As with everything in my life now – everything is overdue (if I am a girl, I should go for pregnancy test a few weeks back ha ha); including this blog on the last debate workshop on 7th to 9th December 2007 in Manjung, Perak.
The workshop was unique in a sense because it hit many firsts!
It was the first time we held it during the school holidays because I so desperately wanted to avoid the repeat of last year’s show down with MILES. As usually our workshop (and their POW) takes place on the first weekend of the school term – I took the liberty this year to contact MILES out of courtesy to check what date they had in mind (which did not surprise me when lo and behold we were looking at the same date). Apparently it was already communicated to the school (what the school vouched to me is a different matter and different story altogether ha ha) so I had to make that cumbersome decision to hold it during the school holidays.
Cumbersome because I hate to recall the kids and especially the teachers from their holidays. Cumbersome because the expenses easily shot up twice as we (which lately the ‘plural’ tends to become ‘singular’ if you know what I mean ha ha) have to pay for the kids’ fare to go back to the camping. Cumbersome because I have to obtain all the necessary parental consent to do this.
But it was all worth it. I have gone 5 debating workshops so far and although there had been workshops which were more planned than this, this comes down as one of the most; if not the most effective so far. I will tell you why later.
Party By The Beach
It was the first time we held it away from Kuala Kangsar (the first was in MCKK, then Sungei Siput, then Ulu Kenas, then back in MCKK) and in Manjung; which came with a series of logistical complications. We (by we I mean Wong and I) decided to bring the kids to the beach this time around – because we have run out of ideas for creative modules in the jungle; stop short of bringing the boys for mountain climbing which would take too much time.
Beach is a different thing altogether. The kids (including Class of 07 – Aleng, Aslam, Ed and Nab who crossed over to join us for the first time on the coaching bench) got so excited I even heard rumours of plans to buy bikinis! We could do completely different modules and since Wong is a certified life saver, I took comfort that he knew what he had to do.
From the outset I planned the workshop to drill and be the meanest to them because I need to get the boys into the right attitude and frame of mind – before I hand them over to a new set of younger coaches. Of all the coaches, I would be in the best position to pull them off from their apathy and prep them up mentally to adapt to a new set of coaches – I can’t leave them until I bring them to that level. And I was slowly preparing for my departure all this while – this was one of the things I had to do.
So I need Wong to become the good cop, while I perpetually become the bad cop. Wong as always delivered his part of the bargain so well despite very little instructions given to him (but then again he has been doing this with me for donkey years – he understands me and the boys more than we appreciate him) and managed to pull off some modules that really injected fun into what could have become the kids’ worst summer camp ever (well more like monsoon camp!).
Shahrol In Memory
It was the first workshop without Shahrol and I felt the loss even stronger. There were times at night, away from others I had tears because I missed him so much. It was through this kind of camping activities that we spent most of our time together and caught up with all the loss time due to our work schedule. I never had to worry about funding or money before because Shahrol as the Kitty Master (it’s a title we gave to an accountant who went around doing the budget, collecting money, keeping all the receipts, doing the final accounts and behaving like a loan shark at the end in case there was anyone who refused to fork out!) would so efficiently settle everything for me. He always knew that I had so much in my head to worry about being a control freak that I am – I worry about the kids not sleeping, I worry that facilitators do not understand the modules, I worry that the chicken is overcooked, I worry that office work is 2 months behind schedule, I worry that one of the boys was in love with another etc. etc. etc. – so he would take care everything without being asked. He would just inform me and I would just smile sarcastically sometimes as if telling him “must you tell me this”. It was the most wonderful experience working with him.
And I always take comfort when he was around, because he was my anti-thesis. When I easily panic when we were off schedule by 2 minutes, he took things so leisurely and so calm even if we were behind by one hour. When I got so worked up when the boys did not behave like I wanted them to be, he would reassure me that boys took time to change and went on to reassure the boys that “Abang Raf memang macam tu jangan ambik hati”. For every single calamity that I predict would happen, he provided the antidote to put everyone at ease.
Without my anti-thesis, the camping seemed incomplete. And I missed him so dearly especially during the karaoke, because I knew he would enjoy it so much. I missed him during the jogging in the morning, because I knew he would have taunted me to catch up with him. I missed his laughter and reassurance that all would be fine.
In the last camping, for the first time I didn’t have that reassurance. I was practically on my own managing the whole thing. Without the Kitty Master I couldn’t be bothered to think about the funding – it’s a lot easier to fund everything yourself. My emotions were most unstable in this camping that I scared the hell out of the kids; it would have been different with Shahrol around.
Coming of Age
But thank God, it was also the first time that the junior coaches really stepped up and took charge more than ever before. Izzat (assisted by his soul mate Bean) understood that I was not myself and the responsibility was passed to him – which he discharged splendidly. Many times I had cursed him, shouted at him, swore with the four-letter words at him because I wanted him to be ready when I am gone to take over. Many times also he sulked, he couldn’t accept that I was overly harsh with him when he is only 20 years old and I expected him to behave like a 25 years old – but never once he ran away each time the going gets tough. He stood by, he swallowed every single harsh word I threw at him and came back fighting sometimes for he knew I never meant him harm, I have loved him like a brother and a child since the first time I met him and I only wanted him to be prepared for the world.
And he was prepared. He managed the junior coaches well. He of course was not as freaked out as I always had been in making sure things were OK (I caught him on tape making fun that “Abang Raf dah mula membebel dah….”); he was a lot more casual but things happened nevertheless. There wasn’t any calamity and no one got hurt or food poisoning – so Izzat if you are reading this; I have slept well at nights since Manjung knowing that you are ready. Yes it is a tall order, but I have never said it was going to be easy. Responsibility comes to those who fear it because we are concerned that we will not be able to discharge it well, not to those who crave for position, clout or power. A little bird takes time to fly, he will drop once in a while but one day he will soar high and the wings grow stronger – if only he takes time to learn to fly.
And I also have loved you more each day after Manjung, because you understand that I too am a normal human being and there are times when I need to be sad and run away from responsibility. You understand one day I will have to leave and can’t be around for you kids forever.
The rest of the junior coaches were splendid too. Bean (Class of 04) came to the fold at the time I needed reinforcement most to support Izzat when I have to withdraw slowly. Bean provided the transport, was there for the kids (and most importantly for Izzat) and it was as if he was one of us from the start. It was the best thing that happened to the team during that camping – that we welcomed among us a newcomer who is as true as all the rest who once touched the kids’ lives, before they had to move on.
Aleng, Aslam, Nab and Ed were more than I had ever asked them to be, at this early stage of their career as MCKK debating coaches. I didn’t even have the time to brief them on the modules unlike previous years; they had to learn and understand by heart by themselves. Aleng is Aleng – perhaps the most wonderful budak koleq I have met after my time who is perfect in every sense (OK laa dia tak jambu! But that’s a small matter kot….) so no need to waste space to talk good about Aleng.
Aslam, Nab and Ed were right there when I needed them to be adult. I was most touched by Ed and Nab’s seriousness in getting everything right (well Aslam had always been the serious one who would see to it that everything is done, but Nab and Ed were the more playful ones). Nab was in charge of the College Challenge module – which he handled single-handedly that I was not even bothered to stay around because I knew he would do it well. Ed was in charge of all the games – he was all sweating (to those who know Ed, please do not get horny) trying to get the water balloons ready, putting everything ready and got the boys all roused up for the games. It was a different Ed from whom I used to remember him. He was an adult, not my little Ed whom I always have to pamper and pat his head each time before debate to reassure him. Ed – after all these years – was capable of looking after himself and of others ha ha ha.
And the concluding speeches that they gave at the end gave me comfort that finally – I had achieved my goal when I, Shahrol, Ben, Fazurin and the rest set out to do this in end of 2003. It was sad that I was the only one there to witness the coming of age of all these boys whom we have looked after since 2003 – Shahrol is in a different world, Ben is suffering from his illnesses, Fazurin is away in the US – but at least all our years spent for them were not in vain. We may not win PPM yet, but we definitely had left behind a group of matured adults who understand what living in this world is all about.
To Ed, Nab, Aslam and Aleng – you have made a rather old man (still in denial that I had reached 3 decades) very happy that weekend. Despite my rather gloomy appearance throughout – I never felt that I had accomplished so much with you guys; compared to what I felt that weekend. Together with Izzat, Bucks, Haqqa and Helman, the eight of you will make sure nobody will ever take MCKK debating teams lightly and that our boys are always in a league of our own whether in MCKK or outside. That we define our quality and we stick by that quality for many years to come.
I have to record here a few other special things about this camping.
A Love So Pure
Cikgu Umi and Miss Sherry had been with us since day one when I started coaching the team, in October 2003. I knew they had loved the boys more than I could ever love the boys regardless of how hard I tried. I knew that they had put in more than anyone of us could ever put in.
But in the last camping, it was their natural act of kindness when nobody was around that brought that perspective to a new level and touched my heart (and Wong’s heart) so much that I began to have a second thought about leaving the coaching bench, because how could I ever think of abandoning the boys when they had persevered throughout.
I watched Cikgu Umi and Miss Sherry spent time cooking with the boys and how they had enjoyed every single second of it. They laughed, they made jokes, they taught the most little things about life to the kids. They put the food on the table for the kids, taught them manners, shared story and the kids were so happy with them and vice versa.
Once when the kids were all playing by the beach and it started to rain, Wong went back to the chalets and camping site for a visit to the loo. Cikgu Umi was there in the rain quietly picking up the boys’ shoes and clothes and putting them away from the rain. It’s like a mother picking up her sons’ dirty laundry! Wong and I were too astounded by their kindness that went beyond the normal demand of their duty. It was love in the purest form – that of a teacher to a pupil which had grown to be a mother’s love for her own child.
I spent a considerable time talking to them while watching the kids played. Our own relationship had transformed from that of a teacher to a student; to that of a friend to an elder friend. They are my good friends; they love me for the kindness I have showered the kids and I love them for being around for the kids all this while.
We talked about life, about love and about the kids – finally I popped up the question: “Cikgu nak buat ni sampai bila? You need to have some time for yourself”.
Miss Sherry’s and Cikgu Umi’s answer astounded as well as amazed me:
“Well I still have 12 years and Cikgu Umi still have 6 years before we retire!”
They never planned to quit! They planned to do this until they retire, despite the time it consumes, despite the emotional toll that it takes to raise a group of children and seeing them disappointed year in year out being shortchanged at debating tournaments.
I wanted to ask them: What about Cikgu Umi’s plan to go to umrah which got postponed each year because of PPM (as that was the only suitable time to go), what about freeing her time so that Miss Sherry can spend more time with her husband? What about taking some rest because I know it’s a very tiring job?
But I never asked. You see, when we love something, someone, some group of kids, our own children, we do things unconsciously. Our needs and wants is always secondary to their needs and wants. I already know the answer. They love the kids so much that all the other things become secondary to them.
One day in the near future I too have to ask the question – whether I have the heart to leave Cikgu Umi and Miss Sherry to look after the boys by themselves, because we set out to do this together in end of 2003. I have planned for my exit around 2008/09 – whether I put that plan more important than what my heart feels for Cikgu Umi and Miss Sherry’s sacrifices?
New Breed of Cheerleaders
I was very appalled with the quality of cheering by budak koleq nowadays. Not so much their fault but “garbage in garbage out” – if we don’t allow them to practice, go through the pain of perfecting the routine, obviously the quality will be substandard too. In fact most of the time the cheering nowadays is nothing more than a glorified jeering.
Anyway, being kiasu as usual – we wanted to make sure at least the debaters know how to sing and clap for Gemilang perfectly, in preparation for victories at a national level championship or PPM (which tak kunjung tiba!). So from the very beginning they were supposed to rehearse, practice and sang Gemilang until it met our standard (which they didn’t – they started off at 0.5 on a scale of 10 and progressed to 2.0 by the end of the camping).
What was interesting was seeing Miss Sherry as the main cheerleader – shouting to the boys to clap properly, to sing louder and to put some feel into the cheering. She would shout “imagine you are winning PPM now, takkan macam ni je nyanyi. Lembik…” and many other semi-abuses.
It takes someone who knows MCKK inside out and loves it so much to be able to do that. Even if the boys are still struggling with the 2.0 rating for their cheering, at least they know they have amongst them perhaps one of the most dedicated teachers in this country!
Top Up Dosa
The camping was different from the previous ones in the sense that I structured the whole activities for only one purpose – to fix the attitude. Years of parents’ complaints about school punishment and years of pampering have made college boys so weak, so whining, so easily broken. In my book some of the juniors were not fit to become a debater, because debate is a game of mind and physical endurance.
An MCKK debater endures a week of tournament with 3 hours sleep each day, survives the demand for a sharp mind to prepare for a debate expected of MCKK despite having only half an hour to prepare. An MCKK debater went through 5-year long of insults, curses, boo-ing and abuses at any tournament he went through. An MCKK debater knows that when he steps into a debating room, he is up against everyone including the judges.
A weakling cannot do justice to the badge of MCKK debaters that he wears. We pride ourselves as a special breed of dickheads produced by MCKK – we are confident to the point of being misconstrued as arrogant, we are unperturbed by what people think of us to the point of being considered as snobbish. But we are what we are – you may love or hate us, but we know no teams will go to meet us without at least a slight fear in their hearts.
And I teach the boys to be like this from as early as Form 1. I condition them to be hard so that when I shout at them (once I shouted at a small Form 1 for being slow at blowing a balloon – “if you can’t even blow a balloon at your age, there’s nothing you can do in your life. You will blow the balloon until I am satisfied” – I looked back and realized I can be too harsh with the boys sometimes) they can withstand my curses. When I punish them they have the mental resilience to come back and stand up if I wrongly punish them.
The seniors have reached this stage because they have spent a few years with me.
But not the juniors. The way Prep School and New Hostel are run (with rules and regulations too lax because parents complain about every single thing) mean the boys had it easy compared to us. Long gone are the days when you have to do a duck walk across the Admin Block around 2 am because your shoes were not polished enough.
As a result, the boys were soft mentally. They do not know their place, they took things lightly, they do not respect their seniors or teachers, they are slow each time I ask them to do things (I expect them to spring up and run before I give the instruction).
So I designed the modules to be a mini Common Room and fire-drills. Fine – if they cannot have Common Room/fire-drills every now and then, I will pay for their annual Common Rooms and fire-drills. We would package the whole program to be fun yet with enough punishment to drag them out of their slumber. Even if the rest of their batchmates do not know their place in the hierarchy of things, I will not tolerate my debaters to be like the rest.
So they were a lot of abuses – verbal and physical ha ha ha.
I asked them to plot their worth to us in terms of their debating talent and their attitude. They told us what they think they were worth to us, we told them back that they were worth a lot less than what they thought.
I asked them to go and admit every little mistake they made to the team, to the coaches, to the teachers – what eventually be called “Top Up Dosa”. Izzat went around from time to time to remind anyone who wanted to “Top Up Dosa” and after a while it became hilarious and amusing to me because the kids really took everything quite seriously. I told the kids that we (the coaches) would have a list of their mistakes and would compare our list with their confessions – they would pay dearly if what was in our list did not appear in their confessions.
In the end, we got them to recount their mistakes (“sins”) and they got punished (figuratively speaking) for every mistake they made or their teammates made. We kept telling them for every of your action there would be repercussions and someone would have to pay for it.
The final act was the ultimatum that the kids have six months until end of June 2008 to buck up; earn our respect and behave to demonstrate that they are worthy of our attention. Otherwise I am leaving and Izzat will take over from July 2008 onwards.
So the clock has finally started because the circle is now complete.
We shall wait and see whether the kids are up for the challenge.
Ever since I coached the boys, I had never hugged a single one of them. I am aloof, intimidating and I can imagine what kind of a monster I am in the kids’ eyes.
When Shahrol left us out of sudden, I realized I never told him I love him as a brother and friend; that he was so important to me.
I didn’t want to make the same mistake with the boys – so I finally worked up the courage to hug the boys (each and everyone of them, from the smelly one to the not so smelly one though they all smell weird, from the cute ones to the not so cute ones to outright not cute; from the skinny ones to the really spongy ones). It was quite a surprise to them that I get this personal with them (I have always been the bad cop) and it was quite uncomfortable for me initially – but I promise to tell the people who mean so much in my life their place; before it’s too late.
And it was liberating. It wasn’t that gay at all ha ha ha (it was still quite dodgy though; but since I did it without exception so I guess I can have my alibi ha ha)
In Memory Of:
Allahyarham Shahrol Nizam Yusoff, Class of 93
Rolex Master & Kitty Master 2004 – 2007
The Debating Masters:
Sdr Adlan Benan Omar, Class of 90
Cik Hajjah Umi Kalthum Nordin, MCKK 1989 –
YAM Puan Hajjah Sharifah Norazam Syed Zainol Khodki, MCKK 1988 –
The Camping Master:
Sdr Wan Azman Wan Mahmud, Class of 94
The Junior Coaches:
Sdr Izzat Jonid, Class of 2004
Sdr Bean (eyh apa full name Bean hah?), Class of 2004
Sdr Farquar Haqqani Fadhlullah Suhaimi, Class of 2006
Sdr Helman Hashim, Class of 2006
Sdr Bukhari Yusof, Class of 2006
Sdr Amirul Asyraf Hanafi, Class of 2007
Sdr Aslam Abd Jalil, Class of 2007
Sdr Adli Shamsuddin, Class of 2007
Sdr Nabil Khorlid, Class of 2007
MCKK debaters Class of 2008 to Class of 2011;
who provides meaning to the phrase "unconditional love"
Sdr Hazly Abdullah, Class of 1994
Sdr Azlan Majid, Class of 1994
Sdr Qaisyfullah Jaslenda, Class of 2006 (non MCKK)