Ask what my favorite pastime was then and now my answers would be reading coupled with practicing yoga. In a recent Show-and-Tell activity with my grade seven and eight students, their pastimes highlighted how reading has come to rank way below the list of favorite activities. It’s no surprise then that writing essays has become a horrendous task to most students and speaking fluently in English is an arduous undertaking. No one reads at all. Imagine the consequences of not being able to comprehend, say, simple instructions on how to answer the exam questionnaire or how to go about conducting a science experiment. The laboratory might go up in smoke and the school’s national standing might plummet because the students didn’t understand the instructions.
For some unfathomable reason, students take reading to literally scanning the words separately, not reading them in its entirety to get the meaning of the whole text. It’s mind-boggling for most to have to re-read the text if they don’t understand it for the first time. It’s mind-boggling and ironic that I have to tell them to re-read the text because that’s part and parcel of the reading process. Looking up the words they don’t understand in the dictionary is another bone of contention. They have this annoying habit of turning the teacher into a walking dictionary even though the dictionary is right on their desks. It’s risible that I have to remind to look up the words they don’t understand so they can comprehend what they’re reading.
So what are the favorite pastimes of the children today? At Global Prestasi National Plus School in Bekasi, Indonesia, majority of the students are engrossed in:
*Yoyos – There’s a yoyo club that some of Global Prestasi students are active members of where they network and, obviously, try to outdo one another in yoyo tricks. My student buys his yoyos online, the few game stores that sell yoyos in Indonesia and Singapore.
* Card games –Tot talking Solitaire or Black Jack but Japanese card games Yugioh or Bakugan. The former’s object is to beat the opponent with trap or monster cards. The winner gets a chance to collect one card from the opponent’s deck. Bakugan, on the other hand, is all about raking up the most points. The card set includes a metallic ball that is rolled onto the magnetic cards and which pops up revealing a little character. The space that a Bakugan land has corresponding points, which is written at the back of the card. Like the yoyos, they’re available in most game stores in Jakarta.
* Basketball – Just like the Filipinos, most Indonesian kids are dribbling on the court and shooting hoops. One student is hoping that his family relocates to the US so he can play in the NBA.
* Futsal – Basketball ranks second to this favorite sport of most of the male students at Global Prestasi. Tall, short, fat or thin, they’re on the futsal court dribbling, juggling and trying to score a goal. They come fully garbed down to the futsal shoes, which said my die-hard student, he wears based on the position he plays. For example, as playmaker he’ll wear his red Nike futsal shoes; he has another pair when he plays forward.
* Coin collection – Two of my female students are into coin collecting, which they manage to do with the help of their parents, uncles and aunts who travel frequently abroad. Singapore and Hong Kong coins form a huge part of their collections, and both want to have more European currencies in their respective collection.
Meanwhile some students are into their own pastimes. One finds amusement in reading the Twilight series and amassing all paraphernalia highlighting Robert Pattinson including a doll. Two girls are into dolls – one likes the one that has a porcelain face, which she has christened as Kici (pronounced Kichi) and given a Facebook Profile while another likes Barbie dolls.
One girl is into graphic design and even did a little demo with her Mac in class. She taught the class how to “draw” a laser point via the Photoshop application.
One boy loves his Pokemon and can recite all the Pokemon monsters in existence if you let him. Another boy is into collecting miniature airplanes buying them every time he gets on a plane – British Airways, United Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Delta Airlines etc. He doesn’t want to be a pilot but a cabin crew member.
There’s one boy who loves to wakeboard and competes regularly. He explained one of the equipment he uses in wakeboarding at Show-and-tell, the handle bar, and also demonstrated how to get up to a standing position from the starting position. He credits his mum as his biggest inspiration in taking up the sport who is a champion jet skier and whose love for water sports has rubbed off on her son.
There’s a young 12-year-old singer in my class who already has one album. She sang a capella in my class, and I thought Simon Cowell would have loved her even though he wouldn’t have understood any of the Bahasa Indonesia lyrics. Her classmate, on the other hand, is into modern dance and choreographed a short dance using one of Taylor Swift’s songs.
They’re talented children whose passion for their pastimes is praiseworthy. I just wish that they’d develop the habit of reading – I’m certain it will enhance their skills even more.