The VERY first thing we did the morning after arriving was to register the kids at school. We weren’t sure what city we would be located in until about 3-4 weeks before we left, so we didn’t start contacting schools until that time. The first 2 or three schools just flat said no. Registration for private schools begins in March. The kids can’t go to public schools because we aren’t local citizens.
Luckily we contacted someone who was able to get us an introduction to the head principal of the school we got into. After we had a school, we began looking for apartments nearby. The apartment that we found is 1.5 blocks from the school! The school is great. Will is at the upper school, Maggie is at the lower. The head principal lived in the US for 30+ years and helped facilitate our registration. He put us in touch with the right people and even walked over and helped Will find a class.
He had a cool way of choosing a class. He asked (in English) which of the kids in class spoke English. Then whoever came forward, he told him to tell Will what the class is like. He did this for both 4th grade classes. Will picked the kid who was friendliest and chatted with him the best.
This is similar to what I do for new students in MS. Whenever I get a new student, I try to find someone of the same gender, language group (if possible), and age to come and “translate” for me in the office. Then once the registration part is over, I send the pair around to take a tour of the school. If time allows in class, I will have a down day in my class and let them play the speaking practice games (Taboo, Pictionary, Guess Who, etc). After making sure someone will be with the new student at lunch and to get on the bus, I let them go to make their own friends. About 75% of the time, this is effective in breaking the ice. My students are fantastic and do a great job of taking care of each other. Rarely does anyone get left out of the loop. It makes me really proud.
My kids have the cutest uniforms! However, they will have to let them hang in the closet for 1 more week because this week is a week long holiday for Eid Al-Adha. This commemorates Abraham’s sacrifice of his son. There is some discussion about which son (Ishmael or Isaac) was sacrificed. From what I understand, most Muslims assume Ishmael (who is the elder, of course) even though the son is not named in the Quran. While Jews and Christians have a holy scripture that says it was Isaac. One more reminder of how so many major religions have their origin in this place.
So the kids have to wait one more week to start school. Maggie is sad. Will is not so much. They can spend their time playing with their new friends next door and wandering around the city with their mom and dad!