Thinking outside the box: Meet Norashikin, a Malaysian primary school teacher who goes the extra mile

This year marks the fourth year of teaching for Norashikin. — Picture courtesy of Norashikin Zainull Abdin
This year marks the fourth year of teaching for Norashikin. — Picture courtesy of Norashikin Zainull Abdin

KUALA LUMPUR, May 21 — Norashikin Zainull Abdin, or better known by her students and colleagues as 'Miss Ash', is a teacher with out-of-the-box teaching methods.

The 28-year-old English teacher from Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Minden Heights in Penang has always believed in moving beyond and unleashing her students’ full potential.

She always wanted to be a doctor, and after completing her Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), she applied to the Institute of Teacher Education, but to her surprise, received  a full scholarship to pursue her degree in teaching the English language.

This year marks the fourth year of teaching for Norashikin, and in her tenure as an English teacher at SK Minden Heights, Norashikin has introduced classroom projects like the ‘20-day Kindness Challenge’ for Standard Two and Three students.

The ’20-day Kindness Challenge’ aims to cultivate empathy and focus on building a positive relationship through various special tasks, from creating a bookmark for their friends to doing chores and giving high-fives to their beloved 'Miss Ash' after their lesson.

Norashikin in costume as 'Maleficent' during one of her 'Grammar-Telling' lessons. — Picture courtesy of Norashikin Zainull Abdin
Norashikin in costume as 'Maleficent' during one of her 'Grammar-Telling' lessons. — Picture courtesy of Norashikin Zainull Abdin

Her other classroom projects also include ‘Grammar-Telling’, teaching grammar and instilling Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) values in class.

“It started with storytelling of fairy tale stories that the kids already know in the beginning and it’ll always end with a twist or a mystery the kids need to solve.”

“They have to use the target grammar of the day to solve the mystery, for example, during the Little Red Riding Hood Mystery, kids have to use Past Tense Questions tags to unlock the mystery in order to locate Grandma.”

“The group that locates grandma the fastest is the winner,” added Norashikin.

“They learn grammar and also learn to solve problems using STEM learning elements at the same time.”

She added that she would do the ‘Grammar-Telling’ lessons at the end of every month as a form of revision instead of the normal quiz, going the extra mile by dressing up in costume and giving her students permission to bring in props to bring the story to life.

Besides that, Norashikin has also organised a Highly Immersive Programme (HIP) Literacy Camp last year.

The camp, part of an intervention plan since the school had too many students who did not pass the Band 3 classroom assessment, also involved six neighbouring schools who were facing the same problem.

They did pre-and post-tests for the camp and their post-test showed major improvement amongst the students.

“As a tactile and kinaesthetic learner myself, I noticed that most of my students are like me.

“They also find it hard to sit still or stop talking.”

“The classroom and school projects are meant to provide experience and instill values among the students,” she said noting that while discipline is important, it has to be balanced out so students can still feel connected. 

Norashikin believes in unleashing her students' full potential. — Picture courtesy of Norashikin Zainull Abdin
Norashikin believes in unleashing her students' full potential. — Picture courtesy of Norashikin Zainull Abdin

Apart from her unorthodox teaching methods, Norashikin is also well known among teachers locally and internationally for sharing her resources.

In 2017, Norashikin started her own blog to share her teaching resources, called ‘Ash The Teacher’ and it has grown over the years which led her to create her own Telegram group.

Her Telegram group managed to gain over 30,000 members consisting of parents and teachers from all over the world like Brazil, Australia and Mexico.

 “I am truly humbled and honoured by the impact the resources have had on teachers, parents and students.”

“Every day, there are teachers and parents who share how the resources have helped them with their kids and how their kids have improved.”

“It brings joy to know that I can be helpful and benefitial not just to the people around me but also millions of others who I have never even met before,” she said.

As the nation is facing a pandemic crisis at the moment, schools have closed as part of the movement control order (MCO) implemented by the government to contain the spread of Covid-19.

For Norashikin, the situation has been tough on teachers, parents and especially the young learners.

Although classes are being conducted online, not all of the students can participate in the live classes, so she has recorded and uploaded separate tutorial videos on YouTube for those who can’t join her live classes.

The teacher also took into consideration students who have no access to the Internet by printing and delivering the work to their doorstep.

“Daily class response depends on their parents’ availability, therefore, my relationship with the kids has extended to their parents as well.

“Everyone is adapting and we look out for each other.” 

Norashikin was recently awarded the 'Anugerah Guru Inspirasi' by McDonald's Malaysia. — Picture via Facebook
Norashikin was recently awarded the 'Anugerah Guru Inspirasi' by McDonald's Malaysia. — Picture via Facebook

Most recently, Norashikin was awarded the ‘Anugerah Guru Inspirasi’ by McDonald's Malaysia for her exceptional work.

For now, she is in the midst of launching her Standard Three students’ podcast called the ‘The Lepak Gang’ which was delayed due to the MCO, aimed at exposing her students in content creation.

“Our podcast team ‘The Lepak Gang’ is a group of kids sharing their thoughts on national and global topics.

“It will be the first ever podcast conducted by kids and for other kids.”

“I am definitely planning to get my ‘Lepak Gang’ together after the Raya holidays to get the kids’ voices out there,” Norashikin said.

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