Stephanie – Bhutan
What keeps you motivated?
I’m not a Buddhist myself but almost everyone else here is, and I find it very motivating to be reminded that if I don’t try hard at everything I do I might end up as a mosquito in my next life.
Best teaching moment (in your current teaching situation)?
Being greeted with a bow and called Ma’am by my students! Seriously though, the most amazing classroom moment so far has been meeting the 10th reincarnation of a Bodhisattva, who is a student in one of the monastery classes I teach. He asks tricky philosophical questions but he’s on his way to becoming a Buddha so I let him off. The most fun I’ve had is drinking home-brewed wine (Arra) while singing and dancing with colleagues at staff parties. If you participate enthusiastically enough the principal gives you a day off!
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Worst teaching moment (in your current teaching situation)?
Nothing terrible so far, apart from the difficulty of getting students to concentrate amid the racket of packs of stray dogs barking in the playground. However, I did feel mild panic the other day when one of my colleagues mentioned to me in passing “If you get bitten, lean into the bite.” I haven’t been bitten by a student yet … or a dog.
The biggest challenge you face (in your current teaching situation)?
Trying to teach a class of 30 monks of all different ages and levels, with no books, only half the necessary amount of pens, and constant interruptions from people walking into the classroom (actually a prayer room) to pray. People praying in your lesson is a little bit distracting.
What have you learned from your students?
The monks have taught me what real discipline is. It’s amazing how much they’ve learnt from studying their textbooks without a teacher or tables or chairs. The books are often quite ancient and sometimes just cobbled-together bundles of worksheets. I’m new to teaching young learners so I’ve also discovered that teaching very young children can be a lot less forgiving, but a lot more fun, than teaching adults. Below is a poem I saw on the wall in one of the classrooms – not from one of my classes – I don’t remember doing anything so philosophical at school …
Take time to work, it is the price of success
Take time to think, it is the source of power
Take time to play, it is the secret of perpetual youth
Take time to be friendly, it is the road to happiness
Take time to love and be loved, it is the privilege of the gods
Take time to share, life is too short to be selfish
Take time to laugh, laughter is the music of the soul
Hopefully teaching in nunneries as well as monasteries.
Top tip for other teachers?
Don’t expect large classes of small children to concentrate for any length of time. Use songs and physical games to help them learn and keep them interested. And of course, if a student bites you, lean into the bite!
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