Mar 1, 2014

School Pride

There it comes again with its occasional tide of gratitude: I feel so tremendously fortunate to have been a part of such fantastic schools, fantastic not because of their reputation but because of their culture. I know lots of schools that focus simply on blind memorising and drilling. I have friends who've always been in schools where they were bullied, felt out of place, or didn't feel like they could learn. I know of secondary schools where teachers refused to give extra lessons, where the quality of teachers was also incredibly low; where teachers didn't believe in their students; where girls offered finger f**ks and sold condoms; environments where self-harm was a thing, and lots of places where your relationship count mattered...

I feel so grateful for Jurong West Primary, Crescent Girls', ACJC and Yale-NUS, where both the teachers and the students always strove (and strive) to create a loving, nurturing environment, where my character and leadership development was shaped and refined; and, most of all, for the spirit of love that permeated each of those schools.

In JWPS, I was the only girl in my class who spoke English at home, and so my Chinese grade was the worst in the class. Our class would sit together at recess, and I remember once when I was walking up to the line of tables I saw my classmates speaking to one another in Chinese, but once I was there with them they automatically switched to English, even though they weren't speaking to me. At the age of eleven, such consideration.

And the teachers - Mdm Beena, who really treated us like young adults and went out of her way to talk about taboo things that were actually useful - things concerning pre-marital sex and relationships. Mdm Phua, whose house we still continue to visit during CNY, almost a decade on. Mrs May Foo, the one who called me her "little angel" because I helped her with marking during recess time. She recognised me at Starbucks too, 6 years later.

Crescent years, the years of puberty and hormones and all the girl drama. Despite what you can't help, I will always remember the days of lying on the ground with our shoes out and our skirts all over the place and our shorts exposed and just not caring. And crazy girls hiding in the toilet to scream their fangirl love over some TA guy as he walked by. I went back to Crescent to visit a couple years back, and as I sat on the seesaw two girls passed by, one crying and the other with her arm round her. And it reminded me of the days after my breakup in Sec 4, how Annie and Mingxuan skipped recess on separate occasions just to counsel me; I wasn't even particularly sad on those days, and I wasn't even close to them, but they just decided to show some care. Just so much love and selflessness and openness, and I can never repay it. In Crescent there was a reassurance in all the turbulence: my heart sings when you sing and cries when you cry. In Crescent, the teenage rebellious spirit translates into such unity and love, displayed in the crazy national day song-singing and the way we scream for our school.

The teachers in Crescent, too, were so focused, nurturing and dedicated. Through Mr Lee (hehehe), Ms Ho Liyi and Mrs Rupa in particular, I learnt that when a teacher is passionate about a subject, it rubs off on you, too. Mrs Rupa was the one who helped me discover a passion for writing. The first essay I wrote after my first breakup was the first time I realised that you could inject your true emotions into writing, that magical touch. She noticed my attempt to write from my heart, and praised it so publicly: not only did she make me read it out to the class, she also said that when she was reading it to one of the triple-science classes, she was "holding back tears". I really don't think it's that good at all, but that was my first attempt at creative writing, and I will remember her words forever.

And hohoho ACJC

Too many lovely pictures to choose from - from the fantastic Telunas resort retreat to the days we went absolutely insane in the Council room laughing at anything and everything, to our vuvuzela wars, to the amazing Orientation madness. What I love about the 35th Students' Council is our ability to find fun even in the most stressful of times. Cleaning out the mud pit after an exhausting day of Orientation? Throw our president in! I remember once during June Camp, in the midst of all the stress, a few of us sat on the couches and just broke into uncontrollable laughter for the longest time, just out of nowhere.

Thank you, ACJC, for really nurturing and developing me, and for adding on to what Crescent taught me about school pride. I came to ACJC with the goal of being super-involved in everything, and taking the initiative to make friends. OG Rep, Class Rep, Council and then the Exco, five CCAs - I succeeded in my goal, and the school let me. The school embraced my enthusiasm, despite my lack of prior experience, and I learnt along the way. I made all these stupid mistakes in Council, but Mr Fong was always patient and nurturing, never scolding me, never harping on the past but asking "So what can we do about it now?". I started with "nothing to offer but a heart so full and these empty hands", and ACJC injected my empty vessel with gushes and gushes of colour.


Being in charge of producing the school's first planner was one of the things I was most grateful for. It involved me sitting at the computer the entire holiday, but when I saw juniors holding the book, or when I saw ACJC stickers on the desks, I felt so proud. And now when I go back to ACJC and look at the painted bleachers, I think about that last-minute, hastily-submitted proposal by Annabelle and me, and I feel so proud, so glad. Oh and sports updates - sports updates :3 So my juniors say I "bounced" on stage a lot (probably because I was tiptoeing at the podium), and they couldn't really see my face anyway, but the weekly "GOOOOOD MORNING ACJC!!!!" was fantastic to be able to do, given my crazy enthusiasm. The year after, my PR Head junior told me that when Sports Updates resumed, people came early just to make sure they would catch it. People didn't want to be late on Sports Updates days. It made me so glad to be able to contribute to the AC spirit.
(No pictures of CCA Updates because it's basically just a podium and maybe a forehead)

ORIENTATION 2011 (credits: Lianne's Orientation 2011 albums) 

So yes, ACJC was pretty much the best two years of my life...until Yale-NUS came along. I won't elaborate on this because I keep talking about Yale-NUS's awesomeness already, but I must say that I wouldn't trade my Yale and Greece trips for the world. There's just something about travelling to the other side of the world with 155 classmates with such talent and such personality and such love, and while the Yale trip was all about the community spirit, I learnt so incredibly much in Greece. Being taken to all these majestic ruins, learning about the stories of these buildings, recognising the stark, in-your-face dichotomy between the past and present, and what they still hold on to.

Also, I don't realise it often, but Yale-NUS has shaped my thought so profoundly. Philosophy class, in particular, has opened my mind to so much, and I start questioning things in different ways, looking at things in such new light. Right now, I have kind of concluded that there's nothing we can be absolutely certain about; all we can do is live in our culture and our time, and accept it as that. But that makes you see things very differently, and when people ask questions about God and goodness and whatever, I feel very fortunate to be able to think about these things and come to resolutions, or reconciliations at least. And it's so important to think about these things; to think about why we are who we are, and why we stick to certain beliefs, or why we choose to do certain things. Questioning the things we hold on to, so that when we come back to them, we come back on much sturdier ground.

Anyway, I feel so fortunate to be able to say that a particular school was the best time of my life, until the next one came along. Not a lot of people have had the opportunity to be in such nurturing schools, places where both the students and teachers genuinely love you and want to build you up.

Happy Founder's Day! A few of us at Yale-NUS kicked it off by screaming the ACS Anthem out the window at at midnight, and we'll be Wearing Our ACS on Monday. But more than my AC pride, I carry with me the immense pride and love for all the schools I've been fortunate enough to be a part of. Thank you for making me the person I am today.

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