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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Malayan Teachers' Training College, Kirkby, Liverpool: Reliving memories. Part 3. Academic work and teaching practice

Malayan Teachers' Training College, Kirkby, Liverpool: Reliving memories

Part 3. Academic Work and teaching practice

“The following please see me in the office.”

The notice that greeted my eyes just a week after our orientation, left me with a tinge of anxiety, as I wondered what my two non-Malay friends and I had committed to be hastily summoned to the office.
The next morning, stepping expectantly into the office, I walked out minutes later with a sigh of relief, as I was told the notice was just to inform us we had to join the Malay students for our Malay studies as we had already sat for our Bahasa Melayu paper for our School Certificate Examination. Although, relief at the news, there was a vague sense of disappointment, as I was secretly looking forward to a 'picnic' with my non- Malay friends in their Bahasa Kebangsaan ( National Language) class.
  One morning when I stepped into the classroom for my first Bahasa lesson, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that my Bahasa Melayu lecturer was Cikgu Nasir, a Kirkbyite, who was also my lower secondary school teacher in Tuanku Muhammad School, Kuala Pilah.

TMS Staff 1955: Cigku Nasir, is seen standing in miiddle row, extreme left

Except for Bahasa Melayu, all the other lessons were conducted in English, as English was the medium of instruction in the College. As the College was set up with the primary purpose of producing English teachers for Primary and Lower Secondary Schools, the bulk of the time table was allotted to the teaching of English Language.

We were divided into various academic groups and with the exception of Malay studies, physical education and the occasional mass lecture we had to attend lectures according to our academic group.

Group A
Seated L to R: Monica Phang, Rosalyn Chew, Sarabjit Kaur, Mr. Barnes, Louise Kesler, Lim Cheng Bee, Toh Gek Leng
Standing Lto R: Manjit Singh, Cheah Phee Chye,Chow Siew Hah, Johnny Ong, Tan Ooi Tee, Lau Siew Suan, Lee Kam Hon, Bella Ho, Sukhdev Singh, Oswald Schokman
Kneeling: L. Adeline Louis, Yoong Chiew Hing
Photo courtesy of Ooi-tee

The guys in my academic group
Seating L to R : Rahim Isa, Jaikishan, Harbajan Singh, Zainal Abidin
Standing L to R : Leslie Foo, Lawrence L. John, Tay Soo Hock, Rahim Dalip. Joseph John, Wan Chwee Seng

The ladies in my academic group
Sittong Lto R : Sharifah Mastura Maimunah Hashim Rita Rodrigues Azian bte. Yusof
Standing from L to R: Ruby Isaac, Magdalene Chong Mee Loon, Pooranajothy Kasinathar,
Helena Liew Shue Fei, Normah 

For our English lessons we had to study English literature and among the prescribed texts were ‘Lord of the flies’, ‘A passage to India’, 'Sons and lovers' and selected plays from the ‘Complete Works of Shakespeare’. Every week we had to do a book review and I remember Harbajan Singh, who always did an honest appraisal of a book, would volunteer to read his review. Some of us who believed this job was best left to the professionals were content to read their reviews. We also had lessons on poetry appreciation and English phonetics. When it came to phonetic transcription I had a hard time trying to figure out the meaning of those funny symbols, and luckily had some friends to assist me with the transcription.
 I remember during our first winter, we attended lectures garbed in layers of warm clothing and the cold made it difficult for us to concentrate on our lectures.   
'Frozen in time'
L to R: Adeline Louis,Amy Grace Tekkah,Monica Phang, Sarabjit Kaur,
Angelo Wong Ho Wing,Tan Ooi Tee, Oswald Schokman, Manjit Singh

Having fun in the snow
From L to R: Oswald, Ooi-Tee

The snow has melted
From L to R: Toh Cheng Kee, Monica Phang Low Kim See,Mimi Foo, Amy Tekkah,
Senior lady?

The guys have discarded their overcoats
From L to R: Tan Ooi Tee, Amy Tekkah, Maimunah Hashim, Louise Kessler,
Charles Gabriel

When the last snow of winter had melted and the grey sky had grudgingly given way to a clear blue spring sky, our English lecturer would sometimes conduct class on the college grounds.  

Students sitting on the lush green grass and enjoying spring weather
Back row: Tan Guan Hock, Adeline Louis, Oswald Shokman, Theresa Leow
Front row: Tan Vin Quen, Agnes Loo, Lim Wee Hee
Photo credit: Vin Quen

Spring is in the air
Photo credit: Vin Quen

 The crisp morning air would be filled with her voice as she recited William Wordsworth’s ‘The daffodils’.
 While Wordsworth stood gazing at ‘ the host of golden daffodils’,  I was busy surveying the fresh beauty of dandelions, buttercups and daisies that dotted the lush green grass. Years on, in moment of solitude, I would sometimes reflect on that blissful moment and the words of Wordsworth would come to mind.

“For oft, on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude; “

As trainee teachers, we all had to study pedagogy, educational psychology and health education.  About thirty lecturers were assigned to teach us the various subjects and some of these lecturers would leave a lasting impression on us.
I remember, Mr. Broughton, our educational psychology lecturer who would often come out with some creative ideas when he lectured to us on the topic of set induction.  Long after I left college his teaching methods would remain vivid in my mind, and later I borrowed some of his ideas for my pedagogy and educational psychology lessons.

Most students in the College will remember the affable Mr. Woolley, our health education lecturer. On drowsy afternoon, when we were about to be lulled into slumber, a smart Alec would suddenly pop out a question on photography and our health education lesson would  come to an abrupt end. Mr. Woolley, an avid photographer, would readily oblige us by sharing his knowledge and expertise on photography. It was a welcome break, but we would soon be gripped with mounting panic  when we realised the final examination was just weeks away and we were better prepared for photography than health education.    

Option subjects

Other than the core subjects all the students had to choose an option such as Art and Craft, History, Geography, Mathematics, Music , Physical Education, and Woodwork. We were given about a week to make our choice and I remember attending the History class where I had the opportunity of meeting the ever-smiling,  Mr. J. Kennedy who was the author of the book, ‘History of Malaya’ which was one of our History textbooks for Form V. Although I was deeply impressed with the lecture, I decided to opt for Art and Craft which offered more practical work and less reading.

Art and Craft option

 I especially enjoyed our Art and Craft lessons as we could move about freely and besides we had some colourful characters in our class which made the lessons even more interesting. Our Art and Craft room was connected to a ladies’ block and its pantry was just next to the Art and Craft’s room. The clatter of pots and pans was clearly audible from our work place. I remember sometimes in the midst of our Art lesson, one of our friends would suddenly disappear from the room. As his disappearing act seemed to coincide with the strident sound  that emanated from the pantry, it soon aroused our suspicion. Later, we discovered there was a young and sweet maid working in the pantry and I wonder if the sound from the pantry was a pre-arranged signal for a secret rendezvous.
Our craft lecturer was Miss Lloyd Williams, a matronly figure with a no-nonsense attitude who would keep a watchful eye on the guys to make sure we were not up to any mischief.
  My friend, TC, recalled the time she reprimanded him. When he responded with an unsavoury remark, he found himself restricted to the college and his passport was also confiscated. That summer while other students were enjoying their summer holidays in Europe,  T.C. had to content himself with attending a ‘fitness’ club in Liverpool.
Our Art lecturer was,  Miss Ockenden, a young and friendly lecturer. I remember sometimes she would take us out in her car for outdoor sketching. I also remember once she had two complimentary tickets to an art exhibition at the Liverpool Art Gallery and I was selected to accompany her to the exhibition, much to the envy of the other guys in the group.

Outdoor sketching session
L to R : Tien Chong, Teong Kooi, Chwee Seng
At the end of our two years Art and Craft course all our 'masterpieces' had to be displayed for viewing and assessment.

Admiring the masterpieces
Photo credit: Vin Quen

My art work on display

Members from the other option groups too had their own share of memorable experiences.

Physical Education option

The physical education class for men was under the charge of Mr. Wilde and later Mr. Tate.  Besides, the usual physical exercise lessons in college the members of the P.E. option also had the   opportunity to make a trip down the Hay River from Hay-on-Wye to Chepstow by kayak (canoe). For Ooi-tee , this is a trip which will always be etched in his memory. Here is an account of the trip as recounted by him:
"I remember on the 27th May 1959, Ho Chee Eng, Paramanathan, Zainal Abidin and I made up the first batch from our PE group that accompanied our kayak from Liverpool Station to Hay-on-Wye.
Before embarking on the trip we had to learn the basics of paddling a kayak, so a morning found me  in a kayak, trying hard to master the technique, while Chee Eng, my partner, stood on the bank, shouting instructions and giving me unsolicited advice. 

Learning how to handle a kayak
Photo credit: Ooi-Tee

From Hay we stopped at Hereford, Ross-on-Wye, Monmouth, Tintern, and ended our journey at Chepstow, not being able to proceed further, as the currents leading into the River Severn from Chepstow were too strong.

Map of the trip from Hay-on Wye to Chepstow

 We completed the 151 miles river route in seven days ( by car it would be half the distance or even less).

Our camp at Tintern Abbey( immortalized in William Wordsworth's poem of the same name)
Photo credit: Ooi-Tee

It was backbreaking on days when we encountered calm waters and were really thankful for the rapids that were few in between. While shooting the rapids, Chee Eng who sat behind me, took every jolt as an opportunity to clobber me until I found a way to stop it.

Shooting the rapid with Chee Eng
Photo credit: 'Ooi-Tee

Although the trip was exhausting and backbreaking, I enjoyed it immensely and is one of the highlights of my life's adventure in Kirkby College."

Teaching practice

Besides learning education theory all the students had to do practical teaching under the supervision of the class teacher and college supervisors. We were posted to schools in and around Liverpool and had to get up very early in order to catch the first train from Kirkby station or board the waiting coach.

Posing for a photo after our teaching practice

Vin Quen with some of the pupils at the entrance to Kirkby College

 I remember for my teaching practice I was posted to primary schools in St. Helens and Wigan. I enjoyed the teaching stint as the headmaster and teachers were very friendly and co-operative while the pupils were well disciplined. Teaching hours were from 8.30 to 3.30 with a break-time at 10.30 and lunch was at 12.30. I noticed during break-time the headmaster would usually leave his office to talk to the pupils or join in their games.

During the lunch break I was told  most of the pupils would have their lunch in the school canteen and I too would join them with a free lunch and looking underweight then, I  was also provided with a bottle of fresh milk.

Unlike our Malaysian primary school pupils who are often seen bent double under the weight of their engorged school bags, the pupils in the schools where I taught carried only a book or two to school, as all their other books were kept in the school's lockers.  

 There were some 'lucky' students who were posted to the lower secondary schools in the city of Liverpool and I learned they had a more challenging  time as they had to handle some difficult students, as portrayed in the 1967 British drama film ,'To Sir'  with Love' starring Sidney Poitier.  

A scene from 'To Sir, with Love' starring Sidney Poiter
Photo credit: www.freeinfosociety.com

Ooi-Tee, who was one of the 'lucky' few who taught in the lower secondary school shares his experience:
" My final teaching practice was at Maghull Secondary School  which is quite close to the college. My supervising tutor was Mr. Wilson and we had to write a lesson plan for each day and then had to meet him at his flat to discuss what we had achieved that day or the week. He occasionally showed up to observe me. It was a stressful time.
My supervising teacher at Maghull Secondary School was Mr. John Ord. He was a wonderful gentleman and he invited me home for dinner several times. He made me feel at ease and offered me encouragement. Bless him."

" My cheerful, delightful class with Mr. Ord. Notice the visual aid at the back
of the class. I was teaching Malayan culture to the kids."  _ Ooi-Tee

" Mr. John Ord in front of a black- board with three lines of the song  'Bengawan Solo'
written on it. When I sang the song, the students thought it was hilarious.....ie my singing." _

"An extraordinary staff that made my time there unforgettable." _ Ooi-Tee

"Conducting gymnastics lessons for the boys. It was a large class and required team teaching.
Three teachers were involved in teaching the class."  _ Ooi-Tee

The girls' gymnastics class

 For Ooi-Tee and the other students who taught in the secondary schools, I am sure, their experiences stood them in good stead in later years, as they would be able to cope with any classroom situations and would be well prepared to face the harsh reality of the outside world. 

Listen to Lulu sings 'To Sir With Love' on Youtube

My sincere thanks to  Ooi Tee and Robert for the photos and contributions; Vin Quen for the lovely photos; Tien Chong for sharing your experience; Lean Aing and others for your kind help and support.    

Fellow Kirkbyites who have photos relating to college life or have memorable experiences which they like to share, I hope will forward them to me via email.  Your contributions will be greatly appreciated.  

Related articles:
Click below links

MTTC, Kirkby: Part 1 _The Journey  

MTTC, Kirkby, Part 2: Orientation

Other articles on MTTC, Kirkby 

Lessons for life

Moments to savour

Precious memories
 MTTC, Kirkby closed down after its last intake ( 1960-1961).
Readers who are interested to find out what became of the College can view the very interesting and informative video ( Kirkby Revisited 2011), courtesy of Datuk Zainal Arshad.


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