Friday, October 16, 2015

Are All Our Ships Sailing in the Same Direction?

Anyone who has watched The Godfather:Part III might recall the meeting in the Vatican, where Don Luchessi tells the dejected Michael Corleone, "We'll gladly put you at the helm of our little fleet, but all our ships must sail in the same direction". I think we all saw what happened when Don Corleone decided to sail the other direction - misfortune after misfortune struck Michael.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute. This is a blog about a school. Relevance?

I think I just bore witness to a rather similar situation in our grounds earlier today. How is it that higher school officials can run into deep miscommunication over one of our most sacred events - Hari Anugerah Kokurikulum a.k.a. Awards Day?

First introduced in 1976 by the late Rev. Bro. Joseph Yeoh, Awards Day was the ceremony where St. John's expresses its gratitude not only to those who brought glory to the institution by winning competitions, but also to appreciate the numerous other students who contributed their time and effort through the various clubs in service to the school. It was a ceremony full of regal, splendour, and honour. The uniformed units parade was a compulsory component; the various bodies in their full attire standing in three straight line, inspected by the guest-of-honour. This was then followed by the long roll-call of students and their achievements or services to beloved St. John's.

I had the privilege of being part of this ceremony during my 5-year stay in St. John's secondary. Every time I stood in the ranks, there was an air of pride, and each and every one of us made sure we created a fantastic impression to the honorable guest. At first, we fussed about the rehearsals, It was dreadful when something went wrong during the rehearsal. It meant starting all over from the very beginning. The man at the helm, doing all the shouting and scolding till we did to perfection, was none other than Mr. David Fernandez. Very quickly our fussing ended, and was replaced by determination to get the ceremony right.

Why? Because Mr. David reasoned it out with us in the words I will never forget, "The guest standing before you on the podium is either visiting for the first time or is very well versed with the protocol. No one would ever want anyone to say, "The parade by the boys was awful". We want them to walk out of the ceremony saying, "Johannians are fantastic, just look at how perfect that parade was". If we can do that, we made it, boys. We made it".

We would rehearse two days before the event, and run through it from the very beginning to the end. It allowed us to tune in to the atmosphere of the day of the event (and made sure we finished on time, or early). Mr. David stood with us in the scorching heat as the rehearsal commenced, and would not dismiss the participants until everything was flawless. Traditionally, St. John's took no more than three runs to get the order of events perfect.

This year's Awards Day takes place tomorrow, October 17. Due to the PT3 examinations, the traditional two-days-before-event rehearsal could not be conducted yesterday. The purpose of a yearly calendar, or 'takwim' was to ensure that all ships are sailing in the same way. And since the date for Awards Day has been fixed, it should be common sense to note that the two days before the event are reserved for rehearsals. I suppose it is natural that people forget at times. However, scheduling an exam at the eve of a major event is not only unreasonable, the fact that the exam is flexible in date yet refusing to postpone it prior to a major event is ridiculous.

Being in a boys school since Standard One till today, it is a known fact that come Friday afternoon, regardless whether practice is adequate or not, there's no returning after leaving school grounds until the next morning. Thinking that everyone is willing to stay back until things are complete is naive; thinking that one run through is adequate for an event of decorum is naive, and we can only accept naivité from amateurs. If seniors fall for the trick as well, then it is obvious that they have lost touch of reality.

That is, however, not the main issue. We can still somewhat tolerate naivité. What we cannot tolerate is when the newer generation of Johannians - teachers and students - think that St. John's is all about utter disorganization due to actions of seniors. THIS IS INSULTING AND DISRESPECTFUL. Insulting and disrespectful not only to those who understand tradition, but also insulting and disrespectful to St. John's itself. Instead of sailing everyone, junior or senior, toward better understanding of our rich traditions, certain parties are sailing St. John's into disarray.

This is not an administration issue solely. This is an attitude issue, spiraling out of control, and is becoming increasingly noticeable to the student population. Please do not get me wrong, not everyone is at fault, but there are several 'key players' stirring trouble, and do not like it when other people try to bring back the correct practices or when things go well in the school. Such despicable acts most of the time take a toll on innocent parties - new members of the Johannian family who make an effort to do good for the school.

Some time ago, I wrote a piece on how St. John's was treated second-class compared to Government schools. While this is still the case, these acts of sabotage (if I may use that term) by straying the new generation of Johannians from what St. John's is all about will make all efforts of crawling out the pit of darkness to strive for success further doomed.

I pray that the Almighty will protect St. John's and its rich cultures from fading away and that the new generation of Johannians will not be led into false impressions of St. John's.

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