“NO ONE UNDERSTOOD WHAT I SAID”
Jessica Fung is a 2018 Teach For Malaysia Fellow placed at a high-need school in Semporna, Sabah. On her first day of school, she was shocked to learn that almost 90% of her Form 1 class has low English proficiency level. “I remember entering a classroom and asking the students to take a seat after they’ve greeted me. But all the students stood still and looked at me cluelessly, not understanding what I’ve said,” Jessica shared. To make matters more dramatic, Jessica also teaches the Form 2 class English language. And the difference in proficiency between both forms is small.
At the beginning of her Fellowship, Jessica admitted that she was a bit too ambitious with wanting to bring fast and strong impact to the lives of her students. She aimed for all of them to pass their English examination by their midterms. Eventually, she realized that the target she set for herself was too high and she didn’t take her student’s personal challenges into account. This also demotivated her to an extent and made Jessica question her capabilities as a teacher. “After some reflection, I realised that it is impossible to make huge and significant changes in the span of a couple of months. Rather than making abrupt changes, I should give myself the opportunity to take things one step at a time. Like the old saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day,” Jessica said.
TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK
Taking inspiration from this learning curve she faced early on in her journey as a Fellow, Jessica decided to talk to her fellow cohort member, Susan Balong, who was teaching in the same high-need school as her. They both realized they were facing similar challenges and could team up to come up with solutions. After some brainstorming, Jessica and Susan planned, organized and conducted an English Language Competition event. They also decided to hold workshops to better prepare the students for this competition. “Two weeks prior to this event, we received amazing response from our students. Almost 300 students sent in their names, wanting to participate!” exclaimed Jessica in excitement. This was a huge win for both Susan and Jessica as their students are known to be shy and grasping English language is a big challenge for most of them.
This competition spanned out for two days. Susan and Jessica planned out an array of competitions such as choral speaking, public speaking and karaoke. Both Susan and Jessica witnessed an amazing transformation in their students. “From students who were once shy, lacking self esteem and unable to converse in English, they have now blossomed into individuals who are willing to take on challenges and improve themselves. It was just amazing for me to see our students come together, put in effort and time into practicing before the competitions. For most of them, this is the first ever competition they have participated in!”, shared Jessica.
MOTIVATION IS THE KEY TO PROGRESS
The point behind this competition was not to prove which student is better at the English language or to drastically improve student performance. “I believe in motivation. If I want my students to excel at something, they must first believe that they can achieve it. It is my duty as an educator to coach them into improving, no matter how small the improvement might be,” said Jessica. She realised that by providing all students with equal opportunities, they were able to perform beyond the bar that has been set for them. Sometimes, all they need is a little nudge of confidence and some uplifting words. “This is why I joined this Fellowship. I believe wholeheartedly in the mission and I want to be part of the fight striving to give all students in Malaysia a chance at attaining excellent education”, shared Jessica.
Jessica Fung Lee Ying is a 2018 Teach For Malaysia Fellow, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Plant Resource Science and Management from University Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS). She is currently teaching English to Form 1 and Form 2 students at a high-need school in Semporna.
It is through Fellows like Jessica and Susan who firmly believe every student is important, that Teach For Malaysia is able to be a change agent. Join us and support our cause of wanting to end education inequity.