Friday, November 4, 2011

Good afternoon ma'am

"I wish I had gone to a Primary school like this!"is what I told myself when I first visited the Jigme Losel Primary school, "look at all those beautiful flowers!"

I was very impressed with the school's vision which was painted on the wall :
                 Learn, Value and Practice
Mission: Allow for self discovery and holistic learning
Value knowledge that is for life

  • of Self
  • of Thinking
  • of Community
  • of Environment
Goal: to produce green students
          to create a green school for green Bhutan

Jigme Losel Primary school incorporates Gross National Happiness in its curriculum. The 4 pillars of GNH are:

  1. Economic Development,
  2. Good Governance,
  3. Cultural Preservation
  4.  Nature Conservation

After leaving the school, something changed inside me. I had this great desire to come back and visit the students because we hadn’t been able see them. I already had my internship at RENEW which is an NGO which seeks to help Bhutanese women with domestic violence, but I couldn’t resist going back to the school. I went back with Adam, and before I knew it, the Principal had given me two classes to teach. Deep down, I knew that this would happen. Before starting to teach, the Principal let us observe a class. I watched a first grade class and was delighted to see how patient and warm hearted the teacher was. She started the class with “mind training” and what used to be a classroom full of running loud students, became a peaceful place in a few seconds. The students sat on their chairs, laid their little hands on their laps and closed their eyes halfway. I observed several grades, and all of them started the class with mind training.

Class 6C playing kickball

I have now been teaching at Jigme Losel for almost three months and it has been such an enriching experience for me. The students in my class have this amazing capability to lighten up my day with all the energy they have. I always wanted to be a teacher when I was young, but later I thought I wasn’t patient enough. The truth I didn’t know then is that it takes experience to learn to find that patience within you. I remember the first time I stepped into 6A, they all stood up to greet “good afternoon Ma’am.” As soon as they sat down again, all 32 of them were chattering and it was impossible to speak over their voices. I had such a hard time making sure they were constantly interested and attentive.

Class 6c watching their peers during role-plays of the 3 Buddhist poisons

 But slowly our relationship began to grow, and soon enough I found a way to keep them entertained. I taught them games I had learned in leadership camps, I taught them how to speak Spanish (they now greet me with a big “HOLA” when I come in) I showed them a power point presentation with some pictures of the countries I had been to (they were especially marveled by the picture the fish under the sea “you went under the sea ma’am? You know how to swim?” None of them in the class have ever seen the ocean and they have never been taught how to swim. In fact they are discouraged to play nearby the river) and I have taught them classes by making them do role-plays to demonstrate their understandings of my teachings.

Billy playing Lacrosse with them! 

Adam and I have been feeling really inspired by teaching in this school. He had the idea of starting a debate club after school so a couple of weeks ago we gave it a try. The first meeting we had there were about eight students but after the second meeting we had about 25 students or more! It was incredible! The students have loved it, and it has been great medium through which they have been able to improve their oral skills and confidence when speaking in public. On Wednesdays in the global warming club for the 6C class who apparently expressed their interest in starting this project with us. This Wednesday the local news called BBS visited the school and interviewed our students. Just a few minutes ago the owner of the cafĂ© where I am presently at said to Adam (I was sick and unable to go)“I saw you on the television!” Isn’t that crazy?

A poster showing "What does citizenship mean?"

Last Wednesday we organized a field trip to the Biodiversity National Park with 6C so that they could see how global warming was affecting their country with the extinction of medicinal plants and orchids. The trip was such a success! The students were so excited to go on this trip. Being in the bus with them reminded me of my own field trips. The students were singing on top of their lungs in Dzongkha and passing around chips and candy all around the bus. I hopped from seat to seat as the students demanded I sat next to them and listened to them talk to me about their lives and anything they wanted to share with me.

On my way back to RTC in the bus, I looked out the window at the beautiful scenery and that special little house which sits on top of the mountain on its own and smiled to myself: “this is it, I’m exactly where I want to be, doing exactly what I want to do.” 

Children have neither past nor future; they enjoy the present, which very few of us do. Jean de la Bruyere

By learning you will teach;
by teaching you will understand.
Latin Proverb

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