A Day in the Life of a Fellow: Cheryl

Cheryl Ann Fernando, a 2013 Teach For Malaysia Fellow embraces her role as the “CEO of [her] classroom”. Every day, she teaches and a leads her students towards transformational change. Here, Cheryl shares what a day in her life as a TFM Fellow is like!

Cheryl Ann Fernando, TFM 2013 Fellow

6.00am – I’ve never been a morning person, but in keeping with my needs as a TFM Fellow at SMK Pinang Tunggal, I’ve learned to rise with the sun.

7.30am – My first class begins. I keep the students occupied with interesting activities throughout the lesson. Today’s activity involves learning to write an informal letter or surat kiriman tidak rasmi. In groups, they brainstorm ideas on how to write a letter to their favourite celebrity to invite them to SMK Pinang Tunggal. At the end of the activity, the group with the best letter won a prize.

Cikgu Cheryl’s students learn to write informal letters

10.40am – My next challenge is 1 Kreatif, a big class of 40 excited 13-year-olds who sometimes get into rowdy fights, with the classroom furniture. Before this, I used to have even worse classroom management problems with this class. I overcame this problem by introducing incentives in the form of lucky draws. Students who behave well in the classroom (not fighting or shouting insults) are given a lucky draw number. At the end of the week, I hold a mini lucky draw where students have a chance to win gifts like chocolates and stationery. I am, effectively the CEO of my classroom.

Today, they are doing directed writing. I divide the class into groups. Each group has specific tasks to complete, such as arranging pictures in order and writing simple sentences. Seeing that this class has responded well to incentives, I decide to extend the lucky draw incentive to this group exercise. The group that completes the tasks best will receive a lucky draw number each. True to form, the students remained engaged and invested in the class for two whole periods!

3pm – After school, my colleague and I host extra classes for their Form 2 students. They recap the lessons earlier in the morning, and go through some speaking and listening exercises. It’s not a required part of the syllabus, but I recognize that they are necessary skills all the same, and my students lack them.

After extra classes, we have lunch and talk over the day’s events. It’s not quite over yet though – when I arrive home, I find my students waiting anxiously at the front gate for more extra classes. They are all ready to start learning again.

By 4pm, my place looks and feels like a school. My front porch is filled with bicycles and the kids are all over the house. Some of them are reading, some using the laptop and others doing their own work. I allow them to draw, colour and read as much as they want in the house – a liberty not afforded to them in many places.

6.40pm – The kids leave for their Maghrib prayers. My housemate and a few other TFM Fellows get together for a therapeutic chat session over dinner. I do some lesson preparations for the next day. I sneak in a few minutes to read before going to sleep.

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