First Day of School in Budapest:
The kids arrive dressed in white shirts and black pants or skirts. This is the customary attire for special occasions in the school: the first day, national celebrations, and graduations. The children, accompanied by their parents in the younger grades, go directly to their classrooms. There is commotion as the kids find a seat, taking any available seat. The room is crowded for the thirty students in the class. The additional parents fill every available space. Shortly before 8 am, the kids line up and process to the school’s courtyard. The younger ones (grades 1 – 2) sit on benches. The rest of the students, grades 3 – 8, stand in lines or clusters. The principal greets the student body and gathered parents. The choir sings several songs. A student reads a poem. There are more speeches. The ceremony goes on for about an hour. Then the students go back to their room to spend the first day, which will dismiss after lunch.
Expectations: dress formally, stand still and listen to speeches given by grownups, listen while classmates perform poems and songs. Values: tradition, compliance, respect for community
First Day of School in Brookline:
The kids arrive dressed in whatever they choose. They gather in the cafeteria until the bell rings and then they proceed to their assigned teacher, the younger ones accompanied by a parent. The teacher has prepared the classroom space (there are no walls or doors) with clearly displayed instructions that engage the kids immediately, directing them to store their backpacks and get started on a project. In this case, the kids were directed to decorate a bookmark. As the twenty-one students find their places, the teacher is meeting each child. She has a big smile. She greets them by name and points out their assigned spot. The parent says goodbye and the child remains for a full day of school.
Expectations: dress how you choose, immediate engagement and self-sufficiency, student as a team player. Values: individuality, transparency (clear expectations), teamwork