Back to school

We thought this day would NEVER come. I mean yes, I knew she’d eventually go back to school before she turns 18, but I really didn’t think this would be in September of this year! When back in April they said they’ll close schools until January 2021, I had a meltdown so deep that I just couldn’t process the August news “Schools will reopen in September 2020”. Nope, they aren’t going to get me excited anymore, I will only trust it when I see it. But after 6 months of homeschooling and A LOT of mixed messages from the local government and our school, my daughter finally went back to school with her almost brand new 2019 backpack. 

This was 3 weeks ago. I took me time to write about this. First, because the ENTIRE school closes if 2 covid-19 cases are reported and many, many schools already closed the first week. Second, because, you’ve got to give it time. It’s a brand-new way of going to school and adaptation is needed. 

Let me be very honest I was completely against homeschooling such young kids (3 and 5 yo) the way school organized it. But after the first couple of days, I almost changed my mind. The measures imposed by the government to open the schools are so hard than my daughter didn’t like going back. She loved school but for the first time in her life she cried not to go! “This school isn’t fun, mom”

To get the reopening agreement provided by the local government, schools had to fulfill a 30 pages long list of criteria. Just to tell you a few, they had to do smaller groups to be able to open, max 15 kids, each table 1,5m apart the others, kids stay at their tables all the time, they eat snacks there too. No food or water can be provided by the school. At first, they were not able to go outside for a break, thanks God they changed that and now Agnes told me she’s allowed to run outside twice 10 min in a designate area marked by police type tape, not traumatizing at all. After 1 week she was already marking designated running zones at home or at the mall and yelling at her brother who was crossing it on purpose. 

They also can’t share any toy or tool. They get a basket with their own things every day and ONE toy to play with. Everything is sanitized every night. So, I had to buy 183645 things and LABELL them. Too bad I only labeled the markers and NOT the marker tops, she told me she already lost all the tops and it refrains her creativity. Classes can’t be decorated, apparently, it’s not cleaning proof. Face masks are mandatory outside school from 2 years old. Inside school it’s from 6 years old. As police sits in front of the school every day, you better teach your 3 to 5 yo kid to put on the mask himself when going out. Yes, because you can’t get INTO the school, not even on the first day, except if you have a negative covid-19 test result not older than 72h. No, we didn’t do a test to enter the school, I’m not such a good mother. But my best friend’s husband who had such a result and could go inside to accompany our girls. Turned out men are useless; he didn’t even look at their class. But kids are resilient, they found help.

We got lucky; our level is open full-time. 6 to 11 years-old is 50% of the time and above 12, it’s online only (until further notice). Well, I say full-time, but it’s 100% French style, which means she has school from 7:40 am till 12. You do better to live nearby or your best option is to sit and wait in the Starbucks around the block.

What a shame, I can’t do that. I have a 3-year-old son. He is too young for the school scheme of the UAE so the French school wasn’t given the authorization to open yet for them. He’s lost in administration, sort of. At least, the school had the decency not to ask us to start homeschooling him yet (and charge us 7.000 euros for that). So, he’s staying with me, learning to wash hands, wear a mask and be fully potty trained to be ready when they open his level. Meanwhile, I work on myself to be ready to let him go. Not sure about that last one.

Agnes got a new teacher and assistant teacher. I guess both of them were overwhelmed in the first week because one of them told a kid “You eat like a pig” (let me remind you we are in a Muslim country and yes the kid was Muslim) and the other one forwarded a private email from one mother complaining about another kid to ALL other parents. Well, that certainly helped to create the link between the moms of the class. Nothing bonds you better than discord.

Anyway, it’s not like I would recognize the teacher if I see her somewhere else than underneath Agnes’ class number board. With the mask and the XL sunglasses, she looks as standard as any store mannequin and me too (just a bit happier over the hips). The teacher gives me Agnès every day at pick up and I wonder if another brunette with sunglasses could take her just by showing up… oh, yeah, drop off and pick up are also very codified. First you have corded lines like in an airport and social distancing stickers, then you have to find your kids in the covid-19 school maze “Enter there, pick up there, exit here… oh no let’s change it 4 times during the first 2 weeks”. Better double check you get the right kid in your car after pickup. I ended up labelling Agnes too, just in case she gets lost or I do.

For the kids, adapting to a strict school environment after 6 months of homeschooling was also a challenge. Clearly, the homeschooling had been different depending on the kid’s surrounding. Some moms (remember the rice and rainbow challenge moms over here) were complaining the first week that the kids were not working enough. Meanwhile my kid was telling me she puts her head over her arms and naps a couple times a day, because this is way too exhausting. Of course, I cut and pasted her tasks for months, letting her play and watch TV, so all the sudden not having a helper feels hard. I get it girl, more than you know, but we’ll be ok. 

All these social distancing measures reassured me of course. But after less than one week another class already sent an email to inform parents the class had lice cases. HOW ON EARTH is that possible with all social distancing measures? Wonder lice 1,5m jumper? Probably not, although cockroaches are getting pretty big here too (10-15cm and flying, F* evolution).  So, I guess there are some holes in this so clean organization. What you see isn’t always what you get in this country. But on this particular topic, I’m quite happy to think she’ll get a hug from the teacher if she falls, even if it’s a punishable offense.

But no worries, any Covid-19 case will be detected very fast and immediately isolated. They even have a dedicated isolation room to put any “suspected case”, which is anyone presenting any Covid-19 symptom, the list is an arm long and I think I have at least one every day). I can’t help but to picture this room white with a window on the door, a sick kid inside on a plastic chair and 12 stressed teachers and school workers outside. “We have to call the parents to pick up the kid” “Wait, parents CANNOT enter the school and the kid CANNOT leave the isolation room” oh, that will be fun. 

During the online parent meeting, school explained us everything. Teacher and school workers are tested regularly. Temperature is taken all the time. And you’ll be glad to know that “for now, all the kids showing a high temperature were kids that we had let too long in the sun” the director said. How reassuring was that. Moms obviously worry too much. School’s got this.

Anyway, 3 weeks later, it seems like everyone has adapted. Social distancing measures haven’t stopped moms from gossiping behind their masks at the gate (Dam, I missed it SO much), kids from stealing snacks, and exchanging masks while putting hand sanitizer over the nose. We adapt, but what is bred in the bone comes out in the flesh, I guess.  

How long will it last? InshAllah!

And you let her go.