Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Getting Started

Front gate , Gaselo HSS

During four days of faculty meetings as a group with everyone present and participating if they desire we have generated teaching assignments for subjects and grade level along with out of classroom responsibilities. We spent a lot of time working through a discipline policy which was new to the school last year. It is quite detailed and reflects the conservative values of Bhutanese society. At least the generation that is now parents, teachers, etc. There is a lot of emphasis put on the youth of the country in terms of how to keep them oriented to traditional basic values while they are assimilating themselves into the 21st century. The teens confront these issues primarily through all the access to other cultures via the internet and TV. These avenues give glimpses into other cultures but in a completely sterile context which involves no person to person interaction. This allows the kids to develop their own impressions of what is going on in the rest of the world without the benefit of input from anyone who is involved in those things. The balance between tradition and progress is one which few cultures have managed gracefully. Bhutan got a rather late start due to its isolation and is trying very hard to learn from examples, many of them failures, set in other parts of the world.
The faculty meetings ended up with some in service where teachers who had been to work shops presented to the faculty. The presentations were perfunctory and rather brief. One of these was on life skills. As they are trying to mold their discipline system to be more in line with contemporary western models it would have been good to spend a bit more time developing these thoughts. I believe there will be follow up as the year goes on which could be good as well. Perhaps the biggest challenge of the week for me was lunch, yummy food, no utensils save the ones we were born with. I didn’t starve nor did I make too big a mess.
The suburbs of my village, Gaselo
Saturday afternoon and Sunday were free time. After a long dry stretch, during which the air had become hazy, I think with dust, smoke, etc the rain came washing the air clean, the views of the Himalaya with fresh snow have been fine indeed. Sunday afternoon I watched the road from my window as vehicle after vehicle, as varied as one could imagine plied their way up the road, 7 miles of winding, bumpy, rocky road to drop students off at school. Most of the 500 students are boarding students. While in Thimphu we had shopped for all of our household belongings, mattress, rice cooker, etc, etc. Many times I saw young people buying the same things. They were preparing to go to school for a year just as I was.
Saturday evening, faculty gathered in the school “canteen” which is a private store/restaurant in the Bhutanese style. All sat on low benches, wood stove in the middle of the room. The gathering, which included a great meal, was to say farewell to a departing faculty member and to welcome us newbies. Very nice atmosphere, everyone is warm and welcoming. After dinner I was able to buy a mirror, of which I was in dire need. A rainy Sunday, a good book, a nice afternoon walk, a few things laundered (hanging inside), and some cooking accomplished. A nice day indeed.

A few winter wildflowers

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