These are the continuing adventures of a Swedish immigrant during her first year as an American. She boldly went where she'd never gone before...please come along on Adventures in America.
Eventually our carefree summer ended and it was time to think about school. Of course, I'd done plenty of thinking, worrying, planning, wondering, worrying, speculating, worrying, dreading, and having nightmares about and generally plain freaking out about it since we got there, so I was, shall we say, ahead of the curve when it came to “time to think about it”.
In Sweden, kindergarten is optional, but I'd gone. I loved it. I'd always loved school. First grade was in a very old building with a very wonderful teacher, and we hiked up a hill to a school for older kids and had lunch there, then hiked back. That was fun. Second grade was in a brand new school they'd just built right in my neighborhood. Another great teacher, and a cafeteria where everyone ate everyday for free.
First grade in Sweden is age 7, not 6 as in the US. However, I couldn't just automagically go from 2nd grade in Sweden to 3rd grade in America, I had to take HOURS of placement tests, which no one had warned me about, and frightened me to death. But I was deemed worthy of 3rd grade. Consequently, I was always a year older than my peers and spent my life explaining about how they start school later in Sweden, which, by the way, I highly applaud. At least these were done way before school started.
My first day of third grade I spent trying not to cry. Really, really trying hard, because I knew if I started, I would never stop. It would be moving, the neighborhood, missing my friends, missing Farmor and Farfar (Father's mother, Father's father), not being sure of my English, not knowing anyone, being afraid I was wearing the wrong clothes, not knowing where to go, not knowing when lunch was, if I'd be allowed to go get my lunch which was currently in my lap but who knows where they'd make me put it, where was the bathroom, when would I be allowed to use the bathroom, was there recess, what was I supposed to DO? So I thought it best not to cry.
When I arrived on my first day, and Mom had finished her Momarazzi duties (those are the Camponellas, by the way), she LEFT me with the principal, who took me to my room. “Here's your room!” Then she left. Wow, OK. Some kids. Sitting at tables. I sat down at a table. They all talked to each other. No one talked to me. I stared at the ceiling counting tiles not to cry.
Eventually the teacher came. Didn't speak to me. Gave general instructions to the class in a machine gun fashion and everyone jumped into action, stowing lunches, getting papers and pencils, pushing, shoving (AND DID NOT GET SENT TO THE PRINCIPAL FOR IT) and making lots of noise as they got ready for the first lesson, which was to write a paragraph about ourselves, and then choose a partner, share paragraphs, and then we'd all take turns, standing in front of the class and introducing our partner based on what we'd learned from what they wrote.
I about fainted. There was a girl at my table who took pity on me and walked me through this. I wish I could remember more about her, because she saved me from crying. Now I had a purpose, though it was impossible for me to accomplish, scared spitless and English-less all of a sudden, but at least there was no time for tears. Of course, there would be lots of time for tears later. Like during kickball.