My little sister, Claire, used to dread the first day of school so much we had to call it the “s word” in our house… I on the other hand was ready for school to start again about a week after the previous year had ended and considered school supply shopping the highlight of my summer.
Today was the first day of school here in my community – and I think all of Paraguay. I spent part of the day leading some environmentally-themed games (well, if you can call “sharks and minnows” a lesson about habitats and food chains…), which turned into all the kids asking me what their names would be in English. I spent the other half of the day chatting with the teachers (mostly about all the boyfriends I do/don’t/should have).
In case you are curious about how a first day of school in Paraguay is different from in the U.S., here are a few of the most obvious differences:
– Attendance was LOW. Maybe a third of the students attended, but that is a high estimate. Parents have to turn in documents and pay a fee before their kids start classes, and many families also haven’t bought notebooks yet (which are expensive even by U.S. standards).
– Public Schools have uniforms, so no need to spend weeks picking out an outfit for the first day. But in case you are worried about how kids spend all that time they save by already knowing what they were going to wear, rest assured that the decisions about which backpacks and notebooks to buy are not made quickly. There are a lot of cartoon characters to chose from.
– Half the kids attend school in the morning and half in the afternoon. (This applies to every day, not just the first.)
– When it looked like it was going to rain, all the kids were sent home on foot, bicycle, or motorcycle. (Yes, elementary school kids drive motorcycles).