It’s been a week…

For the first time since we went online for the Pandemic back in March of 2020, I started a new school year ready to meet some students face to face. To be fair, a year ago, we tried what we’re trying now, but I opted to stay completely online, which worked out to my benefit since it wasn’t long before everyone was online.

But now, a year and a half into this thing, I’ve got a couple of classes which are going to meet in person and last week, the first week of school, we did. It was nice to be in front of a roomful of students, to be able to see and hear their reactions, but even so, it was a bit disconcerting with everyone wearing masks. As of this coming week, I’m supposed to monitor them all (and each class has more than 60 students) to make sure they’ve been vaccinated and if they haven’t, to ask them to leave. And if they don’t leave, I’m supposed to leave.

This doesn’t make much sense for a variety of reasons, but this is the world we live in, where nothing makes much sense, mostly because the people in charge don’t bother to think things through beyond an initial, knee-jerk response to what’s happening.

But that’s not what I really wanted to talk about, because regardless of what I’m going through with my classes, I’ll survive and figure out a way to make it work. More importantly, Monki started “bell school” this week. Bell School is her way of saying it’s real school – there are bells which lead to different subjects. This is markedly different from kindergarten (preschool in the US) because there’s a structure to it. All of the kids are about the same age and while there may not be homework or whatever, there are still set times of doing set things. She was all for it.

Come Wednesday, September 1, we put her in her first day of school best and trundled ourselves the half mile (.8km) to the school, traditional flowers for the teacher in hand, and sent her off for the token hour in the classroom while we waited outside with all the other parents. See, the first of September is basically a holiday specifically for this purpose. It all seemed to go okay, and afterwards, we headed off to Mega, Monki’s favorite mall, to celebrate by going to Zoopark, which is basically a glorified petting zoo. We thought about eating at one of the restaurants, but there literally was not a seat to be had in the entire city, since all parents of all school age kids had pretty much the same idea.

What Monki did do, however, was her little doctor thing. Mega has, for the summer, been running this cool little educational program where they take kids from 4-12 for 20-25 minutes and teach them about the body, the basics of CPR, what and where the internal organs are, that kind of thing. Monki loves it! She’s gone more than a dozen times. At this point, she could probably teach the thing. When the kids are finished, they get a doctor hat and some kind of little treat, which has ranged from a bottle of disinfectant to a Playmobil figure. This time, though, they got discount coupons for the movie theatre at the mall.

 

The next day, the first real day at school, seemed to go okay. I went to drop Monki off, but I was working so couldn’t pick her up. Rasa said it was a little rough but generally okay. We decided that for successful completion of the first week, we’d use that movie coupon and take her to an actual cinema. We showed her the trailers and she chose the Paw Patrol movie. We made our plans to go after school on Friday.

Friday, however, it wasn’t so good. We learned from the teacher that Monki spent most of the day crying and missing mommy. She was being teased and someone even put something in her hair. These are not things you want to hear. Later that evening I called the teacher myself to find out a bit about what was going on. Part of the problem is that she’s a new teacher and trying to cope with 25 5/6-year-olds isn’t easy. It becomes impossible to watch everyone. She did tell me that she told the class to apologize, and she would try to keep an eye on things, but…

So, we had a chat with Monki and tried to come up with some strategies for helping her. We gave her a small stuffed animal as a kind of stand in for mommy (even sprayed it with mommy’s perfume) and decided it would stay in Monki’s backpack since the teacher made the kids put all the toys on the windowsill and hopefully that would help.

But we still went to the movie! That was a treat. I didn’t understand a word of it since animated kids’ films here are dubbed, but Monki loved it! There were only a few times I had to remind her to not talk so loudly, or that I didn’t know what was going on so I couldn’t explain it to her. My favorite though, was when she turned around and say the film coming out of the projection room and was amazed at the little pictures on the glass.

She also admonished me for eating popcorn before the movie started – we’ll work on that one.

Most importantly, though, she wants to go back to the movie theatre. So, we’ll keep an eye on what kids films are playing and maybe make monthly pilgrimages so she can get used to the idea. Be nice to be able to share this with her.

As for school, we’re still working on it. Even though she says she likes it and wants to go, she still can’t help crying. Eventually we’ll figure it out, I know. It’s just hard. She’s spent the past year and a half with just us. The few kids she’s associated with have been younger and not really into playing with her (except the random kids she’s met while riding her bike or scooter) and so this situation is completely new and not a little bit scary. She knows we love her, and that we’re never going to leave her there, but that’s intellectual. She’s fine on that end. She’s great at her school work and a wonderful student…but when it comes to the emotional side of things, there’s still a bit of work to do.

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