Tuesday, August 23, 2011

School Days

Yesterday was Jonah's first day of school.  The school (Nygård Skole) is primarily for immigrants to Norway, so the focus is on teaching Norwegian as a non-native language.  Parents were encouraged to stay in the classroom with their children on the first day, so Oscar and Sergio and I had an opportunity to observe the class.  It seems like an excellent program.  Jonah will spend most of his school day with the larger Second Grade class learning all of his subjects in Norwegian, but he will also receive 5 hours of instruction in English each week.  The English lessons will review what he's been learning in his regular class, checking for understanding and reinforcing what he's learned.

The Second Grade class has 15 children.  They come from countries all over the world, including Somalia, Romania, Italy, Poland, and Iran.  The teacher does a really impressive job making the class exercises understandable even when the words are not.  Even though she taught only in Norwegian, the children had no trouble following along and participating.  And Jonah's really enjoying school so far--they do lots of art activities (his favorite) and he's already making friends.

Jonah with Sergio in front of a really cool mural at his new school.

Answering the question, "Hvor kommer du fra?" ("Where do you come from?")

Oscar will also go to school.  This is a big surprise.  Soon after we learned that we were moving to Norway we started looking into our options for schools.  Although it was only May we were told by multiple sources that it was probably already too late to get a place for Oscar in a Kindergarten.  That was fine with Oscar because he wanted to be homeschooled in the worst way anyway.  So that's what I settled on doing.  But when people here learned that I was planning to homeschool, they seemed really shocked:  "But he doesn't even speak Norwegian.  How will he understand what's going on around him?  How will he make friends?  You at least have to try to get him into a school!"

So I tried.  It was kind of a process.  There's a Kindergarten right across the street (and Oscar, out of the blue, decided he'd really like to go there)  so I walked over and asked the principal if there was any space.  He said I needed to call the central Bergen office to get Oscar on a waiting list to be placed in the Kindergarten of our choice.  I contacted them, and they said that it's usually possible to register online, but that since Oscar didn't have a "person number" (we'd already applied for one for him, but it hadn't arrived in the mail yet), I'd have to travel to their office and apply in person.  When I did that, they recommended that I check back with the Kindergarten the next week to make sure that Oscar did, in fact, end up on the waiting list.  When I tried to call them, I couldn't get through.  So I walked over with all the kids.  They loved the place--it looks like a lot of fun.  I talked to the principal again and he said that Oscar was last on the waiting list, but then he looked it over and said that all the children ahead of him had been recently placed and that there was an opening for Oscar.  It seems we were really lucky.

So now Oscar will go to the school across the street (Litlafjell Barnehage) and he's superexcited about it.  We met his teacher and she's really, really nice and speaks perfect English.  That makes me happy because, although it's very important to me that he learn Norwegian, I also want to be confident that he won't be spending all his time feeling lost and uncomfortable.  I think this will be really good for him.

Today was Davin's first day teaching classes at University of Bergen (though he has already done a few informal presentations).  He taught in a futuristic classroom suspended in the Student Union.  It contains a huge auditorium, and even things like a sink and a piano.  It's known as "The Egg":

All the students applauded at the end of his first class.  For all we know this is just customary in Norway, but it still made him feel awfully happy.

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