By MOHD KHALIS SUMARDI
Someone once said, “You only live once, so go figure!” and the words have been etched in my mind ever since.
I love cats. Having survived three major accidents, it helps me resonate with how cats have nine lives.
“For three he plays, for three he strays and for the last three he stays.” It feels like I have used up the first three of my ‘lucky’ lives.
There was a time when wanderlust tugged at my heart. But I didn’t know where to go, and the love of my career kept me rooted where I was.
My priority has always been my students; their welfare and happiness come first – so I guess I’ve bypassed “for three he strays” and have moved to “for the last three he stays”.
The gems of my heart
At this point, I just want to be there for my students, to help them look for every opportunity to live their life to the fullest.
Not everyone is bestowed with as much ‘luck’ as I have been.
I am a teacher and warden. I’ve seen my students struggle to learn English and my heart has been burdened over how to help them.
How can I change them? What can I do to provide the support they need?
Even those attempting to learn English get no support whatsoever. Those who try speaking the language are treated as if they’ve committed a serious crime.
In the classroom, they become the target of verbal shaming, subjected to name-calling and teasing until they give up trying.
Initiating a change
For a long time, I wished I had an easy solution for this challenge, but it’s rooted deep within the community.
There’s only one way to help them reach a breakthrough.
Find or create an English community where grammatical errors or mispronunciation are considered okay and nobody is judged for their shortcomings.
Essentially, they need a safe zone where they feel comfortable making mistakes.
I started making changes based on how I wanted to shape this “community”. I started to build a mini library that would provide students with simple, easy-to-understand English language books.
The primary criteria to engage their interest: the books would need to have a lot of pictures and fun activities in them.
Enter SPARK Camp
I received the answer to my prayers: someone introduced me to SPARK Leadership Programme.
I had no clue as to what it was and I didn’t know what to expect, but I wanted to give it a try.
It was amazing from the get-go. Not only we were accepted to go there but the sponsors also arranged for return flight tickets for my students – most of which got to experience air travel for the very first time!
I am so grateful for the sponsors for being instrumental in getting my students on the right track as they embarked on a journey to meet with the people who would see and accept them as they are.
It was the best thing to happen to my students.
The SPARK Leadership Programme did wonders for them. They came back as different kids: it was almost like a rebirth. A total transformation as they bloomed into the most incredible flowers.
Children who were once so afraid of uttering a single English word for fear of being judged and belittled, came back braver and more responsible.
The most important takeaway for them was their understanding that making mistakes is a part of learning and they should never be afraid of making some.
The journey continues
In the face of so many obstacles, a glimmer of hope was born.
I used to think about giving up on this little village and moving to the city in hopes of finding a better place to fulfil my dreams.
But, a wise friend of mine reminded me that greatness comes in different shapes and sizes. No matter where you go, you are capable of achieving greatness.
Often, the only thing that gets in the way is yourself.
Give it some thoughts while you continue to discover your life’s journey.
Mohd Khalis is a teacher and a cat lover. When he is not teaching, you might find him exploring the world and the seven seas in the hopes of finding the true meaning of happiness. To find out more about the SPARK Leadership Programme by Leaderonomics Youth, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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