I can hardly believe that I have been at Druk School for almost 3 months. Today walking home from school I suddenly started to think about the trepidations running through my mind on that first unfamiliar hike to school several months ago when the whole job was looming large before me. All of them unwarranted I can now happily say. I have now been walking that same route regularly twice a day and taking the opportunity to consider, contemplate and reflect on the homeward journey, when I am most often alone. It is not just the exercise but also the mental unwind that means it is the perfect end to the day.
Since beginning this job, I have wanted to blog about the many spectacularly impressive events that have been held at Druk School, but actually keeping the ball rolling and doing the job on a daily basis, with all of those events also occupying time and adding complications and distractions, means that that just hasn’t happened. However it isn’t the Graduation Day ceremony or Rimdro or the Annual Sports Day or the Shared Reading program or the Teachers’ Day Celebration that make me feel that I am almost a Drukian. It is the feeling that I am developing an understanding of how the place works and I have the feeling that I belong here. Three months down the track I have no less respect for the management or the teachers or students than I did in those first starry-eyed weeks when it was all new and wonderful as well as somewhat daunting and totally unfamiliar.
I have a growing sense of belonging because I can now predict certain events are about to happen, or be postponed and am very often hearing staff around me articulate my own thoughts. I am still impressed that the challenges that we face daily remind me more of the those I faced in schools in Australia and Japan, than those in the rural government schools I am more familiar with in Bhutan. That is no mean feat and a measure of the forward thinking and goal-orientated environment of Druk. Like schools everywhere there are those who accept the responsibilities and challenges and tackle them with energy and initiative and others who avoid anything not essential to their role and procrastinate over even the essential tasks. There is the silent majority willing the meeting to end and the vocal few applying themselves to the current issue that needs an immediate solution. There are the complainers, the compliers, the movers and the shakers as well as the committed and content and those who have to be lead by the nose to the change that is necessary.
I guess my biggest beef so far is the exam system. This is not a new one for me as I grew up and prospered in a system that was slowly reducing the significance and importance of exams and replacing it with ongoing assessment and research. I have long dreaded the emphasis that Bhutan places on exams over thinking and problem solving skills. The world-over the tables have turned and that requires teachers to once again test more than they teach. I strongly opposed and protested about the introduction of National Testing and School ranking in Australia but to no avail! I personally think this is a backward step for learning and developing a lifelong love of learning.
Druk has 4 exams a year. To accommodate them, 2 hours on Wednesday mornings and some Saturdays are given over to exams. This ensures that by the end of each term all subjects have had their day and everyone has one exam under their belt before the mid- year exams commence. In theory it sounds fine, if you are an advocate of exams to start with, but in practice it means we are in a perpetual exam cycle. Once one exam is written, the checking and grading of papers takes over and before that is complete the next exam is looming on the horizon and there is never actually a moment when an exam is not on your mind.
I have written three papers and marked four in the last two months and my final paper was printed today in readiness for the Saturday’s exam slot, which means I still have one more to mark before the first cycle is complete. That takes hours of at home time when classes, and preparation and teaching as well as event management continue throughout this process. I know I am not alone when I feel the pressure of these exams impacting on me. It is just one more reason to feel like a Drukian, and that IS a postive. I have struggled to ensure that I still prepare lessons, I hope will inspire but time is a real constraint.
Among my contemplations wandering home today were thoughts about what to include as the essay topic in the mid-year exam for class IX. I know that I will have to start writing the three papers I am responsible for soon as they will have to be submitted in early June, but I haven’t even graded my final term test yet and that is where my thought are wandering!
Oh well at least the many more disturbing and frustrating worries of my previous schools are rapidly fading into the background and life as a Drukian has plenty of charm, if I ever really make the ranks!