Friday, April 5, 2013

E ~ East Silver Spring Elementary


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.

31 comments:

Bhav.Zz said...

In life, we all have that someone who helps us through rough patches without expecting anything in return. God bless their souls.

Bhavya from the AtoZ Challenge blogging at Just Another Blog

Rosie Amber said...

This story is Sooo sad, it is humbling.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Glad someone was there to help.
Bad experience with kickball? Worse than dodgeball?

Dani said...

Another great tale Tina!
Dani @ Entertaining Interests
#warriorminion

Jess * Jessie * Jessy said...

We all need at least one person to take pity on us ... well, not necessarily pity, but someone to offer a helping hand. I liked your story. I was horribly shy in school... a miserable experience!

Brian Miller said...

thank goodness for that little girl to walk you through eh? we def need people like that when the world in general is inconsiderate

Andrea said...

It is amazing sometimes how just one ally makes things okay!

Jeremy [Retro] said...

it's good someone was there, for you i am sending out the positive rays...

Nancy Weeks said...

HI Tina,
I live by that motto: Life is Good. I loved your story. I remember when I was in elementary school, my teachers always made such a big deal over the 'the new kid' that I wished I could be the new kid. They would assign someone to spend the day with him/her, and I was always so thrilled to be picked to hang with the new kid. That is the way it is suppose to be. No one is ever suppose to be so alone that they count ceiling tile to keep from crying.

Sally said...

New schools are tough but you had to have a new home, new country and a new language as well. No wonder you were trying not to cry. Well done to that little girl who helped you through it.

Ornery's Wife said...

This is heart wrenching! I can't imagine starting school in a different country. I do agree that the delayed entry is much wiser, but not according to our president, who is pushing an initiative to mandate 4yo kindergarten. So sad to tear those little ones from their mamas.

Love this series. Happy E day!
tm

neelamhere said...

reading this,I can also remember my school days. how vulnerable we are as kids!

JoJo said...

That must've been so hard to be new, esp. from another country. And when I started kindergarten, I was not yet 5! Our school district allowed enrollment as long as the child turned 5 by December 31st. So there were a handful of us late-year babies that were 4 when we went to school.

Sue McPeak said...

Your recollections of 'Coming to America' give us a whole new perspective. How fortunate you are to have a memory for details, family photos and in the 3rd grade a 'Friend'! I can see this developing into a Children's Book.
Sue~CollectInTexasGal
AtoZ LoneStar Quilting Bee

C. Lee McKenzie said...

Wow! Your journey is so interesting. Thanks for sharing it here.

Amy "Lyre" Turner said...

That is surely a rough first day! It's always great when there's the one kid who goes out of their way to make it a little easier, isn't it?

Lyre at Lyre's Musings

Banker Chick said...

I went to the same school for 8 grades and always felt for the new kids and tried to make friends. The exercise your teacher did is the same one I use to use when training adults, on the first day.

Katie atBankerchick Scratchings

Laeli said...

Oh gosh, I'm filled with terror for you on that first day. Ahhh!

M said...

How scary! I have taught children from all over the world since I teach at a school near Oracle. I have always gone overboard to make sure the parents and children feel welcome.- So happy you still loved school after that!

KRITI said...

As for a third grader...you happened to be a strong girl!! :)

A Daft Scots Lass said...

I can so relate to you and your situation.

I was 9 when I arrived in South Africa. I was so confused by the accent that I thought they were talking another language. It took ages to feel like I fit in, luckily I was young enough for it not to affect me for too long.

It's hard to fit in when obviously you stand out so much. The blue- eyed Scottish ginger with the weird accent. Everyone knew me and I knew no-one.

Pat Garcia said...

Hi,

I can imagine how you felt. I am an expatriate living in Germany and when I attended my first German class I was shaking in my boots.

I enjoyed reading your article.

Ciao,
Pat

Margot said...

What a fun idea for the A-Z challenge. I go to a church in Spokane Washington that was established by Swedish Immigrants in 1888. They did the sermons in Swedish into the 1950's. In are archives there are books and bibles in Swedish and wonderful old photos.

I enjoyed your story today.
Thanks for sharing.

Margot at A Devotional Mosaic and Spark My Creativity

DL Hammons said...

I wish I could remember my childhood as well as you do. I enjoyed your story! :)

klahanie said...

Hi Tina,

A most thoughtful and reflective posting that brings back those school day memories. I know I went through quite the experience as a young lad who moved to Canada from England.

Just a gentle note. Perhaps you could make your postings shorter during your A to Z. Thank you, Tina and have a peaceful weekend.

Gary :)

DarcNina said...

A lovely telling, and very poignant.

Pam Williams said...

I am loving this series! Thank so much for sharing these glimpses into your life!

History Sleuth said...

Wow that is so traumatic for a child to have to go through. :( I'm glad you shared that though.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tina .. I can't imagine what it must have been like .. the head doesn't strike me as a kind person - nor the teacher for that matter ... what a way to greet a new pupil from overseas ... oh well we all have them along our journeys of life - but in your new school is a bit much.

As for your 'friend' ... who cares?! Not you now ...

It's fascinating getting the run down of life across the waters ...

Cheers Hilary

Rachel said...

I thought that I was scared to start school when I was little. I can't even imagine trying to start school in an entirely different country like that.

Linda Fischer said...

Ah, kickball. Kicked the ball either as a foul or right to the pitcher...
tried not to cry. :(

I love your writing!

L