Primul Clopotel. It means, "the first bell," and is the ceremony that marks the start of a new school year.
This morning was gloomy and damp, but the rain held off just long enough for the ceremony to take place in the school courtyard. In attendance were all the teachers, the students (including the trembling hordes of 9th graders), the principal, the mayor (who just last year was the school's principal, but ran for office and won), a few graduates from last year, several parents, and numerous other important community members.
There was a blessing given by an Orthodox priest. Then came a speech by the principal, followed by the mayor's speech (coincidentally the same speech he gave last year when he was principal) and another speech I couldn't hear or understand because the speaker was talking too softly. The main focus of the ceremony was the pairing of the new 9th graders with their class teachers (dirigintii).
The ninth grdae, like other grades, is split into 5 different sections (9A, 9B, 9C, 9D, 9E). Each section specializes on a certain subject. For example, 9A focuses on mathematics and information technologies, 9C is a section for students who study sciences, 9D is the bilingual section (they have an intensive focus on English), and 9E is for the German-speaking students (several of their subjects are taught in German).
At the ceremony, each of the groups of 9th graders gathered behind their respective diriginte. This person acts sort of like the class's "home-room" teacher from the time their freshmen until they graduate. Thus the diriginte and their class tend to become quite close; the matching of a class with a diriginte that takes place at the opening of the school year is the start of a long relationship.
After the opening ceremony, all classes met with their diriginti for an hour or so. Then, the teachers met in the meeting room for a general start-of-the-schoolyear meeting. Classes officially start tomorrow, but I still don't have a schedule, nor do I know which classes I'll be teaching. The same thing happened last year-- school began with a chaotic bang. Everything was so new and confusing, and I wasn't even sure what classes I was teaching or when for the first few weeks. I was so stressed out by all the uncertainty and seeming chaos. Now, a year later, I realize this is just how they do things here. Rather than preparing everything before school starts, they sort of figure it out as they go. Which certainly is a different approach than what I remember from school in the States. But, that's all it is--different--not neccessarily better or worse. So, tomorrow I'll go to school and just go with the flow; I know things will be worked out in the end.
It's hard to believe that today essentially marks the start of my second half of Peace Corps service. I feel prepared for what lies ahead, with a year of experience under my belt and a better understanding of how things work. In fact, after a summer of sleeping in, I think the biggest challenge I face right now is re-training my body to get up in the morning.
Spor la treaba to all my students and colleagues!