Sunday, June 19, 2011

'Unity in Diversity' - The Story Retold

         Ever since I attended a workshop conducted by the Sector for Humanity Development on English language co-academic activities in 2009, I have been particularly enthusiastic in these kinds of activities. Don't get me wrong, I still love classroom teaching. But co-academic activities, especially English co-academic activities, have a special place in my heart. I think this can be attributed to the fact that I myself had been an active participant of English co-academic activities during my school years. I have put down my sentiments on co-academic activities in my writing on that matter (read here).
      Therefore, whenever I have the opportunity to get my pupils to participate in these activities, either voluntarily or involuntarily (when being 'hand-picked' randomly by the co-academic unit), I seldom refuse. I would really love to give my pupils the similar kinds of experiences: the 'euphoric sensation' that often comes after winning, the new-found motivation to do better after losing, and most importantly the learning process experienced throughout the preparation stage - the practice, the rehearsals, the seemingly endless 'soul-searching' process. The activities manage to bring out the best in a pupil, and give him or her the confidence, the motivation and the healthy competitiveness that I believe would last through a lifetime.
     This year, my school has been selected (or 'hand-picked') by the co-academic unit of our District Education Office as the participant for Action Song. Though I did express some reservations and concerns, deep inside my heart I was actually looking forward to the challenge. Our English Panel, with the help of several other teachers from other panels had worked hard to get our pupils ready for the competition.
     As time went by, the supposed date for the Zone level competition was getting nearer. Yet, still no news from the supposed organising district. I made calls, sent text messages, but the only answer I received was: Just wait. We will inform you when we are ready. This dragged on for weeks on end, and we were getting restless and impatient. Our pupils were getting restless and impatient. The parents were getting restless and impatient.
     To cut a long story short: there was no zone level competition. The date for state level competition at Keningau came and went, and the South-East Zone did not send any representative. My pupils were wondering: Teacher, are we going? When? We are ready to go!
     I begged and plead. I begged and plead that there would be a competition. Never mind the state level, we never had any intention to go anyway. I just want my pupils to be given the opportunity that they deserve. The opportunity to compete. The opportunity to learn.
     Fortunately, Lahad Datu district had become the 'angel of light' that had saved us. When I announced to the pupils that we would be going to Lahad Datu for the competition, there was a jubilant cry. There was joy in their faces. To me, that was all that matters. No matter what, I knew in my heart that we had already won. My kampung pupils could finally go to Lahad Datu and compete in the Zone-Level Action Song competition. Thank you, God! And thank you, Lahad Datu, for making it happened.
     Here is the rest of the story:

My colleageue, Puan Norainah Arif and the pupils a few days before the competition. We were doing the final costume fitting. Due to budget constraint, my colleagues and I had to use our creativity and imagination to put together the bits and pieces that we had.

The props. Due to limited budget, we had to make do with what we had. Including what we managed to find and beg and steal from the storeroom and toilet, on the streets, in the drain and from the garbage bins. Hehe. (Kidding. But the toilet and storeroom part is true. It is a new toilet being converted into a storeroom. Hehe). ;-)
Practice session. We don't have a hall, so the students had to practise the moves on the rocky ground.

They had to kneel on the rocks. Ouch.
Cik Zuhaila Zakaria, the sweet choreographer trying to make a 'stern' face. Ahem!
The Year 1 students, mimicking the moves. (By this time, they already knew every move by heart!)
The adoring spectators.
The cute little Year 1 students mimicking their seniors from behind.
Competition Day. Ready to depart to Lahad Datu. Yeay!
Cik Hafsah went straight to work with the make-up immediately upon arrival to SJK (C) Siew Ching.
Puan Sabturiah Abbas, the head of the make-up artist. I am so thankful that she was around. I wouldn't know what to do. Hehe.
Puan Norainah Arif and Puan Hayati Saida, busy with the hair-do.

The result after the touch-up. Tada!
The ever serious Puspa. We have been trying to get her to put on a more cheerful face for weeks. This was the best that she could come up with.
My pupils, getting ready to go up the stage.
The performance: 'Unity in Diversity'

Yes, we won!

     It was unexpected, but we managed to beat Lahad Datu, the only other participating team. We expected to go back to Kunak with the second place trophy, and we were more than happy if that did happen. But it did not.
    First place? That was like the wildest dream came true! Hahaha!(Tawau did not participate, that's why. Hehe). 

    In our opinion, this called for a celebration. We dragged the pupils to Kentucky Fried Chicken right after the competition ended.

     Frankly, I must confess that this was my first experience chaperoning and managing Level 1 pupils for activities outside the district. And this was 16 kids we are talking about! Oh my. My colleague, Puan Norainah Arif was forced to lead them out and back to the bus when a cup of Pepsi spilt and a bottle of tomato ketchup fell to the floor and broke into pieces. My, my.

     After everyone was filled up with Kentucky Fried Chicken (burp!), we decided that it was time to go home.

On the way back to Kunak. The kids sang all the way during the almost two-hour journey. I guess many of them were not used to such long journey. I was being asked the same question over and over, every 15 minutes. "Teacher, are we there yet?" "Not yet. Sit down." "Teacher, are we there yet?" "We're close." "Teacher, are we there yet?" Glare. "Teacher, are we there yet?" Wargh!!!!
Hmmm, she had been drinking way too much Pepsi. She asked whether we could stop the bus every twenty minutes, because she desperately wanted to pee. Oh my.
The most behaving girl. She slept all the way on the bus.

     It all happened almost a month ago, and today I decided to record it here. Someday, I may want to look back at this moment and see how far I have come. Hopefully.

     We missed the State level, but it was okay. Perhaps next year? (Fingers crossed, fingers crossed). Hehe.

     The theme of the Action Song was Unity in Diversity. But for us, it was Unity in Adversity, too. ;-)

     I could never wish for better team members.

     Thank you all! ;-)


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