Love letter

As another event came to a close, I left the parents and students with this note:

“Assalamualaikum and a very good morning dearly beloved parents, committed students, dedicated teachers and staff of Abedeen.

What a day it has been huh? From the students running the cross country to the teachers and volunteers manning the checkpoints, to the parents anxiously waiting for their children to complete the run. It has been a tiring yet fulfilling day.

To the winners, congratulations.

To those who completed the cross country, great work.

To those who needed more time, you have one year to practice!

Thank you for making No Excuses and for giving it your all in this cross country. Excuses are a hindrance. Excuses closes doors of possibilities. Excuses results to complacency. Excuses stalls creativity. Excuses make for another excuse. Would you agree if I went to the extent of saying that excuses is the death of change?

I’d like to share 2 stories of 2 people who gave no excuses in their life. I believe many of you know of their story. So I hope that today’s sharing will help all of us see another side of change.

Nick Vujicic is an Australian, born with no arms and legs. With undying support and encouragement from his parents, Nick began taking up swimming and fishing. ‘It’s not what you have, but what you do with it’, he says. He shared that his father told him,’ You are a gift, just differently packaged.’ With further support from other family members, at 19, he started giving motivational talks and today, he has travelled 58 countries having spoken to millions sharing his struggles, challenges and successes, simply by not giving up, not giving excuses.

Has anyone heard of 99 speedmart? Did you know that the founder, Mr Lee Thiam Wah was diagnosed with polio at 8 months old. Due to his family’s poor financial situation, he stopped school at the age of 12. His disability did not become an excuse for him. He stated selling snacks by the roadside. Overtime, he saved enough money to open his own sundry shop. In 1992, he sold his little business for RM38,000 and opened his very first 99 speedmart in Klang. The rest, is history. He has more than 600 outlets to date.

No excuses. I am so happy to see that students made no excuses and completed the cross country race to their best ability. Even those with health matters made no excuse, and are present to gain first aid knowledge. Parents, you have made your children’s day by staying to cheer them on.

Abedeen students are getting the best of both worlds. They are exposed to a modern learning environment, and are given opportunities to be actively involved in activities that will strengthen their leadership and soft skills. Everyday, they are taught and trained to become world leaders bearing no excuses.

Before we call it a day, I would like to thank parents who have extended your assistance through your manpower and sponsorship. We are forever grateful for the support and trust you extend to the school. We are strong because the school and parents work together tirelessly for the benefit of the children. We make no excuses. We are one in developing world leaders.

Have a great day. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Students, rest up, see you on Monday.

Thank you

Assalamualaikum WRT”

My Note

“Thank you very much for your feedback, praises and sharing. Each one has been noted, and we will do the necessary.

Alhamdulillah, we are almost done. But before we call it a morning, allow me to share a few thoughts. I joined Abedeen as a teacher. The English teacher for the Secondary students. Not only did I fall deeper in love with teaching, I found a home for me to educate and train the next generation of whom will become our leaders as we step into our golden years. That was never the dream as a young girl. It was a passion I stumbled upon 5 years ago, and have been privileged to pursue.

I am fully aware, that at the top of our heads, academic success is something we want our children to achieve. Who wants to see their children receiving bad results, and being depressed and embarrassed right? None of us. Not as a parent, not as a teacher. While I must say that all students enrolled at Abedeen are smart, in fact smarter than they make themselves to be, there is a bigger matter that has come to my attention. And for this, I seek the assistance from you dear parents of Abedeen to make come true.

We grew from 40 to 110 students in a blink of an eye. In the first week, frankly speaking, the school turned into a mamak stall. Yup, that market. This is by far, the saddest thing for me. It got me thinking, and thinking real hard. Why are our mamak stalls dirty? Have you ever gone to a mamak stall having to look for a part with clean flooring? Why? Why? Why? This question kept popping up. Why do we have to go to that extent? People in our community eat there. Our neighbours eat there. Our friends eat there. So why is it dirty? Our houses are certainly not in that state. No siree. Then it dawned on me. Ethics and mannerism. Our ethics and mannerism when we dine out. Our children’s ethics and mannerism when they dine out. Based on real time observation, it is lacking. So, dear parents, at Abedeen, we have started teaching students to clean their tables after eating and studying. They must send their plates and cups to the basin. They pick food and wrappings they discard on the floor. Yes, I know none of us teach our children to throw things on the floor, but it is happening. They are to pick up after themselves and so I ask you, to do the same at home. Let them pick up after their mess. Let them take responsibility. Let them own their responsibility and bear consequences for not being responsible. So, that the next time they dine out, they are aware of the importance of keeping clean. And I truly truly believe, we can have clean mamak stalls.

And this obviously goes beyong the mamak stalls. The trait of ‘someone will pick up after me’ is brought into the classroom. Students leave their items lying everywhere. They have a drink and leave the cups on the table. Shirts and sweaters lying on the floor, benches, tables and chairs. They kick their shoes off, and leave slippers lying around. They are leaving books opened, lying on the table. The Quran, is left on the table, just like that. Out of habit, they leave it thinking ‘someone will pick up after me’. I will admit that when I catch them in these acts, they will be required to clean up before the next activity. And I always check up before lunch time. So, if it’s a mess, I hold lunch. If they start lunch later than 1pm, they still must be at the musolla for prayer by 1:40pm. No excuses. Let us train and teach them that luxury, and a comfortable life, comes with being responsible. And it is my personal yet firm believe, that when they respect rules, their surroundings, people, their elders, respect their education, respect their religion, respect themselves and their responsibilities, everything else in their life, including academic success, will follow.

Being clean is half of deen. So, it is a requirement. It is asked of us as Muslims. The Prophet was loved and adored and idolized practicing cleanliness. And in following the footsteps of the Prophet, we lead by example. We do it with them. Not for them. But with them.

So, let them do it. And mums, this will be a big help, no? It may cause some chaos in the beginning. But we are developing world leaders, aren’t we? Wouldn’t some chaos be worth it?

Before I end, thank you for your trust. Thank you for your support. Thank you for the children that you have brought into Abedeen. Diamonds in the rough they are. Let’s work together to make then shine.”


Iman Fairuza Rozhan

Acting Principal

Abedeen Academy

A little less conversation

A colleague came to me and asked if I had ever raised my voice to the students.

Yes. Oh yes.

Once, it was intentional. As a lesson. They were shouting at each other and so I shouted all my instructions to them. Moments after that, I called all of them, and asked them how they felt being shouted at. Most of them said they were surprised because I had never raised my voice at them, ever. No matter how they got on my nerves, I never raised my voice. Some said they felt scared. Some said they did not like it, being screamed at. So then I asked them,

‘If that’s how you felt, how do you think your friends feel when you shout at them?’

“But when we talk nicely, they don’t listen.”

‘Do you always listen when I or any of the other teachers tell you to do something?’

Silence, followed by shaking of some heads.

‘Do we shout at you?’

Silence, with more shaking of heads.

‘So why do you shout at each other?’

The second time, was not intentional. 2 of them really pushed my buttons and I just had an outburst. But right after, I called both of them. And asked them what they think made me shout. They soon realised (even though I shouldn’t have) that they were partly responsible for the incident. In the next class, they focused and completed all work and both got hugs.

I told my colleague, I have raised my voice. But! I reason with them after. There is however more to it.

I had built trust and understanding with my students. I have set rules from Day 1. Rules that both me and them have agreed upon. And everyone is reminded of these rules constantly. I spend time with my students. I take the time to understand them. I listen when they need an ear. I apologise when I make a mistake. I ask to clarify. I’m there for them when they need me to. I build trust and understanding.

I’m human. I make mistakes. These kids are humans. They make mistakes. To be understood, is to first understand.



Sweet child

It’s truly amazing how people excel at different things. And I am amazed every single time.

Weeks ago, I ran a 2 day programme for the staff of a laundry company. The owner is my friend. She reached out to me to help build the confidence of her staff in speaking English. She had highlighted that some of them write well, but lack the confidence to speak up wether with friends, with her or the customers.

Day 1 came. The 6 girls arrived followed by the remaining 2 boys. Off the bat, 2 girls stood out; responding, putting their hands up, volunteering, asking. The other 4 were neither here nor there. Occasionally inquiring, trying to make eye contact, having their hands on their table, attempting to put it up. 1 other was not confident. And had lots of self doubt, which she confessed to having. Her story will be in the next blog.

And then there was this 1 girl. Completely quiet. Only spoke when she was personally addressed. And even then, with much hesitation.

After lunch, we went straight to business. They were told to prepare a 2 minute text, that I would proofread. When I got her text, there was not much to correct. I was impressed. Then came public speaking time. She was 4th or 5th to volunteer. And she blew me away with her presentation. So much confidence, she won best speaker.

Before the day ended, they were given topics to present the next day. Guess what. She won best speaker again the next day.

I got it. She lets other people who love to stand out, stand out. But when it’s her time, she shines brighter than the others who seemingly shine. I was extremely impressed by her. Her use of English, hand gestures and even intonation was impressive.

Amazing how after 5 years of training, I discover this. The next time you have someone quiet in your team, give them the benefit of the doubt. They may just surprise you!



Achy breaky heart

In one of the exercises, the Year 3 students had to unscramble the letters to make a word. A girl comes to me asking what ‘unscramble’ means.

‘Look at these words. What do you think ‘unscramble’ means?’

“Oh! I need to play scrabble?!?!”

Excited. Excited at the possibility of being able to play scrabble. The primary students aren’t allowed to play scrabble without supervision from a secondary student or a teacher. The thought of getting to play scrabble under my watch made her eyes light up.

‘Unscramble. M. M. M. Scrabble is A. A. A.’

I explain the meaning of unscramble and off she goes to complete the work.

I was driving home one day and started thinking of ways I could encourage my students to build up the word in their vocabulary. Most of them aren’t fans of reading. My thoughts drove me don memory lane, right to when I was a 13 year old.

On weekends, my siblings and I would play Scrabble with my parents. We will have to have a dictionary with us to look up words to make together with its meaning. We were learning a myriad of words just by playing the board. I asked myself if my students would respond the same way I did toward playing Scrabble.

What if this isn’t the way they want to learn?

What if it is…

So months ago, I bought the Scrabble board for my secondary students to use as a tool to build their vocabulary. The rules were simple:

  • You must have a dictionary with you when you are playing
  • Ensure there are 100 tiles at the start and end
  • First timers get my assistance
  • After that, I get half the points from the word I help put on the board
  • Keep the scrabble board accordingly

The kids are now addicted to the board. Everyday, they come seeking the permission to play. I would randomly walk around to check the board and ask them to explain the meaning of the words they have created. Even with that, they do not feel the stress of having to answer. They continue playing and learning.

I expected them to play scrabble. But not as committed as they are now. I am beyond happy that they have picked up another great habit and game. Some are even going to get their parents to get a board at home. One board is RM100. Take it from me: it is a worthy investment.




It’s been 9 months that we have been instilling the habit of maintaining cleanliness after lessons and meals. 9 months, and it still has to be reminded as if it was the first day.

After much thinking and pondering, I have figured out why it is taking so long. The habits we are trying to instill are not habits they are used to practice at home.

Here are some of the things I have discovered after conversations with different students:

‘After meals, who cleans up?’


‘Do you help?’

“Errrr… no?”

‘Do you read?’


‘What do you do once you’re done reading?’

“I go and play.”

‘What about your books?’


‘What do you like doing with mummy or daddy?’

“I like to bake cookies with mummy.”

‘Who cleans up after you’re done baking?’

“Mommy? Sometimes I help.”

Most of them do not get into the habit of performing house chores. Some do, but most of them don’t. In a learning environment, when the mass are the ones who are not accustomed to chores, they tend to pull those who are used to chores to not doing the chores.

What I have discovered is that in this country, this generation is given a comfortable and clean environment to live in. But they are not included in the process of keeping comfortable and clean. Therefore the process of instilling such a habit is prolonged. Because for at least 7 years in their life, they get to leave their mess for someone else.

I grew up with maid. But, we were never allowed to escape chores. After every meal, we were required to take all the dishes to the back for cleaning. Table and placemats were to be wiped clean and chairs pushed in. Maid only took care of the cleaning and storing. Once in every month, we needed to clean our toilet, bowl and everything. Dirty clothes were to be put in the laundry basket, never on the floor for the maid to pick up. Clothes were to be hung, never left on the bed for the maid to sort out. Ironed clothes were to be arranged in the closet, never for the maid to store. If we had supper after the maid had gone to bed, we would need to leave the kitchen the way the maid did before she went to bed. Nothing is allowed to be left for the maid to handle when she wakes the next morning. Shoes were to be arranged, not scattered for the maid to put on the rack.

I had a maid growing up. But we were never allowed to escape chores. We had to pick up after our own selves. It was a habit instilled from home.

So right now, all I can do it patiently remind them, sometimes blow my top, about keeping them and their environment clean and tidy, for their own benefit.

Do your children a solid and start instilling the habit of cleaning and tidying up from the moment they understand instructions. Start by showing your kids what you mean. Slowly transition into doing it with your kids. And soon enough, they will get into a habit that they will carry wherever they go.

I noticed that kids are very messy eaters. Yes, I bet I was the same. The 7 year olds are made to pick up or clean up all food droppings whether on the table or floor. After a few times of being tired of the sweeping and wiping, they have become more aware of their table manners, especially in ensuring nothing drops.

So imagine this. Imagine our children able to eat without making a mess no matter where they eat, especially when eating out. Wouldn’t our food stalls and mamaks and gerais and sorts stay clean?



Too little too late

As I walked in, I noticed that my Year six student’s face was very gloomy. He was obviously sad and he looked like he was about to cry. His mother briefly mentioned to me that you wanted to show me his English UPSR trial paper. He had scored a B. I flipped the question paper and went through the questions that he answered wrongly. As I was reading the reading and comprehension text and poem I was shocked. ‏The language and complexity was the level of a 15-year-old. It was a tough paper for 12-year-old. The first thing that went through my mind was this is nuts! I told my student not to worry about the grade or that he made the mistakes he made because he was not tested based on what he should have been tested.

This clearly did not sit right by me. Before the class ended, I had a conversation with his mother and then it hit me.

Their exam questions are beginning to get really really hard and complex because of the current situation with this generation’s graduates who are not able to speak in English. So the government is putting more and more things for our young kids to learn and I’m not just talking about English. Even for the other subjects I see that kids are made to learn way too much, beyond what they should be learning. They are mitigating the current proficiency issues by making the small ones learn more. Now I’m fine with more. But this is unnecessary more. More that is causing the kids a whole lot of stress.

I’m going to stick to English. The level of English amongst our graduates right now has plummeted not because of the English curriculum. Instead it’s the system that is the problem.

Think about this.

Why is it that our parents and grandparents could speak very proficiently in English? And mind you, speak Bahasa Melayu really well too. They are really good at the language because they were learning in an English medium and what that simply means is that they were learning English in English. They spoke to the teacher in English. They spoke to each other in English. They continues to use English in their homes. They listened to how their teacher used English. They heard how their teachers asked questions. They used what they learned.

Now? In this Bahasa Melayu medium, English is taught in Bahasa Melayu. Teachers are explaining in Bahasa Melayu. Asking in Bahasa Melayu. And students end up talking to each other in Bahasa Melayu.

When are they using English? When are they given the chance to be comfortable with English. When are given the opportunity to experience how easy English is? When are they practicing? How do they get to become proficient English speakers? How do they improve? How do they develop the skill to master the English language? When are they learning to express themselves in English? When are they trying to ask questions in English?

How oh how if teachers are asking and explaining English in Bahasa Melayu?

The problem is not the curriculum. It’s the system. Now I’m not sure if there is going to be anybody in government or Ministry of Education who will see the root cause of this problem; the system, not the curriculum. So I do not know if we can actually depend on them to really know what they’re doing in developing proficient English speaking graduates.

So what do we do?

We start making a difference in the lives of our children. Start helping your children to learn English at home. We cannot depend solely on school.

Learn with your children. When you’re learning with them, trust me, they will be more motivated to learn the language. If you’re not sure what to do for them, give me a buzz. If you’re not sure what to say, let me know. I am more than happy to share tips and even things to say for you and others to learn from.

I’ll share simple ways to create a conversation with your children. I will ways to encourage your children to embrace the English language. Let’s do this together.

It starts at home.



Mambo No 5

Since the beginning of the year, there has been a famous saying amongst my students.

Teacher, I don’t know how to do.

These words flow like water from their mouth.

So of course at the start, I would help them out. I’d explain what they needed to do and they’d be on their way.

7 months in, they were still saying the same thing. Something is definitely wrong somewhere. Is it because they cannot comprehend the question? Highly unlikely because they understand other things they read. They can explain what they understand. I tried my luck on something

What does the instruction say?

They would read the instruction in front of me. Half way through reading, they would pause, throw me a sheepish smile, turn around and get started completing the work.

That was it! They were not reading the instruction. That’s why they weren’t able to answer the questions 💆🏻💆🏻.

So the next time your child says they do not know how to do something, ask them to read the instruction to you. Now, if they still do not know what to do, that would mean they do not understand the instruction. So what you do is break the instruction down.

Let’s take this instruction as an example:

Connect the dots to create a picture.

What does ‘connect’ mean? Show me the ‘dots’. What does ‘create a picture’ mean? Now read it again and tell me what you think it means. Voila. That should do the trick. One word at a time. One breathe at a time. The kids will soon be able to understand on their own.



Don’t stop believing

Azzalea can finally scoop her food to feed herself!! While I will miss the days I feed her, I am so proud and glad she finally did it!

Since a month ago, she wanted to try to feed herself. She would try to scoop, but couldn’t control her spoon and so would fail. And she would get frustrated. She gets upset when I scoop for her. And she liked it even less when I held her hand to guide her into scooping. Yes, this little one wants to be independent quick.

So when she finally did it, I was super stoked. And so was she. My father was behind us and saw what happened. And what he said next resonated with me. He said:

This is something adults should see. Progress. – Prof Dr Rozhan M. Idrus

Precisely. Life is about progress. We don’t get anything instantly. Things don’t happen instantly. Success doesn’t happen overnight.

Much like learning a language. Many have complimented me for my ability to speak fluently in English. This skill did not happen within a day. Heck, I did not pick it up within a year. It’s years and years of speaking to people around me, listening to movies, music and people, reading book after book and writing what I know. It’s a process that takes place which in time, progresses.

Nothing happens overnight. You cannot expect to learn English for a few days and get frustrated days after because your English is not improving.

You can’t keep saying ‘I’m too old to learn the language’ and feel sorry for yourself when you don’t understand a TED talk that is delivered in English.

You can’t say ‘My English is not good enough’ and yearn or expect yourself to speak well. By saying to yourself that your English is not good alone shows you’ve given up before even trying.

Say ‘if only’. Say it as many times as you want. ‘If only I can speak English.’ ‘If only I can understand English.’ Say it if it makes you feel better.


Do something about it at the same time. Speak to someone every day. Even if it is one word or one phrase one day. It’s like saving. A penny saved is a penny earned. A word said is a sentence acquired. A sentence said is a speech gained.

And be okay with progress. As long as you are progressing, it’s okay. As long as you’re speaking, you will make progress.

Also, please start saying this to yourself. ‘I will speak English well. I will get there.’



No more sad songs

I know I have accomplished my goal in making my students comfortable with English when they speak to me in English even outside school. The bar is set. Whenever they talk or send me a text, it's in English. I do not need to remind them to speak to me in English. It's automatic wherever, wherever.

I know I need to do more to help them embrace the language because among themselves, they go back into their comfort zone of speaking in their first language. Which shows me that when with peers, they are not yet comfortable to use English.

The good news is that if they are around someone of authority, they already can, and will speak in English.

The unfortunate news is that they lack consistency, which could stump their progress in mastering the language.

Beautiful isn't it? The job as an educator. There is always something to accomplish, a greater height to achieve. The question what's next will never cease.

Looks like role play sessions will be doubled in the English class. I'm hoping that if they can get comfortable with speaking to each other in English during class, it will become a habit.

Pray it works!!