Cakes & Candles in Colombo

My birthday started with me being locked out of my classroom … Now, usually this would be problematic – however, as I waited outside I could hear a faint symphony of sellotape snapping, paper crumpling and furniture moving, all punctuated with the odd balloon popping. These noises quelled my concerns about the students staging a lock-in protest over their end of module test, and instead roused intrigue.

Sure enough, after a couple of minutes the door flew open and I was greeted with cheers of, ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY MISS MEGAN!’ from a chorus of students. The room was filled with balloons of every hue, a rainbow of streamers hung from the ceiling fans, and a strikingly accurate picture of me holding a cake adorned the whiteboard. The students had apparently been planning all week, and during the lesson I was treated to a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday, a Boyzone classic, and a traditional Singhalese song played by one of the students on his guitar. The other classes that day were equally as fun-filled – with students bringing in snacks prepared by their families, thoughtful gifts, cards, and heart-warming messages.

Having only been teaching at SVS School for English for two weeks, I was not expecting any of this! However, I suppose it should not have surprised me – the students at the school are possibly the most friendly, respectful and kind-hearted I have ever taught. They don’t just view SVS as a place to come, do their class, and leave – there is a far more social atmosphere in which students want to stay and chat with each other and their teachers after the lessons. When I was asked recently by a family friend about what I was enjoying most about teaching here, it was this camaraderie which came to mind.

Speaking of socialising, during my relatively short time here, I already feel completely part of the SVS family. Whilst the teachers are all from different countries, cultural backgrounds and are different ages, a shared passion for teaching means it has been very easy to settle into life at the school quickly. On my birthday, the teachers proved themselves to be just as sneaky as the students! After eating lunch together, as we do every day, a home-made cake covered in candles magically appeared from the store cupboard.

I would love to say that the teachers’ version of Happy Birthday was as tuneful as the students’, but I was always taught not to lie…! However, whilst the singing may not have been quite on par with the students, the teachers scored full-marks in secrecy. This skill was demonstrated once again later that day when I learned that the teachers had planned a surprise birthday dinner. It was an evening filled with good food and fun – and whilst we may need a couple of singing practices (for the teachers) before the next SVS birthday, one thing is for sure is that my birthday in Colombo is one I won’t forget!

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