Sunday, March 22, 2015

new school, new apartment, new housemate, new location ……. same old me

We have now been in back Bhutan for just over a month and those anxious and worrying weeks of waiting and hoping for visas in both Australia and Bangkok are slowing receding into a distant memory, so it is more than time to reflect on our new circumstances.

I have really landed on my feet at my school. I don't think I could have found a better match for the way I love to work and the way the school system operates. As our housemate and friend Jonathon said very early on in the piece, "You have finally found a school that matches your own work ethic." That may or may not be a positive thing but it certainly rings true.

While I am still the first teacher to arrive most mornings, that is largely due to the fact that the house to which I belong is conducting house for this first month and that means running all the school programs, assemblies, events and meetings as well as taking turns with other teachers in Earth House, at being Teacher On Duty (TOD). I can't say that I will be sorry when it ends. When that happens, I hope to be able to leave home at the same time and walk to school each morning. So far I have really enjoyed walking home most afternoons: most especially because there is a walkway for most of the way and I often bump into former students from Rangjung days. I am equally glad to say that I am rarely the last person on campus, these days even when we depart at 7pm.

There are an incredible number of meetings, of which I am no great fan, but the end result is we have uniform, well-administered and inclusive policies, which most teachers have contributed to establishing and are therefore happy to comply with. It doesn't get much better than that, especially when you are a newbie, with a million questions and completely unaware of what the expectations are. I can genuinely say I have never felt more warmly welcomed and more instantly at ease. I am frequently asked for my opinions and input and have been thanked more times in the last month than ever before in Bhutan. I hope this honeymoon period last forever.

The first few days were a frenzy of planning and learning the ropes. Having reported, as they say here, with only a few days before the students were due to arrive and almost a fortnight later than the rest of the staff, I started behind the eight ball and had a lot of catching up to do. All the classes had already been allocated teachers and  for me it was a delight to know that I would have a section of class IXs and therefore would be dealing with at least one very familiar and well-loved curriculum and age group. I was, however somewhat surprised to discover that I would be taking a primary class. That is one section of class VI and in addition I have a class VII section as well. As I have never taught either of these age groups before that has necessitated a great deal of work and diligent planning and I can honestly say I am still learning how to approach teaching these classes. Thankfully my new colleagues are both keen to share their ideas and happy to keep me in the loop with what is going on in their classes and we have been able to assist each other and share plans, teaching strategies and experiences with individual students and classes. This support is fabulous and exactly how teaching colleagues should relate but in my experience they rarely do. It is refreshing to be part of this team and be considered a resource whilst also having young (and some not so young) colleagues with brilliant ideas and the confidence to discuss and share them.

My surprise was nothing compared to Ian returning from his first day with the news that he had 4 sections of PP (Pre-Primary). This is the equivalent of kindergarten in Oz and requires not only buckets of patience but highly specialised skills in our collective opinion. It was nothing short of a baptism of fire when added to that he had no free periods. Every class in a room exploding with unrestrained energy and boundless enthusiasm to say nothing of wilfulness, is not easy task. Add to that the language barrier and the fact that many of these under fives had never been separated from their parents before and a real circus could easily unfold. Luckily with the arrival of more teachers at his school there are now some free periods and learning is slowly but surely beginning to take place. Ian has most certainly got some very dear little mates there already.

 My school also has students from level PP up and I am completely enthralled with the antics and behaviour of the younger students. I, of course do not have to teach them so it is easy for me to see just how cute they are and how adorable their interactions with each other and older students are. I do come into contact with them often and participate in activities designed specifically for them as well as observing their behaviour, reactions and engagement in whole school events and programs.

One thing is for certain, being in private schools and living in the capital with a housemate is a whole new ball game and so it isn't true "that you can't teach an old dog (or 2) new tricks" 

My school is also orange inside and out!! How appropriate is that!

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