Yesterday was Sarah's first day of school here in Peru. Actually, it is the mid-year point here. The school year runs from March through December. The schools here just had their two week mid-year break and they started back up yesterday. Sarah was so excited to get to start school and finally meet some friends that she will see every day (not just at Kid's Club). She just trotted right in and started class like it was an everyday occurrence. The only thing that stumped her was that she didn't know the words to the national anthem and the pledge to the flag (of Peru).
I took Liz with me as a language helper, because I predicted that there might be vocabulary that would be new to me during the registration process, or legal-type things that I might not understand. I received a HUGE complement when we sat down with the director of the school and she began to try to speak English to me and said, "I will speak English because you don't speak Spanish", to which Liz jumped in and replied, "Yes she does. She speaks very good Spanish. You can speak Spanish to her." I didn't get a chance to stick up for myself because Liz did it for me, but it was so nice to hear!!!
So, once again, I have an incredible burden in my heart for the ESL students back home in Texas because I TOTALLY know how their parents feel when they come to register their kids for school. Folks, chances are that these people are NOT complete idiots... they just don't understand how you do things or WHY you do them that way. For example, it never dawned on me that I would have to purchase everything imaginable for Sarah. I expected to buy crayons and paper and scissors, etc. (normal school supplies in the USA). I did NOT expect to have to buy modeling clay, paint, books, several different types of glue, etc. And since it is mid-year and there aren't any books left to purchase, I have been given the master set of books to take and have copied... which means I have to now find a copy place and figure out how to explain what I need and that I need it TODAY because they need their master set back. And her school has dance and karate and cooking classes as part of their curriculum, which I have to go and rent the clothes for (you don't buy the outfits, you rent them). And, by the way, children in Latin America don't use crayons past 2 or 3 years old -- they use colored pencils. Crayons are for training babies. I ran into that in Costa Rica a little bit, but even more so here.
And all of those times when I just couldn't understand why Luis and Daniel and Jorge just wouldn't say "Mrs. Drum"... they called me "Miss" all of the time. I remember how much this used to drive other teachers crazy. Well, guess what... in Latin America, that is all you are allowed to call a teacher! "Miss" is the proper way to address a teacher, even for a parent. I asked for Sarah's teacher's name yesterday and was met with a strange look, but was told that her name was Rocia. However, everyone must call her "Miss". Liz assured me that this is completely normal. It isn't normal to even know your teacher's real name.
And Sarah, at 4 years old, brought home two pages of homework last night. Granted, it was easy and we had fun doing it, but I was surprised. According to Liz, she will have homework every night. By the way, we did the homework WRONG because I didn't understand the vocabulary in the instructions (Liz just told me). How can I be so stupid??? My mom skills and my teacher skills are taking a beating here...
So, once again, I'm a teacher of 15 years, the Science Department Head, a curriculum writer, a team leader, etc... and I'm a complete idiot in the schools of another country/culture! I have been brought to my knees by a school supply list. I was completely blindsided by the registration process and the fees that are paid to schools. It is so frustrating to be at the top of your game in your culture, and be a "special needs case" in another.
We're hanging in there... we're learning. I just wish I could have been a better advocate for my ESL kids' parents back in Texas... I understand their feelings now. God bless them - it's rough!