If you read my last main post you’ll know that I am doing a series of posts based on an interview I held over the summer with four of my ex-students at LAMB school, Bangladesh. Today, let me introduce you to S.
S is one of the brightest young men I’ve ever had the privilege of watching grow. He’s now at a school in India doing the British A levels before going on to university. I taught him for his O levels in a variety of subjects and he went to India last year after passing them all.
He’s someone who appreciates a good joke and loves to laugh. That meant he was always going to find favour in my eyes! He’s also very talented as a musician.
When I came to live at LAMB in 2008 I would often see S playing one of the school’s Djembe drums during assemblies. He had a mean beat and drumming is one of my own musical weaknesses. I took lessons with the drum teacher for two years at my previous school and got to around Grade 5 standard. I even bought an electronic drum kit but that was just weeks before we left the UK for Bangladesh. I’m looking forward to getting back on it when I return after next year. But S definitely had something to show me and I’ve never been too proud to learn from someone I’m supposed to be teaching. In fact, I don’t think you can be a good teacher unless you are prepared to learn this way.
So I asked S to teach me some drumming. “Sure,” he said, “but you need to teach me O level music in return!”
I hadn’t come to teach music as the school has a music teacher already. Clearly though, S wasn’t learning what he wanted to. I agreed and, before I knew what was happening, suddenly I was teaching two boys at O level standard! S was exceptional. He played guitar as well as drums and could compose music with ease. Unfortunately it turned out that we could not have the boys entered for the qualification (you can take A level music here but not O level – go figure that one out!) but I have no doubt S would have got an A grade.
The reason for telling you this is because despite this clear artistic ability and the enthusiasm S has for music, I am pretty certain he will end up as a doctor or some other highly paid and scientific profession. The people we work with here are often only just out of poverty and the country is only forty years out of devastating war. Parents are nervous for the future of their children, remembering what it was like being children here themselves, and the push is always to go for the highest paid and most respected careers – whatever the child may actually wish for themselves. It is difficult to know what is right and wrong with this. It’s not my culture and in the end I have to trust the S will be his own man. I believe he will be.
I asked him how he found being back at LAMB when he came to visit. He was blunt:
“Boring,” he said. “It is really hot here (LAMB) but my school in India is much higher up in the hills so it is much cooler. I liked coming back and doing nothing for a while but after a while it gets annoying.”
The school in India puts them under a lot of stress to work hard for their qualifications but, at the same time, is an international school with many resources and lots to do. LAMB, by comparison, is a small village school with limited resources. During the summer, there is nothing here for youngsters to do and it’s too hot to do it even if you could!
“We have fun in India,” S says, “and everyone has different attitudes. We all get involved with stuff. At LAMB people are more relaxed more ‘whatever’”
I asked what he did in India:
“Sports, computer stuff, various clubs and things. There’s often too much to do there. Once though, when we did get bored, we went leopard hunting!”
I figured it was probably better not to ask too many questions about that, so I moved on…
I asked S if he felt LAMB had changed over the years seeing as he had lived there his whole life until a year ago:
“It’s changed a lot from when we were in pre-school.”
This is very true. The school has grown every year and doubled in numbers and building size even in the six years I’ve been working here.
How was he finding A levels? I wondered.
“Oh, O levels were nothing compared to A levels! I thought O levels were hard but I was wrong! Sometimes the work is so much you just want it all to stop.”
I smiled at this. I’ve heard that so many times in 20 years of teaching and always warn my students that this is just what they will feel too. They rarely listen.
I started to wonder if S had not had the wonderful upbringing I thought he had at LAMB and so asked what he thought to living here and if he would live here again:
“I don’t think I want to come back to LAMB to live,” he said after some thought, “but it was great growing up here. There was always stuff to do here after school with your friends and we liked being at school.”
I’m not surprised S doesn’t want to return here. In fact, I’ve never known any students want to come back to their hometown here or in the UK, though many of them, over time, do. I was pleased though, that he could see how good it was to have lived at LAMB. That’s not something I heard very often from students in the UK – not even when I taught in Cambridge!
I asked S his best memory of LAMB.
“Drowning,” he said and all the others burst into laughter. They all understood but I was totally perplexed! He had to explain:
“We were in the pukur (the pond in the middle of LAMB) and they didn’t know I couldn’t swim. They pushed me in up to my waist and I screamed my head off! One of the ayahs looking after us all almost ran horizontally to get to me!”
I know that pukur well. We all go swimming in it and it is very deep and very murky. Anyone sinking down into it is not going to be found in a hurry. I could imagine the ayah’s panic. This was definitely one of those “it’s funny now but at the time…” moments and a good place to stop.
It was good to have a chance to chat with S. During term time it is rare to hear from him as the Indian school allows only very limited access to the internet, even for the older students. I have missed him and I look forward to seeing what happens with him over the next few years as he continues to develop as a man. Personally, I would love to see him back at LAMB despite his protests that he won’t. He, along with a small handful of other ex-students, is someone I would happily pass over all my classes to knowing they were in safe hands with him – should he ever choose teaching as profession. He is an honourable young man and I have no doubt that he will make a mark for himself in the world. I hope he carries on making music along with it the world would be duller with it.