Sunday, April 1, 2012

A pound of Flesh!!

An average week in a boarding school can contain a lot of commitments and extra curricular activities. Such was the week that was. 

Monday I wasn’t actually required to be at school beyond the regular teaching hours but I was still the first one in the office and very diligently going about trying to complete the 98 essays I had collected almost a week earlier. I pride myself in Australia on getting essays back to my students the next time I teach them but this clearly is not a possibility here. I aim for a week but adopt the BST- Bhutanese Stretchable Time clause when necessary. With that in mind I was fighting against time to get these essays back to them by Wednesday. Every free moment including half of the lunch break, and for a half an hour before and after school I sat glued to my desk and marked, from the day I collected them. I had poured over plans and drafts and got those exercise books back to their owners the following lesson as per the Aussie plan, as they need these working books on a daily basis. It is because of this time issue that I insist that final copies of essays get written on paper and not in exercise books. At this early stage in the year there were a few who missed that instruction and 6 books were returned with comments about the requirements for paper copies and the essays corrected. This bothered me, as it is almost a reward for doing the wrong thing when the others have not yet got their work back. Monday afternoon when the curtains were drawn, the lights switched off and the national flag furled after being removed from the flag pole, I took the hint and responded to the glaring of the non-teaching staff member who was standing arms folded in the doorway of the staff work area, hoping I would soon get the hint and pack up and go home! I often experience this kind of reminder to leave now. I took my bundles of essays and headed home for another 2 and a half hours of determined marking. I am lucky to have a husband who loves to cook and allows me to be this obsessive about marking! That was a 12-hour day!!

My marking zone in the staff room- it is a great space and many teachers from other schools are jealous when they visit us!!

By Tuesday afternoon most of the marking was complete. I had re-sorted all the marked essays in rank order searching for one I had seen before and then I remembered that it was in a returned book. Off to the classroom I went and politely asked for the exercise book that I was pretty sure contained the essay that had been copied by another student!! I was impressed that it was one of the first 6 books I marked and with only 4 essays left, I could still clearly remember having read this exact essay before, except this latest version was miraculously error free!! Needless to say each of the 3 sections got a lecture on “PLAGIARISM” to start their English class that day and the deed was done! Essays were completely corrected with positive comments, areas of weakness and advice on how to improve them hand written on them in my class colour coded style. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! Just in time to attend the “Return Show” immediately after period 7.

This was a delightful if somewhat long, staged performance of dances, including traditional Bhutanese style and some modern copies of "Jabberwocky” and “Michael Jackson” by aspiring youngsters. The newbie Class IX and Class XI students performed as a response to the welcome show performed by the old timers a couple of weeks ago. This was a mere 10.5-hour day.

Wednesday, armed with photos and videos of the previous day’s stunning new stars, I began the process of spending the second half of each lunch break showing the students involved themselves performing, on my computer “classwise.” This is still incomplete but I will continue this week. Ever seen 40 students trying to see a 13inch screen held at arm’s length above the teacher’s desk and all determinedly squatting at the front, standing on desks at the back and leaning all over each other laughing? I love to spend my lunchtimes with them and it sure beats marking.  It is a real treat to see their faces light up and know that they are seeing themselves on video for the first time.

Performing her "level best"

There are also plenty of photos of this event and that means prints are required. I am once again taking orders. This means getting folders of shots prepared to be printed whilst simultaneously transferring videos onto every man and his dog’s thumb-drive.

"Madam can I tell you something personal- this colour is good for you"

Wednesday is also club day and that means that each class and break in the day is reduced by 5 minutes, so that we can have an hour session with the members of our clubs at the end of period 7. I run the small and cohesive Table Tennis Club at this time and we manage to share the one wobbly-legged table as fairly and equally as we can between the 5 male and 5 female members. The new table I ordered and promised to pay for last October, will arrive sometime in May, I was told today! WOW that’s is a long delivery time for a table that was in stock when ordered. The boys are talented and eager and girls are still acquiring basic skills and easily beaten but do not give up and respond well to the coaching and advice which has now begun to flow. I have introduced the requirement for mixed doubles to motivate them all. By revolving partners and making them play in mixed pairs after the initial single sex games the boys have taken an interest in improving the girl’s skill levels. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! That was the shortest day of the week at only 9 hours!

On Thursday, the day started at 6am with morning study. I had an hour of wandering around the rooms counting heads and sitting in the room with groups who were clearly not studying. Then I rushed home for coffee and breakfast and threw Ian into his gho and voila I was back turning the prayer wheel on my way to the office by 7.45am.  After a full day of teaching and the classroom “see yourself performing in the return show” lunch break, there was an inter-house soccer match immediately after period 7 but I had begged off with the principal. I had permission to meet with all the Photography Club members who were not involved in the football so we could learn how to download from the new club cameras into the school computer in our newly established secure file for the club.  That session was expertly run by my new assistant and fellow teacher Mr Namgay Sir. He walked them through the process, got a few of them to download the gazillion photos they have taken and then was happy to leave me with the bedlam of 20 odd budding photographers all wanting to use the 4 cameras, and download and view their shots, at once. He left the key to lock up with one of the students and it was 15 minute before evening study when I started warning boarders to get organized and pack up! I went straight from the IT room back to head counting and another hour of wandering in and out of classrooms watching hungry and overly tired kids pretend to be studying hard. The football players all dribbled back into their study rooms over the first 30 minutes, so several recounts and checks took me to 6pm and the chance of an hour and a half respite. That was just enough time for a thunderstorm to brew and by 7.30pm, I was walking back to school in the dark with and umbrella and sheet lightening lighting my way when the batteries in the torch died. Another round of head counting and checking and signing the attendance books and I was done for the day. Not exactly what I had in mind, but done and dusted. By the time we settled in for the evening at home and some dinner, I had put in an incredible and exhausting 14.5-hour day!

You can just image how thrilled I was to see a notice on the board, saying that the disaster management team, to which I belong had a meeting on Friday after school….. Not to mention that when the meeting was over, I could hardly walk away from the girl’s soccer match that was still in progress. Hardly anyone watches the girls play and the spectators were disappearing fast, as study was again about to start- thought not with me supervising on this particular day, so I just stayed and watched. Why not after the week that was. A few more hours just can’t make that much difference.

And Saturday, mornings at least, are also teaching time. Only one student wanted to see videos and photographs at the end of the day so I got away just after 1pm when the lunch bells rang for the boarders 

Bring on the weekend!!! 

We 5 BCfers, who managed to meet up in the small smoke today, from 3 different countries, 3 different local locations and 2 Dzongkhags! That's an achievement for a mid-term Sunday. 

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