Thursday, September 22, 2011

And So First Grade Begins....

Primero. First grade. Or as we say in Canada "Grade One". Where the big boys play, no more kindergarten babies. I get a lot of questions from people about schooling in Mexico but I must admit, it's impossible for me to make a comparison to NOB schools as I didn't have any experience with kids "up there" and my own school days were spent doing arithmetic on cave walls and commuting on dinosaurs.  I'm also pretty private about which school Max attends, safety issues et al, but I will try to give a peek into a typical day in primero in Cancun.

Our days start EARLY. Like, waaaaay too early. First class begins at 7 am. On Mondays they wear a uniform and the first thing they'll do is honour the flag and sing the national and state anthems. The rest of the week he actually gets to wear "normal" clothes and there is no anthem or ceremony. The wearing of "normal" clothes has become a bit of an issue in the house as Max has decided that HE gets to pick his clothes and he has to look "cool". Not many rules about dress code (except for the girls, no flip flops or high heels, no short skirts, no revealing tops).  So shorts and t-shirts are the order of the day, except for my weird kid who thinks he's in the Arctic and demands to wear jeans and long sleeve shirts (he really wants to look like Justin Bieber, sigh).

He attends a bilingual school, in this case it means half the day in English, half the day in Spanish. English is not taught as a second language, they teach it as a first language. Sounds great in theory (and it is) but with Max being fully bilingual already, the "vocabulary" lessons are a bit dull for him. He is learning spelling and the BIG frustration of the year is that all the other kids already know cursive writing and he does not. (He skipped "pre-first" after an evaluation day and I guess that is where they all learned). So I am not only trying to help him with spelling, but with spelling in the "foreign" letters of cursive. He doesn't have the luxury of learning one letter at a time, he's just going full throttle into words and sentences. He was UBER frustrated the first week or two, but I am kind of blown away by how he's grasped the concept. We still struggle, he can spell all the words when I quiz him out loud but makes errors in the cursive and therefore doesn't ace the tests like I know he can.

Spanish class seems to be easy for him, he can read fluently (in English too) and he's nailing the math and science. I'm pretty proud of him, he's one year younger than all his classmates so I know this is a challenge for him, but he's doing great.

He studies math, reading, values, civics, social science, physical science, and computers. He has classes in "activating intelligence" which is really creative thinking (love this!). Swimming class is mandatory and is graded as well. Music class must be a riot to see, 18 little ones trying to bang out notes on the recorder (poor music teacher!)

Academic classes run from 7 am to 1:30 pm. At 1:30 they start their "talleres" (workshops). The kids were given a list of activities to choose from and have two different ones per semester. Max does soccer on Mondays and Wednesdays and capoeira on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He's also taking extra soccer classes, so four hours a week of soccer in total. He has mandated that he is the team paramedic and he "must" bring elastic bandages and bandaids to school everyday "just in case". Throw in his six hours of gymnastics a week and we've got a pretty darned active little kid.

Big changes for him, going from a tiny kindergarten where he was king of the castle to a large school where he is the new kid and the little one. More rules, more responsibility and a whole new social scheme, we've had some battles with behaviour issues. I'm not overly concerned, he "gets" it and has been improving. A couple of trips to the director's office, not being allowed recess time and getting kicked out of capoeira should be taking effect by now. He's not a "bad" kid, just a mouthy one (he's mostly in trouble for "groserias", bad words, gasp!)

I'm excited about his year and thrilled with the new school and the concepts they promote (values are HUGE, respect, honestly and responsibility). The teachers are tough, but not mean. The campus is sweet, filled with plants and flowers and palm trees and buildings with palapas. Eco-friendly is a big component and they teach kids right off the bat about being kind to the planet and responsible for the future. He has good days and bad, like all kids in all schools but hopefully the positive is going to shine and outweigh the negative.

Now, if I can get him to stop saying "No manches!" when the teachers ask him to do something, we'll be on the right road...... 


Ana L. said...

No manches (!) this is hilarious! ;)

I loved reading this slice of life in Cancun and imagining how sweet it all is.

I think they´re getting rid of cursive in the US, it´s really only good to sign your autograph!

Tina Winterlik said...

Wow! Really love hearing about your little guy and school! Sounds super progressive and he is busy!
So wonderful he's so fluent, that's why he's excelling in everything.
I'd love for my girl to learn Capoeira. I'll have to look up "No manches!
Thanks for sharing :)

CancunCanuck said...

Thanks Ana! I have read that many places are not teaching cursive, I have to agree with the decision! I'd rather my son know how to touch type than write cursive, haha. Of course, he will be signing autographs when he is as famous as Justin Bieber though. ;-)

Tina, thanks amiga! Capoeira is SOOO cool, I am really glad he's doing it. "No manches" is "mild" cursing, disrepectful but not as bad as some expressions. It's used like "No way!" but it's probably more accurate to say it's like "Get the hell outta town!" Not great for a six year old to be saying to his teachers. ;-)

KfromMichigan said...

Max looks so cute! You are one lucky Mom. He is still young and maybe this new school will help with his "no manches" problem. Let's just hope there is no bulling going on. That could trigger a whole new problem!

Laura said...

Hi Kelly,
Your posts are so fun to read (and very insightful). I'm so impressed with what you've written thus far about the school system. Max is very lucky to have you as a mother who cares so much about his education.

I'm still dreaming about Mexico...7 months and I will be a fully licensed teacher. One step closer. Hurray! BTW, love, love your "My Mexico" video, even though it kills me just a little each time I watch it. Yes, I said each time.

La Cubanófila said...

I loved this post--actually made me a little teary. The photo, "en su uniforme" with that sweet face, is priceless! Thank you for sharing your everyday life with your readers. The video is outstanding! ¡Te deseo mucho √©xito!

krisla said...

Hi--I love your post with your son and his school life. I'd love to copy & share it w/my teacher friends (I"m a retired teacher, ESL) & this gives a window into the lives of many of our students. Thanks.!
(love your 'My Mexico' video also...)
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