Monday, January 28, 2013

Teaching - The Noble Profession

I am thinking of my teaching colleagues in Australia (hello Bellevue Park!) as they return to school tomorrow, if floods don't cause the school to close. I want to assure you that I am not just sitting on a mountain top in my pretty kira drinking butter tea: we are down to business here in a way that reminds me so much of home.

Today we met with two experienced local primary school teachers who provided an inservice on the Bhutanese curriculum materials. Sitting in the conference room amongst my fellow foreign teachers and looking to the projector screen to learn about how planning and assessment is done here, I didn't feel a million miles from home. After looking through the relevant text books we divided into groups by subject area and used the local lesson plan format to devise a year four poetry lesson focussing on similes. The professional exchange between our group of four was really interesting - comparing school systems in Canberra, the UK and Canada. I enjoyed sharing the Queensland perspective and discussing the C2C materials that I worked with last year.

In Bhutan all children are given identical text books (at each year level) for English, Maths, Science and teachers work from an accompanying guide with their year level cohort of teachers to plan 5-6 week units of work, that cumulate with assessment items. It sounds so familiar, and I will enjoy the opportunity to do my own planning again based on the syllabus provided.

The major point of difference is that within each lesson plan we must think of how to incorporate the unique perspectives of teaching for Gross National Happiness (GNH). This means that to fulfill the goals of the Bhutanese education system we consider academic outcomes alongside the four pillars of GNH: the promotion of sustainable development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, conservation of the natural environment, and establishment of good governance. I look forward to the challenge of exploring teaching for GNH, observing how it is done in schools and finding a way to incorporate it in my teaching when I return to Australia.

Continuing on the education theme in the past week we had an official visit to meet with the Minister of Education (Lyonpo in Dzongkha language). Its almost unimaginable that a visiting teacher to Australia would be afforded a meeting with the Federal Minister for Education in Canberra, so it was an enormous privilege for our group. Not only that, we were welcomed as special guests to the country and extended the hospitality of being served morning tea as we are finding is customary at all meetings, large and small.
Most of the 2013 BCF teachers stopping to see the Guru Rinpoche shrine enroute to Chagri Monastery.

The Lyonpo, like most Bhutanese had a very genuine, humble and graceful manner and when he spoke we were drawn to his words and the room was completely silent. I felt so fortunate to have the opportunity to be in the room with this particular group of people, and feel thoroughly energised about my career choice to be a teacher. I wish that my colleagues at home could also have been present to hear the Lyonpo's message.
From the outset he was interested in us as people and teachers and what we are bringing with us in terms of motivation and experience to Bhutan. Each one of us was asked to articulate what was our ‘moment of truth’ when we knew that we wanted to become a teacher. Among the group there were common threads, but each one of us has had a different journey in life that has brought us to be educators and then sees us here for the opportunity to develop our skills further in Bhutan.

I’d love to share with you the main points that Lyonpo covered in his talk with us, and I hope I can do justice to what he shared with us.

In Dzongkha language, Lopen is the word for teacher which means King or Queen of knowledge, and as such a teacher is held in very high regard by society. In Bhutan, there is a strongly expressed expectation that teachers are role models not only in their conduct at school, but that this extends to the way they conduct their lives in the public domain. The Lyonpo would like to see the 'lost graces of education brought back: integrity, dignity and honour'.
In response to a question from one of our teachers about what makes the perfect teacher, Lyonpo used the metaphor of a triangle to explain: the three sides represent the three important characteristics of a teacher. First - they must love children. Next, teachers must have a love of knowledge and learning, be aware of their strengths and weaknesses and be passionate about the subject areas they teach. The final side of the triangle represents the teacher's conviction of the importance of education to change lives, transform society and nations and make the world a better place.
As you can imagine, we came out of that room uplifted and inspired, feeling like we have the opportunity of a lifetime ahead of us this year: to positively influence the future of Bhutan.
The Lyonpo's message was particularly powerful, and together with introductions from a number of other respected educators here in Thimphu (most of whom are women - quite unexpected and indicative of the possibilities in this country for women to rise to the top), we have been given all the strength and motivation we'll need to go to our respective schools across the country and get down to the business of teaching. I will let you know how it all unfolds...

1 comment:

  1. Awe I remember when Lyonpo's gave us a speech, our group was so touched too that we all had teary eyes. He's very inspiring!