Our 7 year old daughter, Jane, had her first day at school today! She's enrolled in the Public Elementary School about 2 blocks from our apartment. We're really pleased that everything seemed to go well today, considering the fact that Jane doesn't speak any Italian.
We stopped by the school yesterday just to try to acclimate ourselves with how things work here in Italy, and we got lucky because the English teacher was there to help explain everything to us. Jane is in one of three second grades, each class with about 20-22 students. The school day is from 8:20am to 4:20pm, Monday through Friday (although some other Italian schools meet on Saturdays as well). The school building is a very gracious old building with a wide stone staircase, high ceilings and quiet gardens in the center of the block (for recess) - with a view of the rear of Santa Croce. Although the actual classroom is on the small side, it is filled with light and I'm sure it will come alive once the kids and their schoolwork fill it up.
Best of all we met the teachers. Jane's class has one permanent teacher, a woman with a friendly smile (who doesn't speak English). There's also another male teacher but I'm not sure he is just in Jane's classroom, perhaps he goes back and forth between the different classrooms - I'm not sure yet. Then there is the English teacher who teaches the second graders for 2 hours every day. The teachers all were so nice and reassured us that everything was going to work out. They were sure that, given a month or two at school, Jane would have no problem learning Italian and fitting right in. We asked whether they thought we would need special tutors or language classes, but they kept saying she would just learn from talking to her friends - they said to wait a month and see how things go.
From the looks of her first day, I think they're right. Jane came out of school with a big smile and she was whispering something to one of her new friends. Its sort of a relief that there are about 3 or 4 kids in her grade who speak at least a little English - so Jane could do a little chatting on her first day. Maybe these same kids will be the ones to teach her Italian - I guess we'll see in time. But now we're off to a little party at the local playground - a First Day of School Festival.