Thursday, September 3, 2015

Day of Knowledge - First Day of School!

Hi all,

Nothing like the hectic start of a school year to shake you out of your mindset! I've been far too busy to dwell on any thought for too long. I was super excited to see the traditional school opening ceremony, and wish I'd thought of getting a picture with my new teacher co-workers. However, as I officially hadn't met all of them yet, this would have been problematic.

My temporary counterpart did swoop by to pack me into her car at around 8:30. We were in a hurry, and had to stop at a florist's shop to pick up plants for her school-aged children. The youngest child kept insisting that, perhaps, we should just go for coffee instead of to school?

All around the city, people walked in the traditional outfits of vyshavankas - the embroidered shirts/dresses in a variety of patterns and colors. Girls wore braided hair that could be considered to be a form of art, and the youngest wear ridiculously cute poofs (see picture proof below!). We bustled to the school, and I found myself behind the "stage", standing with my counterpart's class. All the younger forms assembled in their homeclass groups, and trailed in holding hands, to line the asphalt basketball court, with parents standing behind.

Two students served as MCs, reading an announcement about the hopes for the new year and the excitement of welcoming the new first graders to school. Remarks were made by the school Director, and the flag was raised. A dance performance, by some 7th graders, was an interesting addition - This is Africa is a decidedly Ukrainian choice (the last Christmas pageant used Cotton-Eyed, I wasn't surprised!).

It's not the best section of the performance, but it is the part where the girls were facing my part of the audience.

Next the first graders were paraded around the court, with one girl sweetly carried by her father. Several of the students were lined up to recite stanzas of a poem - with one student cutely saying that he may be a school director someday! Kids are super into memorization here, with a very sing-songy cadence.

The children were also presented some school materials by the 11th grade class (the final year), although they were strangely dressed in what looked to be a variant of a French maid costume. Not sure why...but I saw girls all over the city wearing the same outfits, so clearly a tradition for some reason.

The anthem was also played during the ceremony, and it's so nice to hear an anthem within a sing-able range. Some of the first graders also sang a song, and later so did some teachers.

I was really looking forward to the bell ringing - an 11th form boy will put a 1st grade girl on his shoulders and carry her around the stage while she rings a bell. Unfortunately, this time the boy merely held her hand. Apparently in Hugo's village they did have the tiny girl perched on a very large boy, and it was quite the sight.

Once the festivities were over, we headed inside to have a truncated day, which is good, because the temperature nearly hit 100 degrees. It was pretty miserably hot in school.

Oddly enough, the school had waited until the day before to install all new windows (government funded at least in part) throughout the main building, so that was also going on. The students were all quite excited, and I got thrown right back into teaching since the teachers hadn't prepared anything. I talked about myself and my summer, invited them to ask questions and then talk about their summers as well.

I was finished around 1:30 - just in time to go and meet my programs Safety and Security officer (a rather intimidating man that has quite the presence), to go to the local police. Although, local militia is a closer approximation to what we consider to be police. At any rate, I was pulled into the meeting with the chief of police, the duty officer, a local military officer and another man who I presumed to be of similar importance.

For about an hour I sat and pretended to follow the conversation, speaking poor Ukrainian for several minutes about my role, and to sit and look pretty. Since I am the regional "Warden", it was important for us to meet in the case of any emergency situation that could arise with volunteers. My being able to call from a business card the chief of police would expedite contacting other local authorities and expand the safety network. It seemed to go well, and the army representative expressed great interest in my adult English club, and hopes his daughter can join. So there's that.

I then went to join some of the English and German teachers and the school secretaries for dinner at a local restaurant. Although it was technically lunch, I suppose, but it was about 4pm. I now know where to get a tasty caesar salad in town. I should really give up on Ukrainian cheesecake though, as I always measure it against the ones I enjoy to bake and find it sadly lacking. Though tasty enough, they're just in a whole different category.

Then I went to a friend's house for a few hours, finally managing to make it home around 8pm.
Suffice it to say that I was rather tired!

The last few days I've gone to a wide variety of English classes with my temporary counterpart, and even led a class all by myself today with about 18 5th graders in it. The lesson was 98% English, and the kids did great. We even put some grammar structure in. My counterpart put a bit of the fear of god into them at the beginning of the lesson, but they all stayed super engaged - I'll milk the novelty factor for all it's worth!

Tomorrow I apparently get a class of 2nd graders. I'm basically filling in for my counterpart who's still gallivanting about the US (kinda) until the 10th. I'm very excited for her return.

Anyhow, I'm going to throw up the pictures at the end here from the first day.

Hope all is well,


Holding hands to line up around the stage.

Some of the students waiting for the events to begin.

The school bell!

Nothing says welcome back like the Samba. Notice the beautiful chalk work!

They do this little bobbing twist as they sing to keep count...adorable!

Some of the teachers singing.

11th Grade classes with presents for the 1st formers.

The parade of the first formers - look at the poofs!

Not really sure why it's upside down, but it did get righted to blue skies over the yellow fields of Ukraine!

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