on Friday, 29 January 2010
Following up the superhero theme of the week, I told my students about real super-heroes. They don't wear capes, they don't have web-slinging capabilities, they don't turn green when they're angry and they have no intergalactic surfboard powers. They are your everyday heroes. People around you who do almost everything for you. No powers, no strings attached, no prawn behind the stone. Genuine hearts trying to make the world a better place. (Form 5 text book topic - Everyday Heroes. Yeah, I use them. Big deal. I took Materials Development and Adaptation in UPSI. I am a professional in wielding outdated textbooks with added interesting twists. Bite me)

These guys are the real deal. Completely vulnerable yet venerable. They live through everyday doing the most difficult things you never thought was humanly possible. Single moms juggling 3 jobs with 3 kids going to different schools and trying her best to get tuition classes for her children. Tired dad, working day AND night shifts, coming home late in the evening, and still allocating time to sit down with his son to recite the Koranic texts.

Heroes like these are the real role-models of the society. I shared with them about my own hero as well. I told them about how my parents were from poverty-stricken families. Nearly stripped out from the right of fair education and how life was extremely difficult. Yet, they rose to the occasion and stepped out from that vicious cycle of life and went all the way to become teachers. My comfortable life is their doing. I will never take them for granted and will NEVER take for granted the comfort that I've enjoyed underneath their protective wings - my heroes.

So students too have to share their stories in return. Inspired by my own version of a hero, they too wanted to tell their tale. Sitting down, writing down their names and what their heroes did which was heroic to them. It was very engaging. They were weak in English and therefore always had to inquire translations, meaning, sentence construction, and sometimes not even knowing certain terms in their mother tongue. Having said that, all of them were very into telling the teacher (and in the end, the class) about their champions.

Production time! As usual, I call up volunteers to tell the class about their hero. One by one, students pop up their hands like groundhogs and scurry to the front to present them. Of course, being diligent enough, I had to summon out those I thought were trying NOT to share it. Some needed a little bit more encouragement, and sometimes, I had to literally pull them to the front. They think they can get away with NOT speaking in front of the class??!! Puh-lease... they know, my radar is always up for those passive flower-pots.

I prompted a kid to share out her story. She wasn't at all a passive student but somehow remained very quiet during this production process. Surprised, I called out her name and told her that her story should be shared. Being the brave and outspoken girl I knew she was, she nodded her head and went to the front.

Here's her story (unedited),

"My heroes are my late sister and my late grandmother... Their occupation is housewife. They are a take care of me since I was a child. Their life is difficult but always... share with me and learning together when I do homework ... Their caring for me all the time... I love them very much.. I miss them very much..."

She turned her head behind, covered her face with her book. Slowly walked back to her seat and hugged her friend beside her. Her friend immediately hugged her and signaled the OK sign to me as I was still caught up in the middle of her presentation. I was still floating amidst the honesty of her words and her guts. It was downright gutsy of her - sharing such an intimate story with all of her friends. Not to mention, sharing it with a teacher she barely knows for a month.

In response, I went up in front (I was sitting at the back. As usual, my position in front of the class is always given to those brave enough to speak up) to address the now restless classroom. This is what I had to say (edited and removed at least 30% of Bahasa Melayu):

"Obviously, all of us now know that our heroes are important to us. Unlike the previous lesson where we were happy and excited when we talked about Spiderman or Cicakman, today is the day where we find a deeper meaning in the word 'hero'. A hero is someone who you respect and love. A hero doesn't just influence you to change but most of the time, you immediately become a better person because of your hero. Sometimes, you don't realise how they have helped you or how much they have sacrificed just so you can get what you want. For some of us, we may realise it a little too late but it is OK. More importantly, we do not disappoint them and still go on striving for the best even in their absence. Do not take for granted about this concept of hero. It is they who make our world a better place."

To my wonderful students,

Thank you for sharing your stories with me.


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