Monday, September 3, 2012

The First Day of School

As many of my friends in the US are getting ready for the First Day of School tomorrow, we have already had our first day and let me tell you, school starts out much different here. 

I remember many summers of helping my mother get her classroom in America ready for the start of a new school year. My mother would have spent a good chunk of the summer, and money from her own pocket, getting her classroom ready. It would be very bright, colourful, and fun. There would be different areas of the classroom designated for different things, such as a word wall, math center, etc. Most importantly though, her classroom would be organized. She knew what children she was going to have and we would place name tags and the cursive alphabet on the desks, making sure it was straight! The books in her reading area were alphabetized, all 500 billion of them, and each puzzle and board game had all the pieces. 

(***Disclaimer: The following event happened over 15 years ago, so Sara accepts no responsibility if her, at the time, child's brain remembered this incident a little differently than her father remembers it.***)

One of the things I remember most from helping my mother in her classroom is that the room was fun. It was meant for kids and it was clear my mom knew what she was doing. I have vivid memories of one year she painted a giant tree on a refrigerator box. The tree was then placed over the classroom doorway and a hole was cut in it so the children would enter something akin to the magic tree house when they came to school that first day. As a child, I remember being fascinated by it and wishing I was in my mom's class. My mother, sister, and I were putting the finishing touches on her magic tree classroom and my dad stopped by to check it out. The room looked perfect and was all ready to go, down to the last details, at least in my mother's eyes. However, my father saw a problem. The drinking fountain spicket in the classroom was tilted, not quite straight. Being the handyman my father is, he decided it would be an easy fix and then my mom's classroom would be perfect with its new straightened drinking fountain. After a few moments of tweaking, scratching, and probably some quizzical looks, the drinking fountain was still a little crooked. My dad gave it one last tweak and suddenly water came shooting out at fire hydrant like speeds. Within a few seconds, half of my mother's perfect classroom was soaked. I don't remember what exactly happened next, probably a few inappropriate words from my mother, but my father ran in search of the turn off valve, leaving my mother holding a bucket trying to make the water splash down into the sink below with tears streaming down her face. Her perfect classroom was ruined. The only other memory I have of this event is one that my sister and I look back on with complete joy. We had sponges tied onto the bottom of our feet as we skated across the soaking wet hallway just outside my mom's classroom collecting water and practicing our double axels in preparation for the Olympics. 

The First Day of School is a big deal in America for kids too. There was always the excitement of new school clothes, brand new sharp crayons, unused notebooks, and getting to see your friends again. I know I always tried to wear my new school clothes at least once before school actually happened, but my mother was way to smart for that. The smell of new books, the look of clean school shoes, and the feeling of a new backpack on your back and lunchbox in your hand. Clearly I have education in my blood because these things still get me excited- new school supplies are still one of the little joys in my life. Oh and my family was definitely big into the First Day of School photos out in front of the house that first morning. The idea of the First Day of School still sends butterflies into my stomach with excitement and I do consider it to be a holiday, hence the capitalization of the words. 

Last night I went to bed unsure what the First Day of School in Macedonia would bring. I knew it would be more chaotic than what I am used to based on what I had seen and heard in terms of preparation for the upcoming school year. Well, let's just say, the day was fairly chaotic and I felt bad for the teachers here. For many of them, they were seeing their schedule for the year for the very first time. They were finding out which classes they were teaching and this was still changing halfway through the day. My school has two new teachers this year, both of which were notified at 11pm last night that they should show up today. The 7th graders are without text books and part of the school was without water. Because the teachers move from room to room, the teacher's don't necessarily feel ownership over the classrooms so there isn't the time and effort put into making it look just so. 

I felt bad watching my counterpart and the other teachers running around trying to figure things out with classes and such changing several times. Because the teachers here find out in August, usually late August, if they have their jobs for upcoming school year, the month of September is often spent working out all of the kinks in the school schedule and such. This is something I wouldn't be able to do, so I applaud these teachers for being able to not go insane while dealing with all of this.

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