7 August (Mon): Teaching begins

First day of teaching for me! I met Thinley a little past 9 and we went to have a cup of coffee at the canteen. Then we went up to Yonphula for late morning. Professor Chitra was teaching in the morning, and I was due to teach at 1:30.

After Chitra’s class, Thinley (the Dean), Chitra and I sit down together to work out teaching load. Chitra (it takes me several weeks to ascertain that this is her name and how she should be called) is very clear cut: she knows South Asian literature no more than I do; an even division is fair. There are four novels: we will each take two. She is happier teaching the play; I will take the poetry. Neither one of us knows or can find the essay on Nativism (desivad). So be it. I will have Tuesday to prepare for class on Wednesday.

I also need to prepare a syllabus or teaching plan, both for “The Study of Poetry” and for “South Asian Literature.” The document I received, which I thought was a syllabus, is not. Instead, I should focus on teaching “essential readings” and cover the topics listed under each unit. Tomorrow will be a busy day.

In the meantime, the meeting has run through lunch. I bolt through the covered door to the classroom and launch into an introduction. Then I ask my students to introduce themselves. Some highlights:

The male student representative of the class notes with pride that his students tell him he is the best English teacher in his school–but he failed English in class 1 (1st grade) three times! He can still feel the pain of the teacher’s baton, hitting him for giving the wrong answers.

One woman student said that her mother inspired her: “You are the eldest daughter–you should be studying more!” She plans to continue her education through PhD level.

Another woman quoted the king as her reason for applying to the MA program: “As our king says, ‘you can’t teach what you don’t have.’ I want to equip myself with techniques for understanding and interpreting literature so that I can share these.”

One man replied to the prompt, “Tell us something about you we wouldn’t know if you didn’t tell us,” by recounting the following story: “I was stuck trying to decide what woman to marry. At home, I was engaged to one woman. Then I went away to study and I fell in love with another woman. I was so torn between them that I couldn’t decide which one to marry. Eventually, I was in such despair that I threw myself into a pond. A third woman rescued me from the pond, and I married her.” “The third woman?” I asked, just to be sure I had followed the plot. “Yes,” he replied. “She was spiritually very beautiful to me.”

Another man told of a picnic a group of students had had over the weekend. This led to a story of dalliance ladies and angels (perhaps dakini) which he asked another student to tell for him, and which I couldn’t follow at all, but other students approvingly noted was “very spiritual, very Buddhist.”

Another male student described himself as a very naughty adolescent. He failed class 9, and spent two years as a drop-out. Then, when he wanted to return to school, he had no support from his family: they didn’t believe in him. And now, he is one of the first in this new master’s program.

A woman student has written and “hoarded” (her word) 800 poems; a male student has written 34 sonnets.

When I get home, I hear that Sonam took James, Zoë, and Jeremy to the primary school to meet with the principal. For Jeremy’s vivid description of this event, see his blog post: https://thebhutanblog.wordpress.com.

Also, James scrubbed a part of the kitchen floor, leaving the rest for purposes of comparison…