Friday, November 26, 2010

Inspiring Story: Bai Fang Li: A Rickshaw Operator Who Gave Much To Orphans

Dear All,

Often times, we think that many educators gave their all, with much passion and sacrifice to help educate our students for the better. But there are others too, who sacrificially gave beyond what was necessary to help orphans have a brighter future.

Well, here is an inspiring and touching true account of a rickshaw rider who was changed by an incident that he witnessed and decided to do something about it eventhough he was getting on in age and was only a lowly rickshaw operator.

He knew there were young people who were in a worse situation than him and he did something positive in his own little way. When he died, he was remembered for his kind, selfless deeds for the orphans so that they too could go to school and live a better life than he did.

Rodney Tan


Bai Fang Li: A Rickshaw Operator Who Gave Much To Orphans

His name is BAI FANG LI. He is a rickshaw operator most of his life, providing services to people who need to go from one place to another for a small fee.

His body is small, even too small compared to the other rickshaw operators. However, he is very energetic and enthusiastic. He starts his routine at 6 am in fellowship with his God. He then cruises the streets of the city on his rickshaw, either to get a customer or to bring the customers to their destination. He ends his day after the hard work, no sooner than 8 pm.

All his customers like Bai Fang Li because he is friendly, and his smile never leaves his face. He never determine the fee that his customers must pay, but he relies on the customers' generosity to pay for his services. Because of his good heart, more people prefer to use his services more than others. Perhaps because of their compassion to him, many are willing to pay more than the going rate that most rickshaw operators charge. Maybe this is because they see how hard he, with his small body sweating, has to push till his breathing is heavy.

追忆白芳礼:坎坷一生 大爱无言(组图)
Bai Fang Li lives in an old and rusty hut in a slum area of the city where many rickshaw operators and garbage collectors live. He rents a portion of the hut and pays daily for a place to sleep. There is practically no furniture in the hut, except for an old rug to sleep on after a very long and hard day at work. There is only one room under the roof to share with several other people. In this room, he often received visitors who come to get help from him. Inside the room, there is also an old cardboard box where he store an old, badly torn and stitched blanket. There is also a tin plate, which he probably found in the pile of garbage around the hut, for him to eat, and a tin can for him to drink. At the corner of the hut, there is an oil lamp to give light to the room at night.

Bai Fang Li has no family or relatives. People just know that he comes from another place. However, he never feel lonely because he is always surrounded by people who love his company. They love him for his positive attitude and his generosity. He helps everybody who need help, and he does it with joy in his heart and without expecting anything in return.

From what he earns, he should be able to afford better food and clothes. However, he donated most of his earnings to an unknown orphanage that takes care of over 300 orphans in Tianjin. This orphanage also runs a school for the orphans and other poor children in the area.

An incident that change his way of life

Bai Fang Li started giving to the orphanage at the age of 74. This is the story how his heart was touched and how he made the decision to do what he did.

One day he was resting after dropping off a customer. He saw a tiny and skinny six year old boy on the street offering his service to an older lady to carry her groceries that she bought from a nearby market. He saw this little boy carrying the heavy grocery bags with a lot of struggle, but he was determined to do the job well. There was a big smile on the boy's face when had completed the duty and receive some loose change from the lady for his service. This boy looked up the sky mumbling something as if he was thanking God for the blessing that he has just receive. Bai watched the boy doing it to several ladies who were shopping in the market, and every time he received payment for his services, he would looked up to the sky and mumbled something.

Later, he saw the boy going to a pile of garbage and digging into the garbage looking for something. When he found a dirty piece of bread, he was so happy. He cleaned the bread the best he could, and put the bread in his mouth and enjoyed it as if it were a piece of bread from heaven. Bai's heart was so touched by what he saw. He approached the boy and offered to share his lunch with him. Bai was wondering why the boy did not buy a decent lunch with the money he earned from providing services to the ladies. The boy said, "I will use the money to buy food for my siblings." Bai asked, "Where are your parents?" The boy replied, "My parents were separating stuff from garbage everyday. However, one month ago, they disappeared and I have never seen them again. Thus, I have to work to feed myself and my two younger sisters."

Bai Fang Li asked the boy to take him to his sisters. Bai's heart was crying when he saw the two girls, 5 and 4 years old. The girls were dirty and skinny, and their clothes were very dirty. The neighbours did not care about the condition of these three children because they too were struggling to cope with their own lives.

Bai Fang Li took these three children to an orphanage in Tianjin. He told the manager of the orphanage that he would bring the money he made and give it to the orphanage to help the children there to get food, care and education. Since then Bai Fang Li decided to work harder and with more determination in operating the rickshaw to earn money for the orphanage. He started early and finished late to get the extra money. From all his earnings everyday, he put aside some money to pay the rent for his living space in the hut, to buy two raisin bread for his lunch and a small piece of meat and egg for his dinner. The rest of the income was donated to the orphanage to help them feed and care for the children.

He is very happy doing all these things, despite his limitations. He felt that it was a luxury that he had a place to live, food to eat and clothes to wear, eventhough the clothes he got from a garbage disposal. He was always thankful for what he had.

Bai Fang Li worked as a rickshaw operator 365 days a year, regardless of the weather, and often when it was snowing or when the sun was very strong and hot. When asked why he would sacrifice so much for these children, he always said, "It is OK that I suffer, as long as the poor children have something to eat and that they can have a proper education. I am happy just to do all these things."

Giving Without Expecting Anything in Return

Bai Fang Li at the last moments of his life as he lies suffering from lung cancer

Bai Fang Li started donating to the orphanage since 1986. He has never asked anything in return from the orphanage. He does not even know which children benefitted from his donations. For the next 20 years, Bai Fang Li operated his rickshaw for one purpose: to be able to give donations to the orphanage in Tianjin. At the age of 90, he brought all of his savings of about RMB500 (about US$80) that he has stored neatly in a box to the school named Yao Hua that was run by the orphanage.

Bai Fang Li said in a sad voice, "I am too old and weak to operate rickshaw now. I cannot continue with the donations. This could be my last donation.." All the teachers in the school were touched and cried. When Bai Fang Li died at the age of 93, he died in poverty. Despite of that, he had donated RMB 350,000 (about US$53,000) to the orphanage and the school that was run by the orphanage.

The last photograph that his friends have on him has an inscription "An extraordinary love for an extraordinary person."

If a poor person gives out of his lack, he is an heir of heaven. He has been sent to this world to teach us to be continually thankful and to give to others who are in need.
追忆白芳礼:坎坷一生 大爱无言(组图)
Some of the ex-students at his funeral.
Many students supported by him are now supporting other poor students.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

News: China Embraces English

Dear All,

China is really going all-out to learn and master English because of internationalism.

There are more serious English learners in China than the whole population of the USA.

In Malaysia, there is an official policy that English is an important second language.

But looking at the Malaysian society and my students, many feel they do not really need English to communicate or do business with each other in this second language especially if they are doing lower-level or menial kind of jobs.  Do you face the same situation?

Anyway, the article below should be an eye-opener at the seriousness and determination of the Chinese government and its people to master English.



Ganbei!! China Embraces English Language

Countrywide Push Evident in Government, on TV, in Schools


Nov. 15, 2010

In an effort to promote internationalism, China is learning English.

In the next five years, all state employees younger than 40 will be required to master at least 1,000 English phrases, and all schools will begin teaching English in kindergarten. The government also is funding extensive teacher training programs to find new models for language learning and develop new textbooks.

Parents who can afford to, are sending their children -- some as young as 2 -- to private language schools that are popping up all over the country. By the time they are 10, the children will be fluent.

"China is more open to the world," said one teacher. "We [the older generation] want our kids to open their eyes to get to know the world [and] look at China not only from standing in China but from outside of China as well."

State-run TV launched an "American Idol"-type of reality show where kids have to sell themselves in English to clinch the judges' votes.

Signs in not-quite-right English -- "Car Repairable," "Cosme Toulogy" and "Welcom Go Home" -- can be found across the country.

For the adults, learning the language is more of a struggle but it doesn't deter them from trying. And many Chinese hope that more Americans do the same.

"I think that China is very important in the world," said one boy. "I wish that American people can speak, can study Chinese. I think that's very good for us to make friends with them."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

In Memory of the Language Institute of Japan, Odawara, Kanagawa Perfecture, Japan

Dear All,

Not long ago, I learnt about the permanent closure of the Language Institute of Japan in Odawara, Kanagawa Perfecture, Japan.

It was really a very sad news to me as I was there for about 6 days and I presented two papers on ELT, put up a cultural exhibition and did a song for the international cultural night. That was in August 2002.

I've made many friends; both the lecturers and the Japanese teachers who were at the Annual LIOJ Summer Workshop for High School teachers in 2002.

I've collected some photos of the Institute from the Internet and put them up here as a tribute to its invaluable contribution to the teaching and learning of English in Japan from thr 60s till the 90s.

Farewell LIOJ!

Rodney Tan

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Video: A Real Car That Can Fly (Think Out of the Box)

Dear All,

I have to put up this video because it is a real road worthy car that can actually fly!

This is thinking-out-of-the-box kind of invention.

It answers the need to escape a traffic jam and be practical enough for humanitarian missions.

On the road it's max speed is 95 miles/hour and 40 miles/hour in the air.

Goes from 0-60 miles/hour in less than 4 seconds!

Please watch this video until the end. The name of the inventor will ring a bell to those who have read the book "Through Gates of Splendour".


Rodney Tan

Monday, November 8, 2010


‘Literacies for a Knowledge Society’

This year the MELTA National Literacies Day will be organised in collaboration with the Wawasan Open University. National Literacies Day 2010 marks the third consecutive year that Malaysian English Language Teaching Association (MELTA) will organise this event aimed at boosting and supporting literacies development in Malaysia. The National Literacies Day is a unique event that invites participation from schools, students, teachers, and parents to engage with multiple literacies through interactive workshop sessions.

Date: 27 November 2010 (Saturday)

Time: 9a.m. – 1p.m.

Venue: Wawasan Open University, Kuala Lumpur, 3rd Floor, Menara PGRM, Cheras.

Location Map :

For this event, workshops and seminars with interesting topics catering to different levels of participants will be conducted as follows:-

Categories Workshops

Lower Primary School Students Fun with English

Session 1:Story Playing through the Amazing Race

Session 2: Way With Words – Knockout Battle

Primary School Teachers Language Arts

Session 1: Language Arts - Drama

Session 2: Language Arts – Reading, Singing and


Lower Primary & Pre-school Teachers Developing Early Literacies

Session 1: Writing

Session 2: Reading

Secondary School Teachers Session: Technology for Teachers

Postgraduates (Individual Workshop) Session: Postgraduate Research Literacy Skills -

Thesis Writing

Fee charges (including refreshments):-

Rates:               Adult      School Student       Postgraduate        Technology
                                                                                                   for Teachers

Day                   RM60        RM50 - -
(2 workshops)
Individual Workshop          RM40 per session - RM50 (3 hours) RM50 (3 hours)

*MELTA members and children of MELTA members will enjoy a RM10 discount for each registration.*

National Literacies Day 2010 is now open for registration.

Hurry! Limited seats only, registration is on first come first serve basis only.

Closing date for registration: 20 November 2010

Contact MELTA at 03-89453137 or 017-6047490, Email or visit MELTA website at


I wish to register for National Literacies Day 2010. Enclosed please find Cash / Cheque / Money Order / Postal Order No. _____________ in payment of my registration fee of RM______.

Details of Participants

Name: ___________________________________

Affiliation: _______________________________

Address: ___________________________________________________________________________

Contact number: ___________________________ Email: _______________________________

Categories Day Individual Workshop (Please indicate which session)

Lower Primary School Students & Pre-schoolers (6 yrs old)

Primary School Teachers

Lower Primary & Pre-school Teachers

Secondary School Teachers

Postgraduates (Individual Workshop)


If you wish to register for more than 1 participant, please put down the details on a separate sheet of paper. Cash payments should be used only if you are paying in person. Postal payments can be made by crossed cheque/money order/postal order made payable to Malaysian English Language Teaching Association. Please include an extra 50 sen for cheques that are from outside Kuala Lumpur and Klang Valley.

Date: ________________________ Signature_______________________

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Views: Students Are Not Products And Teachers Are Not Social Engineers

Dear All,

Much has been said that good learning is the result of good teachers.

And good teachers are PASSIONATE teachers.

However, having said that, passionate teachers will RESPECT their pupils. Here it means to allow their students the choice and freedom to decide the outcome of the reason why they want to learn  in the first place; to make a stand and to also reason on their own.

That to me is one of the main aims of education: "to make out of it what they will".

Below is a thought provoking article which makes us think about our conception of education and PASSIONATE teachers, and the outcome of what students "get" out of the teacher's teaching.

Rodney Tan

Students Are Not Products And Teachers Are Not Social Engineers

by Alva Noë

A smiling man holds a firecracker.
Erica Minton/Flickr

Teaching can be a lot like lighting a firecracker, if you know what you're doing.

One of my high school English teachers was macho and abusive. He said he was a poet; and he certainly could read beautifully, in both English and Spanish. But he was cruel. He reduced me to tears twice. And I witnessed him frighten and humiliate others. I haven’t hated many people, but I’m pretty sure I hated him. I think I still do.

But the remarkable thing is that he was, without any doubt, a terrific teacher. Not that I’d wish him on my worst enemies, let alone my children, or that I excuse his sadism. I’d have fired him in a heartbeat. But the fact is, he was remarkable, and what made him such a powerful teacher was not what he said, or even what he did. What made him special was what he was: a passionate, committed, lover of literature and good writing.

He showed us that that was a possible way to be. And so he offered each of us a challenge: to make up our own minds about literature; to take a stand where he had taken a stand.

In a strange way, however depraved his behavior may have been in other respects, at least in my eyes, his practice as a teacher was grounded on respect. He didn’t tell us what to think. He didn’t manipulate us. He exemplified a phenomenon — a certain kind of caring about literature, and language, and argument — and he trusted us to form our own judgments about that phenomenon.

You’d have to be a fool to send your kids to school to learn what the teacher thinks or believes. So said Augustine, who, like Plato, believed that you can’t teach knowledge by telling. What a good teacher can do is afford his or her pupils an opportunity to learn something, not by telling, but by enabling something to be seen, experienced, learned.

A wise man I know once made the same point but in rather different terms: the job of a good teacher is to put a firecracker up your rear-end and light it. How you respond to that — what you get out of it — that’s up to you.

Politics is the enemy of teaching and yet today, everywhere, I see teaching bending itself to politics. Let me explain.

Politicians — at least the politicians in this American culture we live in — use words not to communicate, or to argue, or persuade. They pretend to do this. But they don’t. Politicians, like sales people, are interested in outcomes. They want to influence you and they are interested in your beliefs and attitudes only in so far as these are potentially levers they can manipulate to bring about a desired outcome. For a politician, you are a means to an end, not an end in itself. Which is just another way of saying that politicians do not respect you.

This much is clear. Politics ought to be as remote from the classroom as it is from friendship. Now I am a university professor, not a high school teacher. I work with adults, not children. But in my experience as a working teacher, politics has insinuated itself to the classroom. This is bad and it should be resisted.

I don’t mean ideological bias. Despite all the outcry in recent years, I have never observed systematic political bias, of any kind, at any of the universities I’ve worked at. In my experience, the ideological complexion of the classroom is, for better or worse, a pretty good reflection of that of the surrounding society.

I have in mind something subtler and, in a way, much more dangerous. There is a tendency in universities today to think of teachers as, like sales people and politicians, interested in outcomes. And so there is a tendency for teachers to treat their students in the way sales people treat their clients and politicians treat the voters: without respect.

Professors these days, as well as our graduate student assistants, are encouraged to approach the classroom as a social engineer might. We are prodded to think about how most effectively to seat the students, to organize them into working groups; journals, wikis, presentations, and such like, are devices we are told to use to restructure the classroom experience. And we are encouraged to get ourselves videotaped and so, in general, to come to think of ourselves as teaching professionals whose main concern is student outcomes.

Now there is nothing wrong with working hard to make the classroom the most exciting place it can be. But we are not social engineers and students are not products we are manufacturing. To think of students that way is to insult them and it is to make genuine teaching and learning impossible.

Students, like citizens, are free and equal, and they have the power of reason; they can make up their own minds and can discover and enforce their own conceptions of value and truth and meaning. To view them as any less is to view them the way politicians so often view the public, without respect.

Did you know that at many American universities, including my own, students are sometimes required to submit their essays not to their teacher, but to a private company hired by the university to screen papers for plagiarism by comparing them against the company’s database of papers. Students cannot take the course if they are not willing to let their own writing get taken up into the database against which future student work will be compared. I teach at a public university, but the companies that do this are private and for-profit.

I refuse to make use of this software in my classroom. How can I hope to be a teacher for people to whom I stand in such a relationship?

I am a teacher, not a teaching professional. The foundation of my teaching practice is respect for the student. I don’t try to change them. I don’t try to affect them. I don’t try to alter them. I simply try to show them something — to fix a world of ideas and problems and literatures and concerns before them. I let them make of it what they will.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pictures: Honeywell Educators@SpaceCamp 12-16 June 2010

Hi Everyone!

Here's the Flash clip of the activities that had occured at the Honeywell Educators@SpaceCamp which I attended recently.

I felt very priviledged to be selected for this once in a lifetime experience at the NASA Space Academy and Rocket Centre in Huntsville, Alabama in USA.

This fully sponsored experience was underwritten by Honeywell, a giant technological & space related conglomorate.

I would like to publicly express my gratitude to them for generously sponsoring me as the first Malaysian teacher ever to attend this unique Educators' @ SpaceCamp.

The clip is about 16min 33 sec long.


Rodney Tan


Monday, November 1, 2010

Resource: British Council's Great Ideas for BIG Classes n Mixed Abilities

British Council has some great ideas for big classes and mixed abilities!

Lots of posts about these issues.

Have a look around the site for lesson plans / activities that will work with these groups by going to the TRY section.