Hello, friends! S started 5th grade in Madrid today. Now that I’ve managed to dry my eyes a bit, I thought I’d tell you about it. (By the way, do all mothers cry on the first day of school? I’ve done OK the past couple of years, probably because we’ve simply put her on the school bus and waved goodbye. But I always cry when I take her to school to meet her teacher on the first day. Teachers have such a big, important job, and I’m so grateful to them that I always get emotional.)
When we decided to move to Spain for a year, we did it in part because we wanted S to become fluent in Spanish. When we started telling people about our plans, a lot of people assumed that we would send her to an international school where all learning was done in English. But what better way to become fluent than to be fully immersed in a language? So we decided, early on, that we would enroll her in a neighborhood public school.
The school we put at the top of our list–and that were fortunate to be accepted into, we found out this morning–is a 15 minute walk from home through one of the oldest neighborhoods in Madrid. This is the route we’ll be taking to school each morning.
The school is the oldest in Madrid. It was founded by Carlos V in 1543. (We were impressed that S’s school in New York celebrated its 110th birthday last year, but that’s nothing compared to her new school!) Today the school has a bilingual program, so half of the day is taught in English and the other half is in Spanish. We expect that she’ll be close to fluent in about three months in this environment. Assuming, that is, that her classmates will agree to speak Spanish with her at lunch and on the playground where the real language learning happens! Right now they’re so excited to have an English-speaking classmate, they’re all speaking English with her.
Since Spanish students are all assigned to schools in April, we needed to wait until September 1 to register for the fall. Registration was quite complicated, requiring multiple visits to various government agencies to get all the proper documentation. (This seems to be the Spanish way. After multiple appointments and visits to banks and copy shops and government agencies, we still have more appointments before we receive our resident cards.) Once she was registered we were able to select our school preferences, but we had to wait until today, the second day of classes, to be assigned to a school. (I think this is done so the schools can get an accurate count of the students before they fill any remaining spots.)
After she was situated, her teacher brought us into the classroom to meet the children (wow, fifth graders are so big!), and of course I got all teary-eyed. I just can’t believe we’re here and it’s all become a reality for us. I think it’s going to be a great school year for S as well as a wonderful experience for all of us.
So that’s our little first-day-of-school story. Several of you, our friends and customers, have been helpful in assisting us with developing an understanding of the school registration process and choosing a good school. We are so grateful to all of you who have written emails, left comments with advice and suggestions, and made phone calls to get information on our behalf. Thank you all for your help and encouragement! I’m still pinching myself that this is happening.
(Oh, and by the way, her new school has a very strict uniform policy–including a uniform for gym class–so I won’t be sewing school clothes this year. But that’s probably a good thing since I’m way behind on my work and need to start getting caught up. I’ll show you the school uniforms soon.)
How was your first day of school, those of you in the northern hemisphere? Lots of emotions? Relief? Sadness that summer is over?