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LJWorld.com weblogs Fourth Grade in a Foreign Country

Will classes ever really start?

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I have to admit, I am a bit impatient for the school year to really get underway. My daughter just finished week four of school, but has experienced only seven or so run-of-the-mill school days. I remind myself that activities substituting for regular lessons are not wasted time and that my daughter enjoys them, but I’m ready for her to focus on reading, writing, and arithmetic. So, what has she been doing for those four and half hours each school “day”? During the first week of school, the kids practiced for the play staged to celebrate the 1st graders’ first day of school. During the second week, special educators devoted two days to an anti-violence curriculum. Monday through Wednesday of the following week my daughter’s class took a trip out of town. Friday of that same week the class played in the park and then went home on early dismissal. Finally, I thought school would certainly start this past week, but no, Wednesday was the national holiday to celebrate German Unity Day, which meant no school for three days. Maybe they will start school this coming Monday.

The two-day anti-violence curriculum and the class trip were certainly unique school experiences for my daughter. Of course we have anti-bullying programs in our Lawrence schools, but they don’t last for two days. My daughter did not elaborate, but the kids spent time learning meditation techniques, discussing hurt feelings, and playing games. For at least a portion of time, the facilitators separated the boys from the girls. The school considers violence a serious matter, as my daughter discovered through some unfortunate misinterpretations. Out in the playground, shortly after the special program, my daughter witnessed two boys fighting and attempted to use her rookie German language skills to point this out to the girl sitting next to her. Well, this certainly had to be dealt with, so the other girl took my daughter by the hand and marched her up to the two boys and there commenced a flurry of German punctuated by expectant looks at my daughter. When this did not produce a satisfactory end to the matter, the flurry of German was repeated to the adult on the playground. Hostile looks and finger-pointing followed the conflagration back into the classroom as my daughter was presented to the teacher for the re-telling of the story, but by this point she had no idea what all the fuss was about. It turned out that everyone up to that point had mistakenly thought that one of the boys had kicked her. She felt terrible, but thankfully no apparent ill will was generated. We all hope the language integration classes begin soon.

Fortunately, the class trip was drama-free. The kids and two teachers traveled by regional train to a youth hostel in a small village about thirty minutes from Heidelberg. The weather turned a bit ugly, but the kids still kayaked, climbed walls, hiked trails, learned about wildlife, and generally hung out. My daughter left for the trip in tears but came back all smiles.

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