Dharamshala, India — An impressive conversation with Ngawang Jorgyal, a teacher at Gaden Monastery. He teaches mathematics and Science to different categories of students. He shares with Tibet Post International(TPI) his passion for teaching and his journey in becoming a teacher. He also touches important themes like roles of teachers and parents in a child’s life. The importance of students' current education for the Tibet cause.
TPI: Can you introduce yourself?
Jorgyal: My name is Ngawang Jorgyal and I came to India in 2004. I did my early schooling in Tibetan Children’s Village (TCV) Suja in Himachal Pradesh till tenth grade. I finished my 11th and 12th in science stream at Bylakuppe TCV school in South India. I joined Christ University at Bangalore taking chemistry as my main course for BSc (Bachelor of Science) in 2014. I had the opportunity to serve as a teacher for one year in the beginning at Gaden, one of the three largest monasteries of the Geluk sect (one of the five main sects of Tibetan Buddhism) situated in Mungod, South India after my graduation.
There is a collaboration between the science group from the monastery and students of Emory University, Georgia, the United States initiated by Tibet Library, Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). I have been teaching science to students from the monastic school who are part of that collaboration. These students are of Geshi, Geshi Lharampa (equivalent to Ph.D or higher), and senior monks, etc. I have been teaching for the fourth year now. I usually teach mathematics to students from the fourth to seventh grades. During that time, I was able to have many opportunities that included getting teachers training through many experienced professors from the US. I am also doing my MSc (Master of Science) through a correspondence course and will finish my MSc degree in November of this year.
TPI: What inspired you to be a teacher in the first place or is there a role model?
Jorgyal : I have always been a curious learner. I am always excited to know more about new things. I have students who are sitting for Geluk exams (an exam to get a Geshe Lharampa’s degree) of Geshe Lharampa. They are learning science. I have to prepare before a class and the students will pose different questions. Being a teacher is a huge responsibility and it depends greatly on how we respond to the duty put on us as teachers. When I think about it, being a teacher is a very good way to improve oneself as well as help others. As a role model, in a learning atmosphere, teachers are like a parent, especially in our exile Tibetan communities.
Tibetan school teachers go the extra mile not just as teachers but as parents teaching the students how to behave to leading a better life in society. This responsibility is not just about teaching how to read and write to students. It is also paving a better way for students. It is not certain whether it will help every student to be better in life or not but it is our responsibility as teachers to hope for the best. I am also trying my best for students in the class. Observing how their behaviors, attitudes, interactions will affect the surrounding people, etc.
TPI: What is the most amasing thing about being a teacher?
Jorgyal : Each individual student has a different capacity for learning. As teachers, the happiness we get is while teaching, we see different students’ ideas, behavior, and different capability in understanding lessons. Some take more time to learn while others learn so fast in such an environment, I need to try my best to uniformly let the students understand what is being taught even if it is not 100%, they get but at least a little bit of information needed to get through them. Putting efforts in making them understand is happiness for me and also for my interest for that very purpose, I become a teacher. I will always work hard while also trying my best to read books on teaching style and others to upgrade ways of teaching.
Through this process, I acquired lots of information as well. I try to teach my students not just lessons inside a classroom but also how they carry themselves outside as well. This is a great job. Children’s interaction and tolerance towards other people. When I was a student myself, I didn't know and understand many things. When you become a teacher, every student will admirably call you ‘teacher’ and it gives me a great sense of satisfaction in my work. I appreciate how students respect and love their teachers. I give my all daily and it gives me a great sense of happiness to be a teacher continuously.
TPI: What do you expect most from your students?
Jorgyal : Well, every teacher will wish that their students will do best in academic fields and be a good person in life. But every student is different and they may not become what we expect them to be. As social beings, everyone may not be able to contribute academically to society. Hoping them to be a good person in the future and a beneficial person is what we all can do. These are the biggest expectations or hope of a teacher. There will be dissatisfaction in class with the different thinking minds of students but it is a teacher’s responsibility to be understanding. Paving the correct way by showing them right from wrong. Every teacher expects their students to do best in everything but due to one’s karma as we Buddhists say, there are unfamiliar paths for each individual. We can only hope for the best. Because every student is born with a different mind and area of interest. Most importantly, as a teacher correcting students from wrongdoings and making efforts for the betterment of a student’s life are the key roles of a teacher.
TPI: What are the most challenging steps of being a teacher?
Jorgyal : As a teacher, the biggest problem is that students consist of different levels of learning capacity; Some students learn fast while some take a little more time. At that time when a teacher continues to teach without caring, yes some will get fast while others are slow learners. In such a situation, it is hard for teachers therefore, there are steps or plans a teacher needs to take to make things easier for students while learning. Secondly, students are not unkind by nature but young children tend to be very naughty and they talk in the classroom, creating conflicts both within and outside a classroom. Teachers also need to perform in consideration of their parents. These are certain things we need to take into considerations while prioritising children’s wellbeing.
TPI: How different are the previous and the current students?
Jorgyal : This question is not quite relevant to me since it hasn’t been that long for me as a teacher. I have taught for almost four years now but I may not be very experienced. There is a bit of difference as compared to my initial days when I started teaching here. There are differences in students’ thinking, attitude, and how they handle their lessons. They know how I plan and teach in class. My students understood how I gave homework. They know how I handle it if they don’t do their home works. how I utilise the 45 minutes of our time in a classroom and follow with my teaching style. Their behavior toward teachers and how they prepare before I enter the classroom. My way of overseeing them etc. These are the differences between before and now that I am aware of so far.
TPI: Do you enjoy teaching and what is your second most wanted job?
Jorgyal : Yes, I enjoy teaching and I find happiness in teaching. I was able to teach what I had learned and taught what I know with my own capacity. In the name of a teacher, I am able to get this teaching opportunity. I am happy to be able to be employed in this field. The way students behave and respect others. The expressions they show when they know and learn new things. I always feel it is beneficial to work for me. I get happiness through this job. It may not be full of riches. But my job is very relaxing. I need to make preparations for what I teach later on. So, I get the chance to deal with books as much as I want as a teacher.
While teaching science to senior monks like Geshe Lharampa, there will be many doubts and questions I couldn’t answer. There are lots that I learn from them, be it religious texts or Buddhist philosophies in my almost four years of teaching. I always tell my friends that I learned so much more within these years as a teacher than what I learned from my three years of BSc in an educational institution to get a degree. I am happy as a teacher. I intend to continue to serve in the teaching line. As for the second question, I don’t have any other specific job I want to do yet other than teaching. I still want to study. I am trying to get a Fulbright scholarship through CTA to study in an abroad University for two or some years. After that, I will return back to our exile Tibetan community and I would like to teach where there are many Tibetan students. I will be happier this way while pursuing my dreams.
TPI: Any message for the students or their parents and public?
Jorgyal : for my students, I always advise them to be good social beings more than I teach in the classroom. But children will always spend more time with their parents. It is important for every parent in our exile-Tibetan community to take responsibility for children’s education. There are not many families facing deficiencies of funds in our community. Our people’s economy has become much better than before due to their hard work and there is financial stability now. Parents should provide if their children want to pursue further study. TCV and the Department of Education under CTA provide more than enough scholarships for all Tibetan students if children are willing to learn. Be it students living in Tibetan settlements or those coming from Tibet. But when students reach around six to tenth grade, they tend to become very naughty and they don’t have much interest in education.
Of course, education is not everything but having a basic qualification in education will make many things easier for the children in the future. It is because of parents’ lack of attention. Parents need to provide an educational environment and not just the financial needs of their children. I stay in a Tibetan settlement; few parents tend to focus solely on business and gamble alone. Thinking that children just going to school will do the job and they don’t know what their children are doing. It is not enough. If parents are like that what can we expect from their children? Children are young so they need constant attention and guidelines. Each teacher could spend and will be with children for an hour only and the rest of the time, they are with their parents.
Therefore, it is important to be responsible. As well as for our Tibet cause, the proper education of our current children is impartial. Parents also need to think about their children’s future. As for the general people; there will be a little bit of difficulty if some people are very interested in pursuing further education degrees. But never give up and learning is important in society and age is just a number to grow wiser each passing year. People may think now that they are too old to pursue education and learn new things. As long as we live, we learn and learning is not just about reading and writing. As social beings, we can learn to improve our understanding of our parents, relatives, and friends. Thinking and holding each other in high regard and considerate manners as same Tibetan brothers and sisters. We need to focus on mental growth as human beings.