmer whose corn kept getting stolen. However, just a few days ago, something happened that somehow made me think of that parable.

I have often prided myself on my above-average Malaysian English. The one whose essays English teacher always complimented. The one who always gets the highest marks in the English exams. The one who took it into his head to create a blog. Oh yes, that was me, and my classmates knew it. So much so, in fact, that they unanimously named me the Head of English in the class committee. Well, not exactly unanimously. It was more like three or four certain students shouting candidates to the teacher for each respective post. But when it came to the AJK of the English subject, no other names were mentioned but mine. Aside from those three or four students, there were about twenty who didn't say a word, any one of which might have had some objection. But since they didn't speak up, well, looks like it was unanimous to me.

So I was now officially the Englishman of the class. How do you suppose it made me feel? It felt good! But then one day, something happened. It was just a few days ago. I was on prefect duty on the canteen, and prefect duty, especially in the canteen, basically means standing still in one spot and eyeing students warily, just daring them to do something wrong. Just then a fellow prefect came up to me and said that one of the teachers wanted to talk to me. I asked him why, and he replied that it was because he told the teacher that I was good at English. However, it she was in no hurry to meet me just this moment, and I could go whenever I was free. For the time being I had not an inkling of what was going to happen, but all would be revealed at reccess time.

Once the fifth period bell rang, signalling the start of reccess, I went with my fellow prefect to meet the teacher. He left me at her table and went to resume prefect duty. I had not identified the teacher by name when my friend told me she wanted to meet me, but now, standing in front of her, I recognised her as one of the teachers in charge of the school's drama team. Sure enough, the first thing she asked me was if I knew a lot about the school's drama team. I replied that, yes, I had indeed watched a number of their performances, and knew them to be award winners at district level. She smiled and went on talking about drama, and then she said that they needed someone to write the script for this years drama. I blinked, and everything from that point on was slightly blury and misty, as if it was a dream. She said that because my English was reputedly so good, she would like me to write the scipt for this years drama. Right now I can't remember a lot of what she said, but the one part of the conversation that I remember very clearly was the part where she told me about the prospects.

In drama competitions, aside from the grand prize and trophy for the best drama, there are also a few other small awards, kind of like the Grammys. The only two of these awards I remember are the Best Actor/Actress award, and - could you guess - the Best Script award. Of course, when a drama wins first title, the actors split the gold and the glory amongst themselves. But when a lucky fellow scores the Best Script award, all credit goes to him alone. As it so happens, from a sample drama script that she lent me, the writer's name at the end is practically part of the format. Whoever wrote the script that reached out to the judges the most and stood out among the rest, the writer of that script gets a certificate, and no small amount of pride.

Of course, as a teacher she put more emphasis on the certificate, and how good it would be for Co-curriclar and all that. However, I was not so concerned about the certificate. For me to get the award would be more than enough, even if it didn't come with anything to show for it. Being the young ambitious writer that I am, I felt that this would be a big step forward in my, well, hobby. Winning that award would assure me, on no uncertain terms, that I was a capable writer. Therefore, my mission was to write the best drama I could, and with hope, luck, and prayer, I might achieve that envied status of being the writer of the Best Script. The team might even go on to state level, or international level competitions, and if they do, it would be my script they used! That would be amazing beyond imagination!

It all depends, of course, on how much effort I put into my script.

It also means I've got one more major assignment to complete during the Chinese New Year's holidays. Wish me luck!


It's already past midnight, and I started typing one and one half hours ago. Tomorrow is Sunday, which means church as usual. But after church, what with having one week holiday, and sister having returned from Jeremiah School for a week, it's off to the cool Highlands for a vacation! This means that while I get to enjoy the cool atmosphere and relaxing vacation, I also have to put up with what it entails, namely, no internet! This time round I have no intention of pre-typing all my blog posts for a massive flood when I get back. Instead I'll be working on my drama script, and to be honest, I don't expect I'll be halfway done even by the time we get back. We return on Wednesday, so there's probably time for a post on Thursday.

Then again, maybe not. Following Saturday is the day I go for my Life-Saving Bronze Medallion test. What with my sister being gone for the past three weeks of school and all, and also school, I've had little more than zero practice. Now, with the Cameron Highlands trip ahead, we'll only have Thrusday, Friday, and possibly Wednesday if we get back early enough to get in the last of our training before the test on Saturday morning. How will we fare? Only time will tell. The examiner is a bit biased to our benefit though so it shouldn't be too hard.

Something unexplainable happened last Wednesday. There's some kind of volleyball competition going on between the schools, and our school's team is taking part, which accounts for more than one missing face in class. Even though our school had a volleyball court of its own, for this tournament our school team would be playing somewhere else. We all knew that much. So imagine our surprise on Wednesday morning when we looked out the window from class, and saw, in the volleyball court...

Meh, I'll tell the full story when I get back from the Highlands. Its much too late for so exciting a tale right now.

Wishing you a Happy and Prosperous Chinese New Year! Gong Xi Fa Cai! Stop asking me for ang pow, its really getting old and it never was funny.

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