(Written in April and posted now due to limited wifi and procrastination)
Kangpung life this month has been spent mostly outside of my kampung. Participating in CLICK Camp 6.0 in Kuantan, Pahang, regrouping in Kelantan for water break (check-in with ETAs in Terengganu and Kelantan), and travelling to Sarawak for a short trip made for a busy and adventure-filled month. There are so many highlights and reflections to share I don’t know where to begin!
CLICK Camp 6.0 is a social entrepreneurship competition for youths across Malaysia to create a business that can solve a problem in their schools or community.* The program did wonders for my kids and hit at the core of what the Malaysian education system lacks. My students learned invaluable skill sets (critical thinking, persuasive writing, organizing thoughts/ideas, public speaking, etc.) that I believe will benefit them more than simply getting an award in a competition. These are students who ask me if they can color their poster with a red marker. For me watching them grow as independent thinkers and taking ownership of their own work has been the biggest accomplishment. Likewise, attending the camp definitely boosted their self-esteem and changed their perception of who they were. One aspect about my school that has been bothering me is the culture of low expectations, complacency, and giving up. Repeatedly students will comment how as “Banggol students” they are not the smart or good students. When they lose a football match or a scrabble competition, students and teachers alike will say, “We lost to an elite school, it’s expected” or “I’m not surprised we lost, we’re Banggol.” No one expects students to try their best, let alone motivate them to strive for excellence. It was frustrating for me to see the debilitating effects of this mentality, especially taken aback how educators themselves put students down. During the camp, my students repeatedly tried to give up and was easily discouraged at every obstacle and setback. It was important to remind them that they could do it and they were smart enough and capable just as they were. I remember telling my students that none of the school participating in the Pahang camp were from elite schools and most came from rural schools just like them. This revelation was mind blowing for them. To know that they were just as valued as students from elite schools and were given a special opportunity became a turning point for them. I hope this experience becomes a catalyst that can change the culture at school to instead empower students. It wasn’t just inspiring for me but clarified my role at the school. I make a bigger and more meaningful impact empowering them through positive reinforcement than simply teaching English in the classroom. Students remember by compliments better than the vocabulary I teach!
* For more information on CLICK Camp visit their website: theleadinstitute.org
By the way, we won the “Most Creative Project” award at the regional camp for our project to combat bullying at school by creating a business club for bullies so that they become integral members of the student body. Check out the pictures below.