First Day Of School

I woke up got dressed. I ran into the host dad in the hallway. He looked at me bewildered and asked “What are you doing?”  When I told him school starts today, he just laughed at me.  It was 8:15, and although school started at 9, he thought I was too early.

So I piddled around on the Internet until the ‘appropriate’ time. Went downstairs, but still too early. But the host mom offered… insisted that she iron my shirt (I didn’t think it looked that bad.) Back upstairs to piddle some more.

When my shirt was done, I was going to school, damn it, no matter what! They told my to leave my backpack as it was only the first day of school, then let me go. Fine.

Lado and I walked up the street to the school (which is only two blocks away.) He was wearing his ‘back to school’ clothes. All week he kept repeating a legendary phrase I have heard for the past thirteen years of my life. “I Cant believe this is my last year.”  “This is my last first day of school. I can’t believe it.” I just smile and bask in his moment with him. High Schoolers are the same… period.

Walking up the hill and seeing the kids congregating with their friends and parents, my excitement quickly turned to nerves.

I didn’t know what to expect at all! And that’s what’s a gut check my friends. But up the hill we went. I was supposed to meet my other two co teachers, but I didn’t see them immediately. The front of the school was portioned off. They had a DJ playing light morning tunes, and two microphones set up. When I walked in the school, I finally found one of the co teachers. (I greeted her wrong by kissing on the wrong cheek, ugh.) She wanted me to say some words to the teachers, parents and students.  Yikes.

Two (of four) English co-teachers

We walked around outside a bit, until that time.

There is a definite unique culture at this school. The parents of the first graders at least came with there children (I’m sure more parents came too. But the first graders are the ones who brought bouquets of roses for there teachers.) Years ago there used to be a school uniform but that kind of went by the wayside, my co teacher told me. But the first graders still rock out a uniformed look. Boys wear white shirts and black pants. And the girls wear white shirts and black shirts, usually pleated.  Super cute! There were some students of older age who still held on to the uniform colors, but for the most part, they dressed as they pleased. Their styles varied as differently as the number of students themselves. The parents were typical parents, too. Ever trying to impress, the size of the bouquets kept getting bigger and bigger and these moms were dressed like they were stepping out of a Vogue magazine.

The program was very short. It was student run, which impressed me. The principal spoke, A student sang a song. Then several students recited what sounded like an epic poem. Don’t really know. (Then I said my few words), and the program was ended with a Georgian traditional dance complete with costume.

Next a little first grade boy stepped forward and rang a little cowbell. This was the signal for all the first graders to ceremoniously enter the school for the first time. A huge processional occurred with those cute little munchkins and their parents while we all clapped for their milestone.

First Graders’ Processional

After that we joined the herd into the school.

I don’t really have a grasp on the set up of the school, meaning how the rotation of classes or teachers work. I know that there are seven periods and the school day is from 9 until 3:00 pm. I’ll explain the rest as I figure it out. There is a teacher’s lounge that we went to straight away. None of my co teachers taught during the first period. There are seven periods of classes. So the three of us sat in the teacher’s lounge and tried to figure out what days and when I would teach. I teach two periods with the first teacher, Helen and three with the second teacher, Mariam. Okay.  That’s nothing with classes being 45 minutes long. When I asked was that it, they said no, there are two more English teachers. I was a little shocked, as I haven’t met these ladies. When they came (their English isn’t so good) I took on seven more classes total. Which is cool, the majority of my day and week is pretty much done after 1’o’clock. But TLG said we shouldn’t have more than three co-teachers. Hmm… I brought this up to one of them and she said, “It would be a shamed for some of the kids not to experience me. And the classes are pretty short.” Can’t really argue with that!

The other teachers are really nice and welcoming. I speak what limited Georgian I know, and when they continue to speak, my eyes glaze over. That’s usually their cue to smile and walk away. “Good Talk!”

The time came for us to go to the first class. We pranced through the halls (which I’ll mention later) to our class. when we peaked in, their was already a teacher there and a student standing in front reading from a book and the rest of the students at rapt attention. As it so happens this teacher (I don’t know if she is THE teacher for this class or what) wanted to do a lesson with them on this first day. So we went back to the teacher’s lounge.

Once there, the other main co teacher asked if I was unhappy with my schedule. Uh-oh. I told her I was fine, but the contract thing. She said that the contract also said I was not to work over 30 hours a week (which I was NOWHERE near approaching.)  Then she proceeded to try to organize a trip to the beach…  Batumi….an hour away. She was wheeling and dealing, coaxing and arm-twisting these teachers to attend. It was pretty comical. Reminds me of me. It didn’t work out though (more on why later, too.)

So the time came for the second class of the day for me. And off we went. This was a fifth grade class. Most of you know, I taught English in the States. The last time I was in an elementary school was during college as a teacher’s aid. It was a blast!  I had forgot how cute and eager to please they are. When we arrived the students were already sitting attentively in their seats (assigned seats?) She spoke straight English to them out the gate, only rarely speaking in Georgian to prompt individuals. When a class of elementary students speak in choral response, it gives me the goose bumps and warms my soul.  They all came up to the teacher when prompted for a group hug and traditional kisses. Then into the lesson we launched. She utilized me immediately. I told my name and a little about myself, and they individually had to do the same. Their English is obviously broken but they are VERY good. When spoken to, they would stand at their desk and speak. I had heard that the students were known for falling over themselves to answer a question. There were hints of this in very eager students but for the most part, they were well behaved. For example some of the students, over the summer, on their own time practically filled a notebook with meticulous English vocabulary.

She asked them to tell, in English, what they did this summer.  That was a little more difficult, but we squeaked through. The class ended with them singing songs from last year that they remembered. When the bell rang, and she released them, they sprinted out of the class…. most of them. Now if I remember elementary school correctly, they didn’t go anywhere without a teacher. But here everybody, I think, changed classes. Oh, it’s a 1-12 grade school. I think there are about 500 students total. As I was waiting for the next classes teacher, I stood in the hall during one of these changes and it was pandemonium. Teachers were in the halls, too. but not really interacting with the students, the younger students, anyway. These kids were running amuck as elementary kids know how to do so well. I cringed at about five high- speed collisions. So I will have to look closer at the between classes routine. Surely this isn’t normal.

Another thing that happened in the halls was that the kids got a great chance to get a good look at me. Some brave souls came up or said hey in passing, but the majority just stared… or smiled and stared. It was good to recognize some of the neighborhood kids, as they were familiar enough with me to come and speak. I also recognized some other kids just from daily interaction in the park or concerts. Nika came up and hugged me, which was nice. I saw Dato (he and Lado had a falling out, so they don’t speak.) Toka, the girl who went to the river with us to BBQ earlier this summer, has sister at the school, which I had not met. She was nice (brave) enough to come up to speak in limited English introducing herself. And a neighbor across the street is in one of my classes.

We walked around trying to find the next class, to no avail. We finally discovered that the class had gone on a walk.  Okay.

My school day was over. One and done. I went home.

Which brings me to my next adventure… Strep throat.

“When I wake up in the morning 
And the ‘larm gives out a warning 
I don’t think I’ll ever make it on time 
By the time I grab my books, 
And I give myself a look, 
I’m at the corner just in time to see the bus fly by 
It’s alright ”cause I’m saved by the bell 
If the teacher pops a test, 
I know I’m in a mess,
And my dog ate all my homework last night,
Ridin’ low in my chair, 
She won’t know that I’m there, 
If I can hand it in tomorrow, it’ll be all right! 
It’s alright, ”cause I’m saved by the bell”

Saved by the Bell, Louise Goffin

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