Tuesday, September 1, 2015

First Day of School

E starts another school year, as the 33rd pupil in a classroom, 22 boys and now 11 girls.  It is School Number 9 in Perm, right in the center of the city, near the large amusement park, with the ridiculously long name "Municipal Autonomous Educational Institution School Number 9 in the name of A.S. Pushkin with in-depth specialization in the physics-mathematical profile".  Or, "School 9" or "Phys-Mat school" for short.

Normally pupils have to test in to the school in the spring, so it was highly irregular for us to come at the end of August (25th, to be exact) to request a place in already crowded classrooms (all of the second year classes were over their quota of 30 students already).  But, the department head of our university, the direct supervisor for both A and S, called and explained things to the school, and set up the appointment to discuss her admission.  Our landlord lives in our building and has a son E's age who is in the second grade [In Russia, students are one grade behind the numbers of US grades because Russian pupils start at 7, not 6, but they come to school knowing how to read and write and do basic numbers.].  The landlord called his son's teacher directly and said, if the director agrees to let her in, will you take her in your class?  So with both formal and informal ties working for us, we got in. 

But this is not a case of the "undeserving" getting a "lucky break," or something they don't deserve and can't handle.  E has demonstrated that she can answer math questions correctly EVEN when there are NO math symbols to give her a clue, that is, based entirely on Russian words.  (But we get ahead of ourselves).  She is good at math and enjoys it.  

The first day was hard for E, because unlike her first day last year, where some children and the teacher were familiar to her already from her "prep" classes (twice a week in the evening, children in preschool would go over to the school to learn to read and write to be ready for first grade).  Here, she knew no one but the landlord's son, and didn't have a chance to know him very well yet either.  So, a bit stressful, and a bit chaotic, without any real lessons, just a lot of rules.  Unlike in the US, where a new group is formed each year, here pupils sit in a classroom with the same teacher and the same 30 other kids for the first four years.  So all the children knew the teacher, knew the "house rules" and how the teacher likes things.  Its a big handicap for the new kid.  She wasn't the only one, but she didn't know that the first day, either.  

So, kudos to E, who started a new school for the second time in two years (three, if you count preschool).  

Oh, and did we mention -- she attends "second shift".  Schools in Perm are universally overcrowded, so all schools  in this city run two shifts, AM and PM, or first and second shift.  Each school decides exactly when they start second shift and which groups go second, but everyone we have talked to says second grade gets second shift across the whole city.  So her classes start at 1:40 pm (or 13:40 by 24-hour clock, which everyone uses here), and are finished at 5 or 6 pm (17:00 or 18:00), depending on the day.  Blech.  And this in a city where the winter sunset is before 5 pm....