For Italian kids, and now ours, the weekend begins Saturday after school and lasts just one day. So for the next nine months, we will walk our kids to school every day but Sunday. Right now, this feels all right. There are some benefits to the boys attending school six times a week (language emersion being one, plus they are home for lunch every afternoon.) Even though we’ve only just begun, the boys had a really good first week. By the third day, other students were waiting to greet them when we arrived. And every day after school, Tom and Ray walked home bubbly and full of energy. I know there will be some terrific difficulites this year, but today, I feel relief and optimism. And while supervision in the school is questionable (read on) Perugians agree that these two schools are some of the best in the city.
We’ve found that attending school on Saturday is just one difference from what we are used to back home. Here are some more:
* In Italy, Catholic education is free (!)
* There’s a dress code. (And we figured out why Tom was the only one in uniform this week: dress code doesn’t officially start until October 1st. So for now, he’s back in basketball shorts, but by October, he needs to add a blue cardigan to his jeans and white polo.) Ray wears a cute, little blue smock.
* Changing classes. Here in Italy, the teachers change classes, not the students. Therefore, no need for lockers.
* Several required classes are technical drawing, creative drawing and religion. How . . . Italian.
* Parents are not welcome inside the school. Of course, on the first day, we all accompanied our kids to class and took a picture, but since then, I have never seen a parent in the halls. Whenever I try to get inside at the beginning of the day to ask a question, the teachers and staff look at me funny and ask if I’m lost. Over and over, that’s all I hear, “Are you lost? Are you lost? Are you lost?” Needless to say, there are no opportunities to volunteer. And I can’t figure out how to translate “PTA”.
* Sometimes the teachers aren’t even at school. Tom told us that yesterday his teacher didn’t show up for an hour and a half. We asked what the class did. He described it as complete craziness. No adult checked in on them for the entire time. He said the kids played a game in which anyone out of his/her desk was a target. That meant that if someone stood up from his chair, the other students could throw anything at them including wads of paper, pencils, and books. Oh my God! We asked if anyone got hurt. “No,” he said, “It was so fun to watch!” Then today, they had no teacher for the last hour of class. This time the secretary found them and brought them to the eighth grade music room. Even then, there was no supervising teacher because he was out in the hall disciplining students the whole time. I know this all sounds dangerous; however, Tom assures us that all the middle school kids are friendly and non-threatening.
* School supplies: there are no erasers on the ends of pencils.
Since there is very little communication between school and parents, I’m prepared to be surprised by more differences.
Matt and I have made new friends too. Today we attending a back-to-school meeting where we introduced ourselves to other parents. Everyone was super helpful with our zillions of questions. And we received several invitations (which may or may not actually happen.)