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How a lesson on lighting a matchstick with a magnifying glass turned into a lesson on Life

By September 7, 2016No Comments

“Life won’t be the same for everyone. You have to run your own race.”


A few weeks ago, I was teaching my Form 1 students about heat and we were doing an activity to observe how a magnifying glass can focus energy onto a matchstick.

They were divided into small groups of 4 to 5 students. Some groups were so excited to see their matches catch fire. Some of the groups, on the other hand, couldn’t get their matchsticks to light up.

It was a hot and sunny afternoon and we were sweating under the unforgiving heat. My young scientists did not want to concede defeat and they certainly weren’t going to let a bit of heat get in the way. They held on to their magnifying glasses steadily and focused their energy and the sun’s energy into lighting their matches.

A while later, we went back to class and did a short reflection to wrap up the lesson. I asked my students how they felt when their matches lit up, and they said they felt happy because they accomplished something.

I then asked the group that struggled to light their match what they thought the problem was and they theorised that their matchstick was old and couldn’t be lit up. I asked if they felt upset about it and they said yes.

I then told my kids that lighting a matchstick using a magnifying glass is a lot like Life. Sometimes you put in so much effort, time and sweat into chasing your dreams relentlessly, but in the end you don’t succeed. I likened this to the group that couldn’t light their matchstick.

Some people on the other hand achieve success easier than others and it can seem like Life seems to favour them more. This was the case for the groups that got their matches to light up easily.

I looked into their eyes to see if they understood me before continuing. “You may forget this lesson as you get older but I do hope that you will remember that Life won’t be the same for everyone. You have to run your own race. What’s important is the grit to keep going when nothing seems to be in your favour, resilience to bounce back from every failure, and the guts and passion to pursue what will light a fire in your own heart.”

Dinesh Kumaar is a second-year Science & Biology teacher in a high-need boarding school in Subis, Sarawak. He graduated with a Bachelor of Finance from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak.

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