by Nazalea Kusuma

A school that prides itself in championing education for all sounded just about right up my alley. I came into this school for the first time with absolutely zero expectation. Of course, I googled and I triple-checked if I’d found the correct place but those were the bare minimum of research for me. I wanted to experience this school without prejudice, without high hopes.

Was I satisfied? I don’t know yet.

The high school principal showed me around the place—hilariously forgot to tell me the most important parts of it all, the restrooms—and it was quite enlightening. It shed some smoke and mirrors this school had if you simply took a look at their website and instagram account. This school had its special places I’d never seen before—a therapy room and a creative team room—and its fair share of clichéd school tropes—cramped teachers’ longue and students in varying stages of dishevelment.

The people, for me, was what drove the point home. I saw a myriad of personalities in students, teachers, and other employees. Some seemed like they were nice enough yet couldn’t wait to get out of there. Some eyed me with apprehension—which was smart, I was a new face after all—and some others gave me open smiles with or without sincerity. Some seemed like they really believed in this school for what it wanted to become, what it could possibly become in the future. Some expressed bitterness over the fact that the general population seemed to mistake ‘Inclusive School’ as ‘Special Needs School’. Some other jokingly inched away and gasped at my casual mention of being a psych ward graduate. Oh, my favourite was this one student with a bit of purple in his hair because my hair is the exact same colours, too!

The principal dutifully introduced me to teachers and the rest of the staff we met during the tour. Truthfully, I’m terrible with names and faces so I already know it’s going to take me quite a while to remember everyone. The thing is, though, I want to. Something about this school made me want to burrow myself in it and love it the only way I know how: accepting it for what it is yet always striving for a chance to grow, grow, and grow.