I remember when we made the transition from pre-school to Grade 1 a few years back, I was warned by other moms who had been there before that it was going to be a big adjustment. Our little girls were growing up and it was time to loosen our hold on them just a little bit – enough for them to start feeling secure in their environment and to learn some responsibility. I also remember how tough those first few days were, more so for us than our kids, however, if those days were tough then today was brutal.
Today was Julia’s first day at German school, I say school, but it’s more of a language learning institution. We arrived 20 minutes early after an hour’s commute (a bus ride, a tram ride and a 10 minute walk) and walked head-on into our first big culture shock.
Kids are allowed to wear civvies to school and there really are no rules in terms of what they can and can’t wear. I had never given much thought to wearing uniforms and was neither for nor against it although coming from a very structured environment where our girls wore matching uniforms I thought it might be fun for Julia to have the opportunity to express herself though her clothing. This thought was short lived when I looked around the room filled with girls wearing ripped jeans (think more skin than jeans), cropped tops and with piercings all over their faces and bodies. I opened my mouth to speak to Benito and my father came out, “That girl needs a new pair of jeans!”.
These kids seemed (and are) a lot older than our little girl who walked in wearing ski-pants, a jersey and her favourite sneakers with her hair swaying in a pony tail. They had also all started the course before the Spring break and although they didn’t all speak the same language, they were able to communicate and felt comfortable with each other.
The teacher hadn’t arrived yet and we were anxious about leaving her but also about staying, worrying that staying could lead to some embarrassment given that she was the only child who had her parents with her. We said our goodbyes and turned to leave. Walking out of that building was more difficult than I ever could have imagined and I knew I had to dig deep to find some sort of coping mechanism to deal with the situation. And you know what I did? I cried. Like a baby! It was as if all of the tools that I had acquired in this journey of life were suddenly made of play-dough and were absolutely useless. Not knowing what to do with me and worrying that his little girl was possibly having the same reaction on her own upstairs, Benito promptly turned around and marched us back upstairs and into her classroom to wait with her until her teacher arrived.
The next 6 hours passed by in a haze and I did what I do best, I worried. I worried about whether we had made the right decision, whether she was happy, did she understand and would she have been happier if we had put her straight into the local Swiss school but all of these fears disappeared when I got to her school and saw her smiling face. Everything is going to be alright. She can do hard things.
This is the view from Julia’s school. She asked why it was necessary to take photos of the landscape. Well dah! Who get’s to have grazing cows in their school’s back yard!
Some added information: Julz is in a class of 6 students all from different countries (Spain, Columbia, Portugal, Romania & of course, South Africa). The ages range from 11 years old to 14 years old and she is the youngest in her class. Her mornings will be spent learning German, followed by Maths in the afternoons until she joins the local Swiss school.