Wednesday, May 31, 2006


I realized yesterday why people go into teaching. It’s because when you put together a good lesson and the kids really take to it and you can see that they are having fun and learning at the same time, it is a truly indescribably great feeling. You just want to prance through the halls exclaiming “YES! I have just made a difference in those children’s lives.” Even if all you did was play a game.

This is the last week of classes and the kids are pretty much tuned out. They have come to expect a parade of videos in the last weeks and demand to know “are we watching a movie” the second they enter the classroom. I would have succumbed to the lure of the TV myself this week but other teachers beat me to the punch and I couldn’t book it for my seventh or eighth graders. What to do? And then it hit me – Jeopardy! The kids love playing games so much that they don’t even notice when you sneak in actual learning.

So I sat down for several hours and came up with a 50 question Romeo and Juliet Jeopardy for the 8th graders. 10 questions in 5 categories: Movie Madness (they watched the DiCaprio version earlier), Character Clues, Story Stumpers, Who Said It, and Shakespeare Trivia. I actually had a great time coming up with the questions and – wonder of wonders! – they had a super time playing it. We actually spent the entire 80 minute period playing and the kids were really into it most of the time. Interest waned toward the end of the first round when it was clear that the boys were going to soundly defeat the girls. But they all perked up again when I reminded them that in round 2, point values double and it’s anybody’s game.

I was very impressed by how well they all knew their material, too. There were some hard questions and they knew most of them. Here’s a few sample questions—how well do you know your Shakespeare? (answers at the bottom)

Movie Madness for 300 -- What is Friar Laurence’s tattoo?

Character Clues for 200 – How is Tybalt related to Juliet?

Story Stumpers for 500 – Why will Rosaline not have Romeo?

Shakespeare Trivia for 300 – What are the three genres of Shakespearean plays?

Who Said It for 500 – “Peace? I hate the word, as I hate hell…”
(Bonus points if you can complete that line)


The friar’s tattoo is of a huge Celtic cross on his back
Tybalt is Juliet’s cousin
Rosaline has vowed to live a life of chastity
The three genres are comedy, tragedy and history
Tybalt spoke those lines and the rest of the verse is: “all Montagues and thee”
Juliet is 13 years old

How did you do?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


You know you teach middle school when you end the school day with songs about farting swirling around in your head. As a treat for the sixth graders, I showed them an animated movie of Roald Dahl’s famous children’s book, The BFG—the heart-warming (and yet gross) story of the Big Friendly Giant and the little girl he befriends.

Perhaps the most memorable scene in the book (and now, apparently, the movie) involves whizz-popping and a drink called frobscottle. Frobscottle is much like soda pop but instead of the bubbles going up, they go down. Thus, instead of burping when drinking—which is considered unspeakably rude in the BFG’s world—the gas comes out the other end. Voila! Whizz-popping!

In the movie, there is a lovely ode to whizz-popping in song form, wherein Sophie and the BFG leap around the screen, propelled by the gas from their rears while singing:

Whizz-pop whizz-bang, feel the bubbles go down!
Whizz-bang whizz-pop, bouncing all around!
It’s a cute scene, and unfortunately the song is really catchy and tends to stay with you. I’ve been muttering “feel the bubbles go down!” under my breath all afternoon. And when asked what it is that I’m humming, I serenely reply “a song about farting.”


I wore my hair in a ponytail to work today...

Wait, maybe you didn’t hear me the first time. I said, I wore my hair in a ponytail today. For your information, it has been literally 10 years since I was able to pull my hair into a ponytail. I chopped it short when I was a freshman in high school and never looked back.

Until I got engaged, tried on wedding dresses and realized that short hair just isn’t all that “bridal.” I had visions of romantic up-swept tresses and dangling tendrils and my bobbed, ear-length locks just weren’t going to cut it (no pun intended) so I’ve been growing out my hair since last May. However, my hair is obstinate and ornery and simply refuses to grow at the standard 3 centimeters per month. It prefers a rate of more like 1 centimeter and so has crept ever so slowly downward over the last year. And at long last, I can create a short pony tail. Or even pigtails if I feel so inclined. It’s all very fun.

Of course, now my ears stick out alarmingly like a bat’s (or perhaps an elephant) but that is a separate problem.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Kamikaze Mouse

The following story was initially contained in an e-mail to my friend Suzy who gets credit for inspiring me and shall henceforth be known as Suzy Muse, which sounds ever so nice…

Wanna hear a mouse story? I know you do! I never get tired of telling them so of course it stands to reason that no one ever tires of hearing them. Mwa ha ha.

In any case, we have a stupid and/or kamikaze mouse in our kitchen. Or maybe a whole fleet of them, it's tough to tell with mice. Two nights ago, I was chopping up some mango in my kitchen when a flurry of movement to my left caused me to leap into the air, uttering a maidenly cry of distress. And there was a wee mouse, lurking under my shelving unit. So I briskly rattled the shelves hoping to scare him away. But the little bugger wouldn't go! I poked at him with a spoon and then he ran, but only as far as the end of the counter where he proceeded to hide behind some melons, thinking he was invisible there. Then he kept coming back out under the shelves. Rattle. Flee. Hide. Return. Repeat. The whole time I was in there! I was in mortal fear that he would suddenly turn totally deranged and race across my cutting board and possibly up my arm and into my hair, where he would then nest.

And then last night he was back again! I had to sit in the kitchen the whole darn time I was baking, to guard my cooling muffins, because I was sure that if I left them alone even for an instant, I would return to find a horde of ravenous mice getting a free dinner. So I sat there, alone, at 10 o'clock at night, jumping at every small noise because I was sure it signaled the arrival of the mouse horde. Or perhaps a rat horde, the mice being scouts for a larger and more terrifying menace. And I did, in fact, spy 3 mice (or the same mouse three times) throughout the course of the baking spree. And I shrieked every time. Damn things.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


One of the intriguing things about living in India has been experiencing (second hand!) Eastern medicine in action. Our yoga instructor is also a specialist in a variety of other arts including “twist therapy,” acupressure and acupuncture with which he claims he can cure anything from the common cold to cancer. We remain politely skeptical. But last night I got to see another kind of therapy, called Reiki. It’s actually a Japanese healing art that involves channeling a spiritual energy into healing. It’s sort of like Christian laying on of hands, except that the healer doesn’t actually touch the patient, just hold his or her hands above and sort of cleanses the patient’s aura.

Our yoga instructor brought a pupil from another class with him last night to observe our class and she is a Reiki master. My friend Brian broke his back a few years ago and still has chronic pain so she asked if she could perform Reiki on him. He agreed so we settled down to watch. And it was really fascinating. First she rubbed her hands together and then held them a few inches apart for a few seconds. Then, keeping her hands about 5 inches above Brian, she swept them down and along his body, with a little wrist flick at the end, for all the world like she was sweeping the negative energy away from him.

Then she circled him a few times before deciding where to begin. She knelt at his side and then, sort of picked at the air above him in various areas and in differing patterns. She held a stone between the fingers of one hand and drew designs in the air with it. Perhaps it should have been silly but somehow it wasn’t because she clearly seemed to be responding to something. She would pause, hold her hand still for a bit, then begin again in a slightly different area. The idea is that she was pinpointing areas of pain (which can be felt as heat) and then drawing them away.

The process lasted about 10 minutes and finished with another round of sweeping movement. Brian wasn’t too wowed by the experience, though. He said he felt a little bit better but not perfect. Then again, I think that with most healing, it’s a matter of degree. You can't expect to feel 100% better immediately after one treatment of anything, be it western medication or eastern energy channeling. If you feel a bit better, that’s a good thing. Of course, I’m not going to be signing up for acupuncture or twist therapy any time soon. I’m brave enough to watch but not to participate!


Wow. Just when you think you know the English language…you hang out with British people. Last night was a potluck end-of-year party with my book group—a chance to hang out together one last time, bid bon voyage to those members who are leaving Woodstock, and stuff ourselves with tasty treats. It was also an opportunity to try out a charade-type game that my friend Melanie owns. Melanie is British. The game is British. Most of the members of book group are American. Let the good times roll.

The point of the game was just like charades—act out a word or phrase and have your team guess. The twist was that the words and phrases were supposed to be well-known English sayings. They came on little cards with six phrases to a card and you were supposed to get through as many as possible in a minute. Sometimes this was not a problem – phrases like slippery when wet or quick on the draw were easy enough to act out and understood by all.
But then we entered the hilarious realm of “weird British phrases no one outside the island has ever heard of.” Take, for example cocking a snook. Or playing conkers. Or comparing cucumbers at the allotment Or, my personal favorite hanging nuts for the blue tits. Not only was it impossible for us to act out these “well-known phrases,” we were also incapable of even reading them aloud without collapsing into tear-inducing gales of laughter.

The best thing about the game, though, was watching Melanie respond to these bizarre sayings. She knew them all and would nod understandingly while the rest of us stared in bug-eyed confusion. Then she would realize that we were all lost and explain, in tones of incredulous exasperation that of course "cocking a snook" means to look down your nose at someone. And that a blue tit is a bird and they like nuts so you put nuts outside for them. Well, of course.

Monday, May 22, 2006


These last few weeks have been a blur of activity and this weekend was no exception. Friday night, Joanna, Anne and I played host to a pack of 17 rambunctious middle schoolers in a night of crafts, cards and cooking. Joanna kept order during rowdy card games while I taught the basics of crochet and Anne oversaw baking and frosting sugar cookies. It was really fun for me to be able to interact with the kids I teach in a non-class setting where we can relax a bit more and, if not shrug off completely, at least loosen the bonds of teacher-student relationships.

Then Saturday was Jazz Jam, an annual music event taking the form of an outdoor café-style concert. The advanced jazz students performed music ranging from big band swing to the canteen music from Star Wars and students and staff took turns reading poetry, sometimes even original compositions. The audience was arrayed at tables in the Quad and in theory there was food. I say “in theory” because they ran out of all the good food (momos, pizza, ice cream floats, etc.) within about 20 minutes of the start of the program. Alas. But we still had a grand time. Louise and I cha-cha’d in the back and cheered on our friends Melanie and Scott as they wowed us all with their swing abilities, much to the fascination of the students who really aren’t used to middle-aged British couples flinging themselves about.

Sunday was the last chapel of the semester and the devotions were given by staff members leaving at the end of the year and seeking to impart a few last words of wisdom. It also happened to be Brian’s birthday so twelve of us dutifully trooped back to his house after chapel for cake and cookies and ice cream. In the dark, as it turned out, since the daily thunderstorm brought with it the daily power failure. But there’s something fun about birthdays by candlelight. And the sight of Brian opening his gifts with a headlamp attached to his forehead will not be soon forgotten by any of us!

For the first time, though, the weekend’s festivities took on a bittersweet tone in light of the impending farwells. As I sat in the Quad, listening to Laura croon to “Girl from Ipanema” or smiled at Kevin’s devotion in Chapel, I couldn’t keep the sadness from creeping in, just a little bit. One month from now I will home again having said goodbye to India and many friends, perhaps forever—friends who have been like family this year in this strange place where home is so very far away for us all. Woodstock is a transient community and every year brings with it countless goodbyes. Leaving will be hard for me and I imagine it must be even harder for those veterans who linger on, making new friends and saying goodbye to them in a never-ending cycle of happy memories and tearful farewells.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


I can now add a new item to my list of “first-time experiences” that I’ve been accumulating in India. This morning was the first time I have ever washed my hair in a rainstorm. Literally – in a rainstorm, not during a rainstorm. There I was at 6:30 this morning, attired in mesh athletic shorts and a t-shirt, standing on our porch and leaning out to stick my lathered head into the runoff from our gutter.

Why, you ask, was I doing this? Was I having a moment of hippie-ness and trying to be a conscientious environmental steward? Well, no. I was showering in the great outdoors because we are now going on day THREE of no water at my humble abode. None. No showers, no washing dishes, no flushing the toilet. No nothing. I have no idea why we are high and dry but I suspect it has something to do with all the construction that’s been going on at a near-by apartment. They messed with our pipes to put in their pipes and something seems to have gone awry. Yesterday I just went to work dirty but I simply could not face another day without a shower. I had planned to go over to a neighbor’s house and use her shower but Fate conspired against me.

Just in case it wasn’t enough of a hassle to have no water, this morning we also had no electricity. And that meant that my neighbor’s shower wouldn’t be hot since we have electric geysers and if I’m going to take a cold shower I might as well use the free stuff falling from the sky. Which it was (and still is, as a matter of fact) in a torrential flood.

So I am clean (except for my feet which are mud-caked from the slog to school) but grumpy this morning. That rainwater was really really cold and I suspect I didn’t get all the shampoo out because I showered in record time. I sent a curt e-mail to the Person In Charge Of Such Things inquiring as to when we might expect running water and invoking the name of my sick housemate in an attempt to encourage speed. Being home sick with typhoid is bad enough. Being home sick with typhoid and no running water is just inhumane.

Poetry in Motion

Another fun-filled day in teacherland. Jamie’s typhoid is refusing to leave without a major struggle and so for now I’m still Miss Lockard, English Teacher. Today I had two sections of 6th graders for 80 minutes each. I was looking forward to it because the sixth graders are legendary for being fantastic – they answer questions without prompting, love to read aloud and actually request to do extra projects. Dream children. And my hopes were not dashed, although I still felt like a bit of an overworked sheep-dog by the end of the afternoon. No matter how lovely the children are, by the end of an 80 minute period just before school lets out, they get squirmy to say the least.

Currently the sixth graders are doing a unit on poetry so we started the class by reading several poems aloud. I was looking down into my teacher’s manual while talking – “Okay, I’m going to need a couple volunteers to….” And as I looked up, I realized that every hand in the class was already raised. Wow. Although I have to confess that I wasn’t a huge fan of the poetry they were reading :

See the kitten on the wall
sporting with the leaves that fall.

Really, I expect more from Wordsworth.

The assignment for the day was an exercise on poetic imagery, particularly as it relates to the senses. I gave them all a piece of candy and they had to fill out a poetic chart creating similes, metaphors and rhymes and picking out “vivid” adjectives with which to describe their sweets. They all cheerfully furrowed their brows, buried their noses in thesauruses and set to work. The results were pretty funny.

Miss Lockard, what rhymes with oval? (ummm….)

Is it a simile if I say my candy is like sweet? (no, try again)

Miss Lockard, is ‘bananish’ a word? (no, but use it anyways—points for creativity)

Does anything rhyme with sugar other than booger? (not that I can think of)

Miss Lockard, people with jaundice are yellow, right? So can I describe my candy as ‘jaundiced?’ (absolutely)

I ate my candy and now I don’t know what it tasted like, can I have another? (no, you weasel. I told you not to eat them until you were done.)

At the end of class, as a reward for hard work, we played a rhyming game. The kids all sat on their desks (a treat in and of itself) and one person said a word which the others then had to rhyme to, around the circle, until someone faltered. So I would say “cat” and then it’d be “sat!” “fat!” “at!” “mat!” “ummm…snat?” OUT! On to the next word.

It was pretty fun and very amusing to see what interesting new words were created as the list of possible rhymes dwindled. I particularly enjoyed the rhymes for “easy” like “greasy” “sleezy” “cheesey” etc. We bent the rules a little on that one and also admitted “peasy” because it sounded cool. This is what I like about teaching English. Silly games like that are actually educational. I pity the math teachers. "Okay, time to play Name That Math Term!" Poor dears.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Well, thanks to the typhoid outbreak, I’ve been promoted. I’m a middle school English teacher now. My housemate, Jamie, is the real teacher but she’s one of many down for the count. The school is getting desperate and having a really difficult time covering classes. It’s one of those things you don’t immediately think about when signing on to work at a boarding school in the middle of nowhere—you can’t just call in substitute teachers from the next district when someone gets sick. The teachers you have are the substitutes you've got. The healthy teachers are handling extra classes and non-teachers are being pressed into service whenever it seems like it might work. So I’m covering Jamie’s classes until she’s well again.

And, wonder of wonders, I love it! I’ve only had a couple classes so far but I can feel myself getting excited. There is something really magic about teaching middle school. On the one hand, the kids can be pretty rowdy and are prone to giggle at everything but the payoff is that their minds are so open. They’re still at that point where what you tell them is new and exciting and you are in the position to light their enthusiasm and help them love the subject you’re teaching.

The 7th and 8th graders are both studying Shakespeare (which in itself is pretty cool—we didn’t touch Shakespeare till high school at my school). A Midsummer Night’s Dream for grade seven and Romeo and Juliet in eight. I’m familiar with R&J but had never read Dream and so raced through it yesterday. Good play. I highly recommend it. Then today I found myself spending my free periods pouring over teaching guides in search of insight into how to present the topics and looking for fun activities. I really want to be more than a warm body babysitting the kids until their teacher gets well. I’m not at all qualified to teach, but English is something I’m good at and I hope I can bring something to the classes.

Right now the kids are being good for me and I really hope it lasts. Middle schoolers are, by nature, an alarmingly energetic bunch and keeping their attention for 80 minutes will be a challenge. Plus they’re prone to silliness. And immaturity (which I realize goes with the age). So it was really no surprise to discover that the character “Puck,” when his name was written on the board, quickly gained a new initial letter when my back was turned. Giggles all around. Sigh. Wish me luck!

Monday, May 08, 2006

An Old Friend

This Sunday I got to see an old friend. In a moment of energetic enthusiasm I agreed to chaperone a middle school hike on Sunday. Ordinarily I’m not much of a hiker but a) we were promised that this was the most beautiful hike ever in the history of the universe and b) our hiking director has typhoid and needs all the help he can get. So I signed up. We were supposed to leave at 12:30, but when dealing with middle school this really means at least 1pm after last minute water bottle checks are completed and final runs to the bathroom taken care of. We loaded up a bus and drove about an hour, across Mussoorie in the direction of Kempty Falls. We offloaded near “Camp Lake Mist” at the base of one of the mountains and hiked back into and then up out of the valley.

And it truly was one of the most gorgeous places I’ve been to around Mussoorie. The hiking was steadily upward but not too challenging and the path was wooded and crossed several streams. So we stopped frequently to splash about and giggle and climb on fallen trees. (This is what is so great about hiking with sixth and seventh graders—they find everything so exciting).

At one point, I was bringing up the rear when up ahead I heard the girls shrieking and saw them fleeing from some creature. Great. The children are being mauled by a wild animal. But, upon closer inspection it proved to be just a dog, barely more than a puppy and clearly more interested in licking the girls than consuming them. I calmed them down and said hello to the pooch, who then began to look strangely familiar as she wiggled about in front of me. Our lead chaperoned mentioned that we were near Brentwood Sanctuary and the pieces fell into place. It was Basanti, our puppy friend from the start of the year. Brian had briefly adopted her and then given her to Brentwood Sanctuary when it became clear that keeping a dog just wasn’t feasible. She was quite a bit bigger now but still the same cheerful and loving creature she had always been. Once the kids had been informed of her identity, they lost their fear and, for the most part, enjoyed her company. She followed us for about 2 hours, usually leading the pack and happily licking everyone she could reach whenever we took a break.

The weather was cool and breezy. The scenery was lovely. And we had a frolicking canine companion. Perhaps I should go on more hikes.


Saturday afternoon we had a music jam at the Wildman’s house. Pete and Dot are a fantastic middle-aged British couple who stand in nicely as parent figures for all of us lonely singletons. They have a great house just above school level with a nice terrace and fabulous interior decorating. It is definitely the “homiest” of the staff homes I’ve seen. And they like to entertain, so on Saturday afternoon everyone was invited up for a good old fashioned barbecue. Those with musical instruments brought them, everyone provided food for the grill, and we all hung out for several hours singing, laughing and snarfing large quantities of food. Very Large Quantities. Not many people have grilling capabilities here and we all got a little over-excited at the prospect and ended up with about two tons of meat. Chicken hot dogs, shrimp skewers, lamb kebabs, pork chops, chicken breasts. A smorgasbord of carnivorous delight.

And then there was the music. Pete plays a mean guitar, knows half the songs in the world and can fake his way through the other half. Louise is fantastic on fiddle, JT accompanied on the electric keyboard, Laura took over the bongo drums and Lorenz and Brian also strummed guitar. It was great! We had song sheets full of classic rock songs from “All You Need is Love” to “Tambourine Man” and “Can’t Help Falling In Love With You.” So the adults sang with wild abandon while the children stared at us is confusion and demanded to know who Bob Dylan was. As the evening slowed down, Louise played some fiddle tunes and Lorenz sang a few Austrian folk songs. I’ve decided these are really best when you don’t understand them. Radha translated a few verses of one song and it was something about how being alone was worse than eating rats. Somehow it sounded far more romantic in German!

The other great thing about family-friendly gatherings, of course, is the presence of small children to worship and adore. Baby Anderson (also known as Petra) made an appearance, sleepily charming all she met. And Lorenz and Radha’s son Joseph is a perpetual favorite; a happy-go-lucky one year old with a penchant for playing the bongos. The older children cheerfully “khud-climbed”, scrambling all over the mountain side like goats and attempting to give their parents heart failure. A lovely time all around.

Friday, May 05, 2006


My housemate Courtney headed back to the States earlier this week to recover from typhoid fever. She’d been fighting with it for about 3 weeks—oral antibiotics, IV antibiotics, home rest, hospital rest, diet, you name it—and they eventually decided she’d recover better at home. Now it looks like Courtney was just the first of many to become diseased. I would hesitate to call it an “epidemic” but just today 3 staff members and 1 staff child were diagnosed with the bug. I’m not sure what the total sick person count is, but alarmingly, the four most recent casualties all live near Mt. Hermon and we all share a common water supply. Coincidence? We hope so.

The tough thing is that it’s so darn easy to come into contact with bad water. At first it seems like the simplest thing in the world to avoid: only drink filtered water. But that’s really just the beginning. Take dish washing: we wash our dishes in tap water and once they’re dry there’s no problem, but often things aren’t quite dry when you pick them up. When you remember, you can dry them out with a napkin but sometimes you don’t even notice. Or maybe you accidentally get some water in your mouth while you’re showering or space out and rinse your tooth brush under the tap. Or you dutifully wash your hands after using the restroom but they’re not quite dry when you head into lunch and grab that roti off the buffet line.

So now we’re all paranoid. The most common symptoms of typhoid are exhaustion, body ache, a low-grade fever and occasionally some nausea. Well, those are also typical symptoms of any general malaise and the common cold so it’s tough to tell what you’ve got—impossible without a blood test, actually. And it’s the end of the semester so everyone is exhausted. But now, the minute you feel tired a little voice starts chanting “typhoid, typhoid” and suddenly you feel warmer than usual—is that a fever coming on? One month to go. Fingers crossed!

Monday, May 01, 2006


On a more positive note, Saturday was MELA at Woodstock School. MELA is an annual food and shopping event that is basically like a big cultural art fair, with all the proceeds going to a scholarship fund. It takes place in the Quad and there are stalls set up outside and in the dining hall. The Development Office even set up a little “café” on one of the balconies overlooking the Quad, complete with tables for two and coffee. This year’s theme was Rainbow Nation so multicolored pennants and streamers adorned the balconies and railings and flags representing all the students of Woodstock were strung between the buildings.

Many of the shopping opportunities come from NGOs from around India who sell handmade goods and it’s that much easier to spend your money when you know that the necklace you’re buying is supporting a Garwhali women’s shelter or a leprosy mission. A few of the merchants from the local Bazaar were there too, like the Tibetan ladies who sell fun jewelry made of huge glass beads or hand-worked silver. I was seduced by a fantastic bracelet/ring combo—the kind with a bracelet that is attached to a ring by fine chain/bead strands. I imagine it’s the kind of thing that a princess would wear.

And there’s always plenty to eat. Local restaurants set up food stalls and hawk biryani, momos and kebabs while the students man booths selling ethnic food. The Japanese kids had flavored ice slushies and the Koreans sold their equivalent of sushi, called kim-bap. The 9th graders opted for a hot dog stand and walked around with trays of dogs, shouting like baseball stadium pros.

Then there is dancing, again a chance for the students to showcase their cultural heritage. The Korean girls performed a dance with fans and groups of Indian and Bhutanese students each put on quite a show. Even the elementary school kids got involved with a dance of their own which was incredibly cute—wee people from a variety of backgrounds prancing around self-consciously in full Indian apparel.

The clothing is probably what I enjoyed most about the day. The students were encouraged to wear “national dress” for the MELA and they did so with wild abandon. This is what is so great about working at an international school—students who normally blend together in a sea of jeans and t-shirts at school suddenly transform into icons of their cultures. The Japanese girls wore kimonos and the boys had gorgeous robes. There were beautiful saris and flashy salwar kameez. At least one German girl donned a dirndl and our Russian student, Boris, even sported a military-style jacket and tall hat.