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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Not just a Gate – Update from Punakha HSS, Punakha, Bhutan

Before, 12 Sci C, 2010
What stood tall for thirty years or more is now being hammered down. A new traditional gate will soon welcome all who come to the school. As a student I walked under the old gate ten years ago and today I am witnessing it getting demolished. I feel a profound loss or else I would not be writing this.


This gate stood mighty and firm for so many years. It was often the favourite spot for the students to take photographs before it - souvenirs after graduation. The gate proudly posed behind many to grace the people in the photographs. And people knew it was Punakha HSS because of the Gate, it was Phunakha’s face for so many years.
Demolition 
A Buddhist Gate. Courtesy Google image


The Gate didn’t have our traditional architectural feature but it had deeper expressions of what is rooted in us as Buddhist, The Wheel of Dharma. The Dharmacakra on three flying banners adorned the Gate and it took the school to many a great heights blessing everyone who passed under it. Doing some reading on the Wheel I found out that the Wheel is also known as The Dharmacakra which is represented as a chariot wheel (Sanskrit cakram) with eight or more spokes. It is one of the oldest known Buddhist symbols found in Indian art, appearing during the time of the Buddhist king Aśoka. The Dharmacakra has been used by all Buddhist nations as a symbol ever since. In its simplest form, the Dharmacakra is recognized globally as a symbol for Buddhism. All Buddhists agree that the original turning of the wheel occurred when the Buddha taught the five ascetics who became his first disciples at the Deer Park in Sarnath. In memory of this, the Dharmacakra is sometimes represented with a deer on each side. 
Although the Gate in my school did not have a deer on each side it nonetheless represented the most sacred aspect of Buddhism. It had aged and had grown as familiar as a land mark, that it is difficult not to see it there today. It was the last of its kind; the others that I am aware of were the ones before Yangchenphu Higher Secondary School in Thimphu and Jigmesherubling Higher Secondary School in Khaling, Tashigang.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Lucky to teach in Bhutan



Western or foreign students in movies and books are interesting. Movies like Dangerous Minds, Coach Carter, and books like To Sir with Love or The Water is Wide portray students who are challenging. These stories are about ordinary teachers who love their job. Imagining these movies and books I cannot help but feel lucky to be teach my students. 

I feel lucky to have students who are genuine in their effort to learn.  I am thankful to have students who put up with me during hot sweaty Punakha afternoons.  I am proud to have students who work hard to do their best. I am thankful to have students who are genuine in the respect and I am grateful for the friendship we share. Though I share jokes with them, they know that there is a line between us which we should respect.

 My classroom is safe because there are no guns or knives. Students are not high or intoxicated. And they listen to me when I reason with them. They challenge me and the book when it is required but do it in a matured manner. I respect their imagination and they mine.

Teaching is a joy because of my students and moments with them inspires me to continue doing what I do. As a student I never thought my sleepy eyes or my stern serious face, not always but sometimes, could sway my teachers’ mood. Now as a teacher, I see how important was my role in helping my teachers love their job. The eager faces of my students energise me even in the last period of a hard hot day.  Their faces are eager to learn, to discover, to laugh, and to appreciate the stories, poems and the essays we unfold together.

11 Sci D, 2009

My students encourage me everyday. It has been four years and may be I will continue to teach for many years because of my students.    

Friday, December 3, 2010

English and Me


I love English, I always loved English even as a child and through English I define myself as a teacher. It has only been four years as an English language teacher but I want to see myself growing old with this subject. With every lesson I teach in the class there are new words to learn, new phrases to understand and new excitements to enjoy every time I read lines that come with powerful spontaneous over flow of the writers’ emotions. I envy theses writers for having so many words and so much skill at their disposal to express themselves and their surrounding with so much clarity and coherence. Every word mingles with other words to create pictures in the readers’ mind, images that are rich and provoke one’s imagination to wander and reach for new horizons. I love English and by expressing my love for this subject I want my students to also love this rich subject of literature and language.
Today in our country the quality of education is questioned and with this the standard of English comes in the lime light because all the other subjects are taught through English.I look at my students and though I feel desperate as to how I can improve their English I am also grateful for their effort and interest.  
There is hope and as long as I express my love for this subject I know that my students will follow.   

Monday, November 8, 2010

Lesson from a Cobbler.

I was once visiting a cobbler in Thimphu and when ever I am with a cobbler or a barber I always speak Hindi and try to have a conversation so that I get to practice my Hindi. I love this language to the extent that I envy it when I compare it to our Dzongkha. It is so rich with vocabulary. But I my writing is not about praises for Hindi, it is something totally different which I came to realize only later when I got the time to think about the conversation I had with the cobbler.
The cobbler was from the Indian state of Bihar like most cobblers and barbers in our country. I asked him about our country and the prize of getting shoes repaired in Bihar and there were many other topics that came up. Of all the topics what I remember very clearly is about telling the cobbler that I visited Bodhgaya three times in my life untill now. Then I told him that he must have visited Bodhgaya as he was from Bihar but to my surprise he said he did not though he lived only few kilometers away from Bodhgaya. I was taken aback for a moment but then I realized since he was a Hindu, Bodhgaya wasn’t so important to him like it is to the Buddhist so I asked him was that the reason.  But he told me he visited Phajodhin Gompa. I never imagined someone from Bihar visiting Phajodhin as it was something totally out of reach.   I was born in Thimphu and lived my entire life in Thimphu but I never visited Phajodhin Gompa.   The cobbler told me that most of the time we overlook what we have and appreciate what others have.

Later I thought about what the cobbler said. I came to realize a simple human nature and found it enlightening.   
Confucius once declared, "Don't complain about the snow on your neighbor's roof when your own doorstep is unclean."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

On a Morning Assembly Speech.




In any venture in life there has to be something to fuel one’s persistence and dedication in following the goals that are to be realized. The morning assembly speech by one of my students did exactly that.
Over the years as a teacher I have heard numerous speeches on various topics but never have I been more inspired to continue on my journey as a teacher. The topic of the speech as posted earlier was, ‘the best source we have to make our tomorrow bright, are our teachers’.
I would like to thank this boy for his kind words. That particular morning was an enlightening moment for me as a teacher. In a time when the quality of education is questioned and criticism burdens heavy on every teacher’s shoulder, the words of the boy was like the fresh spring showers in a season of drought.

In the hard work of his principal the boy came to appreciate and believe in the essence and reward of working hard.   

In the sacrifice of his warden the boy realized the joy of dedication to one’s duty.

In the words of some of his teachers he found wisdom and happiness. 

I thank him for acknowledging the happiness he feels.

Monday, October 25, 2010

This was a morning assembly speech by one of my students.

 Topic-The Best source we have today to look at to make our Tomorrow Bright.
Tshering Dorji 'T' XII Sci 'D' Phunakha HSS 

Someone told us his story sometime a go, ‘As a kid I was bit dull and failed in class five, as a man I made lot of blunders but I worked hard taking interest in my duty’. Who do you think is this someone? Yes our Principal Sir. We can see where that boy stands today, that boy who failed in class five. My friends he has done nothing extraordinary.  His hard work has helped him get where he is today and his sincerity has people admiring him. When I visit the schools where I completed my junior schooling, I see no changes there even when it is after many years. But I have seen many changes in this school during my stay here. Let me not talk about the major changes but pick the simplest. The simplest change I want to point out today is the flower garden behind me. When we were admitted here in class nine, there were six tins here as flower pots. The garden behind you, imagine those days and see what is there today; marry gold flowers. This is our Principal, I have him as the best example for hard work because he is the only living man whom I saw with my own eyes doing it and whom I heard with my own ears saying it.

Mr. Norbu Tshering is the next person I would like to talk about.
Imagine yourself in a situation where you have given a wrong answer to a question, and then see yourself being corrected in two ways. One, by a direct, ‘You are wrong’, and another with something like,’ you have a point in saying this, but don’t you think your answer will have more positive points if you...’ Of course both the responses point out the mistake and correct the answer but which one do you think will be more effective. Obviously the second one and this is called correction through encouragement. When we are bluntly being refused we get insulted and that discourages us to answer or share our views next time. But correction with encouragement helps us to try harder; it creates a free surrounding for one to participate. So, from him I have, ‘correction does more but encouragement does much.’

Next, is Mr. Rinchen Dorji.
In this competitive world most of us have a different meaning for ‘ego’ and ‘self-pride’. Most of us even say we need ego when studying. I don’t say that they are wrong but only doubt. See whether you have ego or self-pride, Mr. Rinchen said, ‘Only I can do it, is ego. I can also do it, is self-pride’. It is very important that we think, ‘I can also do it’ because this encourages one to work with determination and succeed in a better way. But, ‘only I can do it’ is ego and egotistical people can never lead a happy life. So this is what I have from him and I thank him for this.

Mr. Raja Mohan
The word sacrifice may be sometimes given a negative connotation. It may invoke the fear of parting in some but my dear friends sacrifice doesn’t imply a loss, it can mean making choices. It may mean giving up smaller gains for greater goods. Good leaders sacrifice not with resentment but with willingness. So my friends isn’t this what Mr. Raja Mohan does in the hostel? Doesn’t he sacrifice his leisure for us with willingness? He sleeps late with us and wakes up early so that he can send us for our morning study, though he does it sometimes with a bucket of water. We don’t need to be passive smokers in the hostel because of Mr. Raja Mohan, and we don’t see our friends drunk and creating problem because of him. He has sacrificed a lot for us and performed his duty well. Learn from him how to commit oneself to one’s duty.

Mr. Pashupati Sharma
I have been under him for the past three years and now I even enjoy his scolding. He is a man of wisdom with golden words. Let me share with you one word of wisdom I heard from him.
Jellyfish sometimes sallow snail and since the snail is protected in the shell, it remains alive. The snail then starts eating the jellyfish from the inside till it grows and till it consumes the entire jellyfish. From him I have, ‘it is always from the inside that we destroy ourselves and it is also the enemy within that consumes the society.’  

My friends, the people I mentioned today are not well known, nor are they Heroes. I did not mention any great world leader nor did I mention famous influential personalities. I did not quote Gandhi or Mother Teresa. I did not because all these great people are beyond our reach but our teachers are the ones who are always with us. So, I say, our teachers are the best source for what ever we need to learn to face life.
These teachers I mentioned are some who have greatly influenced me in my life; I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and all the teachers for being teachers.
          

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Global Warming




We can do something!
One afternoon after finishing a story in class 12, we discussed the theme of the story, ‘Ethics of modern science and its impact on human lives’. The story was about a teenager who undergoes a brain transplant but the operation rather than doing well only affects the main character who undergoes the operation.  The affect is emotional damage rather than the after effects of a scientific venture gone wrong.  The brain transplant also affects the other characters who are related or involved with the main character.

So, we were discussing the theme at a broader level and talking about the effects of science on our planet and our lives. Global warming was the hottest topic that flared instantly. I said that global warming was a real threat to our survival as it threatened the very life of our planet, may be the life of our planet would end during our lifetime because the Earth is becoming hotter and the polar icecaps and the glaciers are melting so rapidly. Hearing this one of the boys sitting at the back responded immediately saying that what if rich and powerful countries could build huge freezers. Every one in the class started laughing. Thought some of his friends were laughing I could say his response was genuine and immediate. There was concern in his voice.  I asked them why it was not possible; his response was rich with imagination. There was a beauty in his response which should be realized by everyone because it is our imagination which has made many things possible.

So without dismissing the boy’s response I asked the others who were laughing to say how they as individuals can help reduce the affects of Global Warming. They thought I was angry for they were silent for some time. So, I asked them again and when I did I was happy with their response.

They put it in a very mature manner and said they can help in their own capacities as individuals. They gave me the response I expected and I was very happy to know that they were now grown-ups. I had taught some of them for four years and now to see this responsibility in them was a reward. They said, though we may not be able to build huge freezers but we can contribute and help in small ways like putting out the lights when we don’t need them, closing the tap when we don’t need water, riding bicycles for short distances, refusing plastic bags, recycling any product that can be recycled, turning one’s kitchen waste into manure,  disposing their waste in the proper places, planting trees etc. There were many responses but I can’t remember all and the important thing was I felt they will do or try to do what they said they can do.
Some may say these are the responses one can expect from class 12 students. Yes that is true but when one hears it from the ones one wants to hear from, it sheer joy.

Monday, October 11, 2010

3 men caught with 284 grams of hashish


3 men caught with 284 grams of hashish
Hash Possession 27 September, 2010 - Thimphu police have seized 7three men, suspected to be involved in the illegal transactions of controlled substance.


This is not the latest news regarding hash, the recent was young people in Punakha caught by police(BBS 4th Oct). Hash or also known to some as maal or to some others as Laerim has come a long way. From what I read in Dasho Kinley Dorji’s ‘Within the Realm of Happiness’, Karma was one of the first who introduced smoking hash in the country. People didn’t know what the smokers were doing rubbing the plant on their palm then. And now the story between hash and young people is growing numerous, most of the time taking the front page or making the headlines. Most tourists I hear are amazed to see the abundance of marijuana growing freely in our country.
Now, the reason why I write what I write is to support Hashish, maybe to the extent that it should be given legal status. This I would like to do by labeling hash with alcohol. When alcohol enjoys legal status why is hash persecuted. Hashish doesn’t cause any aggression in the users. On the other hand people who smoke hash only occasionally I hear become creative and imaginative. I also found out, No reports of a statistical linkage between hashish and violent crime have been published in known scientific literature; instead it has been found to generally inhibit aggressive impulses.’  Wikipedia.
One of the recent news that caught my attention was a father-in-law killing his son-in-law because the son-in-law was under the influence of alcohol and threatened to kill the whole family. He was however killed by the father-in-law in self-defense. Domestic violence results because of alcohol. We don’t hear such news regarding marijuana. So, if alcohol enjoys legal status then why can’t marijuana when marijuana causes no aggression, and no domestic violence. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Dzongkha and Me, Part III


I was relived to find that he did not blame people like me who took very little interest in our national language. According to him, the national language suffered and could not develop because of the situations and conditions which were unavoidable. One key reason being the late modernization of our country. It was only in the early 1970s that modern developments started taking place in our country. Now in the tenth five-year developmental plan, our country is still not developed enough to produce goods in our country. Now, you may wonder like I did, what has this got do with the national language. According to Dasho Sherub for the development of any language, nouns/names are important but in our country since everything is imported from outside and have their own names, we need to invent new names in Dzongkhag. But, even after inventing names it is important to keep pace with the advancement that the technologies and developmental aspects are making. For instance, even before finishing a name for the CD now we have to invent a name for the thumb drive because the thumb drive is now slowly erasing the CD’s functions and its existence. Even in inventing these names we just can’t name them with what ever that comes to our mind and the reference or the basis that we keep in inventing a Dzongkha name is English. The new names have to make sense and also be comfortable to use. He also said that in the recent years with democracy setting roots in our country it has promoted our national language as it presented the opportunity for invention of new Dzongkha names or terms which were in line with democracy. The discussions happening in the parliament using the new terms promote them and the national language. I also came to know that the judiciary was and is one strong contributor in promoting Dzongkha. One eye opener to me was the realization of language used in the society dictating the societal values and thoughts. So, if we speak, write and read only English then we will become like westerners, this is what Dasho Sherub said. And when we become like westerners we are no longer Bhutanese and our identity will be lost.
But he doesn’t blame the people for taking interest in English and ignoring or neglecting Dzongkha. He said that Dzongkha did not and could not develop because there were very less factors favorable for its development. Excelling in Dzongkha did not secure a job. There are very less or no reading materials in Dzongkha. There are very less authors writing in Dzongkha.  Dzongkha teachers do not get training opportunities. And the general outlook was that speaking or writing English was superior to using Dzongkha.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dzongkha and Me, Part II

On the 24th of September my school was visited by the Secretary of the Dzongkha Development Commission, Dasho Sherub Gyeltshen. The objectives of the visit were clear as I know our national language is important but listening to the Dasho’s presentation, I came to know I never really realized how important it was to me as a Bhutanese. I had been clouded by ignorance and had been carried away by my English. How I was good and better in English had me never really be bothered with how poor I was or am in Dzongkha. I never thought about the impact it would have on my country’s future if there were more people like me. People like me who prefer to use English over Dzongkha and only look at the national language as crude and not rich enough to express ourselves.
Language in any society is of utmost importance, the language that weaves the social fabric is the identity of that particular society. With globalization in place, every country is striving to promote their identity. One should not forget one’s roots and in remembering the roots, realizes the importance of identity. This I did not know until Dasho Sherub opened my eyes. I am grateful that I did not miss his talk. Attending his talk I came to understand the initiative I should take as a Bhutanese to promote Dzongkha. The vital juices of his talk, I know I will not be able to convey in these few awkward lines but I think there is no harm in trying.
to be continued ...

Friday, October 1, 2010

Dzongkha and Me. Part I



My most vivid memory of a Dzongkha class in my primary level is the Dzongkha teacher’s stick. I remember one incident in class three when our Dzongkha teacher smacked one of my mates so hard that the boy shit in his gho. I can’t forget the teacher or the painful ashen face of the boy with whom I studied for six years.  As for me I can’t remember getting any serious beatings, may be because I was always on the guard, as I always managed to copy my homework on time and struggled to memorize my text though I always received little beatings every now and then but they were not considered beating as everyone got them. I escaped the serious beatings because I managed one way or the other. I was not good in Dzongkha. In fact I hated the subject. I am not proud to say that but as a child Dzongkha period was the longest period of the day for me. I remember how the clock ticked by painfully slow. I use to pray my Dzongkha lopen would meet with an accident. I would play the accident over and over  again in my mind; my lopen on his battered Indian chetak scooter straining to make the up hill road to the school and suddenly a big truck running down out of control. There would be no Dzongkha class and it will be taken by our class teacher who use to teach us nursery rhymes.
These were my thoughts then as a child and now even as an adult my opinion for Dzongkha has not changed much. Though I feel the need to improve my Dzongkha I never actually tried. I am ashamed to say that I don’t know how to read or write Dzongkha nor can I speak formal Dzongkha though I am a Bhutanese. I was so ignorant of the importance of this language that my conscience is now tainted with guilt.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Celebrating Democracy, by Namgay Wangmo, student PHSS. THE BHUTANESE DEMOCRACY: A GIFT FROM THE GOLDEN THRONE



Bhutan, the land of Drukpas, blessed with the hereditary kings since 1907, has always remained  a happy, independent and proud country. People in our country wear our unique national dress and take pride in doing things differently with the foremost goal of “Gross National Happiness” the royal vision that the whole world respects and appreciates today.

Bhutan was continuously blessed with benevolent kings and the process of modernization came to this last “Shangri-La” in the 1970s and with modernization Democracy began to step in.
A Century of Monarchy brought Democracy.
Democracy is young in Bhutan, but it is greatly praised for its unique origin. Democracy has come to this country in the most unusual way. The people were happy and were unwilling to creep out of the monarchical wonderland. People did not demand for democracy but it came as a gift from the Golden Throne despite the peoples’ reluctance. Therefore, the irony here is that, while in some countries people demand democracy and have to fight for it, in our country democracy was imposed on the people by our beloved kings. Our kings gave up their power for the sake of the people and country, which is why we, the Bhutanese people should honor this Gift.

Jigme Dorji Wangchuck the third Druk Gyalpo’s opening Bhutan’s door to modernization also brought in key aspects of a democratic state when he ordered the establishment of the National Assembly or Tshogdu in 1953. People elected their representatives to the National Assembly to voice their concerns. Though how the chimmis voiced the peoples’ concern and views in the National Assembly then was far from what freedom of expression means in a democratic state, but it was still a significant step towards Democracy.  His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyelpo King Jigme Singye Wangchuk, a blessing for the Bhutanese people started the process of gradual devolution of power by handing executive power to the Cabinet of Ministers, establishing the Dzongkhag Yargay Tshogdue and Geyog Yargay Tshogchung in 1981 and 1991 respectively.   The final step to ensure that the Bhutanese people enjoy prosperity, freedom, and independence was ordering a new democratic constitution to be drafted and transformed the government from absolute Monarchy to a Democracy. This democratization was carefully planned by our farsighted kings for the people’s sake through many noble visions of power decentralization, enabling the people and giving voice to the people.

The Bhutanese people were politically innocent in the beginning, but gradually began to understand the gift that our farsighted king bestowed on us. The responsibility that each individual citizen had to shoulder to make our Democracy strong and clean without any corruption was another important aspect that came with understanding the gift. To relish this gift, the very first contribution that each individual could make was to exercise the right to vote. Thus, the Bhutanese people had to make their choice between two parties.
For Most Bhutanese, the two parties were known as the “crane” and “horse” respectively after their logos. “Crane”for Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) led by Jigme Y Thinley who stressed political integrity as the bedrock of sound democracy. On the other hand the opponent  ‘’horse’’ for People’s  Democratic Party  led by Sangay Ngedup , campaigned with the slogan, ‘’walk and  talk’’ and  ‘’service with humility’’

There was not much difference between the two parties in the political ideologies or policies, both the parties  were working  towards the royal vision of ‘’ Gross National Happiness’’ and promising to develop the nation.It became a day to be marked by the Bhutanese people on 24th march 2008, when every citizen of this country elected their democratic government and cast their secret ballot for their right candidate. The outcome confounded expectations and sent a stunning message across the country where Druk Phuensum Tshogpa the “crane” won by 45 seats out of 47 seats.
Thought the Opposition Party remains weak with only two members, but in the past two and half years of democracy the Opposition Party has made considerable contributions as to make sure that the Ruling Party maintains transparency and is accountable for its policies and decisions. The Opposition Party has done their best in questioning certain decisions by the government and has made the Bhutanese people more aware of issues that are important to the country, throwing light on issues that the people are ignorant about. The latest hot news being the Opposition leader suing the government for not following the constitution with regard to revising the taxes in the country. Good Governance, one of the pillars of Gross National Happiness is the key pillar when it comes to ensuring the other pillars stand strong. Therefore, it is important that the Opposition Party live up to their role and responsibility in the democratic arena. So far, the government has functioned well and up to the people’s expectation.  The people and the country have seen various developmental activities carried out by the new government and have served the people well. New roads have connected remote geogs and illuminated them and their children with electricity and new schools. The One important development that I as a student have seen in the school is the infusing of the GNH values. The GNH values infused in the school curriculum will no doubt in time produce good results. This initiative came from the new government as they realized the importance of the words our beloved kings, ‘the future of our country lies with our children’, for Gross National Happiness to be achieved the children of our country are important.

Democracy in Bhutan should guarantee peace and prosperity in the country with a uniform development taking place in the country, and corruption in the country should go down. Important power checkers have been put in place by our wise leaders to help our government function well; they are the Supreme Court, Anti-Corruption Commission, etc. For Democracy to flourish, the government and the people should work hand in hand intelligently so that a strong and vibrant system of governance takes root in our country. 

We as Bhutanese citizens and students have got the responsibility towards democracy, like Plato said ‘It is the duty of every citizen to participate in the political life of the state’. We can play individual roles because when it comes to democracy every citizen of this country is empowered with a right to choose their own government for themselves and can raise their voice and express their views. As a student the individual role that we can play is exercising the power to vote that is gifted to us. The people supported the government when the Bhutanese people casted their votes to declare their choice, their government during the first election held in the country. However, the peoples’ role does not end there, our beloved kings have gifted us democracy and with it comes all the aspects of democracy. One of the most important roles we can play as citizens of a democratic state is exercise the freedom and privileges of democracy in the right manner. We should not misuse our freedom of expression or any other freedom that we now have because of democracy, but we can share our views and opinions in a constructive way, be a critical friend to our government to help our government serve the people and the country well. We can further help to make illiterate people understand democracy better and create awareness among the people about the importance of casting their vote for the right people.
Our democracy is young like us and it needs to grow with us becoming strong and shouldering the responsibilities for our people and live up to the expectations of our benevolent kings.

Thank You.


Namgay Wangmo
XII Art
Punakha Higher Secondary School 



Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Being an English Teacher




If you ask a tourist how easy is it to get directions in Bhutan, he or she will tell you they never got  lost in Bhutan, not because our towns and cities are small but because most people living in the urban area understand or speak English.
However, the situation in the classroom is different and belongs to a completely different context. Though we learn English right from our elementary classes and though English is the medium through which other subjects are taught still only three or four students in a class of thirty five are good in English in most classes in most schools. Now when I say good in English you may wonder the scale with which I am measuring my students and qualifying them as good. My standards are shamefully humble and I have to do this not because I want to but because I have to. If a student is in class nine and doesn’t know the difference between ‘there’ and ‘their’ or if a student is in class eleven and doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘yell’, what can I do but lower my measuring scale. You may say that this is a grave matter for me as an English teacher. Yes, it is and I have thought and tried to analyze the problem so as to solve it but so far I have only managed to think about my students’ English and suffer from headaches.
 One reason why they are weak in English I feel is because they have no reading habit. Reading which is very integral to the development of the intellectual maturity in them. But can they be blamed for this handicap, some may say yes and some no but that is not what I want to ponder on. But again, if the teachers at the elementary levels can set the foundation well then I would gladly thank them for the easy job I will have and not have to yell at my students to make them understand the meaning of the word, ‘yell’. The foundation should be made strong. To me a student is no different from a building, like a building to rise up strong it needs good and strong foundation. This doesn’t only concern English; it is with regard to all the subjects, but English is at the center of this foundation and the teachers should define their roles with profound sincerity. Elementary teachers should be paid more and given more incentives than secondary teacher because they are more important. The government should motivate them to work harder. And what motivation is more motivating than money.
I have tried things with my students. Like making them write journal entries every day, just half a page of any thing that they want to write about. I have tried movies so that they understand the elements of a story well. I even tried music so that they will develop listening skills and with it comprehension skills. They know what an argumentative essay is and know how they should write one. But I have not checked their note books, I have not taught them grammar because I don’t know where to start and also because I hate grammar. I feel when one is too serious about the technicality of language then he or she is barred from that spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings which he or she aspires to put down in verse. So, I admit I have not been sincere either. So, how can I improve my students’ English?

Friday, September 10, 2010

My favorite Poem



I studied my favorite poem when I was in class ten, back then it was not my favorite. Not because I didn’t like it or didn’t understand it but because there were not many poems I read or took interest in. But still there was something about the poem, few lines imprinted in my memory. 
‘ How dull it is to make a pause, to make an end, to rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use’ ,
‘To follow knowledge like a sinking star, beyond the utmost reach of human thought’.
May be it was because of the stylish way in which my teacher read the poem to us or may be because it was my teacher’s favorite poem, so that’s why the interest in teaching the poem came to him so naturally. And later on when I had to teach the same poem to my class 12 students I was excited with a nostalgic atmosphere surrounding me in the class. I tried to replicate the lesson like I experienced it ten years a go but my memory failed me and I knew I was too ambitious. But when I took the poem as a poem which I was most familiar with, things started falling into their place. I studied the poem again as I now had to teach it to my students and I wanted my students to enjoy it like I did as a student.
For me no poem is as inspiring as or as beautiful as Ulysses. Of course there are many beautiful poems, some of my favorites being Elegy written in a Country churchyard, Ode to Autumn, Birches, and many more but I love Ulysses because of Ulysses always roaming with a hungry heart. His hunger for knowledge and the way Tennyson puts it beautifully in powerful verses is very connected with my profession. Teaching is one profession where you have to follow knowledge like a sinking star, where every experience should serve you well and the untraveled world will gleam to attract you and inspire you to continue further on your journey.
So,I want to say these words every morning before I begin my day;

‘’I am a part of all that I have met,
Yet all experience is an arch where thro’
Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to make a pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!’’

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On Writing.




I have not written anything for sometime now and this feeling is suddenly making me afraid; what if I can no longer write what I feel, what if the words that I use can no longer give shape to my feelings. If this happens, I might lose a precious part of my life. The part that helps me reinvigorate my senses to the happenings around me. It helps me not to act on my impulse but gather a ground from where I can contemplate my doings and bring about maintenance to the life I am living. Writing has opened my soul and made it ready for me to look at myself through critical eyes to bring better changes. The things that I write have made me aware of my own feelings that I record in words to revisit them later. Sometimes I relive them. In reliving those moments, I gain control over in studying, understanding, and realizing myself in a much better and sometimes improved way. Thus, I am thankful for this gift, which helps me understand myself and the life that I am living.

I want to write poems, for they say poems are the vehicles of ones feelings to the outside world. It is the noble language of the hearts that only a heart speaks and is contained by a heart. However, I seldom am able to write one, is my heart not worthy enough for this noble writing? Must I fret and squeeze to lay my senses on some powerful verse? On the other hand, am I just not pleased with the words that my muse sends me? I have the feeling that I can write my heart. I just need the right moment to put it down on paper. I have written few and when I read them they help me to contemplate my feelings, they give me joy and feed me the nectar from their flowers of petal-words. Bacon said reading makes a man full and writing a complete man. So here I am, writing away my thoughts and feelings but I feel I have not yet fully tamed my skills. I need to polish my words so that it would shine back my feelings like looking at a clear mirror of my emotions.
So I pray to the God of words to bless me with words of clear purity and expression to pass on my messages to the outside world and to my own heart the beauty of life that is laid before me for my senses to nibble on. I thank for the words I have at my disposal right now and pray for more.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

teacher

A teacher is known to mould,
The young minds as told.
We give but don’t take,
For theirs and our conscious’ sake.

The tasks are mighty high,
But still the limits are like sky.
We toil on the trace,
Keeping our face.

We are said to be the light,
That shine through the darkest night.
But people don’t know a teacher’s a mule,
Working and burning his fuel.

Day and night,
Fighting like a brave knight.
We follow the tiring tread,
To earn the future bread.

We give but not know to fake,
To serve and to make.
The future with our touch,
But it is only this much.

Sad it is to know,
That every one is a foe.
Every voice is cruel,
Forwarded to a crazy duel.

It is not warm,
Like a barren farm.
Every thing is strange,
Which needs a swift change.

To lift up the spirit of a teacher,
Like a filmed feature.
Motivate and raise desire,
Like the warm bright fire.

Thus I urge,
To let my soul merge.
With the heavenly dove,
To bestow love.

Not bothered with critics,
Not swayed by mystics.
I travel my road,
With my undying code.

To this life I commit,
My life I submit.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

THE HELPLESS WALLS

It is said that, ‘walls have ears’ but its hard to believe that today they even have ‘mouths’ . The toilet walls in every school in Bhutan are scribbled with words and pictures of all kinds, which make them, speak.
The first thing that the newcomers experience in their first day at school, is the difference in rules and regulations, environment and the feelings. However, one thing remains the same. The Toilet Walls.
No surprise! The toilet walls always remain the same. They are scribbled with dirty words, filthy pictures and used to express aggressive feelings. The true nature of a wall, which is to be clean, is never maintained.

The change in the time has also led to many changes on the toilet walls. They are not ordinary walls as students refer them with different names now. Some call it “slam wall” because the walls are filled with bio-data and criticizing words just like in a slam book. Others call it “wall net” derived from internet since one can find information like contact numbers, addresses and so on. Since it is also filled with warnings like “BECAREFUL, WATCH OUT….”they call it “warning wall.” Some words are so demeaning that you doubt whether it was really written by a student.

Though knowing the impacts and consequences, the toilet walls are always scribbled. A frowning face coming out of the toilet is not a new sight. Mentally disturbed and moods switched off it also lead to loss of concentration in the class. Moreover, sometimes it leads to many problems like fighting, misunderstanding and hatred.

According to the rules and regulations, scribbling on the toilet walls is strictly prohibited. But hardly few abide by it. It is mostly the boys who pour out their thoughts on the helpless wall.

Then, will the helpless walls always remain helpless? If the ones who write cannot stop, at least they can strive to minimize it. Creating awareness can help change their notion and decrease the act. We can individually inculcate a habit to rub those nasty words and pictures, and replace them with useful, educative, inspiring and innovative phrases.

It should be reminded that men lie at the zenith of evolutionary chain. We consider ourselves to be civilized and advanced. But how many of us act according to it? Therefore, it is high time we stop acting like barbarians and behave more like civilized students. And let these helpless walls live a life of a wall.

Contributed by;
Milan Rai
Lobzang Dawa
Tshering Yangden
students PHSS 2009
editor - Sonam Choden (student)

Friday, July 23, 2010

To Punatshang Chhu




You flow with a mighty roar,
Yet you sooth my tired ears.
Songs you sing to me of the past, present, and future
As I watch and flow with you.

You are immortal like the Life you sing of, and
You will continue to sing after I am gone.
So please sing, sing with joy
And let my poem be your song.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Exam Hour


Exam hour, A Different Experience

It is a beautiful day. The sun is shinning. The birds are chirping. The sun’s ray flicker on the leaves as they rustle in the gentle breeze that gushes softly from the river below. Inside the class, the fan swings its hands slicing the air like a warrior in a heated battle. The fan’s rotating sound is disturbing. Other than the soft flipping of the pages, falling pencils and pens and a little cough here and there, nothing is heard in the room. A pin dropping on the floor can be heard. Naïve but stern faces over papers are a spectacle to observe as each individual face has a story to tell.

First, there are the ‘no-nothing’ faces that are the easiest to spot in the group. It is amusing to watch them as they sweat and scratch their heads as if doing that will make the answers fall out of their jammed heads. Their eyes linger in mid-air thinking about what they should write just for the sake of not leaving the answer scripts blank. But at the same time it is painful to watch their struggle. There are moments when I just feel like teaching them, may be give them some clues, point out some correct multiple-choice answers etc. But I cannot forget that I am a teacher and being there is to make sure that the exam goes fair.

The next are the confused but ‘little knowing’ faces. They also have their own share of the struggle - the price they pay for not working before. Since there is not much to write, the part they do write is given all the time they have and as far as the neatness is concerned they get full marks leaving aside the correctness of the answers. They are also interesting to watch. They roll their eyeballs here and there hoping to catch a glimpse of what their friends are writing. Some stretch their necks so much towards their friends’ scripts that I even have to ask them to stop or they might turn into a giraffe.

For some, the exams come as an exhibition to showcase their knowledge and intelligence. For others it is the reward for all the hard work they have put in. Some receive the question papers, go through it, and smile a satisfied happy smile as if they got the toy they always wanted for their birthday. Some smile at the question paper as if they have met a long lost friend. Their smiles radiate happiness and joy. It is a smile you can take pride in beholding as a teacher.

However, in the end, every one is happy. Exam is over. Good or bad results, a vacation is waiting.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


'Follow Knowledge like a sinking star beyond the utmost limit of human thought' Tennyson.
I hope they do, my prayers are with them.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

haiku

Green air fresh the mind,
together we learn,
moments to remember.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Gephel


Increaser of Merit, Ocean of Wisdom.


Apprehensive torrents purge my bay,
The once tranquil atmosphere now fades
Like the morning mist giving way to the day
When I behold this pure creature, I made.

Pure he is, like the heavenly dove
Born into this unforgiving time
Where you can feel the cry of ravished love
Tainted with cruelty prime.

Therefore, this is an honest prayer
From an honest father for his new son
Like the true words of a soothsayer
Let my words shine like the bright sun.

May he grow strong and tall
Become wise with fulfilling stern
May he never fall
But when he does let him learn

May he live up to his name
“Gephel Rigdhen” the increaser of merit, ocean of wisdom
Let his path be laden with fame
And bring merit to all beings with freedom

Freedom of the spiritual kind
In this tired times of crazy gale
With a rich matured wise mind
Let him in his purpose never fail

May he grow like the vast ocean
Bearing a fulfilling rich face
Dedicated to humane and spiritual motion
Bestowing upon beings the kind of love and grace.

So I say my prayer
For the one who is to become strong
To let his journey be clear
So I sing this song.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Rain


The Rain.

The Rain plays on the steel roof,
The Rain claps on the cemented floor, and
The Rain beats on the leaves broad.
‘Tip, Trap, Trap, Tip…’ it sounds.
Singing away with the worldly hue.
It sings of a season new.
‘Tip, Trap, Trap, Tip…’
It says to the withering flower,
‘Worry not for here I am ‘.
It promises to the waiting farmers,
A hearty and prosperous season.
It sings to the mellowed grasses, and
Dances on the roof tops,
Kissing away the heated Earth,
Promising life and to nourish it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Afternoon Class

Afternoon class.

Drowsiness hangs heavy in the air, and
The fan tries to do justice to its purpose.
It swings it arms like a mad man.

Below the students linger,
With heads supported with pillar-arms.
They try to pay heed to what I say.

I send two of them to wash away their sleep,
A joke brings back their consciousness,
I continue my lesson but they receive,
Every word like a lullaby
Trying not to droop like rich red poppies,
They hang on.
Their eyes gain weight,
Drawing all the energy from their body,
They try to hold it open,
But with hopelessness, strive.
I pity them and myself, so
I call it a day.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My share of GNH?

It was an illuminating incident and now when I look back at it and I smile. I smile at the joy of teaching and realize that it is not one sided, I teach but more than that I learn every time when I am with my students.

It was an afternoon class and an afternoon class in Punakha when summer is at its peak it a difficult class for any teacher to keep his students awake. It is a challenge. So on that faithful afternoon I found my students not so eager for the story I had for them. We talked about career and since it was in science, I talked about their career choices and how choices are important in our lives to make us better human beings. Then I talked about the choice I made, to become a teacher and the choices my friends made. I expressed my unhappiness about not getting opportunities to go abroad for short trainings or workshops, while my friends who are in positions lower than me get to visit many places that I only hear about in books and see in movies. Moreover, that particular afternoon I was overwhelmed with my rejection for masters. I was disappointed more when I heard that one of my friends was going to Kuala Lumpur. I mocked the maxim ‘ teaching is a noble profession ‘ as I strongly believed that I deserved more and better than some of my friends who are not noble people like me.
Then one of my students whom I had taught for two years said that I was wrong. I was taken aback for a while. I didn’t know what to say because his words caught me by surprise. I had to gather my focus to drown what he said; I thought he was challenging me.
He said, ‘No Sir, you are wrong, we go to foreign countries all the time’...I couldn't understand what he was saying, ‘because very recently we visited Jamaica, and came to know about the people there.’ He was talking about the short story Jamaican Fragment. ‘And we have been to Africa too, spent one glorious night below the starry night sky in the desert.’ He was talking about the essay African Noël.
I couldn’t help but smile. What was happening felt familiar as I read something like it in the story, The Bet by Anton Chekhov in class ten.

I can't say I felt elated but my student's consolation did help a little. At that moment I was not the teacher, he was. And I was happier.




Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Modern DayKnight?


Modern day Knight
I call myself a modern day knight for they call me ‘Sir’,
The sword of knowledge do I hold
To chop off ignorance in those naïve faces,
Their heads, which lie on their shoulder.
My purpose is noble and civilised manners do I nurture
In their young mind the honesty of truth.
I teach them how to shield themselves
From the apprehensive torrent of this unforgiving world.
The armour that I wear is stronger than the toughest metal
For it is smitten by love and care.
And it shines even in the darkest hour
Reminiscence of the goodness that it bestowed upon humanity.
Every day I shout in the class as if I am crying out a Battle Cry.
Every day I toil, sleepless nights do I spend
To prepare for polishing my young warriors to face life
This seems no less than a battle.
I give, I take, I teach and learn, I toil, I suffer, I enforce, I care
And at the end of each day my reward is being called ‘Sir’.
There is a profound expression
On their faces when they utter the word ‘Sir’ and
It gives me hope and inspiration to continue on my journey.
This journey in life with young faces
Who like the spring blossoms bloom at the break of dawn.
The day is breaking and it is full of hope.
Life is full of beginnings; it’s only that one has to realize its existence…
I can feel, I am learning, I am becoming wiser.
And I have my emotions and a heart for this profession.