In Project WHEE!, besides training and equipping the Bario women with skills and knowledge for ecotourism activities, we the volunteers also teach in SK and SMK Bario after school. We organize activities there to brush up the students’ English and hopefully, inspire them.
When Batch 5 was told by Daniel and Rhon, our project coordinators about this task, I was worried. How exactly will I be an inspiration to these students, when in reality, I’m not exactly the most inspirational person around?
SK sessions went well for me and my partner, Abang KK. We were tasked with the Standard 6 class. The students were absolutely adorable. They greeted us very formally (Goooood eeevehneeng aahbaang KK aand kaakak Gaaneet) every time we entered the class. They listened to everything we said in class, and cooperated with us for all the activities. Needless to say, we adored them to bits.
|After a session in SK
SMK on the other hand, was a real challenge, for me at least. In SMK, I was tasked with Form 1B. The difference between the SMK and SK students were, even though the SMK students cooperated with me in our session, I could clearly see that they weren’t as enthusiastic as the SK students. Their faces showed what they really thought about my session – boring, not exactly helpful, uninteresting.
After my first session with SMK, I went back to the homestay feeling dispirited. I thought I had failed to be an inspiration for the students.
That night during debrief, I shared my disheartening experience with the rest of the batch and wallowed in misery. I was upset for not being able to live up to the expectations I had set for myself. However, Rhon said something that made me look at the entire situation differently.
”You may not think that you have been an inspiration to them, but just seeing Project WHEE! around in school is already an inspiration for the students. They don’t see many outsiders in school most of the time, and you don’t know this, but they are very excited to see us whenever we come to Bario. Just because you don’t feel like an inspiration does not mean you don’t leave an impact on them. You may not have inspired them to learn English, but you have inspired them on something else.”
For me, what she said rang a bell. In my life, there have been many events that inspired me to do something that was not the original objective or goal of that event. One example would be a contest I participated back in secondary school. My team was the First Runner Up for this national level contest. It was about producing a professional magazine. Winning that spot did not inspire me to become a journalist, nor did it inspire me to pick up graphic designing. Instead, it inspired me to believe in myself – believe that I have the potential to achieve amazing things in life. I trust that the organizers of that contest had no clue or foresight that they would motivate a participant to be more confident in herself, and yet they did.
”We never know which lives we influence, or when, or why.” – Stephen King, 11/22/63
My experience with the SMK students did not inspire me to become a teacher, but it did inspire me to understand the way teenagers think and learn. I sincerely hope that my session with the SMK students did spark some sort of inspiration in them, and I hope this story has inspired you with something! 🙂