Friday, August 24, 2007

To Make Them Read Well, What SHould We Do?

And the end of the year is nearing us again, which means, we'll be a year older, and finals exams are almost here. For those in standard six, they'll be sitting for their UPSR, on the 3rd September ( =)

I know that I haven't been able to visit them as often as I would like. To tell you the truth, exams scare me, because I know I won't be able to help as much. And every time I go there, going back home thinking that I did not in any way help them as much as they need, saddens me. Something is wrong some where, and I always ask, why most of these kids, still cannot read well, both in BM and in English.

Going to classes myself now, I've learned so much about our education system. I've also learned so much about how our brain functions, when it comes to learning, and most importantly, I've learned how we can actually overcome the problems of kids not being able to read.

We wouldn't want to accept the fact, that family background has a lot of effects on how good a student can be. But it does make a difference. A student with a background of an educated family, will be able to learn more compared to a student with a very poor educational background. The reason being that, when they are growing up, they are more expose to things and experiences compared to the latter.

Do you realize how we get a little bit excited when we meet someone who has gone to the same school with our dad, (please be honest). And we will go back and tell our dad that we've met so and so, who's doing this and this and bla and bla. Do you think we'd care to know about this person if there was nothing that we can relate with him in the first place? That's how our brain function. It keeps facts and information in a secret place, and bring it out when it thinks that you might need it, to relate with new things that you are now experiencing.

So when a six year old child goes to pre-school, and learn new words, it helps if the child has been exposed to such words before, or maybe anything at all that can help them relate in the words or anything that they are learning there. And when they do know how to read, they should start reading anything under the sun, to prepare them with the coming syllabus in their education, or life.

I want so badly for the kids in Ilham to adopt a healthy reading habit. If unhealthy, make it because they do not want to put a book down, even for a second. How do you think we should do this? Concentrate only on the younger kids?

If there's a will, there's a way. (Yeah, I know. Coming from someone who has not shown her face there for awhile. Just my two cents.)

Monday, August 13, 2007

IEP - How I see it...

When I first started IEP @ Ilham, my goals were simple.

1) To inspire interest in learning English
2) To boost self-esteem and confidence
3) To encourage an avenue for expression of creativity
4) To improve the level of English

ps: in order of priority

What were my target areas?

1) Creative Thinking
2) Speaking and Pronunciation
3) Reading & Vocabulary

Why I wanted to do it?

I wanted the kids to be exposed to the English Language at an early age...

I wanted them to have an early introduction to public speaking even if it's just amongst those in the classroom, have the courage to present to others in English... have the initiative inside of them to step up and shine from the rest...

I wanted them to enjoy learning the English Language and enjoy learning in genereal... with the hope that they will want to improve their English and other subjects after what they've gone through during IEP Classes...

I wanted my friends and their friends and their friends of friends to join me in volunteering :)

I also wanted the kids to know that there are some of us out there, strangers in fact that care for them and want to see them grow...

I even had this big silly dream that one day, one of them would turn out a very successful man and he'd remember me and the rest of the volunteers as those who taught him that LEARNING IS FUN... hehe...

You see, all this was what I had in mind for IEP... I believe that this was even communicated to the Ilham's Management even before we started IEP in 2004... And whenever there were new volunteers who were interested to join us, the first thing I would say to them is that - "IEP is not like normal classroom teaching, the kids get that in school anyway! IEP is about exposure and confidence building... We learn more when we have a bit of fun along with it"...

You have to remember, that we are not teachers, we are facilitators... For example, I have a degree in Computer Science, not in teaching... So I don't think I'm qualified to be called a teacher :) But like me, the volunteers like to share their knowledge with the kids... and I think they're great at it too!!

Yes, I have to admit that along the way there were some frustrations on my part especially when I was asked to justify why the kids' results/grades were not improving. Yes, it was also a bit frustrating sometimes to see the kids giggling away when you have something important for them to learn and yes, it was very frustrating when there were times you feel your efforts in getting people to come together to be there with the kids were not appreciated by some...

But at the end of the day, I'm not doing it for myself. I'm not doing it to be praised on how wonderful I organised the classes with the other volunteers, I'm not doing it to be known... I'm just doing it because I want to... because I know in some way or another, it is helping the kids grow...

To me, grade isn't everything... I got good grades when I was in school but I didn't get enough exposure in public speaking until I got to Uni... and to me, it would have been a lot easier handling presentations if I had that early exposure... It would have come to me naturally if I was trained since young, I guess...

For the sake of sharing, we did have a list of activities structured out for the IEP kids developed from research based on the school syllabus, on best methods of teaching school kids etc.. done by myself and another friend. The plan was so that we had an inventory of activities: the what, the how, the materials needed etc so that anyone who could make it for class that night can just grab it and run it... but at some point last year when there were consistent change in volunteers, also the lack of time to prepare (do understand that most of us are working people) it was difficult to sustain the plan... Most of the activities became adhoc with little preparations yet they still achieved the objectives set!! That's all that matters...

You must be wondering why I'm writing this?

Well, I'm just writing this to answer some of your questions out there? For example:

How long have you conducted IEP? Have their grades improved? What are you guys doing about it? Do you have modules to teach them? Do you follow school syllabus? Is it difficult to teach? Are you qualified to teach? Do you have plans to continue and the list goes on...

Well, unfortunately a lot of people look at grades for an instant measure of success. I can't deny it is a measure but it is definitely not the only measure of success.

It has come yet to another end of IEP for the year. I'm not sure of the plans for the future but I would very much love to know if anyone would like to volunteer to carry on with what some of us have started here and take up the challenge to make it better... It can be a great opportunity to enhance your facilitation skills especially around kids... and of course there will be some coordination work needed between Ilham's Management and the Volunteers... Anyone up for it?