Friday, September 2, 2011

The First Day of School

I’ve done the first day of school thing—many times—as a student. Last year was the first year in 18 years that I didn’t have a ‘first day of school’. This year was the first year I got to experience the beginning of September as something else—in this case three ‘somethings’. I got to be in the teachers lounge before the students all ran off to their classrooms, in Armenia, as an American.

In Armenia, the first day of school is September 1st which is also Knowledge Day, a holiday. It was neat to see the pronounced appreciation for the teachers through the congratulations offered by everybody we met that day, in school, on the street, everywhere in town.

We got to school at 8:30 and after greeting the other teachers by exchanging kisses and congratulations the “Welcome to School” program began. Okay, it didn’t begin for another 2 hours but for efficiency’s sake, it began…

Under a banner welcoming the students to school (Bari Galust) the younger students put on a skit, songs were sung, a traditional Armenian dance was demonstrated, speeches were made by all the right people, and certificates were handed out to students and teachers.

After the ceremony, our school director called each grade into the building and the kids tore off to their classrooms. Some of the teachers had classes to attend—others did not. Those of us who didn’t (my counterpart/myself included) soon left to first get coffee at a café downtown and then along with the school director, spent the rest of the afternoon at a restaurant eating khorovats, fish, and mushrooms, and making toasts with apricot vodka.

The whole day quite a whirlwind, first, I wasn’t sure if I felt like a teacher yet. I didn’t really even though I was being treated like one and even received a bouquet of flowers (which are given to teachers by students on September 1st) and played the role of a teacher (granted with nothing to do) all day. It was also my first Armenian day one of school and I was never sure what to expect next. Would we teach? If we didn’t teach, would we at least interact with the students in some capacity? Why are we leaving school with the vice principles and school director at noon when students are still here? What are the students doing? Finally, I was definitely observing this day with judging eyes, constantly comparing it to what I know of the American school system. Although it will be awhile before I begin to fully understand the differences in the education systems, I did certainly notice a few superficial and somewhat amusing differences.

  • · School Uniforms—white shirts and the only other color to be worn is black. Other than this, there is no dress code. Tight pants, short skirts, distracting add-ons to shirts…all seemed to be okay as long as it was black or white.
  • · Middle school boys—greeting each other with a hand shake and a kiss.
  • · Students and teachers greeting each other with kisses on the cheek.
  • · Toy guns being played with in front of school.
  • · Students all standing and offering a greeting when a teacher enters the classroom. (It was fun to enter the 1st grade classrooms—they are still learning this)
  • · No set class schedule for the first week or so.
  • · Alcohol can be an acceptable beverage in the teacher’s lounge.

I’m excited to start teaching. Our first class is on Monday and I should be teaching two classes a day Monday thru Thursday to grades 3, 6, 7, and 8. I have my reservations about some teaching methods and the organization of lessons used here but I’ll have to be in the classroom for a bit first before I can make any useful judgments.

I hope the first day of school or the start of fall goes well for all of you back home…

-Ms. Kellianne

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