Thursday, February 24, 2011

School begins in earnest

Sorry about the long silence but we have been without internet for several days......

The first week of school has come and gone and in my case although ¾ of the student body were there no real lessons took place. Instead, we cleaned classrooms, laboratories, administration buildings and the assembly area as well as yards. We also weeded and tidied up garden beds, whitewashed necessary zones and thoroughly scrubbed ceilings, fans, window ledges and the floor of the Multipurpose Hall (MPH). All this in preparation for the celebration of the King’s 31st birth Anniversary cum Education Day and the up coming Mid-Term Review (MTR) which will involve the entire district and take place on our campus. Various sections were allocated tasks and almost without exception they miraculously produced brooms, buckets and sickles or improvised with bamboo, sacks and sticks and diligently set about the task they had been given no matter how onerous.  I cannot imagine any high school aged student in Australia participating in such and activity, with even a tenth of the commitment that these students did. The results were immediately obvious and the whole school took on a much more welcoming and well-maintained look.

I did have a brief opportunity to meet my home class and get in some introduction time before we had to go through the horrors of distributing very tired and dilapidated textbooks and they good naturedly accepted the offerings and tried to swap where possible but settled for what was available. They seem a very responsible and civil minded group who are mostly happy to buckle down and do what is required of them. I have accomplished finding the required furniture for our room and setting it up, writing up an attendance register, electing class captains and establishing who would represent our class in the essay writing component of the celebrations on Monday. I am still desperately trying to get a grasp of their names and wonder how I will ever manage that task when all 4 of my classes are up and running.

Ian was in much the same situation but his home class is a class IV group with whom he has now spent a considerable amount of time. He too had to find furniture, set up his room, distribute books and even record if they were new or old, as well as ensure that his class were on target with preparing their presentation of “Happy Birthday” and “For He’s a Jolly Good Monarch” for their school celebration.

A great deal of fun seems to have been had with the discovery that there are pictures of Australia on his phone and that they can see themselves in the digital camera’s display screen. “Sir…,” “Sir…, “and more “Sir…” seems to be the order of the day with their need to let him know who is saying bad words, or not working or kissing girls even! Like me he still has one grade level to meet so at least Class IV are now a familiar bunch and the Class VIIIs are still to come.

The school day begins with an assembly and the first item is always prayers. Although I cannot understand a word of the Dzongkha they sing / chant it is very moving to listen to and I find it both calming and meditative. After the Teacher of the Day has announced the various daily notices in English, the assembly ends with the national anthem, which sounds as solemn as a hymn to me but is generally delivered with both commitment and pride by all the student body. I am amazed at how lovely it sounds and impressed that they all participate so well compared to the half-hearted attempts at our school in Thailand. It is always a relief and a surprise to hear the notices and realise that I must lead my class in the responsibilities being outlined though I have little idea what they involve.

On Monday Feb 21st the preparations were complete and the celebrations went off without a hitch. Our MPH was clean and set up with elaborately carved, decorated and painted furniture and all the staff and students filled the hall. Having taken the advice of another volunteer teacher not to set up the expectation of wearing it everyday if that was not what I intended to do, I had chosen this day to wear my kira for the first time and was somewhat dismayed at the giggles it inspired in the female students as I walked through the school grounds. 2 colleagues quickly informed me that the folds of the skirt need to be on the right not the left and rectified that problem immediately. After that it was received with warmth and many compliments were offered.

The celebration itself was quite formal and I was invited by the vice principal sir to come up on the stage and light one of the butter lamps. I am convinced that was to ensure that all the students could see I had worn kira! We had speeches, dance performances, a video clip presentation, a debate and the winners of the essay competition in Dzongkha and English were called out to read their winning entries before refreshments were served and the half day was over.

Me with my kira on the right way around! At least I was contributing to GNH with my earlier mistake.

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