Sunday, April 24, 2011

Just Us Girls

April is the busiest month of the year I think.

There are all sorts of competitions held in this month.

Firstly, there are the co-academic competitions such as debates, drama, public-speaking, poetry recital, pantun and nasheed.

Secondly, there are the district- and state-level sports tournaments like basketball, football, badminton, track & field, sepak takraw, tennis, handball, volleyball, netball, softball and hockey.

Lastly, there are also kawad kaki competitions for all the uniformed units.

So, all month long, the school has been busier and more "happening" than usual. All the activities reminded me of this riddle I heard some time ago:

"Sekolah mana yang tiada murid?"

The answer is...
Cuti Sekolah

Yes, it's a rather silly riddle but it conveys how essential students are to schools. Blocks of buildings/classrooms alone do not make a school but the students do. They are the ones who embody the spirit of the school.

That's why I always find it creepy to work during the year-end holidays when the school is deserted.

It's just positively eerie. You feel like you're in an alternate universe because the place feels so unfamiliar even though you work there day in and day out from Jan to Nov.

But I'm digressing here. What I meant to talk about is NETBALL!

I took the girls to the 2011 MSSD Gombak Netball Tournament last week and our Under-15 team got 4th place while the Under-18 team got into the octofinals (which is not bad considering there were 40 schools in all).

I had a great time with the girls. We had weekly practice from the beginning of the year and started our 2-week intensive, almost-daily training from Apr 4.

Training students on the field is totally different from teaching them in the classroom and I think I enjoy the former more.

I could see how the students directly benefit from participating in the training and the tournament.

Of course, they developed their hand-eye coordination, stamina, leg muscles and what-not.

But the far more valuable benefits that they've derived include the honing of their leadership skills and teamwork.

Research has shown that girls in a single-sex school are freer to be themselves. They do not need to play nor conform to the notion that girls have to be submissive. They have no reason to act coy and they are not overshadowed by male students when it comes to assuming leadership roles.

My netballers exhibit the same characteristics. They are not afraid to be themselves. They like to act all goofy and silly. And we had so much fun during practice.

I also discovered that girls make great leaders. Oftentimes, in our culture, we reserve the top posts for the male students. Thus, girls are not given the chance to shine. They do not want to make any initiatives because they are not in the position to do so or they are afraid of being labeled power-hungry or other equally unflattering labels.

But in a club that's exclusively female, you do not have that problem. I have a very reliable and dedicated captain in Mimi. She, Elia (the vice-captain) and the other committee members run the club so effectively:

They designed and ordered the jerseys to be worn during the MSSD tournament, they drew up game plans complete with diagrams to illustrate the plays, they organised a friendly with a nearby school and they trained their juniors whole-heartedly.

Besides that, the girls also have this camaraderie amongst themselves as a result of spending long hours together.

During the tournament, the U-18 team cheered from the sidelines when the U-15 team was playing and vice versa (if cheering was not producing the desired result, they turned to yelling).

They even went to the extent of spoon feeding their exhausted teammates! How's that for ukhuwwah? ;)

Although I was very tired playing the multiple roles of coach, manager, motivator, strategist, chauffeur, water girl and dietician,

and although I received many "Teacher, you look very tanned (read: dark)" comments after the netball season, I wouldn't mind doing it all over again next year because I know that the sacrifices will pay off.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Going Camping

Last weekend (Apr 8-10, 2011), I had to join my school's Kem Kepimpinan Pengawas. Below is what I had written when I was there.


9 April 2011
6.00 pm

The mood is light. Everyone seem relaxed. A group of boys are singing songs with one person strumming the guitar.

They were crooning popular songs like the evergreen 'Belaian Jiwa' and 'Kau Ilhamku', as well as more contemporary songs like 'I'm Yours' and 'Grenade'.

A bigger group of boys are playing rugby with the facilitators. They have a coconut husk for a ball. Earlier, I saw them playing 'baling selipar'.

Maghrib is roughly 1 hour away and for the first time since I came here, I'm enjoying myself.

Yesterday was a stressful and tiring day in which I was caught in the middle of an ugly dispute between an untrustworthy man and a hot-tempered one. Later that same day, I had to deal with a very irate parent.

The multiple crises made me want to pack up my things and leave the camp site immediately. I just hate confrontations and being in the thick of all the unpleasantness made me sad and angry.

Why oh why can't I spend my precious weekends in peace?

But being an adult means that I can't really call my mum/dad to come and fetch me, can I? (Although it's very tempting to do so)

I need to put up a brave and cheerful front to the kids and so that's what I did.

The kids are marvelous by the way. At first, I thought they were not the camping type.

When they got off the buses, I saw some students carrying strange items - things that aren't normally associated with camping like: a guitar, a stuff animal, a poncho and even a Louis Vuitton luggage!

Some people just have way too much money if you asked me...

But they proved me wrong. The kids rose to the occasion pretty well. They behaved themselves even though they were bored during some of the talks.

Further, when food ran out, they waited patiently (for roughly half an hour) for it to be replenished.

And at noon today, they scoured the length and breadth of the camping site for the fluorescent stickers the facilitators had hidden earlier. I could see that they were tired but they still performed the task energetically.

And later, when asked to get the facilitators' signatures, they sang, recited Rukun Negara, performed silat, dance, etc with much enthusiasm.

Nobody complained incessantly nor behaved like a spoilt brat throughout the camp. At least not that I noticed.

I didn't like the camp. Once I get home this Sunday, I'll breathe a huge sigh of relief and celebrate my return to civilisation.

Nevertheless, I'm glad that I came and stayed.

I got to know the students that I teach a little bit better and meet the acquaintances of those that I don't.

We got to pray, talk, laugh and go jungle-trekking together as well as share food and mosquito-repellent patches.

The kids impressed me by staying positive even when the situation is less than ideal.

This is one of the instances when you learn more from your students than they do from you.


Pictures from the camping trip (courtesy of Wee Na):