Saturday, September 6

The Time Is Right For A Transfer

I applied for a transfer for the academic year beginning 2015.
I'm sorry to burst your bubble, everyone. I'm not going to spend my entire life in the jungle. Some of you may have only recently come to know of my work but I've actually been serving here for 6 years already. This year, I have found something that I can leave behind which will yield long-term benefits to the rural community. Knowing that, I believe that it is time for me to move on. I am hungry for a new challenge & desiring to make a bigger impact.

Let me make something clear. When I arrived 6 years ago in 2009, I made a conscious decision to root myself here for at least 4 years & work my butt off to see if I am worthy of being a teacher. I converted my bland government apartment into a swanky jungle bachelor pad (will take photos & show it off soon) as well as implemented various programmes & activities which promote the English language & develop the character of the students at my school.

I only applied for transfer after 4 years of full service in 2012. Again last year in my 5th year in 2013. And again this year in 2014.
During those 3 years, I only applied for transfer at the end of the year because I wanted to commit myself to developing my students & guiding them over the course of a full academic year. I also wanted to follow through all the programmes that I have planned for the year. (Teachers only get 2 windows to apply for a transfer: mid-year & end-of-year.)
Even though I would have had a better chance of getting a transfer if I applied in the middle of the year, I wanted to put my students & my school first.

I have seen too many teachers arrive at my school & immediately decide that they want to leave. They never bothered to enjoy the natural rainforest surrounding them, gotten to know the warm & unpretentious locals, or figure out what kind of legacy they wanted to leave behind. All they want is to leave & that's their main focus throughout their wasted years here. I have seen desperate teachers do all sorts of unethical things. Some of which I will never be able to publish in a public document.
Sadly, it is their loss. They missed the beauty & opportunities which were right under their noses. In the end, no matter how many years they've spent in the jungle, it was as if they have never arrived in the first place.

From the get go, I wanted something different. I came here with the intention of testing myself & a desire to make a difference. I believe that the greatest opportunity exists where the challenge is greatest. I also believe in rising to the level of any challenge & overcoming it.
My beliefs have proven true over the years. Having excelled here, I am primed to excel in any pursuit in life. I am ready & I am hungry. I am ambitious & there is so much more that I want to do which I cannot do in the jungle.

I am ever thankful to be blessed with this opportunity. If you ask me if I would do it again, I'd give you a hell yeah. Working in the jungle has given me so much. Most of the blessings I've received cannot be seen with the eye or valued with currently. It is imbued in my character & only understood by those with the softest eyes & biggest hearts.
To summarise: I entered the jungle as a boy. Soon, I shall emerge as a man hungry to make his mark in the world.

I bet you're asking: Where do I want to go? What do I want to do? What is this special thing that I am leaving behind?

This just about sums up where I want to go & what I hope to achieve.
I bet many of you must be thinking that, having done my time, I wanted to go to a top school & live out the rest of my career in relative comfort. I guess you don't know me as well as you think you do. I want the exact opposite.
Honestly, 72% of our students failed the University Cambridge Evaluation for English in SPM 2011. Why would I want to fight with the majority of teachers for a minority of students? I'd rather focus my time on the struggling majority & build tools to engage them for maximum impact in my state as well as the nation.

I'm a knight. I'm invigorated & inspired by a good fight. I want a dragon to slay. I want a challenge bigger than myself so that, through battle with a stronger foe, I may sweat, bleed & grow.
During the process, there will be fellow crusaders who will be inspired & join me in my fight. I do not promise victory. But, I'm promising a glorious battle, the satisfaction of doing something significant, &, at least, a romantic defeat.

I want to teach at the worst school in Kuching. This will be the ultimate next test for me. I have thrived as a teacher in the hinterlands. Will I be able to survive in an urban setting? Especially in a school which is feared by other teachers? I want to find out.
Honestly, I fear complacency more than I fear challenges. And the thought of banging into wall after wall & hitting ceiling after ceiling at a difficult school makes me salivate. I am ready. I will go. Even if I fail, I know I will never really fail.

I see myself as a knight.
Which brings me to the final question: What will I leave behind once I leave my jungle school?

God works in mysterious ways. I believe that He has kept me at my school because I have been unable to leave anything behind when I go. He has kept me in the jungle because He has been building me up in the past 5 years for this very year.
This year, He handed me a system which will continue to deliver sustainable value to the rural community long after I'm gone. Something which can grow exponentially & will be my legacy. Something that doesn't require me to be constantly present in the jungle.

This is where Adam Tolnay founder of Learning Enterprises comes into the picture. LE is an American NGO which specialises in global volunteer education programmes for developing nations. We were introduced by a mutual friend & I met him in the flesh to ascertain that he was not evil & his organisation is doing actual work. I found that LE volunteers do not have to pay to join the programme but they will be rigorously screened so that only the best candidates will work with my precious children.

In November 2014, together with Adam, Ray Tran & team, I will coordinate & run a 4-week pilot programme in the rural longhouses where volunteers teach children from ages 7-15 the English language through language arts, self-discovery & games. In exchange, the volunteers will be able to immerse themselves in a simple life completely free from the shackles of first-world problems. I will write more about this programme in an up & coming blog post.

This programme is something that I can leave behind & coordinate year-after-year from Kuching. This is something I want to do for the rural children in Katibas because they do not get any aid or attention from anyone else. They are forgotten & abandoned in the jungle while kids in the urban areas have access to all sorts of opportunities. They also often slip though the sieves of the education system & ending up being the urban poor or exploited unsophisticated rural folk.

This programme has also got great potential for scale. Once this pilot programme takes off, it will be refined, expanded into the greater Katibas region & then replicated in other parts of rural Sarawak.

Pray for me, my transfer application & my volunteer programme. I will need lots of it.
Thanks & good luck to you in your transfer application too!!!

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