Šajā mācību gadā skola uzņem trīs Eiropas brīvprātīgā darba programmas jaunieši – Tabea un David no Austrijas un Paula no Vācijas. Tabea un David ir skolotāju palīgi, Paula darbosies skolas permakultūras dārzā. Brīvprātīgie ir aprakstījuši savus pirmos iespaidus, kas vienlaikus palīdz jums ieskatīties, kā rit skolas dzīve.
Foto (no kreisās): Paula Klinke, Tabea Rohner, David Hollenstein
Paulas pirmie iespaidi
The first day we really saw the school was on the 1. September. Therefore we were asked to help to cut some flowers and put them down in the shape of a labyrinth. That task was a nice welcome because on the one hand it was quite some work we were asked to do but on the other hand it didn’t felt like work. In the afternoon of that day there was the celebration of 1.09. The Celebration of the day of knowledge was really enjoyable. I was kind of surprised that there were kids and parents walking around in the labyrinth because the labyrinth should be and was walked in silence to be mindful and attentive. Many songs were sung on the celebration and every class had their own time in the middle of a big circle made out of the parents, other kids, the teachers and so on. Afterwards we went to a fireplace where we burned for example the bad things in ourselves. It was a pity that we didn’t understand a word of the things all people around us sung or spoke. After the fire there was a big buffet with plenty of delicious food the parents brought to school. Nevertheless the best part of that was that many people came up to us and asked about our names and whether we liked the celebration or not. During the end of all the eating and talking a band started to play and a pair of dancers began to show the matching Latvian dances. Even though in the beginning it seemed as if only a few people would join after around two dances plenty of people joined as well as us volunteers. It was a lot of fun. It was exhausting but really really fun. When we started to clean up the place a friendly mother answered a lot of my questions about all the traditional songs in Latvia what was really interesting.
After the weekend our first week of school started. It was all very new and I was associated with 1. Saime, the kids which are in class 2 and 3.I was introduced to Nikola, a girl from Ireland, who was new in school too. I was talking to her in English and she could explain many things to me. After that there was the big morning circle with all the kids from the school and everybody sang the songs together. In the small morning circle after that I felt very welcome because Katrina asked how all the kids, including myself, felt and if somebody didn’t wanted to say something straight away she asked them separately so that nobody would be left aside but if the pupils said they didn’t want to answer even then, it was fine too. That was the moment when I got the impression that she is really caring for every single child in that class. Afterwards she told the kids plenty of things revolving, as far as I understood, around things like the timetable and the classroom for example. Later we drew pictures for Nikola because that same day was her birthday and in my opinion it was a really nice idea that everybody in class would draw a picture for her on her birthday. Even though it was really interesting and I felt very welcomed in this saime I had a meeting with Sandra in the garden. First of all she showed me the sungarden where all the kids who are interested in it can have their own little part of the garden to grow what they want to grow. Sandra just helps them when need it but it is their territory so they have to take care of it. That is quite a nice idea and the pupils really did come in their break and worked a little bit and went away again. At that day I learned that Scābene is really popular around Latvia. When Katrina came to see how I was doing during my first day in school I tried my first piece of it and liked it. After lunch Sandra showed me the garden that was much bigger than I expected it to be. We picked beans that day and collected apples from the ground together with Tabea. I didn’t enjoyed the next day as much as I could have because in the morning Sandra gave me the task to weed some parts of the garden and that was a job that took all day but wasn’t that nice to do on day two. Now, that I am prepared, it would not be a problem but in that moment it was just not that enjoyable. That day we also had our first lesson with the 1. Class. That was really interesting because I don’t think we expected them to be that lively. The Wednesday was quite enjoyable because Sandra, Liena and I picked lots and lots of tomatoes. That was quite fun. Additionally I planted Rudzi and little flowers with some girls from the school and the other volunteers and I installed the labyrinth for the sports day what was a great work to do. When we went to Riga in the afternoon I enjoyed sitting in one line with the other teachers and watching the discussion with Evija. Thursday started for me as a learning session because I got to know a new way of how to plant potatoes because we were cutting of the leaves of the potatoes and during that Sandra told me about the illness and how to plant the potatoes. Afterwards we introduced ourselves to the oldest kids in school what was quite good. Later the sports day started what was fun to watch, take part in and help. On Friday morning we updated the garden plan what was really interesting and new because now it was easier to imagine the garden and where what was planted and located. Sandra and I also cut the beans we picked some days before for kitchen and I did some research online about compost bacteria what was kind of fascinating.
All in all I got the impression that kids have a lot of freedom especially outside because the gate is rarely closed what in my eyes shows a lot of trust in the children and I am not used to that openness with kids. As far as I have seen the school the classes are small enough that the teachers can focus on every kid individually and not just on the class as a whole. What I like about my relationship with the pupils so far is that we are persons who got to say what has to be done and what mustn’t be done but at the same time we have (at least until now) mostly enough time to hear if the kids want to tell us their stories. Additionally more kids than I expected do speak English. They even like to tell us some Latvian words which I really appreciate. Another nice thing to know is that most of the time it doesn’t even matter if you speak the same language because you can express many things just through body language and a smile.
Tabeas pirmie iespaidi
My name is Tabea and I am going to stay for a whole year at Latvia. There I work at a school as teacher assistant. The school is not like a normal public Latvian school . It is a private school and is co- funded by parents.
Now I want to write about my first impression of the school Brīva skola. So the first big surprise was that the school started at the first of September. In Latvia they celebrate school start really big. The children, teachers and family members come together and celebrate the beginning of school. Every teacher gets flowers from their pupils.
The ceremony started with speeches from important people about the upcoming school year. Afterwards everyone came together for a traditional Latvian dance. It was a big group dance. It felt like everyone is part of the school and important. The next program point was that every class came together and did a little task according to their age. For me it was really good, because later I knew a little bit better which child goes to which class. Then the teachers made a path for the children and parents to go through it. At the end of the path was a big fireplace, which was decorated with flowers. There pupils, teachers and family members could send their wishes, hopes and thoughts for the next year into the fire and up to the sky. Then the kids had to go to their classes and attended to their first lesson. Outside the parents prepared a little meal and danced to traditional Latvian music. The music group played with old traditional music instruments.
I really liked this event. You could see and learn so much about their culture and for sure their dances. Because at Austria you never dance, only on events like a ball or something. But these dances are mostly only for a pair, here at Latvian all people dance together. I could feel the happiness and excitement, which everyone got at the first of September. Considering this event I am more attracted to learn more about the school and the Latvian culture.
The “real” first day of school was at the 4 of September. I had to spend a week with my new class to see how the school works. I was really surprised that all of them could understand and speak English. Because kids at Austria start to learn English at the age of eleven. Which is really late. Also the students here know much about the nature. For example because of the big garden, they can see how everything needs time to grow and later they could eat it for dinner at school. The school cooks ecologically with their own fruits and vegetables. Three times the week they eat soup, which I was first really confused but now I am getting exciting for the different kinds of soups.
At the school kids have different ages. In the big break all kids play together no matter what age or class they go. I saw many older kids who took care of a little kid. It is like the same with the teachers, because they got a really good relationship to each other. The school feels familiar and open-minded for everyone. I felt like home really fast.
David pirmie iespaidi
Finally arrived. After a whole lot of preparation an equal amount of anticipation and after a few days of getting used to the life in Latvia our first real day in the Ikšķile Brīvā Skola had finally come. And it was not just some ordinary day. It was the first of September. A very important day in Latvia as we soon learned. You could already see how serious the Latvians were taking the beginning of school just by looking out of the window. Early in the morning people were already walking around in very formal clothing. With even the little kids wearing suits and bow ties. The three of us felt kind of displaced wearing the clothes we were told to wear. Clothes you could do some physical work in. And that was exactly what we were going to do. Because there was already a little project that we could help with and all of us were more than happy to assist. The plan was to arrange flowers in the shape of a labyrinth in order to symbolically connect with a partner school that had that exact labyrinth cut into a hill. But we couldn’t just take flowers from nowhere so the first step directed us to a field near the school where we loaded the trunk of a car full with beautiful yellow flowers that were later used to form the labyrinth. It was kind of tricky to arrange everything so that the paths would always have the same width but it was generally a really relaxing and fun work to be honest. After the labyrinth was set we used the flowers we did not use on the labyrinth to make a little gate and decorate the fireplace. Then the path was cleaned with the sound of drums, we set up a little sign and everything was in it’s place. After the preparations were completed it was time for us to get dressed up aswell. After all we were going to attend our first traditional celebration and we wanted to make a good first impression. The celebration itself was really fun. We participated in the official greeting, listened to the band and the speeches and even took part in the traditional processes such as burning flowers, string and seeds. And it was kind of a weird feeling being so welcomed while simultaneously not understanding a single word anyone was saying. Luckily almost everyone was quite good in English so we were having some very entertaining conversations nevertheless. After the band played a few traditional songs (which are really catchy by the way) and the children played some games with their parents it was time for the part of the celebration which involved traditional dances. It has to be said that I’m not quite talented as far as learning new dances is concerned so I kind of made a fool out of myself desperately trying to follow the steps as fast and accurate as possible. Nevertheless I considered it as probably the most fun part there was that day. All in all the day was a great start into our year yet to come. We met amazing people, got in touch with Latvian culture, did kind of decent on the dance floor and even the food was amazing. It was a great time.
All of this was on a Friday. We used the weekend to get to know Ogre a little better before on Monday our first week in the school begun.
The first impression was excitement. Not only from us but also from the children. I had major flashbacks to my first day in primary school when I was running all over the place looking at everything and getting to know this new environment. And that was exactly what the children did. Monday morning started with all of the pupils and the teachers gathering in a room, standing in a circle and singing a song to welcome everybody. Afterwards all the classes gathered in their rooms and the teacher asked everybody, me included, how their summer was. The class I was assigned to was first grade so it was their first meeting aswell. As a consequence we played a little game in order to memorize all the new names and corresponding faces. Afterwards the day continued as a normal day in school. What was new to us was that the children are spending one hour outside every day. Regardless of weather circumstances. This was most certainly new but nevertheless a welcome change to sitting in class all day.
Everyone of us volunteers were assigned to a single class all week so we got to know the every day live in school. Still we helped the teachers as much as we could with whatever tasks they needed us to do.
For example was sports day scheduled for Thursday so we spent a lot of our Wednesday helping the sports teacher to prepare everything for the next day. Additionally we introduced ourselves to the youngest students. We told them who we were, where we were from and a little bit about our families. It was our first experience working alone with a class of children but it was a very pleasant experience.
On Wednesday we joined our classes in their sports days, encouraging them and even taking part in some of the sports activities. Also we introduced ourselves to the oldest students and played some games with them. In the evening there was a special event that was not directly related to the school but was still very interesting. We went to Riga and watched a movie about a special school in Ireland with a connected discussion about the school system in Latvia and how it could be changed in the future. Gladly all of it was in English so we were able to follow all of it.
We spent the rest of the week getting to know the children which included a whole lot of running outside with them, playing lots of “Cops and Thieves” and using hands, feet and English to talk to them during lunch.
All in all we had a marvelous first week in the free school and it definitely made us look forward to the year yet to come. We were given a very warm welcome, got to know a lot of people already. Also we were quite surprised about how much the teachers trust the children, and how much freedom they have. I think that to everyone the term “free school” is more than just a phrase.
As for me I do not regret having chosen this project as my EVS at all and I’m really excited to learn the Latvian language and to continue here.