Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sick as a mongrel dog

Last Sunday at the end of the sports meet when I left with a sore throat I was convinced that I had just been too zealous cheering on the teams, but by the next morning it was evident that I had a ‘bug’. I guess when you are in close proximity to so many kids for so long it is inevitable that you will catch something from them and I guess that was what happened.

When Monday was declared a holiday, I optimistically thought that I would recover completely that day and cut myself some slack in terms of just ignoring the 40 portfolios on my desk and requiring urgent attention. I am normally vey robust and healthy so that means I am a terrible patient. I haven’t had much practice at it. After this week an award needs to go to Ian for keeping me hydrated and fed without ever losing his temper at my constant grumblings.

I have heard my mother’s voice in my head “Feed a cold and starve a fever,” and then I wonder was that “Starve a cold and feed a fever.” I guess I didn’t learn that lesson Viv.

Tuesday dawned and off to school I went knowing that I had remedial classes to make up due to lost time at the sports meet, a poster competition to reorganize judging for and the impending doom of trying to complete the syllabus before the term evaporated, looming large in my mind.

I struggled through lessons by having classes copy notes from the board as all thought of actually teaching or even speaking was impossible with my sandpaper throat and croaking voice. Rarely do such lessons occur on my watch and the students responded by doing the right thing and making use of the remaining lesson time to complete their short story assignments.

Every afternoon after school urgent activities take precedence and Tuesday the whole cohort of class X and XII students needed ID photos for their board exam registration, so I joined the team of teachers trying to accomplish this without impacting on the selection process for the annual concert. Then watched the hopefuls audition for selection until it was no longer possible to continue because the power had gone out.

By Wednesday my make up remedial class again had to be abandoned due to the urgency of the incomplete concert selection. I was actually relieved since I was feeling worse and feared that this was no ordinary ‘flu’. Recently a school in our locality had to close due to a H1N1 outbreak and being the pathetically miserable patient that I am I was convinced that this is what I had!

I moved the Class XI short story poster judging from after school to Thursday lunchtime when I heard at assembly that all senior students were required to listen to a lecture after school.

I am impressed with the way you can simply ask these students to give up half their lunch break to do an academic task and they willingly comply. More than that they approach it with integrity and never complain about the loss of free time or the sudden rescheduling.

I had spoken to the elected judges about being fair and honest and given them criteria and they were expert at the job. During the judging I simply looked the posters over, ignored the criteria and selected which ones I thought should win in each of the 6 categories, since I had brain space for little else. Sure enough when I added up the scores from our 6 judges from each of the 3 classes, they got the same results that I would have. Fair and honest – No favouritism towards their own classes with perhaps just one exception…… Dorji Phuntsho!

By now the end of the week was in sight and I had not had one full night’s sleep and was feeling worse day by day though my voice had improved enough to speak just not for prolonged periods. Good thing I focus on student centred activities! This ‘bug’ had me feeling like my head was full of cotton wool. My eyes were burning, my nose running and my ears blocked and I had a hideous hacking cough to accompany the whole symphony of symptoms.

Friday I was hopeful that the public performance of the concert starting at 6 pm would at least let me off the hook with respect to my remedial class after last period. But no, when asked, all those who were supposed to attend including those actually performing in the concert, were keen to go ahead with it so “What to do?” Carry on regardless.

Just 45 minutes before curtain up (should have been -BST delayed it by a mere 30 minutes) several class XII boys arrived to borrow my Brokpa hat to complete their costumes. They were still 4 hats short when they left our house but miraculously when act 2 started they were all wearing the right headdress. How do they do that?

The concert itself was fun but in my condition just concentrating on which groups had requested videos of themselves and trying to get some decent shots especially of those who rarely perform, drained what little energy I had. Throughout the show students sidled up to me and  whispered “Video Class XII Science, Madam!” or my favourite “ No zooming madam!” They certainly know what they want and are sure if they ask I will do my best to comply.

It was a little disappointing to see that the hall was nowhere near full but the audience who were present certainly appreciated the show. Luckily I caught my name in the all Dzongkha commentary by the MC and remembered that I had been told by the students concerned, that they would dedicate one act to me. The day scholars certainly stole the show that night.

Saturday with only 4 classes seemed a breeze, even if I was still feeling no better. After my final extra class for English a few of the dedicated XC students put the final touches on our 1,000 paper cranes so they can be mailed on Monday.

That pile of portfolios has now been reduced by only 5. With all the additional activities this week there simply hasn’t been the time or the inclination and all 98 short stories have now joined them on my desk. It is near impossible to find any desk space but my head is not up for the task so I am trying not to sweat it.

Saturday night’s concert was not a repeat but contained several new acts especially selected to delight the student only audience. The best and most appreciated from the previous night were also there and much to my surprise, we two really were the only non-students in the audience. Since students from my class were yet again performing and some for the first time in high school, Ian and I returned to the hall and took the seats of honour in the front row. Yet again I had requests for videos and the students were genuinely thrilled to have us present, so much so that one act was again dedicated to us.

Girls to the left, boys to the right and this time the hall was bulging with eager spectators. There was a good deal of cat calling, cheering and audience participation. The atmosphere was vastly different from the previous evening that is for sure. Nothing like a hometown crowd to really see if you cut the mustard when you strut your stuff!

So here it is Sunday morning and nothing will make me want to start in on that pile of portfolios and short stories. I guess they are not going anywhere. But the optimism that had me thinking last night that I was really on the mend has faded and it is all I can do to keep breathing. Tomorrow, when this has been a week long malaise, I may just have to swallow my pride, break my track record and make my presence known at the BHU: (Basic Health Unit) -somewhere up until now I have not had cause to venture near!

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