June 1, 2012

The Golden Touch


Unlike Midas and his golden touch, mine is practical. My touch has already reached many. And literally too.
It all started some years ago. Being placed in a middle secondary school in eastern Bhutan in 2005, I was only 21 years old. Fresh out of Samtse College of Education (then National Institute of Education) with a degree under my belt and a lot of worries in my mind, I joined the teaching fraternity.
My friends and me – we had made a pact in NIE. We would be the new-model teachers, would be instrumental in instilling new values and uprooting older and stagnant ones. How wrong we were.
My principal immediately appointed me ‘Warden’, custodian of boys. The students were almost as ‘old’ as me. How was I supposed to ‘look after’ the boys when I wasn’t mature enough to be a teacher?
With no formal training in hostel management, I took lessons from my hostel years in Trashigang jr. high and JigmeSherubling high schools and improvised. As Tennyson aptly puts in, I “mete(d) and dole(d)”favors and punishments; “Unequal laws unto a savage race”. My principal gave me free reign in the hostel. Many mischievous students realized that the school was not a vacation-destination, and the hostel was certainly not a hotel.
But aside from that I remember teaching English and Geography to the best of my ability. English, I was already passionate about but I learned to love geography as well. The first four years in my chosen profession brought out four wonderful lesson-plan books on both subjects. I also learned many life-lessons, lessons that have made me a better person and a better teacher now.
In the winter of 2010, I met a student of mine in Samdrup Jongkhar and amidst tea and momo, we reminisced about our previous school (by then I has already been transferred to a HSS in the same region). He talked about how strict I was in hostel, and he also added that because of it, many tobacco and alcohol users had given up their addiction. My method was simple and direct. Give a slap and instill fear so they won’t repeat.At present that doesn’t work, so I no longer practice it. But then, I was an ardent lover of corporal punishments.
But still my trial at ‘showing’ dreams to students worked. Since I knew about teaching, I ‘showed’ them the life of a teacher. And they were inspired. Many off my ex-students have opted to join teaching over other opportunities. I still receive calls from them, thanking me for showing them dreams.
Thus I feel that although I may not have been able to influence everyone every time, I have managed to influence some of my students sometimes.