Sometimes, when you fail to look behind you and fix your eyes on where your feet are stepping, weeks, months, or even years can sift by as if condensed into a short synopsis in which you cannot match events with places or times. In these instances, it’s probably wise to take an hour or so to think about these events and unfold them from the the drawers. They need to be unpacked and decoded. In a foreign country as a foreign volunteer, this can occur very easily and without warning. I have learned to see journaling as a preventative medicine for this forgetfulness, and so far it has served me well. Some of the smallest happenings have been put on paper and when I read them, those memories become timeless. And since the best stories ever told are the ones that have not left out the small details and minor characters, I take this as sound advice. However…
Week seven and eight as a volunteer English teacher at Sunrise melted together because I had gotten into a groove. Each day’s schedule became the same: breakfast at 8, coffee shop at 8:30, walk to school at 9:45, class begins at 10:10, kindergarten 1st period, 1st grade for 2nd and 3rd period, lunch at 1:10, 1st grade for 4th period, and either 2nd or 3rd grade for the last period as I typically wound down and observed another Nepali teacher teaching Nepali grammar or math. These were my last two weeks as a teacher at Sunrise English Boarding School. For the students, exams were nearing which meant the close of the school year for them (in Nepal, the new year begins on April 15th and schools usually take a one month break at that time).
I was just beginning to understand the basics of how to control a classroom. The only teacher in the 1st grade level during the first half of the day, I was forced to learn quickly. Methods that may work in other settings do not work in a classroom setting, especially when a certain trust and respect level has been established. I came up with my own methods of improving productivity. After writing the lesson on the board and making sure everyone was quiet as I explained it slowly to the eager little eyes, I made them get out their journals. They had one journal notebook for each subject. Most of these were so worn, used and re-used that pages were falling out, homework was written on back covers, and sometimes multiple subjects were mixed together by accident. In all grade levels up to level 3 I found this to be true. My method of making sure they copied down everything on the board in a timely manner was to slowly start erasing from top to bottom. Of course they would fuss at this instantly. Some of them were slackers and some just slow writers. But when everyone had finished a certain line, I would erase it and encourage them to write quickly and neatly. Each period was only forty minutes; subtracting the five minutes at the beginning and end of the period for shenanigans, that gave me only thirty minutes to accomplish a full lesson in that subject.
As the end of these last two weeks closed like a big steel door that had been closing since it opened, I came to terms with its finality. Soon I would be transitioned into a new role——a construction role at another school.