I have been putting my thoughts together about Kassandra’s school since before the holiday, and then Vanessa’s comment prompted me to get my thoughts on to the blog.
AAESS is a private school with British curriculum. Why did I choose the British school for her over the American one? I really don’t have a good reason other than the fact that when I visited in June, I found out that my boss’ children go there, and he took me to see the school. Since I really had no other way of measuring the schools in this area, it seemed like as good of a starting point as any.
Once Kassandra started school, I realized that the British way of doing things and the American way of doing things are more different that I expected. Actually I will show my true ignorance here…. I honestly never realized that the way they do things in the Harry Potter movies is because it is based on real life. Kassandra is in Year 9 (the equivalent of 8th grade in the U.S.) and is in the Griffin house (which I keep calling the Gryffindor house in error).
They even have “head boys and girls” and “perfects”, and they earn (or lose) house points. Additionally, their grading system is very different, and at this point, I have pretty much given up trying to figure it out. Kassandra doesn’t seem to find any of this odd as she pretty much goes with the flow. The only thing she has commented on with regards to the British curriculum is about the spelling differences. I think this is because she has always had a hard time with spelling (I like to blame this on the influence of learning how to read in Spanish before English), and the teachers here are quite particular about spelling errors (as they rightfully should be). She came home after her first day of school and said, “Mom, I never knew traveling was spelled with two Ls”, and I had to point out that was a wacky British-ism and not an error on her part.
Things were tough in the beginning because it was a huge adjustment. Not just starting a new school, but for us to figure out EVERYTHING, like how to get uniforms, transportation (the transportation issue is a story in itself!), supplies, transcript verifications, paying the tuition, and so on. It didn’t help that the school apparently held their own preconceived conceptions about American students. Despite the fact that Kassandra has always been an excellent student (in 7th grade, she took 8th grade classes and got straight As), they put her in the lowest level for all her core subjects.
Well, all of her classes except for Spanish. She said the teacher asked her a question in Spanish on the first day and since she was able to answer it, she was moved up to the higher level. It took two weeks before they moved her up to the highest level in her maths and sciences classes. Unfortunately, it took about 7 weeks before they finally moved her up in English class. They originally claimed it was an issue with classroom space, but the English teacher later told me it was because she didn’t think Kassandra would be able to meet the rigors of the advanced class since she was a new student and coming from an American education system. **Apparently American education system equates to English as a Second Language classes because nobody else in that class spoke English as a first language**. Kassandra has taken pride in proving the English teacher wrong. She just got voted as best poetry writer in Year 9 and has a high grade (well… at least I am pretty sure it is a high grade, but again, I don’t understand the grading system here).
She wears a uniform, and they are very strict about conformity. Girls cannot wear any make-up, jewelry, or nail polish and their hair must be pulled back. This is probably the part that kills Kassandra the most. Once a month, they can pay five Dirhams, which is donated to charity, to not wear a uniform. She takes full advantage of this to express her individuality.
Now that things have settled down, I think AAESS is a decent school. She studies maths, biology, chemistry, physics, Arabic, English, Spanish, art, drama, Arabic culture, history, geography, computers, music, and PE; plus a mandatory extracurricular activity.
Most of the kids (and teachers) in her year are British with a handful of Irish, Scottish, Australians, Americans, and Arabs thrown in for diversity. I don’t know how it compares to the other schools in the area, but I don’t think I would want to move her next year and make her be the new kid all over again.
Does Kassandra love AAESS? No, but then again, she is 13 years old. How many teenagers love school? I have a feeling that where ever she goes to school she is still going to be… well…. Kassandra. A bit of a misfit, better friends with the boys than the girls, appalled at others’ level of ignorance, disgusted with typical teenage drama, content reading a book in the library, willing to speak her mind when something isn’t right, and somehow, oblivious to her own strengths as a leader. This is her year 9 school picture. Well actually it is a picture of a picture, so the quality isn’t that great, but as you can see, my baby has become a teenager.