Since next week is spring break (and on the 1st of April we leave to America for 2 months), today is Dominic and Joshua’s last day at School #16. They will miss ‘Last Bell’ on May 31st. But they will be returning back to school in the fall, which always starts on September 1st (‘First Bell’).
Dominic and Joshua were the first foreigners to attend School #16. We had an agreement with the director and teachers that the boys would go to school and attempt to complete any homework that they could understand and would take an active role in the classroom. The primary objective of them being in school is learning the language, being a part of their community, and making friends. They know that they are also home schooled. We are grateful for their understanding and acceptance of the boys in school.
However, there were plenty of ups and downs. When Joshua and Dominic started going to school last September at School #16, I was very nervous. I think the boys were a little nervous, but they didn’t show it. As a Mother I worried about a lot of things. We all learned how different school in Ukraine is. Our boys had the afternoon session of school, which means they went to school from around 12:30PM - 6:00PM (sometimes later for Dominic). It was a big adjustment for me because I wasn’t always able to just walk to the school and talk to the teacher about any concerns I had. One time Joshua came home without his winter hat and told me that one of the boys in his class had taken it. My only option was sending him to school with a letter that I had translated into Ukrainian. Thankfully the matter was cleared up quickly and his hat was returned. Then another time Joshua came home to tell me that all of the children in his class went to the Doctor at school and got an injection in their backsides. He said, “Don’t worry Mom, it didn’t hurt.” I went looking through his backpack for a note that explained what happened. I also looked through his shodenyk (all of the children have a homework book that has all of their assignments, teachers notes, and grades) to see if anything was written there. I found nothing. I started to ask around about this and I was told that it was normal for children to receive vaccinations or flu shots at school. They routinely see the Doctor and Dentist at school.
For Dominic, he encountered some interesting things with his teachers. Since he is older, he goes to different classrooms for different classes all day. His homeroom teacher is also his English teacher. You would think that his teacher would enlist him to help, but she would rarely have him speak because she was embarrassed to admit that she couldn’t understand him. Dominic’s classmates would go to him for help with their English homework only to be told that Dominic’s suggestions were incorrect. Whenever they would have tests, Dominic would write out the answers correctly only to be told by his teacher that his answers were wrong. Dominic tried to explain that the answers she wanted weren’t grammatically correct (even for British speakers). She didn’t seem to care that the English she was teaching was wrong. The books might be wrong, but everybody uses the same books so therefore everybody, while not correct, is at least consistent. Dominic gave up and just gave her the answers she wanted. All we could do was laugh.
When the boys entered school Dominic was able to read Ukrainian while Joshua was still learning. They both had a limited knowledge of Ukrainian vocabulary. As time went on, we began to realize how much they could speak and understand. Joshua learned how to write in Ukrainian cursive in his class and before I knew it, he could completely read the alphabet. His teacher had taken the time with him to teach him the alphabet. She even taught him how to say the difficult letters that even we still have a hard time pronouncing. Joshua has learned a lot of both Ukrainian and Russian as well as the mixture of the two known as surzhik. Dominic is focusing on learning pure Ukrainian like we are, but picking up some Russian along the way is just part of life here. Not learning some Russian here would be like not learning some Spanish in Southern California.
We sent the boys off today, each with a box of chocolates for their teachers in appreciation for all their teachers’ patience in dealing with the two American boys. Maybe next year the boys will let us dress them up in little suits with ties for their first week of school like some of the other kids. Probably not, but a mother can still dream can’t she?
Today also happened to be the second day of Spring, but that didn’t stop it from snowing throughout the day.
Caught in the snow on the way home today