Crayons and Figs

"Madam, Madam! He eat my crayon!" A Class III girl points to the suspect.

"Oh dear, are you eating her crayon? Are you hungry?"

"No Madam, I didn't" His guilty expression and green stained mouth reveals the truth.

"Then why is your mouth green and the end of the green crayon gone? Are you trying to turn into the Hulk? Are you hungry - do you want some of the red crayon, too?"

I hand him the red crayon and see a small smile which immediately follows his hands covering his face. And then - Laughter! So much laughter. The entire class actually understands what I am saying and they get my joke completely. This is a big deal.

Everyday I walk into the Class III classroom and am greeted with "Good Morning, Madam!" as each and every child stands. They all take their seats in their too small stools when I instruct them to and then one of the children will usually shout out "Sing, Madam!". I first began singing with the children two weeks ago when I realised that in the second last period of the day at around 2 o'clock these children were never going to be able to concentrate on the too difficult curriculum I had to teach them. They were completely exhausted. I stood in front of them and burst into song - The Hokey Pokey was my first choice and they couldn't get enough of it. We still sing it every single day. Upon leaving the classroom the children are expected to stand and say in unison, "Thank you, Madam!" but this time was different. They all shouted "thank you!" beaming from ear to ear waving at me profusely. I had them hooked.

There aren't nearly enough reading books and the children have to share one small reader between four of them. The books are already too difficult and not being able to follow the words just makes it worse. I've now taken to rewriting the books out on chart paper which is a lengthy process, but seems to be working far better than the few readers which need to be shared out. The children are unable to read them independently and so I take on a shared reading approach. For every class we now move all of the chairs and tables out of the way and make room for the children to sit on the concrete floor in front of me. They each have their special spot on the floor and this way we are all able to read and focus on the story together. I point to the words and they read along with me. I think they love that it is different from their other classes and that they get to be out of their seats for a small portion of the day.

I had to meet Dylan in Trashigang after school one Saturday afternoon and was not looking forward to having to search for a taxi - you have to wait for the taxi to fill up with passengers before it leaves, or you can pay the hefty fee to hire out the taxi for just yourself. After school I asked two of my Class V girls to help me catch a lift which of course they were more than willing to do.  They walked me home and picked me ripe figs off the nearby tree. They broke them open and handed me two, warning me not to eat the skin as I would get "very sick". Upon reaching my house the girls instructed me to go inside to get my bags while they waited by the road. Their curiosity soon got the better of them and it wasn't long before I heard a knock on my door and found the two girls waiting outside. After drinking some juice and the girls looking through my home to see how their "Chillip teacher" lived, we started our journey in search of a lift for Madam Megan. This mainly involved me sitting on a bench under a tree while the girls bolted to the side of the road whenever they saw a car coming, waving like mad trying to get the drivers attention. I'm happy to say that it didn't take too long for a ride to appear and I got into the truck forever grateful to my little friends. They looked so happy as I waved goodbye from the front seat - so glad to have been the chosen ones to help their teacher in need. God, I love them!

The distance from Rangjung to Trashigang is only 17km but this drive taught me so much. I saw many of my Class III, IV and V kids walking along the side of the road and soon realised that these children were walking home. At first I really admired them for walking such a distance every day, but after 7km into the drive all I felt was guilt. These children walk to school 7km (or more) every morning and then again after their school day they need to walk back home after 4pm. These 7km also involve mountains, hills and rugged terrain and they complete their journey with a heavy school bag full of books! I suddenly felt really bad for questioning them on why their homework was never done. These children are likely to get home very late and I'm sure after a 7km walk and a full day at school, homework is the last thing on their minds.

I had a breakthrough with my Class III's today. We are meant to be reading a book about a demon boy who tries to trick a boy's family into believing he is the real son (Yes, it is really disturbing!). Anyways, I got the children to write their own ghost stories and showed them a halloween picture which obviously is totally unfamiliar to them. They came up with such great ideas and they were so excited to talk about the picture I almost wanted to cry I was so excited! Apparently the children in their halloween costumes are carrying bags of vegetables to the palace (supposed to be candy and a haunted house) to find chocolates - I got them to write their own ending to the story and they drew their own pictures. I laughed so hard reading their stories and their endings ranging from the children running away to them feeding the vegetables to the demon. I'm so grateful that the kids are finally thinking outside the square box they have been placed in and that they are willing to be creative. I can't wait to see where they are a year from now!