First Day of School

Ray and Tom at the gates of their school

Today was the boys’ first day of school here in Italy.  We’ve been counting down the days since we arrived.  I’ve been so nervous and so excited for this morning, I had butterflies for a week.

We set our alarms for 7, reluctantly dressed in the required clothing,  and were out the door 45 minutes later.  Their schools are just 5 minutes away by foot.  They share the same building.  Tom’s middle school is on the third floor, and Ray’s elementary is on the second.  We arrived with the crowd of other families, and the anxiety went up.  We didn’t know where to go, didn’t know who to ask for help, and were beginning to feel pangs of guilt for enrolling our English speaking kids into a foreign public school.  At 7:55, the door opened and we scrunched our way inside, Italian style.  Then we started watching to see what others did.

Looking for some direction

We made it to the third floor in the hopes of finding Tom’s class but were roadblocked until the bell rang. In the confusion, Matt and Ray separated from us.

I finally found a confident looking lady and asked where the sixth graders meet.  She walked me to a small classroom and offered a desk to Tom.  There were just a few other kids sitting down.  I snapped a quick picture and stood in the back waiting for a teacher to arrive.  Soon a woman entered and told me to pick up Tom at 1 pm.  That was it.  Uh, I couldn’t believe I was just leaving him like this!

Courage, Tom. Courage.

Via text messaging, I found Matt and Ray down on the elementary floor with all the other kids in blue and white smocks.  When we found Ray’s teachers, they embraced him and kissed his cheeks.  A classmate was called over to show him around.  The student threw an arm around Ray and led him off to the coat room.

(The accidental blur of the camera perfectly captures the atmosphere of the halls.)

When they returned, Ray found a desk and waited for school to begin. There were only 14 other students in his room.  (Both kids have a small class; Tom only has 11 other students.)

Matt and I said our goodbyes and walked back to the apartment stopping for a coffee on the way.  It felt really weird to be without them.  The four of us have been within earshot almost constantly for the past eight weeks.  We talked about them constantly.  We wondered if the other kids would be helpful.  I worried that the confusion would be overwhelming.  I thought about their school supplies and snack.  I hoped they had everything they needed.  Then I had  a moment of big pride for them.  How cool that they were enrolled in Italian school.  How amazing it will be to watch them learn the language – to read and write in Italian.

At 12:45 we returned to the courtyard and waited for them to emerge.  The secondary school releases first.  We watched all the middle school kids spill out the door, then from a separate exit, we saw Tom.

“Why didn’t you come out with the other kids?” we asked. Tom didn’t know.

Shortly after Tom, Ray arrived. That’s his teacher standing at the door.

Together in the courtyard before walking home.

Impatient for any news, we started grilling them about their day.  Tom said he started talking a little Italian to the first kid he met, but the boy understood nothing.  That was discouraging, but he later found out that the boy was from the Philippines and spoke English!  Tom then gave me a list of all the school supplies he was missing.  He said the day went fine; the kids spoke a little English and the teacher spoke none.  His jeans were uncomfortable and no other kids seemed to adhere to the jeans/white shirt dress code and could he please wear Husky basketball shorts tomorrow.  He described the lessons which consisted of copying phrases off the white board.  Snack was insufficient, especially since I forgot to pack a drink, and he didn’t know where to find water.  The kids were really nice but wild.  When the teacher left the room, chaos ensued.  And when the teacher asked a question, no one bothered to raise a hand; answers were blurted out.  Ray quickly agreed that it was similar for him.  The kids were friendly, loud, and enthusiastic, and the teachers were very tolerant of all the activity.  Ray had a drawing class and a math class.  And he only needed two more items to fulfill his supply list.

Looking back, I realize this was such a big, important day.  But the reality of it is hard to grasp.  I feel limited in my ability to comprehend the system.  But I promised the boys I’d check out the dress code policy and get them a better snack.  And I’ll memorize their teachers’ names and learn how to find their classrooms without getting lost. Tomorrow will be even better.

I can’t believe they are doing it all over again in the morning. This whole endeavor makes me feel brave and gives me great respect for the boys.


14 thoughts on “First Day of School

  1. Wow. I can feel the butterflies in my stomach, how nerve racking. Isn’t it hard waiting to hear about their day? I have been thinking about them the last few days. I am very impressed by their courage. They’ll figure it out and it will get easier. You guys all look great. Love you.

  2. I am so proud of all of you. Especially Tom and Ray. Tom and Ray you should both be very proud of what you are accomplishing in this “brave new world”. Matt and Jill you should be proud for taking this opportunity to show your two wonderful boys this “brave new world”. Congratulations to the Deasy family. Love, Grandpa John

  3. My first thought looking at your pictures was that adherence to the dress code seems optional. Tyee will seem huge to them next year. Sam has implied that each class has 30 or more students. We miss you all. And are jealous of your amazing adventure. Lots of love to all.

  4. Isn’t it amazing how quickly kids adapt! Kids haven’t had time to develop the fears that adults have, so they just jump in and go for it! What will you and Matt be doing while the boys are in school? Love to all of you!

  5. I am so amazed by Tom and Ray! What brave, confident boys! Nice job mom & dad. I’ve been anxious to hear about the first day, glad it went ok. Love from the Frossmos

  6. Wow – they will never be the same (in a good way!!) They will be able to handle new situations and change with such confidence having done what you are doing. Such a great experience – thanks for sharing it with us!

  7. I’m so glad their first day went so well 🙂 Noe is just finishing his second week and finally today he didn’t cry and say he had no friends when I dropped him off. It’s been super stressful with him unhappy and getting used to the new system (we have pack him lunches until the doctors sign off on his allergies and they don’t allow snacks = one hungry kid. He actually only ate half his bkft this morning on the hopes that he could have the other half as snack.)

  8. There are over 350 kids in Kyle and Julia’s grade at Chinook, and about 30 kids per class. What different educational experiences our kids are having! Glad Tom found a friend that speaks english. xoxo

  9. Amazing story, so proud of y’all and love the blog! Say hi to Ray Ray and Sully! Ray – have you seen the new Russell Wilson Levi’s video on youtube? Look it up, awesome! Great photos and stories. thanks for sharing your adventure with us Matt and Jill 😉

  10. Tom and Ray,
    You are full of courage. I’m very impressed! I’m reading this during lunch at school. I sure miss seeing you two around! Thanks for sharing all of your experiences. Thinking of you!!! – Mrs. Gagne

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