Panorama from today's walk
We are officially in the exam period now.
This will be a long drawn out process. On Monday Trial Exams began for the class X and XII students who will be taking the board exams. Not long after they finish class IX and XI or those who have escaped the horror of board exams will begin their Home Exams and when they finish the real Board Exams will begin in earnest!
I have already gone on record saying that I loathe the exam period and this extended time frame makes it even worse. It is not only the tedium and long hours of marking without any moderation process and the pressure of completing the task in a ridiculously short time but more significantly the lack of contact with students that I hate. Since I teach classes X and XI, I am both supervising exams and continuing to teach for the first time ever, some contact remains and for that I am grateful.
The lead up to the exams has been long and that coupled with the events of the last month have cast a shadow over the whole atmosphere of the school in my opinion. For over a month we have faced one calamity after another. I feel like a dark cloud is hanging over my final 2 months in Rangjung and try as I might I cannot shake the feeling.
It all began with the 12-day suspension of several boys. It seemed to me that it was clandestine affair and the decisions had been made before some of us class teachers were even aware of the misdemeanors. A perfunctorily “sign here instruction” and 2 boys from my home class were destined to miss 12 days of school and crucial texts and review in the pre-exam period.
My flagging spirits took another blow with the tragic and unexpected death of Martha and a fire at school.
The arrival of the new principal heralded in a new regime of discipline and supervision and without any warning class X and class XII students were being woken at 3am and expected to begin their self-study sessions at 3.30am. This study time extends to the beginning of morning study at 6am when they are joined by the remainder of the boarding students for one more hour. As a reward for their compulsory commitment they are served black tea and therefore several staff are involved in the wake up routine and the serving. Thankfully I am not one of them. As anyone who knows me knows I am not a morning person and my heart went out to those students who are similarly afflicted.
For me the immediate effect has been to see some of the brightest and most engaged of my class nodding off in first period for the first time ever. I have tried to have more active lessons and be on the alert but I feel for them. Others have ever-darkening rings around their eyes and I actually thought that some of the boys were wearing eye makeup at first. In my study supervision recently I was astounded to see how many of the boys were battling to keep their eyes open at 8.30pm.
Nonetheless they have complied and tried to adapt to the new routine but with exams now in full swing, burning the midnight oil is also the norm. Most of them think that it is good for them and appreciate the efforts teachers are making to keep them at their studies, but they pay little heed to my constant nagging about getting enough sleep and I worry even more about their health.
The dark shadow that has hung over me deepened into almost despair when the girls were confined to hostels over a week ago. Now at all times when they are not in lessons, at prayers or in the dining room eating, girls are expected to remain inside the compound set aside for them. This is a new disciplinary procedure that infuriated me enough to discuss it with the principal. Thankfully he politely listened and even acknowledged that he had never seen it from the perspective that I outlined, however nothing has changed yet. Now that many of the class rooms have been deployed as examination halls that means even for the 3 one-hour study periods girls are in virtual lockup without access to the same facilities and resources that the boys have.
When I started checking my first bundle of exam papers on Monday it was certainly with a heavy heart. Those who do not make the grade in these trials have been told that they will not be allowed to sit the board exams and that deeply concerns them and me.
After wading through the essays for 2 days I decided that today’s public holiday “Dassain” was not to be wasted on this task and so as soon as it was feasible, after school yesterday Ian and I headed up to Phongmey Primary School to watch the Annual Variety Show there and spend the night with Becky.
That was a great decision. We hit the road at twilight with gorgeous autumn views unfolding before our very eyes with every twist in the road. The breath taking views finally chased those dark clouds out of the corners of my mind. I found myself staring opened mouthed out of the window in awe. Even the usual Dzongkha music playing in the taxi was familiar: with the rounds of cultural events, shows and social occasions that we have attended I now recognize many of the songs- not that I understand any of them.
Becky’s school concert with a hall full of villagers viewing us with suspicion and fascination was a hoot. The long exhausting walk back today reassured me that I still have some serious training to do before the celebratory walk we have agreed to participate in but it revived me enough to take one more final look at those essays and so it will be back to the grind stone tomorrow. Hopefully with enough enthusiasm and free time between classes and supervision to complete the remaining sections of this first paper before the second one materializes on my desk on Friday afternoon.
Checking out her own image on the road today
I just hope there will be a few more inspiring free days scattered among the onerous responsibilities before these final 2 months evaporate.
Masked up to avoid the dust on the road that was once a monsoonal muddy mess.
The freezing but no longer raging torrent of water we still need to wade across.
Rahdi red rice still waiting to be harvested.