Monday, September 19, 2011

First Day of School

Today, the first full day of school with students, put new meaning into the phrase "go with the flow". The organization of the day was very different from anything I've seen before. The school van calmly arrived at my front door at 8:20 am. School starts at 8:40 am. The van pulled up to the school at 8:35 a.m. which meant, according to my colleagues, there was still time for a cup of tea before the bell. I passed on the tea, but did take 3 minutes to socialize and then headed outside where the students were lined up by grade and parents were standing around the perimeter, hesitant to say goodbye to their children.

The music teacher led the students in singing their national anthem, a song with a range of notes greater than The Star Spangled Banner plus a few half tones sprinkled in between. Then several students led the entire student body in reciting phrases about being Turkish and working hard. (I'm curious to see what "working hard" means but that will come later.) What struck me the most is the difference between their speaking voices and their "microphone" voices. It feels to me that everyone shouts into the microphone like a drill sergeant with a bunch of new recruits. Even the younger students take this "drill sergeant" approach at the microphone. I will have to research this "style" further.

The rest of the day was spent teaching a couple of classes, (some others were cancelled or scheduled improperly) walking through the halls and saying" hello" to as many students as possible, and trying to figure out the actual "rules". Although running in the halls appeared normal except to me and leaving students unattended in classrooms at many times during the day seemed OK, it is also apparent that the children are highly loved and valued as shown by the large amount of hugging, pinching and kissing of cheeks, and rubbing of heads that occurred during the day. It is delightful to see how many students made an effort to say "hello" and to learn my name.

The last part of the day was the most different from any school at which I've taught. All of the students are provided transportation in one of the thirty-five white 20-passenger tour-type vans. So, at 3:00 p.m. (dismissal is normally at 4:10) students were dismissed by grade to be assigned to a school van (Okul Taksis). 35 drivers wearing blue button-down shirts and ties, congregated in the center of the parking lot and proceeded to call off names of students from handwritten lists. Whenever a driver located a student, he would walk that student to his van, leave the student in the van and return to the center of the parking lot. At 5:00 p.m. (almost two hours since the beginning of this process) the 8th graders were finally called outside and assigned to vans. By this time, the younger children were hot and tired of sitting in the van so many had gotten off and started running in the parking lot. Finally, at 5:10, each driver took his place in his van. Beginning with van #35 and working backwards, each driver drove a children laden van out of the parking lot. The teachers had been instructed that our vans would leave last, so as bus #1 was leaving the parking lot and a student was running behind it to catch his ride, I wondered if we would ever get to leave. Luckily, the driver of #1 slowed down enough for the student to climb aboard and the teachers' van were finally permitted to leave.

Did I mention the best part of the day? ...Kebobs for lunch!

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