Roy’s MyHarapan Journey
“I learned a lot from this journey. I learned to never give up. Though there were many challenges and unexpected events, I learned to thrive together with my students.”
Earlier this April, I came across the MyHarapan Social Project Challenge through Alina Amir’s (a 2013 Alumna) post on Facebook. It caught my attention, for 2 simple reasons:
1) The students in my school were passive in both learning and participating in group activities. Their responses were always negative and they hoped that someone else would do the work for them instead. In light of this, I’d been wanting to run a project-based learning initiative in my school so students could become active participators during lessons.
2) I wanted to channel my energy to do something really fun in the midst of all the challenges I was facing earlier this year.
We took approximately two months to complete the project, from recruiting team members to finalising the proposal. I started recruiting students from the Student Leader Board (SLB), which corresponds to the Johor Student Leaders Council 2016. In the earlier stages, I was uncertain of their ability to commit and deal with additional stress from the project because prior to this, there was no history of lower form students from our school taking part in a social project like this. However, one of the students (who eventually became the project manager) showed great interest in it.
During the first meeting, I introduced them to the Design For Change (DFC) leadership framework to initiate a project in the school. They watched a video of how a group of twelve-year-old children carried out their project in primary school and it captured their interest. They began to conduct a survey to find issues faced by the students in our school.
As the advisor for this project, I acted merely as a facilitator to guide their thought process and decision making. They were given the autonomy to select their own topic rather than having a topic chosen for them. To cut the story short, they managed to determine an issue: the low pass rate for Mathematics. I was happy that they came up with the idea to run surveys by themselves.
The passing rate for Mathematics in our school is 50% – one out of two students failed. To overcome this challenge, my students thought of 2 possible solutions; 1) A mentor-mentee program and 2) A Mathematics theme park. However, this process was not without challenges, such as last minute withdrawals, getting permission to skip Diploma Pendidikan Lepasan Ijazah classes (DPLI), late night emergencies.
Two students withdrew themselves two days before the bootcamp. The other team members could not replace them because they were working that weekend.
I panicked! The date was nearing and it was difficult to find students in the midst of mid-term week. With God’s grace just one day before the bootcamp, we managed to recruit two candidates.
Skipping my DPLI class was one of my biggest challenges on this journey. I had to contact my lecturers (on very short notice) to allow me to skip a few classes for the competition. I understand that not all lecturers like this, but I didn’t have control over the notice period. I attended one day of DPLI on Friday and later traveled to Cyberjaya right after my 5pm class.
The night before the presentation, one of my main presenters (two were required to present instead of four) physically hurt himself during one of the activities. The new presenter was very nervous about doing it on such short notice. I just told him that we came here to learn from the experience and enjoy the journey, not to win.
Surprisingly, they both presented really well and the judges were impressed by them! Students were amazed by the outcome. They made the announcement and we were shortlisted as one of the top five groups to run the project, with RM500 from MyHarapan! We felt like the underdog because we were the youngest group among other schools.
I learned a lot from this journey. I learned to never give up. Though there were many challenges and unexpected events, I learned to thrive together with my students. In the midst of the exam, they were willing to sacrifice their time, burning the midnight oil to complete the presentation slides. I’m glad that they never complained about being tired or wanting to give up.
I learned to believe in the small things. Coming from a background of knowing nothing about the project to having a team that successfully created a proposal was an eye opening experience. Especially when I witnessed my quiet students presenting so well in front of the judges. We don’t need a lot to start something – we just need a little faith and courage to give it a try.
I learned that it’s’ important to collaborate with others. Without collaboration, I couldn’t continue this journey successfully, especially without my Leadership Development Officer (LDO), Jessica, who always encouraged and prayed for me to keep going, Thulasi and Shiva, the two other 2016 Fellows who backed this project, and the teachers in my school who gave their ideas and support to make it happen.
Loi Wei Yuan, also known as Roy, is a 2016 Fellow teaching in a school in Johor. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from HELP University.