|My friend Sonam and I the first week of school|
"SONAM, I don't understand what's going on? What exactly is an auspicious date? I thought that all school's in Bhutan started on February 15th, so why aren't we teaching?" These were just a few mystifying questions that I asked the only Bhutanese teacher I felt comfortable admitting to that I was completely confused at times. Even after she answered my questions, sometimes my brain was so exhausted trying to figure out a new culture all the time that I would give up and I would nod or smile at her answers as if I knew what she was talking about. However, I did know one thing and that was I would figure it out as I went. On the other hand, I didn't realize that this was going to make some hilarious learning as well as a need for some spiritual guidance to take over my days.
So here is a quick synopses of what I eventually understood: Although all teachers and students attended school in Bhutan on February 15th, each school wouldn't be conducting lessons until they got their auspicious date from an astrologer to start teaching, which our astrologer advised us to start on February 27th. What's an auspicious date? An auspicious date is a forecast of a favorable or lucky date. Therefore, until our auspicious starting date teachers had to report to school to supervise cleaning, collect fees, pass out textbooks, etc. but the teachers weren't expected to conduct lessons. Since I am the class teacher of fifth grade, I was to supervise my fifth graders until February 27th. Then I would start my teaching schedule and begin lessons for fifth grade English, two ninth-grade English classes and all library periods for k-6th grade (yes, I'm like a librarian). Being a class teacher of fifth grade means that I am responsible for all the "business" of that class and they are like my babies.
So that first week I was glued to my fifth graders and I was a little on the confused side about what was going on. Outside my class window, I observed children scattered everywhere and some roamed around freely; I got a steady stream of curious kids peeking in the windows wanting a glimpse of what this Western teacher was doing. I never knew when lunch was starting or ending as well as when the school day was over until I would notice that the school became eerie quiet and I would pop my head out the window to discover it was a ghost town. Then I would excuse my fifth graders, which seemed like it was at random times everyday. So I did what always works best for me: I allowed my heart to guide the crazy days. Here's how the first day went:
After being stuffed up in the classroom all morning with not one teaching supply/material, an idea came to me like lightening striking my head (guidance from above). I started telling them about my rock and mineral collection that I have in the States. I became so animated and passionate describing it that they all stared at me in amazement. After I got them all worked up about rocks, I announced to them that we would start our very own rock collection and their eyeballs widened in excitement. We hurried to the soccer field and started looking for the most unique rocks we could possibly find.
Proud Owner of
the Heart Rock
A handful of rocks from our rock collection
We got back to class with a couple dozen of worthy looking rocks just in time for lunch. When I got back from lunch, I was surprised to find them still huddling around their rocks talking about them. They continued the lesson even when I was gone. WOW! So I ended the first day of school with them presenting their rocks. Although a few of them struggled finding the right words to describe their rocks while presenting, they all tried their best.
Considering that I had an amazing first day of school with no teaching supplies, I am very optimistic about the school year. This reminds me to continue to stay positive and to carry the love I feel from the morning assemblies into my classrooms, which makes it easier to receive some spiritual guidance. Moreover, since my students have a great sense of humor, a willingness to talk to me in English and a drive to participate, I know that creative thinking/higher level thinking is going to be achieved in this simple classroom in Bhutan. I love them already and I feel so proud to be their English Language Arts teacher. Please wish us the BEST!
Practicing Raising our Hands for a Year of Participating