Saturday, September 22, 2012

Week One of School Wrap-up

off to school with Grammy and Grandpa
Grammy and Grandpa left on Thursday, and I thought I'd just jot down some events and observations from the first week of school while they're fresh in my mind, before going on to post more about their time here.  Maybe this is too much detail, but I figure it could actually be useful information about Luxembourgish school to someone. Someday. Maybe.  More likely I will get a call from the Luxembourgish government telling me to quit it.

But until then...

Lunchtime Daycare:

Daycare before school, after school, and lunchtime is called foyer scolaire (home school).  As I mentioned, James and Daphne stay for lunch daycare M-W-F (and come home for the day at 12:30pm on T-TH).  At lunchtime, all the kids that stay are split up into smaller groups, somewhat by age.  There are two foyer teachers that I worked with at the end of last year to get the kids registered - great ladies.  James is in one of these teacher's lunchtime groups, and Daphne's in the other's, so I was really excited about that.

What do they eat?  This week they had spaghetti, salmon, and tacos, respectively.  It sounds like they eat salad at every meal and sometimes an additional vegetable.  So far I haven't heard any complaints.

James' foyer teacher seems amazed by how mellow and quiet he is, and also how ssllloowwwllly he eats (yep, we know).  Daphne's teacher, on the other hand, commented on how MUCH Daphne eats (yep again).  I guess the first day of school she finished all her food and asked for a second helping, but she had to be held off until the teachers and servers got a chance to eat!  The teacher also says she has no fear and asks all kinds of questions.  She was clearly shocked, maybe pleasantly surprised, by all of this.  Anyway, I just wanted you all to know that Daphne successfully solidified the stereotype of friendly, over-eating American in our little corner of Europe from her first day.

James' Class:

James class actually has 3-5 year olds, since they didn't have enough kids to make a full "pr├ęcoce" this year (the first year of optional preschool when kids are 3).  The minute James walks into the class each day, he basically clamps his mouth shut, and as far as we can tell it stays that way for the full 4 or 8 hours.

bye, Dad...
...and the "Cone of Silence" descends
He says he does talk to his friends a little (a handful of the kids in his class know some very basic English).  We're fairly confident that several months down the road he will suddenly start rattling off fluent Luxembourgish to the teachers.  That's just the way this kid rolls.

There's not much else to report about James since it is quite similar to last year.  Except that some kind of stomach virus has already been around the school, and James had it one night this week! (*update: and I got it next!  I've since heard from a couple reliable sources that stomach bugs are frequent guests at Luxembourg schools.  Yikes!)

Daphne's class:
last minute hair-clip fix
Primary schools here are set up quite differently from the US.  There isn't really a principal, just one of the teachers who is sort of the "head teacher."  Thus, there's no front office, no secretary, just halls and classrooms.  If your child is absent you call his/her teacher directly.

sample hallway
Because there is one school per neighborhood, there is just one class for each of the grades, occasionally two.  There are 20 kids in Daphne's class, which may seem small, but it's important to remember that everyone is learning German and this is a foreign language to probably the majority of the students.  Who knows how many other "mother tongues" are represented; I know at least four and it's probably more. There is at least one girl in the class who only speaks French.  It sounds like the teacher has been translating some of the Luxembourgish instruction for her and Daphne, and maybe for some of the other kids as well.

Even though I saw swimming on the class schedule, I doubted it would actually happen the first week.  Still, I sent the required bag containing swim suit, swim cap, towel, and shampoo on Friday.  And sure enough, Daphne's class was bused to a swimming pool on Friday.  I can't really imagine 20 kids in a swimming class at once, but apparently there are a couple other adults at the pool who stand on the side and "hand out noodles and tell us how to swim."

The swim teacher is also the gym teacher.  The kids bring a gym bag with shoes and gym clothes every Thursday.  The only time Daphne came out of school upset (crying) this week was when the gym teacher had just yelled at her to hurry up getting her clothes back on (she says she was distracted in the locker room by some other kids "doing karate.")

In addition to her "home room" teacher and gym/swim teacher, she also has separate teachers for German and Religious Studies.  (We had the choice of Religious Studies or Moral Studies, and we decided to have her try Religious Studies this year to see what it's like).  She may have other teachers but that's all so far.
shot of the religious studies classroom I snapped at the end of last year while waiting to talk to the teacher
Socially, things seem okay so far.  On the second day she mentioned that some older girls at recess were pushing her in the back or knocking her on the head with their fists and then hiding behind a tree.  It sounded irritating but mostly playful, and apparently it's died down a bit.  She told me that things are already going better friendship-wise than last year, and that the kids seem more accepting and inclusive.

Even though the language of instruction is over her head, the actual content (writing numbers and letters, learning letter sounds and basic words, etc) are solidly in her wheelhouse.  She is happy to be "learning" instead of playing.  So for now, the academics are under control.  We know that can change quickly; I have a feeling they will progress though the material quite rapidly.  And after all, it's only week one!

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