Základná Škola Narnia aka What We Do
Well, we’ve been in Slovakia for two months now and you probably wonder what exactly we’re doing here. I’m going to tell you. We’ve been working at Základná Škola Narnia, or Narnia Elementary School, the school that brought us to Slovakia. It is partnered with the Cirkev Bratská church in Banská Bystrica so Martina our boss as the head of school is married to Slavo the pastor of the church. Slavo and Martina took us to school the first week we were in Slovakia frequently because it was our only outlet to the internet. The very first time we pulled into the lot it wasn’t too shocking. There are about five buildings two big and three small all sharing the same lot, and the two big buildings are the schools. It’s the division from there that is different from the US.
In our building on the ground floor is a massage parlor and a library and on the other half of the second and third floor is an art school, mostly musical arts. One of the smaller buildings is a gymnasium, one is a church, and the third is the shared cafeteria/dentist/someone’s home. The exterior of all the buildings is a little rough, but I think that Narnia is really cute on the inside. The school started four years ago with a first grade class and has grown with them so that there are now four grades in Narnia. Each grade is one class and each class is a different color, from oldest to youngest it’s blue, orange, yellow, and green.
What Burke and I do with kids changes by the day, but one static part of our routine is the commute. It is a half an hour walk to school (quicker now that we have bikes) and a half an hour back. Our day with the kids begins at noon when we take them to lunch. I’m just going to talk about my experience with them from now on out.
Monday through Wednesday I go with yellow class to lunch and spend most of my days with them. They can understand some English but struggle to understand and seldom respond. The most frustrating thing about working them is not knowing what they understand and what they don’t; also they are just getting to that girls and boys chase each other stage. I enjoy watching them though because there are usually no more than 15 of them at a time and they somehow find a way to all play together. One of the standouts of the group is a girl named Sophie, I liked her originally because of her Americanesque name, but now I like her because when they play she always pretends to be a wild animal and is pretty good at growling. Another is Tomaš, he tries more than anyone of yellow class to speak English even when he doesn’t know so I really appreciate him, also he is hilarious during musical practice. A third notable one from this class is Bibianka, or Bibi, she has the biggest mouth I’ve ever seen on a child. It is amazing.
After lunch we go outside and the kids play for fifteen or so minutes depending on how long lunch took. Then we go back in and I lead an activity. The activity depends on the day, but there are four activities of about forty five minute blocks. As an example, one of my activities is Create Your Own Adventure, where the kids basically make a craft and learn about some sort of American custom. Another is Step into the Story where we read an English story book and then draw a picture of something based on the story. Pretty simple stuff, and I always have Ad’a there with me to translate if I get stuck. Also on Wednesday and Thursday I help with the musical. A lot of the time I can’t quite figure out my place in helping with this, but I really enjoy watching it all the same.
I enjoy Thursday and Friday a lot because I get to go to lunch with green class. Not only are they loving, but they are so slow at everything I never feel rushed. On several occasions I’ve found myself in the center of a giant green class hug, and its very common for the kids to come up and each want an individual hug or acknowledgment of some sort. I really love this group, there are twenty two and I feel like half of them are my favorites. It is very clear that they all want to speak to me, because they like me to stop whatever I’m doing and listen to them count as high as they can in English. One girl Dorotka is the daughter of a missionary family who spends most of their time in Jordan. While she is there she speaks Arabic but goes to an English elementary school so she is a trilingual six year old, and probably one of the sweetest little girls I’ve ever known. She gives compliments every day like “You’re dress is beautiful, You’re hair is so lovely today, You’re wonderful, or I love you so much!” and the best part is it’s in English. She is bff with another one of my favorites Katka a little girl who always has little red pigtails and an adorable smile. I always hear her ask Dorotka in Slovak “What did she say?” after I say something and Dorotka often says nič, which means “nothing.”
There is another pair of bffs that I love too. Stanka is a taller blond girl who I think is so silly! She likes to teach me VERY basic Slovak words and I like to tease her by repeating back the English word. She’ll say, “Lizzie, Mačka… Cat” and wait for me to repeat so I say really slowly, “Cat.” She doesn’t really catch on. Her friend is Anička and she usually has pigtails too and sometimes even little baby skinny jeans. She loves impressing me with her plethora of English songs that she knows. At the top of her repertoire is Ten Little Monkeys.
There are also little boys in green class that I love. On one of the first days of school I was building a house out of legos with some kids including one little boy named Danko. Out of no where he said, “Windowframe” and I though hey, that’s not a word that you should really know yet. Then he said something like “The window is shut but it used to be open.” So I asked him if he understood English and he said yes. Tricky little kid. Another one of the little boys is a kind of the opposite. Šimko is an energetic little boy who I thought was going to be a handful until we became friends. Although he knows no English, he is not afraid to try to communicate with me. He developed a system for asking to use the WC in which he would say, “Lizzie, môžem ísť na PSSSSSSSSSS” as he points to the bathroom with one hand and holds his little boy parts with the others. Needless to say, I figured out what that meant pretty quickly.
A lot of the customs we initially thought were strange at school have become a little bit more normal in our eyes. Some of these things include the fact that every kid has a pair of indoor slippers at school that they change into whenever they are inside and out of every time they go out. There are two snack times in addition to lunch. A lot of the kids pee outside if they so desire. Children play a lot rougher here and play fighting is definitely tolerated to a higher degree than I’m used to; if they get hurt, it is their own fault. The teachers are expected to keep track of the kids schedules, because they can come and go at any given time in the day. Many of the students go to music school next door and it felt pretty overwhelming at first, but we’re getting used to it. However, the cafeteria is another story for another blog post.