May 28, 2009

5/29/09 Naraa Retires

Well, I guess you could say Spring is over and Summer is about to begin, a week of transition. Yes, the title is right, Naraa, our cook retired this week. Ever since she stopped cooking lunches for the staff, she had worked in the Stupa Cafe kitchen a few days a week. But she said even that was getting to be too much for her so she finally decided it was time to retire. The week before she trained our new cook, who is pretty good already, and Wednesday, we had our going away party. Any excuse for cake! Gyatso said a few words as well as yours truly. Naraa seemed both blessed and a little shy for all the attention. Gyatso gave her a copy of the Dhammapada and the staff gave her cash, which sounded traditional here. Even though she's not on the payroll, I'm sure we'll see her around the center still.

Ennkmaa prepares to cut the cake


Naraa, who 'mothers' us all

The other big thing this week was after a few days off from classwork, we started registration for our Summer Intensive Course. Students will attend classes four weeks in June, every every day instead of the usual twice a week. But again, even with changes in our registration process, it still was a disaster. Way too many returning students 'claimed' that both Tsetsgee and I didn't tell them about pre-registration even though I know I told them a half a dozen times. Yesterday worked on a sign that will be posted everywhere both in and outside our classrooms giving the students 'written notice' of the policy of pre-registration. I tried to think of something to help the new students because by the time they took the entrance test, my available spots went from 18 to 2, and 35 people showed up for the exams. Ended up registering 26 students for each class (even though I only have 24 desks I found two more chairs to use) and all the rest will automatically be on the student rolls for September.

Nervous students prepare to take the written exams


First the written test, then the interview

New students take a thirty minute test to let me see how their grammar knowledge is. Then I do a quick two-minute interview to check out their listening and speaking. Nothing too hard, just questions like 'How old are you?' 'Do you have any family?' 'Why do you want to study English?' Then I have to pick who gets the open spots, who is on the waiting list and who has to wait another semester to study. It would be easy if I just went on test scores alone but I don't. I try to think of not only who is going to be a good student, but also who needs this class. Maybe they know grammar but are lousy in their conversational skills. Or, and this happens a lot, they are just too shy or really need something to boost their confidence.

Another picture of the cat