Friday, September 19, 2008

Back to School Night

Nova, Chris's school, held it's annual Back to School night on Tuesday. It is an evening meant to introduce parents to their child's teachers and give them a chance to hear a bit about what is going on in each classroom. As you arrive, they provide you with a copy of your child's schedule, and I was pleased to be greeted by name. I was impressed that they remembered not only Chris' name, but mine as well. A brief introduction by the Director followed. Actually, it was not brief, as she had to deliver the speech first in English and then again in Macedonian. It wasn't really an intro either, actually more of plea to join the PTA and be more involved in the school. It was a bit on the scolding side(apparently the Macedonians don't participate in many school events!), and I happily signed on to volunteer for several PTA committees. After about 20 minutes of talk, the event finally began.

They designed the evening to resemble a typical school day, where you follow your child's schedule period by period. The classes are abbreviated to 10 minutes each, barely enough time to introduce yourself and practically useless in my opinion! However, I did come away from the evening with more knowledge of the school and somewhat comforted by a few of the teachers.

Initially, we had reservations about choosing this school for Chris. Though it has a good reputation academically, the student body is comprised of mostly wealthy Macedonian students, and this had caused some issues for other families. Many wealthy families send their kids there simply for the prestige of attending a private English speaking school, and not for the benefits of the educational system provided. As a result, we had heard that there were many incidences of classes being interrupted by students refusing to participate in English and of teachers who succumbed and taught in Macedonian in order to keep control of the class. This was a big worry for me, though lots of people claimed that these stories were exaggerated.

A couple of Chris' teachers, particularly Biology and World History, confirmed that this had been a HUGE problem for them in previous years, but that they were extremely pleased with the class makeup and behaviour thus far. I was quite relieved to hear them be so blunt about how impressed they were with their students, and to have them admonish the parents of potential troublemakers so openly. As the History teacher proclaimed, "If you want your children to speak Macedonian in class, then why are you wasting your money here--send them to the free school two blocks away! The point of attending Nova is to learn a valuable skill--English-- not to throw your money away!". I left feeling quite confident that Chris would have no problems this year!

Chris was home sick on Monday and Tuesday, and many of his teachers expressed their wishes for his quick recovery and return to school. Though I hate these nights and find them basically a waste of time, I am glad that I went to this one. I got the sense that the teachers are really looking out for Chris, and that they have his (as well as every other student)best interests in mind. I think he will have a great year!

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