My sisters and I often have discussions on how crucial a part our environment plays on the growth of individuals (be it their work, school or home environments). My oldest sister occasionally shares with us the emphasis her boss places on positive thinking and creating a conducive work environment. Over the past few months, I’ve truly started believing that I can do it. In fact, this perspective has changed the way I carry myself and view others. I feel as though I am at peace with myself.

Having struggled with finding myself the past two years in an environment that may not have been the most nurturing for me (at home and in my own personal life), I told myself that as a coach, I wanted to be constructive and present. I wanted each and every one of my students to know that win or lose, what mattered was knowing that they had made progress.

This was always the hardest to do with my Coral students. For the past two months, I’ve felt like both a mother and a friend to them. At almost every session, one would find me nagging at them to think positive. I would give them pep talks on Whatsapp, and in real life. I’ve even scolded them for berating themselves or cracking self-deprecating jokes. At the same time, I’ve not only had intense life conversations with them but we’ve also laughed so hard at jokes that our sides feel as though they’re almost about to split.

In Round 1, after an intense round where I bit off all my nails, someone very close to me was honest and commented that Coral was a Division 3 team that was below-average as compared to other teams in the Singapore Secondary Schools Debating Championships this year. This made me question — how could I push them to do well this year, instead of next year? I did what I thought was best. I believed in them and would frequently have open discussions with them on how they could improve. I would get the seniors to help them out and share their experiences. We would have a group session where everyone needed to be self-aware, critical yet kind towards their peers. I tried to explain every little detail to them, from what “this house” means, to how strategy could be effectively employed in a debate to shut out their opponents.

When they lost their second round to a great school, I explained that as a speaking team comprised of students from Sec 1, 2 and 3, they were fantastic. Instead of feeling sad about their loss, they should be proud of themselves for having the courage to go up against a much more experienced team. They needed to mull over how they could have won, not how they had lost.

Somehow, on the week of the third round, they even began to surprise me! Whenever someone had a negative thought, the rest would shut them off by saying “Hey X, don’t be negative. You can do it! We love you and we believe in you.” After I got my A level results, I was comforted by these very cute kids who told me “Nabila, it’s okay… we know you can do it.” They were finally getting it — it’s okay to fail, but you have to believe in yourself and constantly encourage/motivate yourself (and those around you).

Apart from the change in their mindsets, I saw a drastic improvement in their debating skills. They were able to digest complex arguments, rebut strategically and POI sufficiently well. I don’t think this can just be attributed to frequent trainings. I noticed that the praise and external validation from myself, Mdm Ramona and their seniors created powerful perceptions about their self-worth that allowed them to overcome their fears and self-doubts.

This evening, they delivered some of the best speeches I’ve heard from them, and they unanimously won their round against a formidable opponent. I felt so much joy watching them debate :’) Looking back at the first debate they had this year (they are all fresh debaters), their growth is clear and very startling! Honestly, when I started coaching them in February, I didn’t have high hopes of them getting into the quarter-finals. Yet, they did and they broke 7th! To many, it may not be a big achievement, but I know their starting point and I know that this small victory did not come easy.

And while I am so very proud of them for that, I hope they understnad that whatever the outcome, every little bit of progress is a success in and of itself.

Fight hard for quarter-finals, and as I always say, don’t pull a Nabila… please finish up your homework too! <3

IMG_9206Cuties 🙂

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Thank you to Darion for coaching these
intelligent, inspiring and wonderful seniors.

They’re the building blocks of a strong Coral alumni! <3

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