It may look like a bouncy castle, but PE teacher Lawrence Lim finds that his school’s bossaball court is the perfect springboard to impart values to his students.
Lawrence Lim, Yuying Secondary School, President’s Award for Teachers 2017 Finalist
Lawrence wanted his students to get more out of their PE lessons. So the 17-year veteran of Yuying Secondary convinced his Principal to let him try something different to engage students – bossaball.
Played on an inflatable court fitted with two trampolines, it incorporates elements of volleyball, football and gymnastics.
While the game is making inroads in Europe in Bossaball Academies, Yuying Secondary became the first school in the world to offer it under its roof. The students loved their new signature sport.
But Lawrence did not choose it just for its novelty – he also saw it as an opportunity to impart values in discipline and working together. He gets his students to set up all the equipment themselves, with close supervision. Part of the set-up requires them to stretch out the trampoline together to get equal tension on all 129 springs.
“This is not an easy thing to do,” Lawrence explains. “But the lesson here is, before you do anything fun, there is some work you need to do. Cooperating with each other makes it easier.”
Helping Each Other Level Up
Cooperating also means working with one’s teammates, whoever they are.
“The more athletic students always used to team up,” Lawrence observes. “But things need to be fair, because in life you rarely get to pick the people you work with.” So he now ensures that teams are formed so that there are a variety of strengths within the groups.
Over time, the stronger students started helping their weaker teammates. They picked up skills from each other, and learnt to level one another up.
For those who still struggle, he tells them his own story: he was once overweight and unfit, and this affected his confidence in school. He eventually grew tired of this, and with great determination, shed weight to be a positive role model.
Several students were inspired by his journey, and sought his help to shed their excess weight. He helped them through workouts during PE lessons, and pointing them to online exercise resources tailored for young teens.
“Change is not easy, but it can be done. That’s always a lesson worth repeating,” says Lawrence. But more than the weight loss, it was Lawrence’s constant message of “not giving up on school and life” that stuck, says one inspired Yuying teen under his charge.
Doing It Your Own Way
Beyond health and confidence, Lawrence also wants his students to have a heart for others. But he would not tell them how to do so, they have to come up with ideas on their own, and be resourceful in carrying them out.
All he did was to give them the platform: TWEETS (Totally Wholesome Engaged Empowered Teens in Serving), the school’s Learning for Life programme which allows Yuying students to become advocates for social causes of their choice.
Some of his colleagues were understandably sceptical when they first heard of his idea. Undeterred, Lawrence convinced them to try it for themselves. So they did. Taking to the streets one day, the group of teachers surprised a number of foreign workers with tokens of food and thanking them for their service.
“Yes, it was a little awkward at first,” he said with a laugh, “but they found that the TWEETS could work, and it felt good.”
The students, on the other hand, had no such reservations. Many leapt at the opportunity to contribute to their respective causes.
Working in groups, they recorded their projects in videos and presented them in class. The results, according to Lawrence, were “simply incredible”.
One of the teams did a time-lapse video of them cleaning up a stretch of beach, because protecting the environment was important to them. Another team spent their time looking for stray cats because they felt that all animals, even those without a home, need love too.
“It was so simple,” says Lawrence, “but in their own quiet way, they demonstrated empathy for animals.”
Several other groups followed their teachers’ example and went out to thank bus drivers and coffee-shop cleaners with a packet of Milo and a bun each. “They wanted to demonstrate that we should never take people for granted.”
The videos were shown to parents during Yuying’s Speech Day as a regular feature, and many of them were moved by the range and depth of the projects their children had come up with.
Lawrence has gotten his students bouncing from bossaball courts to the community, and there is no slowing him down. The father of two teenagers keeps himself going by asking: “If my students were my children, what kind of education and life skills would I want them to have?” His answer: “A well-rounded education, grounded in the right values.”
He made us all better people by showing us new ways to learn things and to have empathy for all the people and living things around us. – Le Mai Ngoc Han, Secondary 4