Friday, April 10, 2009

School Days

Last month, both Lucas and I went back to school. Luc began nursery school, or “materno”, in the little school at the center of our village (800 meters from our house, according to our postal address). All we needed to show was a copy of Luc’s birth certificate showing that he was at least four and four months old ; his passport; and a record of his immunizations for him to be allowed to attend. I’d be surprised if it’s that easy for immigrant children to enroll in American schools!

We had originally intended for him to go to a larger school in a nearby town, which is closer to our future home. That school is well~equipped with computers, a music room, and foreign language instruction, but the one thing it lacked was a teacher for Luc’s class! Apparently, the teacher from last year is on maternity leave, and rather than replacing her, the central administrators in San Jose decided just to let the kids wait ~ for three months or more! We decided that wasn’t going to work for us, so we enrolled him in the small school down the road. He’s very happy to be with all his friends from the neighborhood, and we’re happy his teacher has the patience of a saint! School has greatly improved his Spanish, and he has already learned a whole repertoire of adorable children’s songs.

If I were a typical Costa Rican mom, I’d walk a mile back and forth to bring Luc to school every morning at 6:30 (school starts at 7:00), and then back again to be there when school gets out at 10:30. But, since I’m a lazy Gringa with a car (and don’t particularly enjoying tromping down a muddy road at the crack of dawn), my Mitsubishi has become San Gabriel’s new school bus. On our route, we manage to pick up nine crisply uniformed neighborhood kids. It’s a tight squeeze, but I don’t have the heart to pass anyone by.

Now that I have a few hours to myself each day, I decided to use some of that time volunteering at the local high school. I presented my teaching qualifications at a meeting of the English Department and suggested several ways that I could help. After promising that I wouldn’t bail out on them halfway through the school year, the teachers agreed to take me up on my offer. Now I’m teaching two mornings a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The high school has the same problem as the elementary school, with teachers not having been hired yet, so I actually have four of my own classes until the “real” teacher shows up. Most of my students are happy to have the chance to practice with a native English speaker, and I love feeling like I’m back in my element. Just a few hours in front of a classroom has made all the difference.

In addition to adding structure to our lives, school has helped both Luc and me feel more a part of our little community. It’s hard to be an outsider when you’re attending parent meetings and schlepping half the class home. The other day, we joined in a pick up soccer game for the first time since we moved here. We knew the kids and they knew us, and we laughed and played and acted like our own, true, silly selves. Finally!

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