A nice surprise! When your attitudes count…

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It was a last minute arrangement. The peak period for STA Travel was around the corner again and Eileen sms-ed to ask if I can help lead this trip. “Well….I’ve training on every Saturday and if you can find a trip in between Saturdays, I am fine to help.”

“Well”, she sms-ed almost immediately back. “Can. HK trip. 27th May to 31st May.”

After my YTF training on Saturday, the little bag was packed and it was off to HK and Shenzhen an early Sunday morning.

I was glad I went.

Since the first time I was asked to help lead a trip to Silicon Valley way back in 2008, I have learnt much about overseas learning journeys. From creating and leading trips to top notch companies like Google, Oracle and others in the SV belt, I have since gone to help lead trips for netball exchange in Perth,an art trip to Barcelona with a group of convent girls, and recently a community service in Kuching. Well these are just my educational trips. They do not include my trips where I help lead for World Vision 🙂

Yet, I never considered myself a tour guide. Just  an extremely “kay-poh” person (Singlish for curious). I like travelling and listening to stories. I like interacting with different groups of people. Different teachers. Different schools. Different values. Different cultures.

Learning about the different aspects of a country, experiencing how a “real” travel agent put together the different types of itinerary, plus of course, just kopitiam talk with the tour leaders and hearing their side of the stories. It was all so interesting. A different angle from what I was used to experiencing as a teacher. To be honest, some trips I help lead just make me feel so lousy. There are days when I told Eileen, I don’t think I want to lead any more trips. Is it really worth my time and effort? Why are some teachers like that? Yes, the more you feel for the teaching profession, the more you feel sad…yet I am happy to say that not all teachers are “like that”. Even the “like that” teachers can be won over by patience, kind words and going the extra mile to make the trip successful and safe. Doing small things. I have seen it happen, again and again and again.

But oh, what a delightful surprise it was for me to lead this group of 3 young JC teachers and their students.

Leading this group of Innova JC teachers and students was a delightful experience since Day 1.

Winston Churchill once said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.

The lead teacher, Mr Chua YH impressed me with his willingness to take over the lead of the trip, even at a very short notice. One of this colleagues was unable to go and he was given only 18 hours to pack and go. Yes, the cynic in us may argue that it is only HK and Shenzhen; it is a short trip, lasting only 5 days. But from the very beginning at the airport, where we experienced the peak period; where we were guided by a very harassed SIA officer – he showed patience and graciousness:)

Despite the long wait just to check-in, he never once lose his cool.

Throughout the few days we were at HK and Shenzhen, he was able to listen actively to the tour guide, guide his students and fellow colleagues with just the right amount of flexibility and control. Some of the students were first timers. They have never flown before. During the trip, I saw them engaged in learning. Not through copying down and completing workbooks or worksheets – but through an invaluable tool – simply being there to observe. To listen to the local expert. To see and touch the exhibits. 

Have you gone on trips where the students just go to the place of interest and then took pix and fill in the blanks? The workbooks and worksheets need to be completed. Some have even questioned why the place is different from what they expect in their worksheets? hmmm…..

The teachers conducted a de-brief almost every night at the conference room at the hotel. At one of the evenings, he even arranged for a friend of his to come by to give a lecture to the students. It was learning on the go, without the hassle of too much paperwork. And after the de-brief, he went the extra mile to bring those who want to go along to eat “tong sui” – or the local dessert store.

Perhaps it is the combination of these 3 young teachers and their love for their job. Or it is just the nice students themselves. Plus they were JC students. Or the wonderful tour leader from Hong Kong, Martin “Ko-Ko” as he would like the students to call him. Each one of these groups of people played a role to making the trip enjoyable and successful.

There was never once any angry scolding, shouting and unkind words spoken during the duration. (at least not within the times I was with them..which was long hours, stretching into the night…of course, I did not join in their de-brief sessions at the conference room…so if any scoldings took place there…it is private as in a classroom, and rightly so:))

One of the young teacher, Mr Chong Xiang delighted the students by belting out a song during our journey at Shenzhen. It is moments like these that I believe students will remember.

The delightful Martin, took great pains to ensure that the students and teachers enjoyed themselves. Small treats and service beyond the normal. Requests made by some students were thought through and entertained if he could. Bearing in mind, safety and hygiene of the places….

– nice piping egg tarts to warm every one’s heart after a tiring journey to Shenzhen

– An unplanned visit to eat some local delights at Tsim Sha Tsui area. He felt that the hygiene was good and there were many local flavours for the students to try. Everyone had a delightful time trying the desserts, egg puffs, “cheong fan”, etc etc

– 2 halal meals, including one halal dim-sum for the only Muslim student at the trip.

And Martin never really ate at the meal times…he just wanted to make sure that the students and staff enjoyed their meals. In fact, one of the dinners he was doubling in pain and had to see a doctor, but he was back well within the time of the dinner.

The trip ended with a nice detour to take in the sights of the suspension bridge overlooking the Lantau island, enroute to the airport.

At the airport, one of the students complained to me that she did not have enough time to shop. She changed so much HK$ and yet she cannot spend them all. I was quite taken aback. Really. If she had known that other trips I had gone with other schools…she may not complain so much. Sigh. I just told her that I will let her lead teacher Mr Chua knows. He will be the best person to talk to her. Mr Chua noted and told me he would handle it.

It was a smooth ride and we reached Changi Airport. Yes, I am always happy to touch down, no matter how nice the country I visited had been. Home is home 🙂

When I saw her again at the baggage counter, the students were all helping to take down the luggage of all those tagged with STA Travel. Many had left and thanked the teachers for the trip.

I went up to her and asked, “Are you okay? Did Mr Chua spoke to you?”

And, to my nice surprise, she replied “Yes, I am. I have thought through and I am fine.” Wow. Wow. Wow.

Yes we can get peeved, we can get upset but we get over it. I was impressed. She has learnt to manage her negative emotions! For many many adults, myself included, we sometimes do not manage our negative emotions well. (See my other blogpost on Discernment and Wisdom: when to do what…)

As for the three young teachers, Mr Chua, Tong Ying and Chong Xiang: All the very best to your careers. May you always remain as devoted and dedicated to the teaching profession:)

To many of the nice students I get to talk and interact with, “thanks! really great knowing u:)”

All the very best to Innova JC. And yes, the school song is really nice and inspiring. All the more when it is sang in foreign land. Inside a bus. From the heart. Spontaneously:)

“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” –  Zig Ziglar

Thanks folks, for helping me have a glimpse into a beautiful trip:)

I feel privileged and honoured to be part of this journey.

Innova JC
A simple thank you note…
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