Choosing the School
Al cole is the name of her school, as in al colegio; as in, to school!
I found this place after lots of searching on Google Maps for schools within walking distance of our place. From there, after reading reviews, emailing places with questions, scouring websites, I eventually narrowed it down to Al Cole where they emphasized reading, multilingualism, (Spanish, Valenciano and English), family involvement, and music. The owner was easy to communicate with and flexible about our arrival and my thoughts on how to help Jojo transition.
How different this has all been from our experience getting her into school in Costa Rica. The first day in Costa Rica we missed the bus and her teacher had to come get us on her ATV because the school was in the next town over. Figuring out the logistics in that country was an adventure in itself, but here in Spain, things are easier. Here in Spain, for example, I can just take Bilingual Baby’s little hand and walk her to school. And here, our phones just magically work, so I can move around the city knowing that if the school needed me, they could call. In Costa Rica, even when we managed to get a sim card into Lyon’s phone, he never had service. I often stayed close to home or made sure I knew the Wi-Fi password for whatever restaurant was nearby when we went out.
But logistics aside, Costa Rica showed us how capable Bilingual Baby is of adapting to school in a foreign country. I am way more relaxed this time around. I don’t need to have control over all the details beforehand (or stress out about how little is in my control, more like it). I’m OK figuring it out as we go.
On Monday we arrived at our apartment at 8pm (2am USA time). But even after a seven-hour flight to Frankfurt, a seven-hour layover in that airport, and then a short flight to Valencia, none of us wanted to sleep. We dropped our stuff and met my friend Marc at the Torres Serranos. We walked around for a while, had tapas and wine (zumo de naranja for Bilingual Baby), and didn’t rest our heads on our pillows until midnight. Those are the conditions under which I woke Jojo the next morning for school. I’m a horrible parent.
First Day of School
The plan was that I would stay with Bilingual Baby in her classroom for the first thirty minutes, and then she could decide whether or not she wanted to come back with me or stay for the day. If she decided to stay, they said they would call my cell phone if I needed to come get her early. But as soon as I told her that Tuesday was juegos de agua (splash day!), I knew she would stay. I was right.
The school is bright and clean with a minimalist decor. The classrooms all open up to a small courtyard with a tall, leafy tree shading one corner. Her teacher’s name is Coni, and when she met Jojo, she ushered her in sweetly and asked her if she wanted to come play. She set Jojo up at the table with some other kids, all playing with little houses and blocks. I stayed for a bit, hovering in the corner, but after a while just felt like I was in the way. As the teacher got out the next project and prepped the kids for the juegos de agua, I leaned in and asked Jojo if I should go so that she could get ready for the piscina. Without looking me in the eye, she nodded carefully as she pushed different shapes into the holes in the little house before her. I think if she had looked me in the eye she might not have been able to let me go. I sneaked out and the teacher and I exchanged raised eyebrows, both surprised at how easy it had been.
Three hours later I picked her up for siesta. We went home and ate and rested. She was home for just as long as she’d been at school that morning–it felt like forever. By the time I took her back at 3pm, it felt like her second day of school rather than part two of the first day. She went back easily. “I love my new school” she had said during the break.
All that said, we certainly asked a lot of her on our first full day in Spain. And she expressed her nerves and exhaustion in different ways. She was brave at school, but burst into tears at home as I was braiding her hair because she didn’t like the color of the hair ties I was using. I knew it wasn’t about the hair ties, and was careful to hear her out, to let her choose other colors, to give her a degree of control over her own life since everything else was all of a sudden so wildly out of her control.
When we picked her up at 5pm, she fell asleep in Lyon’s arms while we were at a store buying sim cards for our phones. And she stayed that way for hours.