Practice + Theory =
English Teaching Career in Malaysia

Written by Vera Springett

“Take off your judgment spectacles,” advises Cindy Massey, M.Ed., who’s lived in six different countries and believes there’s no place for preconceived notions when living abroad. “It is important because one will encounter ideas, lifestyles and belief systems that are far removed from what we think is our reality.”

Cindy Massey (M.Ed., English Second Language, 2012)

NCU M.Ed. alumna Cindy Massey has lived in six countries during her career.

Massey earned her Master of Education with a focus on TESOL from NCU while working abroad.

“I have always enjoyed people from other countries,” she says. “I want to know how they think, what is important to them and how they see the world.”

Today, Massey is putting her degree to work mentoring teachers halfway across the world in the rural city of Jerteh, Terrengganu in Malaysia, where there’s a growing demand for English teachers.

“The Ministry of Education wanted to have more English spoken in the more rural areas of Malaysia,” she says explaining why there’s such a big push for teachers in that region to update their English proficiencies while improving their classroom teaching skills.

So when Massey was offered a mentor position in Malaysia through Brighton Education, she seized the opportunity to travel to a new locale.

“No matter how wonderful the technology, we need the basics first.”

Cindy Massey, M.Ed.

“I am mentoring teachers to improve their teaching methods in the classroom,” she says. “Many non-option (non-English majors) are teaching English and struggling as they were not taught with English courses. Their focus could be Science or Math but they are doing their best to teach English.”

One of Massey’s goals as a mentor has been to improve efficiency by establishing better lesson planning processes for these teachers. She first recognized this need when she noticed teachers in her districts were writing their lesson plans in books and then storing them away at the end of the school year instead of sharing them forward. This inefficiency was forcing the next teacher to start a new lesson plan from scratch every single year.

“What a waste!” thought Massey, who was finally able to unite two of the school districts to collaborate and plan their lessons uniformly.

Together with Massey, the teachers created a process that gave them all equal access to an ESL file with a lesson plan they could grab-and-go for Years 1 – 3 ESL (English as a Second Language) classes. This ESL file contained all the unit lesson plans, activities and teacher aids they needed for the entire school year.

While it’s been a slow-moving process, it is one they’re all committed to says Massey, who directly attributes the development and implementation of this process to her master’s degree classes at NCU.

“They [NCU] teach process,” she says. “Building a strong foundation starting with the basics; no matter how wonderful the technology, we need the basics first. The rest is the whipped cream and cherry on top.”

Massey’s desire to earn her master’s degree in education stemmed from her interest in corroborating teaching practices’ from the classroom and the research being demonstrated by other professionals in her field.

“I am curious by nature and I wanted to learn more about research,” she says.

And because she believes living abroad teaches one to be more flexible and understanding of each other, NCU’s online degree program was a perfect fit for Massey.

“I could schedule my study time around my classes and wrote my papers when I was not working.”

Cindy Massey, M.Ed.

“I wanted to learn at my convenience,” she says. “I could schedule my study time around my classes and wrote my papers when I was not working.”

Even when she was faced with some reading limitations due to her failing eyesight, NCU adapted to Massey’s needs just so she could continue her degree program online without any trouble.

Earning her master’s degree from NCU has meant more to Massey than just satisfying her professional and financial goals. It has also helped validate the very objectives she began her journey with: to examine and substantiate teachings in the classroom with field research.

“It is a good feeling to know that what one is doing has evidence behind it,” she says.

Massey is also particularly grateful to her NCU instructor Dr. Pelligrini, who continues to support her career even post-graduation.

“He encouraged me and was very thoughtful about my lessons and papers,” she says.

Patience and flexibility may be the keys to living abroad and enjoying the international experience. But before diving into another culture, this seasoned traveler and educator strongly suggests familiarizing yourself with the politics of the countries you’re interested in—some being more warlike than others—and deciding accordingly which ones are good fits.

“Skills are important, but not as important as getting along with others,” advises Massey.

Update: Cindy has since accepted an education position in Northern China.