Happy Professors Series: Learning and Teaching in Malaysia

DSC_3887 copy“My dream is to become a university professor in TESOL and to perform research on best teaching practices for English language learners; I want to work with students who are learning English.

Currently, I’m serving as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) at a Malaysian national secondary school named SMK Seri Nilam. My journey as a teacher started in 2014, but a lot has happened since then.

I first volunteered at the Center for Multilingual Multicultural Studies (CMMS) where I served as a conversation partner and spoke with students as a native English speaker. The students were from countries all around the world including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Morocco, China, Japan, South Korea, Columbia, and Guatemala.

Then I became a Supplemental Instructor at for a global college program in Orlando, Florida. The program aims to help international students transition into the American university system. My students were from Russia, Venezuela, and Brazil. I would attend classes with my students and give supplemental lessons to help them acquire the material and to review terms they did not understand. I also proofread their assignments and essays.

Then I received a Fulbright grant to travel to Malaysia as an English Teaching Assistant. I now teach English at a low-performing secondary school where the students’ English language ability ranges from beginning to intermediate. I try to make English fun and accessible to them by playing games, singing songs, and doing crafts.

Outside of the classroom, I paint murals with students and help with extracurricular activities such as Scrabble and Choral Speaking. I also organize English camps, which are intended to take the students out of the school setting and allow them to practice speaking English, oftentimes with other ETAs who are native English speakers. English camps typically have themes, such as beach cleanup, recycling, environmental conservation, art around the world, and women’s empowerment. And finally, I get to travel around Malaysia and to other countries during school holidays.

I love connecting with students and watching as they gain new ways to express themselves.

My students in Malaysia used to be extremely shy and lacked confidence. Whenever they saw me in the hallways, they would run away or giggle with their friends, but did not dare speak a single word to me for fear of being laughed at by their fellow peers and teachers.

Now, as I am walking down the hallways, the students call out to me and ask how I’m doing. I have one student who went from knowing only two words in English—coincidentally my name, “Miss Rose”—to speaking entire sentences about what her favorite food is and what her hobbies are.

The Malaysian education system is quite different from the American system, so being a teacher here has helped me grow and develop new strategies for making my classroom interactive and conducive to learning.

I feel very fortunate that my first students were from different countries around the world, and that they spoke a different native language and grew up in a different culture. I also feel very lucky that my teaching career is being formed by a community on the other side of the world. Teaching students from such diverse backgrounds has been challenging, but it has helped me understand more not only about other cultures and ways of living, but also about myself, my own culture, and my values.”

~ Rose
Currently teaching in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia
Previously taught in Orlando, Florida

2 Comments on Happy Professors Series: Learning and Teaching in Malaysia

  1. Gregor
    August 25, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    You might find this group interesting and relevant to this issue of paring back to the essence, and living things a bit more slowly — It’s called Philoso?hies (and I’m a member of their team), and it’s oriented around a deliberately slow approach to matters through Philosophy:


    • ebankserin@gmail.com
      September 22, 2015 at 5:07 pm

      What a cool website. I can only read the English portion, but it’s still inspiring! Thanks for the recommendation 🙂


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