Every morning, the students line up into perfectly straight lines. They sing three prayers. Then they meditate silently, with perfectly straight backs, hands on their knees, lowered eyes, and mouths slightly ajar.
The last few mornings, one of the smallest third graders has caught my eye. Her hair is beautifully pinned back, and her bangs cover the perfect mini features of her face. Beneath her clean and kept appearance, you can see scrapes on her tan skin. She holds a chunk of rock hard yak cheese between her cheek and gums, as she closes her eyes and sings the prayers, moving her entire head and neck to hit the notes. By the end of the day, the white cuffs on her wanju are brown and her skin has a few more bumps and scratches.
Today, as the students were waiting to be picked up from school, the perfectly filthy 3rd grader’s 5th grade sister said something in Dzongkha that made the little sister cry. Within seconds, the 6th grade brother of the two, ran over and whapped the 5th grade sister upside the head.
At this point, I was thankful that I was not the closest teacher, so that I could watch the compassionate mishap unfold. I wish I were a fly on the fence of whatever playground these three ran around in after school.
The same thing happens in the lunchroom, as 22 sixth graders lie out their lunches atop unfolded handkerchiefs, share their meal and their conversation with their peers, and then pack up and stack their chairs. Moments later, one student attempts a flying squirrel leap, diving from the highest chair, while another student jokingly shakes another boy to his senses by the cheeks. Of course I only see the landing or the pinch marks, because these things happen the second I turn my back.
The bottom line is, don’t tell me you wouldn’t laugh if you heard a teacher convincing two third graders that they weren’t REALLY stuck together, and that they could return to their respective lines. Or better yet if you saw the same teacher confiscating the same student’s super glue, which he had brought to school to glue his friend’s mouth shut. Perseverative interest much?
If I had a dollar for every time a student told me I had something on my tego and then went in for the chin flick regardless of the fact that I didn’t look down, I would probably have 50,000 Nu. The teacher after me can look forward to my lame contribution to cheesy pranks when the students tell her 1,000 times that something smells like “Updawg”. I can only hope that moments later, they will share with her one of the Firecracker mottos, “work hard and play harder”.
Oh, and by the way, a boomerang that doesn’t come back is a stick! Every sixth grader knows that!