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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Mobile Story

The sky was bright. It promised a hot day. The students gathered in the school courtyard for the morning assembly. The Morning Prayer and the National Anthem were sung. The assembly speakers were in the front and Dorji could see the fringes of their gho and kira shiver. He remembered how he was nervous before his speech. The paper he wrote his speech on was fluttering like a fragile autumn leaf in the wind when he held it in his hands.

It was a Monday. So, usually on Mondays the assembly was held by the Principal. However, on that faithful Monday, the Principal was out of station. In his place the vice-principal took the platform next to the speakers. The English speaker spoke on, “Why we (students) shouldn’t bring mobile phones to the school?” When the speakers finished their speeches, VP thanked them and stressed on “Mobile Phones in the school”.

He reminded everyone what will happen if they brought their mobile phones to the school. The mobile phone will be seized and the offender will write a statement which will go into his/her personal file. Their character certificates will then be ruined.

Dorji was giggling to himself thinking about how his English teacher made fun of the VP because he would say “B-Mobile” is not allowed in the school as if the “Tashi cell” was allowed. The VP was a Dzongkha language teacher, it seemed like he didn’t care or he didn’t know the difference between B-Mobile and mobile phone.

The Vice principal went on reminding what will happen if a student was caught with mobile phone in the school, Dorji thought about his phone. It was a gift from his mother on his 16th birthday. But he could not remember when he last held it.

All of a sudden the realization dawned on him. His phone was in his bag, in the classroom.

On Sunday Dorji had to come to school to practice a dance for the Inter House Cultural Show. The school allowed day scholars to bring their phones to play music on such occasions as the school couldn’t provide music sets for all the practicing groups. When Dorji reached home after the practice, he watched  football, had his dinner and went to sleep, forgetting to take out his phone from his bag.
Like the speakers before, it I was now Dorji who was shivering. The assembly never seemed to end. The most straining part was the breathing exercise when every one remained silent, concentrating on their breathing for 5 minutes. To make things worst, Dorji’s class was right behind the vice - principal. Any call at that movement would have been loud and clear like a siren. Dorji cursed himself, his absent-mindedness. How careless he had been. Even a message alert would have revealed his phone because it was a song. And the reason why he brought his phone the previous day was because his phone didn’t need speakers. It could play very loud music. Dorji started crackling his knuckles.  His ears felt hot. He could not hold still. Every muscle in his body wanted to run to his class.

Finally when the assembly was about to end their was another announcement from the VP, all the class 12 boys were asked to stay back as their was a briefing on role modeling for the senior boys.

Dorji didn’t know how the briefing finished as his mind pondered incessantly on his situation. After the briefing, Dorji rushed to his class but the teacher for the 1st period was already in the class. He thought he could slide his hand inside his bag and switch off his phone but then he also knew that the phone will not go off silently. He thought about sliding the phone up his gho’s sleeves and asking for permission to go to the toilet but this particular teacher was dead against students going out to the toilet during class. He didn’t know what to do? He had to ask, he had to lie to the teacher. Tell him that he was suffering from diarrhea. But just telling him would not work, Dorji know that. He would have to act, his face would have to muster all the painful expression in him to show that he was really straining to suppress the pressure he felt.

The teacher, like always seemed irritated because he was interrupted in his lesson. But may be Dorji’s acting was good, so, he told him to come back quickly.
Dorji, felt a little relief when he got outside the class, but lost no time. He ran to the toilet. Hopping three steps at a time until he reached the toilet.

When he got inside, he took out his phone. He was breathing heavily. His face felt hot. The phone, his most prized possession, he took it out. As he pressed the switch off button, he covered the speaker with his palm, just in case, any teacher or a counselor was around. But the phone didn’t make any sound. Dorji took a proper look at his phone.

He could not believe his situation. The phone was already switched off. The battery must have died in the night because of the continuous music playing in the day.

Dorji smiled to himself and sighed.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Face a Story.

Trial Examination began today in my school. One of the most boring aspects of being a teacher for me is doing the exam duty. It is three hours of doing nothing. One has to be vigilant and show presence of mind so that the students don't copy. Ironically the most difficult thing to do is to do nothing but just sit or stand in a room for three hours.

I thought about things I could do and tried them this morning as I was doing my duty. I tried breathing exercise. It didn't last. There were frequent interruptions for extra answer scripts and other things. Then, I started reading stories in the faces. This was far more interesting than the other things I could do being in the predicament that I was in.  Each face accentuated stories to me. They told stories and kept my imagination busy and away from the time that was slugging by.

Out of the many faces, my attention dwelled on one particular face. It was a pretty face. It was fair and the beautiful large eyes in them flickered as they wandered from the question paper to the answer script. What made me halt at this face was a scar below the cheek bone. As my eyes coordinated with my imagination I began my story.

Before the girl was born her parents were told by the village astrologer that they should build a stupa for the serpent God near their house because the girl was a serpent princess. If the parents could do that, the girl would grow into a beautiful maiden. She would bring prosperity to the house she was born to. The family was poor but the father was determined to do that for his unborn daughter and the family. He worked hard and saved every penny. Finally he had accumulated enough money to construct the stupa. When everything was ready his mother passed away.

The hard earned money had to be used in performing the funeral rites of the grandmother and the due date was closing in. The father consulted the astrologer to find out if there was another way the Serpent Gods could be appeased. The astrologer brought forth a solution. It appeared in the astrologer's finding that if the family could without fail offer pure cow milk every morning to the dark rock above the house, then the future of the girl and the family will be untainted. This the family had to do for 13 mornings without fail. The astrologer also advised the father to offer the milk in a silver cup before the first light of day touched the rock. The black rock was revered as the gateway to the world of the Serpent Gods. The family had no sufficient cups for themselves let alone a silver cup for the Gods.

The father gave up his hopes and when he was about to completely dismiss the possibility of acquiring a silver cup, he had a dream. In the dream the King of the Serpent Gods appeared, he was angry with the father but ordained a task that would result in the acquiring of a silver cup. The father was told to head north from his village that night. He was not to consult or tell anyone where he was going. When he reached the hillock shaped like a serpent he was to wait for the last star to fade into the morning light. With a mirror he had to trap the light from the last fading star and shine it on the hillock. A light would shine back and he should quickly run to the light and cover it with a toray (piece of cloth).  He was specifically told not to peep into his toray until he reached his alter room. Right after the dream the father proceeded to do exactly what he was told. He covered the light with his toray and hurried home. He raced with the sun's rays to enter his house, as he was told that if he failed to enter his alter room before the first rays of the sun touched his house, the light would turn into dust and lose its power to change into the silver cup.  As he neared his house he felt relived as there was plenty of time. He slowed his pace as he was panting. There was a small stream near his house and as he hopped on the cold rocks to cross the stream he slipped on his last footing and fell face down on the hard ground. The toray fell and rolled out onto the ground. He quickly grabbed it. He rolled it back into a bun. He ran into his house. Before his alter he slowly unrolled it. His heart was now beating like the ceremonial ritual drums. Fast and pacing evenly like it was never going to stop. When he finished unfurling the toray a white light dissipated leaving a small silver cup on the wooden table. It glowed with pure silver light dazzling his eyes. As he held the cup in his shaking hands tenderly he didn't fail to notice a crack on its side.

For the next 13 mornings as instructed by the astrologer he offered milk before the black rock.
On the 14th morning the mother gave birth to a healthy baby girl. As the infant smiled her first smile, the smile was shadowed by a scar below the right cheek. Had it not been for the scar the girl would have had the most beautiful face in the land. However, as foretold, the family prospered, their cows multiplied, every venture fruited success. They became the richest family in the land.


As I ended my story I smiled at the girl. I didn't ask how she got her scar, may be I should next time I come across her.    

Monday, October 22, 2012

Reading under the table.

Drugyal HSS library had many Louis L'Amor books and at one point of time I got myself totally   engrossed in them. I would even read them in the classroom while the teachers taught. Hiding the book under the table and my head stooped over the textbook on the desk made it look like I was looking at the textbook. I enjoyed reading them, especially in the classroom. I don't know how I never got caught. May be I was really good at faking or may be my teachers didn't care what I did in their class. Those were exciting moments when I transferred myself from the mundane monotonous lessons to the exhilarating gun fights of the old Wild West. 

Sidney Sheldon books intrigued me for totally different reasons. They had scenes which one might say is not appropriate for a boy. I remember my teachers advising us not to read the book but thinking about it now, as long as one reads I think SS always gave a good reading. The suspense intensified the drama and I could never keep myself away from finding what happens next. I read Stranger in the Mirror in one night. 

Now I catch students reading books other than their textbooks during their study. At first I didn't know what to tell them. They are studying, from the point of view of an English teacher but other teachers may most probably tell them to read their textbooks. Leave the novels for other times, when they are free. However, I don't stop them. As long as they are reading, they are not disturbing their friends. They are, in my opinion learning. One may say not studying but they are learning. 

I caught a girl once, she was reading in the class when she was suppose to discuss a question for presentation with her friends. She was reading the Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn. The book was half hidden under the table. She was completely indulged. So, when I stood near her she didn't even notice me for the first few seconds. She stopped immediately when she noticed me. I couldn't scold her. I told her to come to me during the interval. She wrote a book review on Breaking Dawn, that was her punishment for reading in the class. She gladly did it.

Reading is important but most students don't read. Telling them stories and leaving them incomplete when the climax is reached, helps. This, I did with The Count of Monte Cristo, White Fang, Bram Stroker's Dracula, and The Kite Runner. 
Reading is important and so is writing. Writing journals is encouraged but most don't do it sincerely. 

"Reading and Writing should go hand in hand like Lovers."  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Talking about Sex in the classroom

It is true that the maximum time an average person can concentrate is very less. The period spent concentrating is refereed to as Attention Span. There are two types of attention. They are focused attention and sustained attention. Focused attention is known to be very brief but sustained attention is the longer span of time when one is able to concentrate. The literature on this says that most healthy teenagers are unable to sustain attention on one thing for more than 40 minutes. Within the 40 minut time span one needs to re-focus repeatedly on the same thing many times. This ability to renew attention permits people to "pay attention" to things that last for more than few minutes, such as long lessons.

Now what is important in a classroom for a teacher is to gain the attention of the students. At the College of Education we were taught many ways to gain attention but what they didn't teach us was how to retain the attention we gained. It is easy to gain focused attention but to get sustained attention  is a challenge. When one is teaching in a class of 40 students and when it is the last period of the day sustaining sustained attention sometimes becomes a difficult job.

I was talking with a friend of mine and she shared her opinion and the strategy she uses to renew the attention of her students. Sex she said is the most interesting topic to our teenagers. It is a fact and we can use it to our advantage in the classroom when it comes to gaining sustained attention or simply keeping them awake to re-focus on the lesson.  She says "sex" works miracles and everyone becomes alert in the class because their hormones respond to the idea of sex effortlessly. It works like ticklish tiny electric shocks which keep their minds focused and sustained. Non-veg jokes are her refreshers. She would try to relate her lessons to sex or attraction, for instance opposite ions attract to each other like boys and girls while teaching chemistry.

Teaching Sex Education to our teenagers is very important and she achieves that objective as well. She teaches chemistry and biology and her favorite topic in biology is the reproductive system because the students are attentive. Teaching sex education through jokes helps her renew the attention of her students and sustain them. Making fun of condoms and making them aware of its purpose is achieved.  She also gets the feeling that her students look forward to her classes as they discuss things that they are curious about.

I remember, as a student I use to enjoy my economics class because the teacher would share stories which were interesting to us as teenagers. He would talk about the laws in economics and the law of attraction between the opposite sexes. He would compare and contrast them.

Though such a strategy is effective in the classroom, it is very important that a teacher respects the line between him/her and the students. A teacher should not over do with this tool of gaining attention. Students are teenagers and they will unintentionally cross the line. Like anything that is overused becomes mundane and in this case disruptive, one should use this tool carefully. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Boys' Dogs

The dogs in my school behave peculiarly or at least I think they do because I think this is something happening only in my school. I have come to notice this for a long time but one is able to observe well when one is a Teacher on Duty(TOD).  Like today is mine. A TOD's day in the school begins at 6:30 Am and ends at 8:30 Pm.

The school courtyard
It is quite amazing how the dogs in the academic block behave. I like to call these dogs boys' dogs because they follow the boys. During the study hours they remain quiet. Most sleep. When the bell rings, and the students go for their meal, they follow them because they know it is meal time for them as well. When the students pray or are back in the class doing their study, the dogs wait in the school courtyard as if they know that they should not disturb the boys studying. They wait patiently.

The climax of the happening for me is the last bell of the day. When the final bell to end the night study rings, the dogs wake up from their short naps. They stretch their bodies and yawn. Many whine with excitement. I read the whines as relief at the ending of the silence because it is not for dinner or any other meal. I find similarities in the boys and the dogs when the final bell rings. Both produce sounds that express relief. Most boys shout and make sounds which express liberty. It is like the study hour for them is an unnatural setting, as if they have been caged. For most of boys it seems like they are forced to study. The TOD makes rounds and if they are caught talking during the study, they will be smacked with a stick or will be scolded. But let us get back to the dogs.
So, when the boys come out of the building they wag their tails and run about. When the boys ascend the 140 or so steps to the hostel, the dogs follow them barking and whining and howling. They are all going to the hostel where they are going to sleep, the dogs know this.
It feels like the dogs look up to the boys as their masters. No boy in particular but all are their masters. The bell brings order and routine in their lives like it does for the boys. In the morning they come down to the classes with the boys and spend the day around the academic block and the kitchen. At night after the night study they go back to the hostel with the boys. This is what they do every day.
I wonder where they go or do in the winter when the school is empty. A sad feeling creeps in when I think about it.