The Canvas of Teaching
24/11/17 Author: Lok Wa
Bad news first: We regretfully could not teach the monks today as there were protests in the area. Although it was incredibly sad for us to learn that our experiences with the monks would end abruptly without a proper goodbye, we remained enthusiastic for the four lessons we had with the students at Deeya Shree Boarding School up ahead.
“Students are not jars to fill up, but a fire to ignite.” — Kwawalung Tashi Choeling Monastery
I think teaching was not exactly the same experience as what we expected it to be. Coming in, we thought that teaching would just be like colouring-in book: You started out with the printed outlines (our lesson plans), and filled it in with colours (following the plan). Of course, there would be variations in what colour you chose depending on the class dynamics and time constraints, but we did not expect much: Come in with a plan, and follow it.
As the days passed and more time was spent teaching, we learnt that teaching is no colouring-in — Teaching is one vast canvas with infinite possibilities. We could choose the colours, we could choose the shapes, we could morph it to anything our mind willed it to be. There are no boundaries. Anything we wanted the lesson be, it could be.
Now, this is not about the academic related things we teach during the lesson; this is about everything else about teaching that we never thought of. The human connections. The camaraderie. The laughs we share. Teaching was so much more rewarding than any of we had sought out to be.
Despite some of us feeling nervous for not having the best of plans coming into a few of the lessons, that feeling gradually subsided as we learned that teaching isn’t strictly about academics. Having a hard lesson plan was one way to paint our lesson. Another is to share our ideas and experiences. The canvas of teaching was in our grasp.
As teachers, we are mentors to the students, and the students are mentors to us. While we share our knowledge and experiences with the students, they share the resilient and open attitude towards life that every one of them holds to us. When we share our experiences with them, we see the light that sparks in their eyes. When we tell jokes so terrifically bad that we have picked up over the years, we hear the gleeful chuckles and giggles envelop the room.
We can all confidently say: Teaching was a complete joy.
The four lessons for the day gave us valuable time to share more of our experience and be touched by the pure happiness that the students possessed. We ended the day with games of football and volleyball in their barren grass field behind the school with bamboo splinters as goalposts. Screams and delighted giggles rung far from the little field. Smiles were on everyone’s faces. As the day drew to an end, hugs and high-fives were thrown around the school and said our melancholic goodbyes.
As we got on the van and saw where our memories formed with the students grow smaller and smaller, we felt an amazing energy in the air. Deep inside, we felt happy. Somehow, perhaps not fully realising it, the energy of the students lingered with each one of us. But we definitely felt it in one way or another. Our experiences with teaching reached far beyond any of our expectations, and our gratitude towards the students cannot be expressed. The four days of teaching felt short, but I think, what we learned will stick with us will last for years to come.