Young Innovate 2016: It’s the journey that matters most, not just the results

By Tan Wei Jie, 2014 Alumnus &
Leadership Development Officer (LDO) at Teach For Malaysia

“There are so many life lessons, but we often let victory and loss cloud over this because they are more obvious and measurable.”

Young Innovate 2016 - Journey 1Teach For Malaysia Fellows & Alumni at Young Innovate 2016

When I stepped into the hall at the Young Innovate Competition, I realised that I actually knew quite a number of students there. Those whom I mentored (directly or indirectly) called me “Mr Tan”! I guess it means something because I’m no longer some nameless stranger who sits at the back of the class “grading” teachers on my laptop. Yay!

One thing I don’t like about competitions is that the stories/efforts of those who didn’t win are often not reported and acknowledged. There is a great need for them to acknowledge and celebrate their own efforts, because if they don’t, no one else would.

Easier said than done.

But based on my brief journey with the 2016 Teach For Malaysia Fellows as a mentor/LDO/advisor for this competition, I see big growth in the teachers and their students.

On the teachers’ end, I see them going the extra mile to spend time with their students, during one of the most difficult periods of their Fellowship. (Context: on top of regular teachers’ duties, Fellows pursue their Diploma Perguruan Lepasan Ijazah [DPLI] at the same time. As I write this, they have 5 assignments due this week, and 9 assignments due next week.) They have spent entire days (and nights) coaching their students on their projects. Some had to go through extensive bureaucratic procedures to be able to go for this competition. One even went on an  epic 12-hour journey to obtain a GPS module for his student!

Yesterday, when I thought about their individual stories and adventures, it suddenly dawned on me that these are all teachers who truly have conviction and love for their students. It definitely challenged me to think about how much I’m willing go the extra mile for people around me.

On the students’ end, it’s really amazing to see how much they’ve grown from day one until today. I don’t think stories are sufficient to capture this growth, because it is so much more than that.

And that’s why competitions are tough to digest emotionally. There are so many life lessons, but we often let victory and loss cloud over this because they are more obvious and measurable. However, we need to know that it’s the journey that matters most, not just the results.

(Cue music: The Climb by Miley Cyrus – my coaching inspiration)

And that’s why I love my job as a coach: To get people to comprehend the journey.

Based on the journey alone, I’m so proud of the nine Fellows and their students, and also all the other teams that I don’t know. Results-wise, it could’ve been anyone. Bonus congrats to Nadia’s team for winning 4th place, and Jiunn Wen’s team for becoming THE Johor Champion and marching on to the Nationals next month!

Also, bonus points for seeing the other Fellows cheering on their comrade’s victory. It was a beautiful scene. And special thanks to Nigel (2014 Alumnus) for being a pillar of support for the Fellows in the South region. I hope they can face off with you in the final. That’ll be one epic boss fight.

Young Innovate 2016 - Journey 2As the results were revealed, all the Fellows gathered to cheer for the teams. True camaraderie.

***

Sometimes, you never realise how far-reaching your actions could be until much later in the future.

A student from another school told me the inspiration for his project came from my former team’s Smart Stick. He saw the video of it, and was inspired by the simplicity and came up with something else that is equally simple and useful.

Young Innovate 2016 - Journey 4#Throwback to last year’s Young Innovate – the champions with their invention, the Smart Stick – a high tech walking stick for blind people.

Meanwhile in Penang, my former school sent an entirely new team and won 6th place! Special thanks to the school who expressed interest in keeping the legacy, and my collab Wei Sheng (Alumni cemerlang) who assisted them a day before the competition.

Young Innovate 2016 - Journey 3Proud to see my former school continuing the Young Innovate legacy. Impact can go beyond the two-year Fellowship.

Just when you think your Young Innovate journey ended last year, you see continuity through others.

Daddy is happy.

Wei Jie joined the Teach For Malaysia Fellowship in 2014 and taught in a school in Barat Daya, Penang. He is currently a Leadership Development Officer at Teach For Malaysia where he coaches our 2016 Fellows in Pasir Gudang, Johor. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from Rutgers University.

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