In which I become a first-grade teacher

Ek! Dui! Tin! Char!

I could hear Alisa count to four all the way from the street twenty meters below Jagaran school, where she teaches an hour of nursery three days a week. Since I had never seen her in action, I decided to drop by and peek inside. I climbed to the school – her classroom was on the edge closest to mine – and was greeted by the following sight:

Two little girls who had the same idea I did

A second look: that dress looks awfully familiar. Monisa, Dan Bahadur dai’s 6-year old daughter. She heard the camera (though I imagine she’s kind of used to the sound), took a look at me, and went back to giving Alisa her full attention:

I went to the window, waved to Upama inside, and continued around the corner. Where I found the principle had brought a chair to the doorway of Alisa’s classroom and was also listening in. I greeted her and took a picture of the school over her head. It was painted over the school’s month-long vacation and looks rather nicer than it did when we first came to Sundrawoti:

I continued down the hall, past the next door (the office, which was empty) to the first grade classroom, where I discovered the first grade sitting at rapt attention and no teacher. I walked into the classroom – too much commotion – and did my best to entertain for the last five minutes before it was time for break. Monisa returned*. And when the bell rang, the kids bolted.

*From the students’ perspective, it seems any bhidesi is equally exciting. Tal – Man Bahadur – showed up in Jagaran on Tuesday and one of the girls greeted him: ‘Namaste Alisa’.

It turns out that Jagaran School runs an interesting schedule: every class stays in the same classroom all day, and learns the same subject at the same time. Only their teachers change. So each teacher teaches a different subject to a different class every period. Without this system, I am told, the children would get bored. With this system, I imagine, teachers are quite happy when volunteers show up and take a class off their hands for an hour or so.

I later learned that the teacher assigned to Class 1 had taken the day off to take an exam, which simply meant each class got an extra period to sit in the classroom on their hands. And I needn’t worry that they would want some entertainment – they’re used to it, since their teacher takes exams on a fairly regular basis in the hope of graduating from Class 11 in the near future.


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