The Lesson of the Fortunate and the Handicapped
By Raee Yeoh, 2015 Fellow
The film ‘Train to Busan’ inspired me to conduct this activity, and it was also 2014 Alumnus, Anders Cheng’s idea for the English camp in our school.
In today’s Civic Education (Pendidikan Sivik) class, I brought 35 students to our school hall for a physically-challenging activity.
*** The Rules ***
1. The concept is the same as the game ‘The Floor is Lava‘ – no feet can touch the ground at all.
2. The class is split into 6 teams, each team has 5 members. Girls teams get 4 chairs while boys teams get 3. Students have to cross 50 meters of ‘hot lava’ to reach their destination.
3. Whoever falls into the ‘lava’ will be dragged 3 meters away from the team, and the team has to make a detour to save their fallen comrade.
4. I placed some ‘free’ chairs in the middle of the ‘lava’ which any team may take. The fastest team may grab as many as they want.
5. Lastly, the objective of the activity is emphasised: First, everyone has to survive. Second, you have 8 minutes to reach your destination.
Everyone was very competitive and tried their best to win the race in 8 minutes. The following are the outcomes and the debrief we had after the race:
#1: Boys Team A (Finished in 4:19)
Even though they were handicapped (had only 3 chairs); they were physically fit and moved quickly, and was the first team to reach the destination.
Debrief: Even with disadvantages, some people turn out to be dark horses. They might have started off lacking resources, but because of the effort they put in, they achieve their goals faster than others. Also, their journey of survival isn’t necessarily easy, despite being the fastest.
#2 Girls Team D (3 members finished in 7:55, with 2 members left behind)
They weren’t agile enough to move among their friends while balancing on the chairs, thus some of their comrades fell into the ‘lava’. Their comrades were dragged 3 meters away and they were already exhausted. In the end, they decided to leave their fallen comrades because “it was faster without them”.
Debrief: 2 members had to be sacrificed in order to fulfill the team’s goal. It was human nature to leave their ‘burden’ behind to reach their goal in the short time frame.
#3 Boys Team F (Unfinished)
This group of boys started slowly and kept falling into the ‘lava’ as a team. They were suspended for 1 minute as a consequence of drowning in the ‘lava’. They were demotivated as the ‘free’ chairs were grabbed by all the other groups, and Team C needed more than 10 minutes to reach the destination anyways. At the end of 8 minutes, they only managed to complete 40% of their journey.
Debrief: Life won’t treat you fair and square, the hierarchy of social status is never fair. Whining over the inequity won’t and can never change anything. If you are expecting other teams to help you achieve your goal, chances are none of them will help you as they were fighting hard for their own survival.
“Well, so now what do you think? Who is the winner of today’s activity?”
“Teams A, B and C, Cikgu. Yeah, we know that cooperation is the key to success.” They genuinely thought they were learning Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest for this activity.
“Do any of you remember the objective I emphasised earlier? Everyone has to survive. EVERYONE HAS TO SURVIVE. Now tell me again, did any of you achieve our objective? Did any of you win it all?”
Dead silence. Team A was no longer proud.
“We have another 10 minutes before our class ends. Wanna give yourselves a second chance?”
All of them decided to travel together and move in a long 30-person line. It wasn’t easy but everybody was so united in achieving the goal.
This is a Form 1 class, and gender segregation is still happening at their age, boys and girls just don’t like each other; but this was the very first time I witnessed the whole class cheering and voluntarily helping each other – watch the video!
Though they spent 8:16 completing the journey (no 7:59 cinematic ending >n< ), they completed the journey as a class: the strong ones and the weak ones completed the journey together!
Today our class learned to move together as a whole class and the joy of accomplishing something together. Dear Malaysians, will we have each other’s backs during a zombie apocalypse? Will we forget about our gender, social status, race and differences; and focus on the shared goal instead? Will we – the “grown ups” – ever feel the joy of accomplishing the goals together – not just within our small groups, but as a whole nation – as these 13-year-olds felt today?
P/S 5 students acted as my helpers and weren’t involved in the game, so you might see them walking on ‘lava’ in the videos or photos
Raee Yeoh joined the Teach For Malaysia Fellowship in 2015 and teaches in a high-need school in Miri, Sarawak. He graduated with a Bachelor of Economics from Universiti Malaya.