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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Starring Chips the Fish

Recently we were treated to Big Sister's (Reception) class assembly concluding their study of "under the sea."  Big Sister had a starring role as "Chips the Fish." I was reminded again how much school has made us feel at home in London. How blessed we are to be there, how grateful we are for the welcome we've received and that we are home at school.

Assemblies at Our Sweet School are a way for each class (the school has just one class per grade) to present what they've learned over a half term to the rest of the school and adoring parents.  The assemblies are amazing. Children as young as Big Sister perform 20-30 minutes of singing, dancing, and scripted lines in sweetly simple costumes, all while covering a multitude of subjects. How the teachers come up with the programs is astonishing. I am always struck by how much the children present and how beautifully it all comes together. Each half term their topics are studied across all of their subject areas so they are completely immersed in the ideas. They know their stuff and they're proud to show it.

Big Brother's Africa assembly included masks they'd made in art, a drum piece they wrote for djembes with their music teacher, and power point slides that provided the back drop to their acting out African folk tales. He was Anansi the Spider. And darling in my black turtleneck. Minutes earlier he'd had lots of extra legs attached.

Biggest Brother's last assembly included 3 films the children had written, directed, and filmed. With special effects.

Assemblies are in the school's "hall" (the big room that serves as lunch room, indoor PE space, dance floor (and bar!) for family discos, talent show stage, gathering place for fayres, and sanctuary for Mass). Our school is so small that saying "hall" is likely giving you the wrong impression. It is sweetly cozy. I so wish you could see it and hearing 200 little British voices singing and praying together. It makes it impossible not to cry most times I am in that hall.

Without a doubt the assemblies are great learning experiences for the audience, too.  Baby Sister is still singing the catchy tune of "Ancient Egypt Embalmers!"  Much to her delight, when she went to Big Brother's room (Class 3) with me last week (to give a Thanksgiving lesson as part of their study of celebrations) they serenaded her with it as a "thank you for coming" treat!  She'll assuredly start school in the fall with lots of big friends. That is a fair trade for being carted through lots of volunteering, committee meetings and what must seem like an endless cycle of dropping off and picking up of siblings.

The assemblies always begin and end with a prayer. One child from the class welcomes their guests and is greeted by a loud chorus of children who ALL know his name. Basically, I'm saying I want to be a student at Our Sweet School.  But I'll gladly settle for being a parent and seeing my family embraced by students, staff, and other families. It was love at first sight (and sound) for the Mister and me and for our Real Estate consultant, too.

My heart will forever be in that hall and part of that dear community of families. It was meant to be in the way that our old house was. I'm sure of that. There are too many "coincidences" that made it all work for us.

I dream of the families we play with now reuniting on other continents in other decades. Of the children remaining friends forever.

When I was looking for a preschool for Biggest Brother and again when we first moved with school children, I asked dear and trusted friends what to look for when I visited schools. What I should ask? What metrics should we rank above others? They all gave great counsel in suggesting we would know the right school by how it felt to us. By how orderly yet happily the children conducted themselves. By the looks on the faces of the students. In that regard, Our Sweet School cannot be beat. It is a big leap to find a school when moving to a new country. A leap of faith.

So it goes without saying that I'm in love with Our Sweet School. Also very much in love with Chips the Fish, Anansi the Spider, our resident filmmaker, and their best little audience member, too.

And Chips the Fish, well she loves her costume designer right back!

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