Sunday, June 26, 2011

Gems from the exam papers

Panorama of Rangjung viewed from above Ian's school 

Don't get me wrong we love Rangjung but it is now time for a much needed break and  an escape to see beyond Trashigang district.

After a prolific amount of marking and at the end of the first week of the holidays the exams are finally marked. Before I realised that this was going to take more than 100 hours I was writing down some of the gems that appeared in our papers. However by the 6th class bundle I was firmly focused on an end to the whole process and the fastest way to get there, with some time left to travel.

Here are a few of the more amusing statements made from various class levels. I will leave you to imagine what the question which inspired such wisdom, might have been.

No names and no classes to protect the guilty!

"Prevent is butter than curve." 

"By now he tries to turn into a leaf." 

"Geologists create mountains. I think it is a good job because we can create lots of mountains in our world."

"He has hair erected and dress being worn clumsily" 

"The next morning when it was time for morning assembly all the children were surprised to see their principal with a flowning face and on the other side he was carrying a discipline wand in his hand."
(A case of too much Harry Potter I think)

"The morphemes can help us to understand words have not seen before hearing the sound of the meaning in knowledge."

"They might die themself."

"If we are punctual any accident or incident will not happen to us."

"You are not over 15 unless you watch this film."

"If we take a good decision it is good it will be good and it should be good."

"He is roaming around without proper adress and food."

"They buy the expenditure." / "They seller the income."

"Students responsibility on for their own laundry must be responsible."

During the week we did take a couple of half day breaks and decided to avail ourselves of the views to be had from the mountains that surround us and fly some prayer flags for a friend's departed grandmother. So I will close with the visual splendour of those calm creating images.

The location about 45 minute-walk from our home 

Ian tying the flags in place.

Us red in the face from the climb up there but thrilled with the views.

We 3 BCFers after a job well done.

We enjoyed the experience so much the first time that we celebrated the end of the marking and the births of 2 friends' babies and on the anniversary on Ian's mother's birth, with another colourful string of flags across the foot bridge that leads to Rangjung Lower Secondary School

The second location 

Over the mountains and across the valleys.......

Monday, June 20, 2011

Monastery celebrations

2 weeks of holidays officially started today but since I am still marking and probably will be for the next week!!! I thought that I would post some photos of the Parinirvana in our local monastery last Wednesday. It was a welcome break from the exam routine last week.

We were happy to be streaming into the Lakhang with the entire school cohort from RHSS

Ian needed a bit of assistance with his kupney but Kinzang was happy to help out

Not long after we had chosen our vantage point we were spotted in the crowd and moved to the red carpet zone where kneeling or sitting cross legged would be required but we complied and dreaded that moment when we would all be expected to stand on command! We survived it and got a birds eye view.

The stage was set.....

The fanfare commenced.....

Buddha's life story was told and the ritual began.

The procession allowed for the faithful to participate

And there was no shortage of volunteers

Many a student wanted to carry the sacred texts and be blessed by having them touch their heads.....

The procession was spectacular and the conch shell players really incredible!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Lined up for morning assembly and ready to go on the exams front. My home classes IXC front and centre and 2 of the smartest among them looking very worried in the front row. Exam committee in the background guarding the papers in front of the building currently doubling as exam central!

Yesterday was the final day of classes before the nine day exam period commenced.
It was an eyeopening experience for me to see how the students utilised their final study time in class, since mostly my classes are direct teaching and constant circulating of the room to assist individual students I rarely get to see how effective their study habits are.

In my first class I arrived to discover that about two thirds of the students had miraculously been able to acquire a copy of last year's paper and they were frantically working their way through the questions and developing real anxiety over those that they couldn't answer. They all insisted that I tell them the correct answers and when I tried to explain that it would be better to learn a strategy for how to answer those types of questions they looked totally perplexed. With that logic that only class IX can have, they were sure that memorising last year's answers was now the best way to go. I persisted with trying to teach the mechanics of the question types and they got the correct answers so we were both happy. (In fact as I am writing this at my desk, I have just been asked the same questions as I was in the class yesterday, by one of the students who was absent.)

The next class was with class XI students and they were going over notes from previous teachers in previous years and had a series of questions that related to grammar that they had got wrong in the final board exams at class X level. " How do you begin sentences with 'no sooner did' compared to 'hardly had'?"  Once again, I tried to explain that we had not covered this grammar and that the exam I had written was based on what we had covered. I asked if this was not the case for Bhutanese teachers and was assured that it was! Others in this room were attempting to do all the grammar exercises I had suggested in the past 6 weeks and I tried to point out the idiocy of covering the entire course with less than 24 hours before the first English paper and the one containing the grammar questions was due to start, but that too was met with incredulous stares. As with the previous class they had also managed to procure several copies of previous exam papers and were meticulously working their way through them, asking questions as they encountered problems. A few of this group were actually revising the material I had taught them and that gave me some hope.

By the time I got to the final class of the day there was a definite mood of festivity and frivolity in the room. It was exactly the same as an Australian group of senior students in the final lesson for the year. When I enquired about whether or not they were concerned about the upcoming exams they informed me that they were thinking about going home to their parents. After 4 long months as boarders, many of them for the first time, they couldn't contain their excitement about the prospect of seeing their families again and eating home cooked food! I couldn't help but think,"Let tomorrow and the first of their English papers roll around. Come what may."  By and large they have worked hard all semester and I figured they were well enough prepared anyway and today will tell.

The final 2 lessons of the day were cancelled so that all the rooms and the MPH could be turned into examination halls and that also meant that both evening and night study were cancelled. Good news for me as the study supervisor for that day.

This morning I have arrived early enough to be typing this at my desk. I was hoping that I would see an exam supervision roster so I could see how to manage my time for marking and supervising this week, but it has not yet been posted. Assembly in 5 minutes and then exams start in 30 minutes so I guess that we will all find out in good time. With just 2 minutes to the assembly time today's schedule has appeared. I guess that means we will find out our responsibilities each morning when we arrive. What was I thinking? Planning ahead and time management. I must have forgotten I am in Bhutan! Bell has sounded...... assembly, prayers and the national anthem and here we go! 

Just forming up for the assembly, stragglers still coming in at the back

Exams look a little different down in RLSS but it is still a serious supervisory role that needs to be undertaken.

Who is that spectacled Lopen at the back anyway?

Alfresco! Why not when the classroom space is limited?

I love that I can recognise so many of these kids even though I don't know their names. Madame Milk's daughter, momo shop's wayward son, the neighbour downstairs' principal's son is conveniently missing!

Love the position of those feet!

The exam nerve centre at the RLSS. Why wouldn't PP (pre-primary) kids do exams anyway?

The centre of nerves at RLSS just before their exam began.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Ian's Lazy Sunday Afternoon

Exams are almost upon us and it has been a rather stressful time, make no mistake. Firstly the two ‘preponements’ brought the exams forward by a good two weeks. The upcoming national election was the reason. Secondly the actual format and content of the papers is pretty rigid and unbending so I had to go through a bit of trial and error before getting to the actual printing of the papers stage. Luckily that is behind me now and they are safely stored in Madam Kezang's locked cupboard.

Anyway the die is cast and the kids will all sit down under exam conditions from Wednesday onwards. Good luck to them and to us the markers too. I will have 160 papers to mark all up. 120 of them will have a letter and an essay to be marked. Vicky has an even more onerous load with her class XIs...
Anyway, at least the kids are used to this examination procedure, for us it’s a learning curve that will hopefully mean we are better prepared next time round.

Our school recently competed in the ‘Cluster Sports Meeting’ held at a nearby, yet distant, Middle Secondary School. I say nearby, because, as the crow flies it’s not that many kilometres but on the road as the truck drives, it takes a loooong time. Yes, our kids were transported there in the back of a truck, a nice tip truck at that. At least they will be easy to offload at the other end, one of our teachers quipped. The kids had been preparing for quite some time and were raring to go once the time came. Unlike the exam schedule, the sports meeting had been postponed due to the elections.

They ended up getting a couple of trophies and had a few wins. Well done team! The day they returned to Rangjung, this time in a far more suitable truck/bus thing, they did a celebratory lap of the town proudly showing off their trophies to all and sundry. During their lap they also sang victory songs and then passed the hat around. We saw them coming from a distance, guessed their intent and were prepared with some money at the ready.

When they got to our door, instead of the usual Dzongkha song, they all burst into a rousing chorus of ‘Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree’!!!! (Now who could have taught that to them...???)
Of course they were very pleased to get the donation and the next day at school one of the boys said “...very thank you sir for the money…”

Oriental Magpie Robin update;
Well those cheeky sparrows evicted the maggies from their nest didn’t they?!!!! We aren’t even sure if the young robins ever left their nest. One day Mr and Mrs Robin just stopped bringing those lovely bugs home and the sparrows assumed ownership!

Since then the Robins (or another pair identical to the first) have begun building a nest in the roof space immediately adjacent to the original nest that the sparrows took over. Crazy huh!?!

At school there is a fabulous swallow's nest that is all made of mud! The little things flew back and forth thousands of times with tiny beaks full of mud to construct their home.
The kestrels are rarely seen these days, hopefully we will see them en famile soon.

The crazy looking Hoopoes are a bit of a treat. We had a great time looking at a pair of them last weekend near Julian and Shauna’s house in Bartsham but this one was hopping around here in Rangjung this morning.

Sunday is always good here as it is a decidedly non school day and we have the luxury of sleeping in and having a leisurely breakfast. This morning’s was an extravaganza if I do say so myself.

It might not look much to you.... but that is the first bread, as in loaf thereof, we have had since being in Thimphu back in February. (It was a bit more like cake than bread anyway...)
These were also the first poached eggs we’d had since we stayed at Jane's place in Glenelg back in January, BB. ( Before Bhutan)!
Last but not least, this was the first parsley from our parsley pot and the first piece of parsley we’d eaten since who knows when!!!!

Frying cubes of polenta, the 'apron' slipped just as the oil spattered leaving my freshly put on t-shirt looking well worn indeed!

Oh, we both got haircuts from the best barber in Bhutan, Deepak, in Trashigang last Monday on our way home from Bartsham. Vicky was getting a tad exasperated with her ever growing and fast fading hair so she took her dye with her and Deepak did the bizz. He even called me the next morning to check whether Madam was happy with her hair!!! How's that for customer service??? 
I am happy to get a number one buzz cut whenever I am in T'gang as both he and his offsider are excellent barbers. There is always a lengthy queue waiting for their services but we exchanged phone numbers and he told me just to call him when we are on our way and he will prepone our booking!!!