“It was a privilege for me to see how she helped transform her school, and most importantly – how she transformed as a person.” – Ellen Chong, 2015 Alumna
I first met Jasmine when I was assigned to teach her class Maths. Her class was the largest Form 4 class at the time, about 40 students. The majority of students in her class had little interest in Maths, and Jasmine was not an exception. Despite being disinterested though, I always noticed that Jasmine would try her best.
She is a very bubbly, cheerful person as she likes bringing joy to the people around her. I remembered how overjoyed she was when her test scores increased by just that little bit. She beamed at me, knowing that I’d be proud of her achievement, though sometimes when she really couldn’t follow the lesson she would get frustrated. My heart ached seeing how disappointed she felt because she found it too difficult – even though she was trying her best.
She often gave up, and I don’t blame her. Most of her classmates also lacked the motivation when it came to Maths because they did not have the necessary prerequisite knowledge they were supposed to have at their age.
Another Teach For Malaysia Fellow in my school, Huda, was running a mural painting project for the school. Jasmine was one of the students who volunteered along with a few other students. As time went by, some students dropped out of volunteering, but Jasmine would always be there.
Jasmine and her friends leaving their mark on the wall
Every day after school, Jasmine was there with a paintbrush painting a section of the mural. Not only did she have fun, she was actually a very good artist. Once, when she was painting a banner I noticed how the younger students would just watch, wondering how she could paint so well. From then on, whenever there was a painting project, Jasmine would be there to help and even entered an art competition whenever the opportunity arose.
“Art is very important because it can turn something dull into something beautiful. Art is fun and not boring. Some people who cannot speak can communicate with others through art. They can draw and express how they feel and what they want to say.” – Jasmine
I saw how Jasmine‘s confidence began to grow the more she painted and how she brought joy to the people around her through art as people stopped to admire the murals. I knew Jasmine took pride in her work as she once pointed to a particular section of the mural and told me she painted it. Her art teacher even mentioned that she got the highest score on her art project for SPM.
Candlelight by Jasmine, created for an art competition
When I first met her she was unsure what she wanted to pursue but at the end of the two years it was clear to her what she wanted to pursue Fine Arts. I am glad for her that she found her ambition. It was a privilege for me to see how she helped transform her school, and most importantly – how she transformed as a person. How she lit up holding a paintbrush in her hand. How excited and driven she was to complete her painting. How confident she had become.
It showed me a side of her that I didn’t see as her Maths teacher and I learned how different each and every student is. It made me realise that if we were to only judge a student’s potential by one subject, however important it may be, it would not be a fair representation of what that student can achieve.
“Setiap orang itu mest ada pelajaran. Mesti berilmu. Ilmu pelita hidup. We must be proactive and progressive! Don’t be afraid to try something new.” – Jasmine, 17
Ellen joined the Teach For Malaysia Fellowship in 2015 and taught maths at a high-need school in Miri, Sarawak. She graduated with a Master of Arts (Hons) in Economics from the University of Edinburgh, and is currently completing the CIMB Fusion programme, a 3-year joint employment programme between Teach For Malaysia and CIMB Group. Teach For Malaysia recruits, trains and supports Fellows to teach in high-need schools across the nation. Beyond the Fellowship, our Alumni continue to champion education in different ways. To date, we’ve impacted over 44,000 students, working with the Ministry of Education and other partners.
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