Thursday, June 16, 2011

Finishing well

Today was about as Georgian a day as you can get, including a complete change of plans, lots of smiling children, a bit of dancing, lots of food, drinking alcohol at school, and heart-felt generosity.

The last day of school was going to be tomorrow. But when I arrived at school a little before my first class this morning, Lika told me that our director was told by the resource center that yesterday was the last day of classes. Nothing surprises me anymore, so I absorbed what she said and answered mildly, "So, we're done with school? We have no more classes?" Lika nodded. "No more classes."

Okay. That's that.

Most of the students were at school since we had planned to have classes, and the fourth graders had a big program planned for the afternoon. The fifth-graders came to the teacher's room, knocked on the door, and asked for me. When I went to the door, they were all standing in a semi-circle, beaming collectively as they handed me a bouquet of roses and lilies with a note tucked into the flowers. It read, "Our lovely teacher Stefani! We are very glad to have such a beautiful and nice teacher as you are. We learned a lot from you. Our lessons were very interesting because you took them with our teacher. We love you very much. We will never forget you. Thank you for everything that you made your best for us. We all are very thankful. Love you forever!" There were hearts drawn all over the paper. I kissed them all and we took some pictures.

Sweet fifth-graders

I took a little intermission and walked home to have some more coffee and put my flowers in water. There were still three hours before the fourth-graders' program. Tea and I hung out with "Our Grandmother" enjoying a little quietness and coffee.

About an hour before the program was to start, Tea and I headed back to school. We had made certificates for each of the third-graders, and we wanted to have a little time with them to present their awards to them. Their homeroom teacher gathered them all into their classroom, and Tea and I gave out Certificate of Participation, Awesome Artist Award, Princess Award, Triers Certificate, Good Attitude Certificate, Good Reader Awards, and Student of the Year Awards. Cuties.

Third graders and teachers

Then it was time for the fourth-graders' "graduation" program. (In the Georgian school system, students have the same teacher for the first four years [the primary grades] and then move on to middle school and a different teacher.) They had practiced for weeks preparing a very well-done program of skits, songs, dances, and readings. Despite the faulty sound system, they did a great job. They just about brought tears to my eyes when one of the girls read a letter to me that they had written in English expressing their thanks for my coming to teach them this year. They all smiled at me with such beautifully innocent and loving smiles -- I've grown to love these kids.

Earlier this week, the kids asked me if I would dance with them in their program. How could I turn them down? 

Dancing with my fourth-graders

Traditional Georgian dance

They also did some traditional dances. After performing the song they had practiced, they grabbed me and pulled me up to dance traditional dances with them. A couple of the high school boys who dance joined in, too. That brought the house down!

The director took the microphone at the end of the program and talked about my leaving. She expressed her thanks for everything that I did for the students, teachers, and school -- my second near-tears moment of the day. The teachers gave me a gorgeous icon with Mary and the Christ-child -- a very Georgian, very beautiful gift.

When the program was over, the boy running the sound system put on the dance music again, and I joined all of the students for a couple of songs. Then the picture-taking started. After lots and lots of photos, I said goodbye to my students, and went back to the teacher's room for the party they had planned -- not exactly a suphra, but the table was full of food, we did toast a little bit. The director poured some glasses of champagne and wine and toasted to Madonna (the fourth-grade teacher) and to me. We only did a couple of rounds of toasts -- not the whole list.

I asked for everyone's attention and presented the director with a gift I had bought for the school -- a large Georgian-English dictionary for the library (Lika and Tea were thrilled with the gift!) Then everyone wanted to know if I would be at school tomorrow -- I promised that I would be -- I want to organize the English books in the library. All the ladies were glad to not have to say good bye yet.

Gifts from today

"Good bye" will be here before I know it. And it will be hard.

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