Library Opening

Last spring, I began working with a team of teachers and students at my school to plan, write, and implement a grant project to renovate and modernize our school library.  The grant was funded in part by a small Peace Corps grant, as well as by our village’s mayor’s office and our school’s parent association.  Starting in February, we surveyed our students and teachers.  Everyone was in agreement that though there are many things our school needs, the most important need was a “new” school library.

Our children’s literature was in poor shape.
Many of the books were in Cyrillic.

While we had a dedicated school library space, it was in poor condition.  The ceilings and walls had cracks and occasionally parts of the plaster would fall down.  The bookshelves had been cobbled together out of scrap wood and took up much of the space.  The rest of the furniture in the room had been taken from other classrooms, but would be needed for a larger incoming 1st grade class.  A large majority of the books were from the Soviet era and most were in Cyrillic even though our school is a Romanian school.  There was no technology in the library and our school had no computer that was for student use for research.

The almost completed library space after.

The project included renovating the space and repairing the plaster walls and ceilings as well as the purchase and installation of new furniture and technology.  We were able to buy a computer, projector, and projector screen, which were accompanied by a new printer the school had recently purchased.  Most importantly, however, we bought approximately 300 new books for the library, mostly children’s picture books and literature, as well as a few resource books and a set of textbooks for the primary grades.

Opening Ceremony

Our grant project will wrap up at the end of this month, and we still need to have some seminars/workshops with the students and teachers on how to use the new resources we have gained, but the renovations and installations, as well as the purchases, have been completed.

Last Monday, the school officially opened the library.  A group of students from grades 3 through 9 worked with our school librarians to plan a ceremony, which was held in the school’s “Festival Room” due to size constraints in the library.  The concert included songs, poems, and many comments on the importance of books and reading, as well as a short skit.  The students did a fantastic job!

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
Ribbon cutting ceremony in the new space

After, we held a ribbon cutting ceremony in the library.  One of our Peace Corps staff members, Bob, and his wife attended the festivities, and he was given the honor of cutting the ribbon with a 3rd grade student.  A government representative was also in attendance, and donated a number of books as well as laptop to be used in the new space.

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony in the new library!
Ribbon Cutting Ceremony in the new and modern library

I am so impressed by the hard work of our grant team.  So many individuals spent so much of their time and energy on the planning and implementation of this project, and we now have a beautiful, safe, healthy, and useful space for teachers and students to use.

Ziua Profesorului (Teacher’s Day) 2017

An 8th grade student presents her class’s wishes for the teachers.
A 6th grade students shares wishes for the teachers.
Some 8th graders present a poem for the teachers.

October 5 is International Teacher’s Day, and here in Moldova it’s a very big holiday (read about last year’s celebration here).  At our school, we started the day off with a short assembly outside in the school’s courtyard.  One student from each class presented their wishes for the teachers and thanked them for the work they do.

Some teachers at the school.
Some teachers at the school (I’m in the front in the center).

On Thursdays, my partner Liuba and I teach our younger students in 2nd through 3rd grade.  One of the Moldovan traditions for Teacher’s Day is for older students to teach some of the lessons throughout the day instead of the teachers.

A 9th grade student teachers one of our 3rd grade classes.
An 8th grade student teaches the other 3rd grade class.

For our two 3rd grade classes, two girls, one in 8th grade and one in 9th grade, taught our lessons.  We sat in the back and helped a little as needed.  The 3rd graders were very excited to have older students teach the class and the two “teachers” did a good job.

8th grade students perform in a concert for the teachers.
Students perform a humorous skit.

During our classes, some of the students gave us flowers and other prepared small speeches to thank us.  According to one of my 4th grade boys, I am very pretty and they like to have lessons with me very much because I never yell at them.

8th grade girls sing for the teacgers.
All of the teachers, with the 8th grade students.

After lessons, some of the teachers went to our raion center for a big concert and ceremony, but I didn’t join them.  On Friday, the 8th graders prepared a concert for us, with poems, songs, and even a skit.  Then, that evening, all of the teachers went to a larger nearby town to have a really nice party at a restaurant.  We ate, drank, and danced for several hours.  It was a really nice celebration and everyone seemed to have a very nice time.

International Day of Peace

Last Thursday, September 21st, was International Day of Peace, a holiday celebrated around the world.  The holiday was established by the UN in 1981 and is devoted to “commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples”(1).  The 2017 theme was “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety, and Dignity for All”(2).

*The following photos are what the students at our school wrote in response to “What does peace mean?”

“Without violence, love between people, respect, kindness, and reverence”
“Understanding between people, liberty”
“Respect between people, friendship, power”

Many Peace Corps volunteers around the globe do various activities to celebrate the holiday in their communities and workplaces.  My site mate, Amir, and I organized some simple activities to commemorate the day in our school.

“United family”, “Quiet and friendship in the country”
“Against enemies success in nonviolent unity”
“Peace-symbol: unity, nonviolence, and collaboration between people”
“Understanding between people, liberty, without violence”

After a short assembly with students in 5th through 9th grade, where some 9th grade students read some information about the holiday and this year’s theme, we gathered all of the students and some of the teachers in the courtyard in front of our school.  The students formed the shape of a peace sign, which most of the students but few of the teachers were familiar with.

“Unity, love, friendship, reverence”
“Peace means friendship and love!”
“Peace is kindness, friendship, reverence, love”
“Peace is friendship, love, kindness, and everything that is on earth”

After, during the breaks throughout the day, students wrote what peace means to them on whiteboards and posed for pictures.

“Peace is friendship, understanding, love, reverence. Love and friendship”
“Peace is unity and understanding between people”
“Love and trust”

It was the first time our school had done something to note the holiday, and the students and teachers alike were interested to learn more (at first, many of the teachers thought it was International Peace Corps Day!).

Sources: (1): International Day of Peace; (2): United Nations: Together

Primul Sunet (First Bell) 2017

A couple of weeks ago, school began once again in Moldova.  Moldovan schools traditionally start on September 1st, and this year was no different (at least in my village- some districts decided to start the following Monday instead).  The first day of school is a big event here, and is called First Bell.

The day starts off with all of the students gathering outside the front of the school in the courtyard, along with parents and teachers.  For the first grade students, this is their very first day of school, and much of the celebrations focus on them.  There are speeches, recitations of poems, and maybe a song or two.  The 1st grade students receive their first textbook, given to them from students in the 9th grade.

Then, at the very end of the ceremony, a ninth grade boy hoists a first grade girl on his shoulders and they walk around the circle of other students as the girl rings a huge bell, signifying the start of the school year (and hence the name “First Bell”).  The students enter the school and have a one hour lesson with their homeroom classes, and then everyone is free to go home!

I think it’s a very nice way to start off the school year on the right foot.  I was a little nervous in the days heading up to the first day as rain was predicted (meaning all this would have to occur inside a very small assembly room), but the weather ended up being very nice!

Summer is Coming to an End

Outside the town library one day after English Club

We’re approaching the end of summer here in Moldova.  Next week, along with all of my fellow M31 volunteers, I have my mid-service conference (we’re past the mid-way point of our service!).  Next Friday, my sister is arriving for a week-long visit in Moldova, and the following Friday is our first day of school!

The weather has continued to be sweltering hot, but today is significantly cooler!  It looks like the rest of the week will be close to or below 90 degrees Fahrenheit, which is welcome after several weeks of 95 degree plus weather (including one day that reached 104 degrees!).  Today is a rainy, cool day and it feels a bit like fall.  I even wore a jacket on my way to my school this morning!

Yesterday was a beautiful clear day and I enjoyed a nice breakfast outside.

As school approaches, our grant project at the school is in full swing.  The walls and ceiling are in the process of being refinished and painted (they are plaster) and the floors are getting painted this week as well.  Then the furniture will go in, hopefully this week or next, and we can get our new technology installed and new and old books on the shelves!  I’m very excited to see it all come together!  I was a little worried it wouldn’t be completed before September 1st, but it looks like it might make it!

Behind those piles of dirt are 4-foot deep trenches for piping!

At the same time as the school library renovations are happening, there is also a bunch of other construction going on at my school.  My school was awarded a large grant (I wasn’t involved in this one) to get indoor toilets.  This is quite the project, as huge trenches have to be dug outside to put in pipes for water and waste, and a sewage system has to be installed, plus the actual bathrooms have to be built and outfitted.  Currently, it’s a maze to get into the school building due to all the trenches out front and to the sides.  The school has been working towards this project for a long time though, so I’m excited it’s happening!

I have two more weeks left of summer vacation, but I know they will fly by.  Between grant purchases and installation, summer English clubs, our mid-service conference, and my sister’s visit, I’ll be plenty busy!