E’s first post in a series on the Malaysian secondary school where she taught English in 2014.
SMK Maran 2 is a small secondary school with roughly 300 students in the state of Pahang, Malaysia. Every day there began with a school-wide assembly, and on Fridays there was prayer time in the morning for Muslim students (who comprised the vast majority of the student population). It was often my job to occupy the Chinese and Indian students during this time, and our favorite way to do this was to watch movies (all my boys begged to watch The Conjuring but I never let it fly. I did, however, introduce them to such gems as The Princess Bride and The Princess Diaries, which was a favorite of three of my boys).
After prayer were classes, which are structured in periods as they are in the US. There were five grade levels at my school, and each was broken into three groups of about 20 students: Adil (highest level), Amanah (mid-level), and Arif (lower level). One interesting difference is that at SMK Maran 2, the students stayed in their classrooms, and the teachers moved around.
Over the course of the year, I had the opportunity to teach every single student in the school, and became particularly close with certain students through weekend English camps and after school activities. I ran a film club, social entrepreneurship project, and a few other programs, but my favorite by far was my drama club. I created it with the advanced students in my Form 4 Adil class (sixteen year-olds) and together we performed three productions: Romeo and Juliet (set in a Malaysian night market), Orpheus and Eurydice, and King Lear (set in a Malaysian palm oil plantation). Having the chance to create these dramas was not only a dream for me as an artist, but a new way to see how incredibly talented my 4 Adil students were. I’m infinitely grateful to my school and community for supporting my drama club in major and minor ways, and to the US/Malaysian governments for funding my teaching position.
I could talk for days about my school, my students (and will have more to say about specific projects in future posts), but for now am going to stop here and call your attention to the video above. I made it a few weeks before leaving Malaysia, and it does a pretty good job of encapsulating the projects we did over the course of the year. I hope you can see how much I adored my students, and it’s an understatement to say I miss them like crazy now.
ps: The chant that the girls do at the end of the video is a special song for our school. I never got tired of it!
pps: The silky top I’m wearing in the video is part of my baju kurung, which is a traditional outfit worn by Malaysian women. I didn’t wear it every day, but my students always loved it when I did. They’d always tell me I was cantik (beautiful), even though I felt like I was struggling in the steamy Malaysian heat with minimal makeup.