In Mongolia it is tradition to have a big celebration and opening ceremony to welcome in the new school year, beats any first day I have ever had in England. Mix together, a beautiful sunny day, a speech from the British Ambassador for Mongolia and your new head teacher, a Mongolian singer performing ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams, with some cute 5 year olds ringing a bell to welcome in the new year, a flag raising ceremony with the Mongolian National anthem and your new class presenting you with lots of flowers and you have the perfect recipe for a successful start to the year.
The stage new staff had to be on to greet the parents, my beautiful flowers and a little creativity and all flowers in ‘vases’.
It was a lovely way to meet my new class and all their parents. The following day was a little more challenging but still just as rewarding. My new class are as lovely as any previous class and will be a delight to get to know properly. We have to get round the language barrier with over a third not speaking English and one not speaking Mongolian either but I have managed smiles and we have produced some work. I have developed my use of non verbal cues 100 fold and they do seem to understand some things – either that or they are good at guessing!
My colleagues in England know they are spoilt with resources but until you don’t have them you don’t realised how spoilt! I’m thinking outside the box constantly on how to deliver successful lessons with nothing like the resources I am used to. If the printer/internet doesn’t work, it’s ok, I can just tell my TA the plan in my head, if I have a lack of resources in class, it’s ok as lots of the children bring their own, if I have no pencil pots, it’s ok I can eat lots of Pringles from the mini tubes and use those instead! As I said in a recent interview I am flexible and laid back … it takes a lot to fluster me and 2 and a half weeks in, Ulaanbaatar and the school still haven’t managed it!
As the term progresses I will forget that I used to have instant access to printing from my own classroom and that there was always paper available that wasn’t recycled and there were mirrors aplenty for the whole class to do self portraits all at the same time. But the joy of the lack of resources is that I have had to plug in to my creative side in a big way and so far it is working. Everyone is a bit more laid back about things because you have to be and that suits me.
A final note on life in the city. Shopping is different. The shops don’t scream from the outside what they sell on the inside. You have to peer in and see if you like the look. They are not busy either, even in the middle of the city, you are often the only people in there and when there are 5 of you from England, you get a lot of looks as you enter. The money is still confusing at times, they have no coins and one of their notes is worth 0.003p. This weekend we went to a cashpoint and took out half a million Tugrits (that’s actually worth less than £200). The shopkeepers always have a trusty calculator by their side to show you a price and are very relaxed when you are trying to count out all your notes. I can now direct a taxi back to the school, say hello, goodbye, thank you and it’s ok, it’s ok and if all else fails and you want to know if the meat in front of you is beef just point and get your husband to moo like a cow!
The children on their first day, their new PE kits and the tailor who made their blazers.