Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Pains and Gains of Opportunities

It all happened really fast, within a span of two days.

The 9-year-old was supposed to have only a rather light schedule this year, requiring him to stay in school till 4.30pm just twice a week. Once for a school-based enrichment programme specially planned for the top class of the cohort and another day for his CCA. 

But that was not the case.

Sometime last month, I came to know of an opportunity for him to be part of a new team that will participate, for the first time in school's history, in not just one, but TWO creative challenge competitions that focus on honing 21st century skills. Both competitions are part of two separate international education programmes that provide creative problem-solving opportunities and teams from all over the world will compete by presenting their "problems" and creative solutions through a performance, that is complete with props, scripts and involvement from the entire team of seven members. The team will also be tested in a spontaneous challenge segment which requires them to problem-solve creatively on-the-spot. 

I have been interested in these programmes since M was in Primary One, but we missed the deadline in 2011 due to my ignorance. In the next two years, I was not able to commit either, having to cope with a newborn in 2012 and my own classes in 2013.

When I saw the email last Sept asking for students interested to compete in 2014 to go for auditions, I did not even mention to M as I figured it would require too much commitment, something which not every upper primary child can afford. Despite my confidence that he would ace his academic work, I was not sure if I wanted to put him through this and sacrificing his recreation time in turn.

But when I learnt last month that his teacher was looking to form a new team from this top class for this year's competitions, I reassessed the situation. The deadline was long over (sometime in 2013), so this chance to be part of the very last team for 2014 with all team mates from the same class just seemed like a too-good-to-be-ignored opportunity. I knew instinctively that I should not squander it without a careful thought.  

After a quick chat with the teacher for the assurance that the National and Global competitions will not clash with SA1 (school examination) dates and that all meetings will cease for a week prior to exams to allow for revisions, the ball was in our court.

E was not in favour at all and made it clear that I would have to be the primary parent involved if we were to proceed. After a night of pondering if I would be biting more than I could chew, I decided the learning opportunities and possibilities for M would be too great to ignore. These programmes are not part of the school academic curriculum, but it is certainly a precious opportunity for holistic education, with the aim to hone creative thinking, critical thinking, problem-solving, team-building, presentation and public speaking skills, etc...

Granted, not only would M have to give up recreation time and put in effort, I probably would have to support him in many more ways than I could possibly fathom. It would be a real stretch of my time. But I figured that if many parents survived that (though they probably also have had an entire village's help to raise just one or two kids, whereas I am doing this mainly solo), then I will too, with some of my will of steel. As for M, a tight schedule may be punishing but it will also teach him time management and push him to be more efficient. Again, a small price to pay for the possible benefits. After all, he has no tuition classes to attend and no other enrichment classes besides his two hours/week of Taekwondo. 

Ironically, M's reaction was lukewarm at first. He did not like competitions anymore, especially one that would require him to perform in front of an audience. He had been in his comfort zone for too long and we had done little in recent years to challenge him. It took some persuasion to convince him to give this his best shot, despite his initial hesitation. I honestly think this is another case of Mummy Knows Best. He doesn't know what he is missing out, but I am convinced that once he is in, he will relish the experience and even thrive.

The next day, he was part of the new team.

With only six weeks to prepare for the school's viewing and under three months to the Nationals, the team is truly stretched and challenged in every way imaginable. The boys are staying back after school for discussions and have also started to meet during recess and weekends. This team has an edge though; their team coach is their form teacher who is also teaching the class many other subjects and with all team members from the same class, they have the flexibility to meet/discuss during school hours to make up for the late start. Hopefully by the end of this weekend, they would catch up with the other teams in school (and nation-wide), which were formed since last Sept, in terms of progress.

The CA1 (school tests) are coming in a week's time. Immediately after that, the boys are expected to be staying back daily and working throughout the one week March school holidays. We can expect all weekends to be tied up with the preparations and rehearsals till the National for the first competition in end March.

So far, M has not exhibited any form of stress by the increased activities, and is visibly excited about his contribution and involvement. We are hearing feedback from fellow parents who are volunteering and supporting with the team coaching, of how creative he is and his ability to think out of the box during the spontaneous problem-solving sessions. I sat in for one session last Saturday and witnessed my little boy at work. Let's just say he made me proud. :>

I am also looking for teachable moments to show him how he could showcase his strengths to support the team and areas where he could hone his skills. It is an extremely steep learning curve, but that is another factor that makes this learning journey so valuable. If the team wins at the Nationals, they will go to the Global competitions in May, which means I will have to follow him to the States, leaving the other two kids behind. Umm... that will present a different challenge at home but we will figure out if and when that happens. Even if they don't, I am sure he would look back in future and count this experience as one of his most memorable.

So far, it is still very manageable for me. Including CCA days for both boys (which now fall on different days) I now walk to school five out of six days with the two kids in tow, to collect the other boy. The 20 minutes walk each way can be hot and bothersome at times, and a rather bumpy one too with the rough terrain in parts, but it should do my waistline some good. Hah!

Now, I am just bracing myself for the tough but exciting time ahead. It will be a gruelling two months. But I know we will emerge stronger and wiser, with tons more experience to share.

1 comment:

Heather said...

Hi there! I'm Heather and I was hoping you would be able to answer a question about your blog! If you could email me at Lifesabanquet1(at)gmail(dot)com I would greatly appreciate it!


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