Saturday, April 14, 2018

Embracing Courage

As of writing, I am sitting in a small food court in Perth’s Terminal 4. In a few hours, I am heading back to Singapore and I have a lot of time to spare to reflect back on this adventure that has been my 14 days in Perth.

I booked a ticket to Perth spontaneously a few months ago. It was pretty random and I regret the decision almost immediately. Perth was never a place I thought I would ever visit. You can ask everyone who knows me and they could name a couple of cities they could identify me with and Perth was definitely not one of them. But anyway, fast forward to Good Friday and I was on a plane on my way to Western Australia. For the next two weeks, I found myself experiencing things I never ever imagine I would choose or do in this lifetime.

In the PYP, as teachers, we always encourage and advocate for our children to take courage and be risk-takers. It is one of the Learner Profile Attributes, which are learning dispositions that fosters inquiry and develop natural curiosity. We cultivate this lifelong skill in learners to innovate and approach uncertain situations with courage. Ultimately, we want our students to move out of their comfort zone and challenge themselves.

The truth is: we tend to use these words casually and patronizingly. I know I am definitely guilty of that. I know I can inspire my class of 3 year olds to have courage as a teacher. But as an individual, I know I have a lot of fears that hinder me from trying new things. Perhaps it is my upbringing or my personality (or even both) but I have always been a cautious person. So how do I instill the value of courage into my students if I, myself, do not possess it?

Three days ago, I was tricked by my friend into doing a tree-top adventure obstacle course in the middle of nowhere. Tricked because I was shown only a photo of people crossing a harmless bridge from one tree to another and was not told that the whole thing was actually an obstacle course that resembles the challenges you’d see in American Ninja Warrior or Wipeout. The next thing I know, I was on top of a tree with nowhere to go but the next tree 10 feet away.

So I jump. I take a leap of faith and I trust whatever there is left to trust. Actually, I jump because there literally was nowhere else to go. The next thing I know, I find myself swinging and basking in the fresh Aussie air, and watching the sunset mid-air. As I descend to the ground and swing from point A to B, perhaps it was life flashing before my eyes but it made me think about what courage or being a risk-taker really means. Does it mean that I have become fearless for having accomplished the jump? Not really, I still fear a lot of things and I am not an adventure-seeker. But it made me realize that every now and then, it is okay to move away from our comfort zones. It's okay to push our personal boundaries and see the world beyond our bubble. And as an educator, having stepped out of my own safe space inspires me to push my children to step out of theirs, too. Fear is not a bad thing, either. As both fear and courage allow us to see things in different perspective, it's the balance of the two that is important.

For the first few jumps, my legs wobble in fear of the unknown but they eventually stop most likely either because I got used to it or my legs have become so numb with the tight harness around my body. I manage to complete three courses. They weren't the hardest (by professional standards) but they weren't easy either. At one point, I was separated from my crew because they wanted to do a harder course and I opted for an "easier" one. (No, it was not easy at all.)

Perth—well, actually, Australia, in general—has pushed me out of my comfort zone in so many ways. In Perth, I have embraced more nature than I could ever imagine. I have climbed so many treacherous rocks and battled sea winds. I have inhaled so much sand and dust. I have gone 62 feet underground in dark, slippery caves. And I have flown from one tree to another way too many times to count now.

Two years ago, I booked my first solo flight to Sydney. Sure, I have traveled alone before but they were just short flights in between Manila and Singapore, and they're practically considered home. That flight to Sydney was the very first time I went on a holiday by myself. So Australia, in general, has made me a courageous person. I have managed to face many of my fears and do the things I probably never would have done ever.

I am coming back to Singapore with sore muscles, bruises here and there, rope burns and lots of new freckles but I am glad I took this trip and take back any regrets or reservations at the beginning. I am proud of the adventure I had and I am excited to go back to work, tell my 3 year olds all about my experience and hear theirs. But most of all, I am coming back to Singapore with this brand new courage within me and a better sense of who I am as an educator.

Entry first published on LinkedIn