Picasso in Bhutan

Ever since I can remember drawing has been my greatest joy (singing comes at a close second, but more on that later). When my sister got Barbie Dolls for Christmas and birthdays, I got drawing books and stationery. Stationery shopping at the beginning of every year for school was literally the highlight of my year. I always had to have the best pencil crayons and looked after these precious items as if they were gold. Because I was the eldest of my family (cousins included) I was always developmentally far ahead of any of the other children. This meant I was naturally able to draw a lot better and write neater. Even though I realise this now, I honestly believed I was so talented. I thought I could draw so well and I would show anyone and everyone my masterpieces.

When I got to school and began art classes with the rest of the children my age I began to shy away from my much loved hobby. This wasn't because I thought my drawings were worse than the others but rather because my art teacher decided that art and drawing should be done in a certain way - her way. I stopped drawing for the duration of my primary years at school and envied all the other children who were able to "draw well". I can't remember the reason I started drawing in high school. I  remember wanting to be able to draw well and so I did. I know many people believe they cannot draw but on that day in Technology period I decided I would sketch, and I did. And I did it well. My love of drawing and art was rekindled. And the next year we were able to choose subjects and although I thought that art may not be a wise choice when thinking about my future studies and careers, I really wanted to do it so bad that I didn't care. You have to do a sketch test before you are able to take art as a subject. I sat in the art room with the shell I was given and poured my heart and soul into my drawing. A few days later I found my name on the list of the students who were chosen for art. I had made it.

It turns out that my love for stationery, drawing and school decided my future career for me. And, an art subject is exactly what I needed for my studies to be a primary teacher. I feel you need your creativity when teaching young children and here in Bhutan I need it even more. The BFC teacher who was here last year majored in art while studying in Australia and naturally he decided to begin an Art Club at the school. When I began at teaching here the first thing they asked me is if I would be willing to continue it. Although I was a bit hesitant to begin teaching art formally, I feel that I have been able to give these children so much through doing it. 

Each teacher has to campaign in front of the entire school to inform the children about what the club will entail. There is an Art Club, Democracy Club, Math Club, Literacy Club and Scouts. After the campaigns the students are requested to line up at the club teacher in order to join, and this is on a first come first serve basis. I originally planned to have 20 students in my club and walked down to my portion of the field to await the students who would want to join the Art Club. I can easily say that there were more than 60 students surrounding me from every angle. A mass mob ran towards me trying to get their name down on my list for Art Club. They pushed and shoved, all desperate to be a part of the 20 members who would form the Art Club. Other teachers tried to help but no child would leave. Who would I send away when they were so desperate?

We decided that Class IV, V and VI students would be allowed to join Art Club and the rest would find others. I now have over 40 children in my club and although I thought it would be total chaos it is the total opposite. They listen to my every word and focus all of their attention when creating their art works. The first words that left my mouth on the first day was a reminder that in art there is no right or wrong, everyone is good at art and everyone is different. The more different your art is, the better. We have began with Picasso Portraits and this concept is so difficult for them. Not because they didn't understand Picasso, but they couldn't draw themselves differently. They struggled so much to paint their faces blue or red in fear of it being wrong. I'm happy to say that the prospect of painting helped them a long way. They were so excited to paint! They completely forgot my instructions when they got to the paint table but alas, they painted their faces blue and red and green! While one boy was painting I heard him mumble "I am so happy" to himself. He literally said that to himself, and he said it in English! I had to turn away for a few moments to regain my composure in fear of balling my eyes out on the spot.

There are many students in my English classes who can't speak a word English. I found one of these boys hanging on the bars of the art club windows (many children do this to watch what we are doing - its honestly so sad!). I asked him what club he was in and he wasn't able to answer me, so I asked another boy to translate. "No club, Madam" was his reply. I was very confused. What did he mean? Every child from Class IV and up had to be in a club. I made a decision on the spot. "Do you want to join the Art Club?" This he completely understood and no translation was needed. He attended the Art Club the following week and he stayed behind once all the other children had left to help me pack away the chairs and art materials. He now speaks English in all of my classes and although his sentences are completely broken, he doesn't utter a word in any other language whilst in my presence.  I feel like these milestones are huge and no where else am I able to see improvements so quickly. In Bhutan I feel I am easily able to see the difference I make in these children's lives. Even though the things I do come naturally, the response from the children is overwhelming. I love that I am able to do this for them and that I get to experience their joy everyday. Everyday I am reminded why I became a teacher. 

Trying to catch a peek