Category Archives: Education

Secondary Graduation

the grad

This week the kids in our area head back to school.  I am delighted to say that neither myself nor my son is a part of that throng.  Instead, I am going to take a few minutes to talk about the last stage of my son’s education, secondary graduation.

Perhaps it was partly due to my son’s lack of interest in the proceedings, or perhaps it was that I didn’t know what was expected, being a foreigner and all, in any case, we didn’t get the invitation to the special after-ceremony dinner, so our whole experience was cut short, but not by much.  It was a LONG, drawn-out affair.

The day started early for us as the animals needed attending before we went anywhere.  Then there was the showers and the fixing up process.  Since my son became a teenager, this stage of the morning routine is agonizing in length.  Once we were all ready, we hopped into the truck and headed to the salon (hall).  We arrived in plenty of time and stood around with the hoards of people milling around the entrances.  

I handed the family invitation to the doorman and he said something about my husband needing to go around to the other door.  We paid him no mind, having no IDEA what he was talking about.  We found some seats and sat down.  

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Nothing in Mexico ever starts on time so we did some people watching.  Each of the 10 (yes ten) graduating classes had a lona (banner) with a blown up version of their class picture.  We were quite near 3F’s display and could clearly see my handsome son.  I don’t know why they had such a fit that he wore a red tie instead of a brown tie.  Some of the boys didn’t even have ties on.  In any event, the shadowing of the photo made his red tie look brown.  We did, however, get a brownish tie for today’s graduation ceremony.  Geez!  Ties are expensive!

After about 45 minutes, the show finally got on the road with the presentation of the invitados de honor (the important people that sit on the stage).  Much to our surprise, the president of Moroleon was the guest of honor.  Even more surprising, his daughter attends the school my son goes to, which is a PUBLIC school.  Most of the well-to-do send their kids to private schools. So this really was something.  There was some blah-blahing about recent renovations to the school and the funding for those renovations, thanks to the president.  None of this concerned us since my son was graduating and wouldn’t be a beneficiary.

Suddenly, I realized that I shouldn’t be there sitting in the parent section, but standing with my son as “madrina” (godmother).  Customarily, someone outside the family is asked to perform this function.  I figured that since I took my son to school every morning, made sure he had a clean uniform and finished most of his homework, I was the most qualified to stand as madrina.  Only, I had entered as a parent and now didn’t know where my son was.  

I spent 15 frantic minutes crossing back and forth looking for his group, asking people that seemed in charge, only to be sent back to where I had just come from.  Finally, I located my son, no mean feat in a sea of identically clad teenagers and took up my position.  Being on the short side, meant I was unable to see much of anything.

Eventually, we all marched forward.  My job as madrina was to escort my son to his seat, which I managed to do quite well thank you very much.  Then I was supposed to sit in the specially set aside madrina/padrino section.  Thinking I could just get by if I followed the padrino in front of me, that’s what I did.  Only he ended up some other place and I had to march in FRONT of the stage to get to my seat.  My son said I was so short that nobody noticed that faux pax as my head didn’t even clear the stage floor.  I scampered along and managed to get the seat right in front of the speakers.

chicken marching

The next item on the program was the himno nacional (national anthem) and the passing of the flag from the graduating honor guard to the next level down.  This is quite a big deal.  There are formal words that need to be recited.  The flag has to be presented in a certain way.  And the departing group must leave in a dignified manner, well it would be dignified if they actually had sabers strapped on.  All very military.  Only no one took into account that the flag might get caught in the white drapey decorations, which is what happened.  And personally, I thought the elbows out march looked a bit like a chicken walk.  But again, I’m not Mexican so perhaps the solemnity of the situation escaped me.

stepping forward

After everyone involved in the flag exchange was gone, the first of the 10 (yes, ten) graduating classes was called up on stage.  The teacher read off the attendance list.  Each student was to take a step forward and call out “presente” when they heard their names.  After which, the teacher called out a last group attendance call, and all students took a second step forward with one last “presente.”  Of course, some groups were rather large, my son’s class had 39 graduating students,  and this second step nearly was the end of a few of the teachers teetering on the stage edge.

final class step forward

After everyone in the group was accounted for, the jefe del grupo (prefect) was called to the head mucky-muck table to shake hands and receive the pack of class documents.  My son is the jefe del grupo of 3F.  Instead of leaving the stage, walking around to the back steps and going up them to the raised tier where the important people table sat, my son, with his long legs, just climbed up a tier, shook some hands, accepted the documents, and hopped down the same way.  His short round teacher had to go the long way around.

photo op with pres

Then there was the group photo shoot with the school director and the president of Moroleon.  After that happy event, students filed offstage.

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In between group presentations, there were several entertainment segments.  Some of the teachers prepared a “surprise” dance routine that began as Thriller zombies and then morphed into a soulful rendition of Despacito with some getting jiggy with it moves to round it all out.  I totally was not expecting zombies at the graduation ceremony. There was also a dramatic recitation or two by students and a song by a rather talented curly haired sophomore.  

marching on stage

My son’s group was the last of the 10 (yes, ten) graduating classes.  Just when we thought it was over, there was the awards ceremony.  Highest promedio (grades), special participation in events throughout the year, and so on.  Not only were the awards for the graduating students, but also for the other two grades.  The president’s daughter received a certificate of some sort, so there was more picture taking which made it even LONGER.

Then the school principal took the stage.  More blah-blah.  And another artistic performance by a girl from each of the 10 (yes, ten) graduating classes.  By that time, people were getting restless.  The graduation misa (mass) was supposed to start at 12 pm and the madrinas and padrinos were filing out like sheep to make it to the church on time.  But it’s not over until the fat lady says “clausura oficial” literally.  The students hurried through the Himno a la escuela (school song) so that fat lady could make the pronouncement.

Not being Catholic and all, we opted out of the special mass and went for tacos instead. Much to our astonishment, the president of Moroleon also stopped at this same roadside taco stand and congratulated my son before sitting down at the next table with all his entourage (and daughter).  They serve some pretty good tacos there!

good conduct certificate

So for all that rigamarole, the folder my son was given contained nothing more than a certificado de buena conducta (Good behavior certificate).  His official diploma I had to download from the SEP site and print out myself the following week, which I did.  He needed it to enroll in his next course of study–Online Prepa!

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Transition year

mototeacher

If you recall, a few months ago, I outlined my busy work schedule (Juggling all the eggs in one basket) and wondered if really these things were worth the effort I was putting into them.  I decided shortly thereafter that they were not.  Thus began the transition year.

The first to go was my Saturday classes. (See Saturday classes)  Some days I had been pulling in a whopping $600 pesos, but more often, I had a single class.  $50 for a 6 hour day was not profitable.  So when my student finished the book we were working with, I told his mother that I was going to take a break from teaching on Saturdays.  She and her 8-year-old son were disappointed, but I consoled them that I may start up again in the Spring.  The uncle, who had been my student but gave his hour to the nephew, sent me an email demanding to know why I wasn’t going to teach English anymore.  I explained that I was still teaching English, just not on Saturday mornings.  I had too many other obligations and I needed more time to do things like laundry and shopping.  He wasn’t happy.  Oh well.  Can’t please everyone.

I still taught online Saturday afternoons, but I wanted to transition to my new place in Sunflower Valley (See A Room of Her Own).  It took over a month, but I finally was able to make the little house my base of operations rather than the school.  Having a kitchen made the afternoons easier.  There’s a little store across the street, so whipping up a light meal for a hungry teenager boy was more manageable.

Then I started dropping my afternoon private classes one by one.  The first to go was in mid-November.  We finished our book and that was that.  She begged and pleaded that I not abandon her.  I told her that I’d start teaching in the spring but that if she really wanted classes, she’d have to come to my little place in Sunflower Valley.  She said she would. We would see.  That freed up 2 hours a week.

Then in December, right before Las Posadas, I dropped the other 3.  All of them said that yes, it would be a good idea that I took a break, but that they didn’t want to lose their classes.  Maybe I could drop everyone else, and just teach them?  When I said that I really was planning an extended break, like maybe until Semana Santa, their eyes went wide and said, well, they’d be waiting here for me to return and give them classes again. That freed up 2 afternoons per week.

I didn’t start teaching afternoon classes after Semana Santa. Instead, I began going through my things at the school, readying it for my final transition.  I reviewed the supplementary books I had made for each grade level for errors and changes.  I also checked that there were assessments and exams and grade sheets for each unit of all 6 levels.  I would be leaving the entire system in place for whoever takes my place.

Finally, in July, I told the owners that for health reasons I would not be returning the following school year.  It’s not that I hated my job at the school.  After all, I had designed the entire ESL program myself.  I was getting some results, not as much as I would have liked, but some.  I had my own classroom, which is a rare perk in the schools around here.  Yet, at $65 USD per week, it was not in my best interest to continue. The health problem wasn’t invented.  I’m really working myself to death at this rate.  

I interviewed and recommended 2 teachers, one for first, second and third grade, and the other for fourth, fifth and sixth grade.  Yep, two teachers were needed to replace me.  I agreed to do a training session with them in August before everyone returns to classes.

The owner asked if I would consider staying and teaching at least 2 groups or at least the phonics classes since the main focus is pronunciation there.  Nothing doing.  I would, however, make a book for the sixth-grade group for the new teacher to use.  And if I got around to it, make a recording for the phonics books.

My first schedule with my newest online job came out the week after we finished classes.  Twenty-six hours paid in US dollars.  So provided I have a full schedule each week (and with online work nothing is a given) I’ll nearly triple my income for half the work and less than half the time.  

Hasta la vista baby!

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A Trip Down Memory Lane

Today my son graduated from secondary school marking the end of his traditional education here in Mexico.  It comes not a moment too soon.  He’s been butting heads with the school administration about his haircut, his final project choice (transparency in school expenditures) and having an awfully hard time getting up at 5 am to make the trip to town.  Be that as it may, he graduated with a 9.1 (91) which is pretty dang good considering he never did master those dratted Mexican moral value classes. (See Why we sent our child to Mexican preschool and Why we sent our child to Mexican elementary school)

So in honor of the end of his formal education process, I thought I’d indulge in a little trip down memory lane. Forgive me if I tear up and can’t write any more for this post!

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Graduation day 2017

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Hanging out at the secondary school

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First day of secondary school

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Graduation day elementary

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First day of sixth grade

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First day of elementary school

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Graduation day kindergarten

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Kindergarten graduation ceremony

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Piano shopping

upright piano

My son has been after me for awhile about getting a piano.  As a piano is a major investment, I’d been putting him off.  Then, all of a sudden, my mom is getting rid of MY piano.  It’s an Opera piano made in 1893. It’s a gorgeous upright with a rich, melodious sound. Of course, it is in Pennsylvania and I haven’t played it in more than 20 years, but still.  According to The Antique Piano Shop, pianos made during the last decade of the 19th century (as my piano was) are “some of the finest craftsmanship and quality ever to be put into piano manufacturing.”  So it’s a pretty good piano.

Then, the very next day, there was an ad in the local paper about a piano for sale.  As we determined it would cost more to go and get MY piano than to purchase another one, we decided to go and check this one out.

 

The man who was selling the piano was obviously a music teacher.  The piano in question was a Kimball studio piano and he wanted 17,000 pesos for it.  I sat and played around on it for a bit.  It was ok.  It had been refinished.  The owner went on and on about the quality of the piano, that it came from a New York company and that it should be kept out of the light to protect the finish and sound.  Hmm–Kimball was never more than a mediocre piano, manufactured in Chicago, and I had NEVER heard anything about sound being affected by sunlight.  I said I would think about it and we left.

A few days later,  I sent my husband to ask if he would consider lowering the price.  I felt that maybe 14,000 pesos was a fair price.  My husband arrived and spoke with the owner who said he’d lower the price $500 pesos but then he wouldn’t tune the piano once it had been moved.  As my husband was leaving, he ran into another person who had come to see the piano.  This person said that he had purchased the piano but had returned it since it would not stay in tune.  This indicated to me that there was something wrong with the piano and I crossed it off the potential list.piano logo

So then I tried a google search.  Morelia is about an hour away and is a city with a bit of culture.  Certainly, there must be pianos for sale there.  I found a lovely website with pianos in my price range, however, messages and phone calls went unanswered.  So I went to the second in the list, Su Majestad El Piano (Your Majesty the Piano) a bit of a pretentious name, but I received an immediate response to my message.  They even have a page on Facebook.  I set up an appointment for that Friday and printed out driving directions.

warehouse piano

It was a straight shot to the local.  We arrived a little early and had time to enjoy some tacos de canasta (basket tacos) while we waited for the place to open.  We talked with Lulu the owner who suggested we go to the warehouse to see the options.  As we weren’t familiar with Morelia and it was raining cats and dogs, we all went in her mini-van.  

packard upright

It was an amazing experience.  First, we looked at the upright pianos much like MY piano in PA.  There was a whole room of them in various conditions.  Some were pristine, others looked like they needed some work.  We decided that an upright would just be too big for the little house in Sunflower Valley, so we headed out into the main warehouse.

brabury piano

It was a veritable feast for the senses. We must have spent about an hour walking up and down and looking over these pieces of history.  Lulu saw we were appreciative and had the workers uncover her masterpieces.  

There was a Bradbury square piano from the 1850s, a leather wrapped Wurlitzer piano, The Sting Player Piano, a piano Lulu called a Scorpion Tail Grand Piano, but actually was a concert grand piano, French pianos, German pianos, pianos so old that I could imagine Mozart playing on them, player pianos, more uprights, more grand pianos, more spinets and studio pianos, even a pink piano. What an experience!

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I was drawn to an unpretentious Winter spinet that according to the Piano Blue book was built around 1910.  The inside had slight damage, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed. The finish was scratched a bit, but nothing major.  My son approved.  My husband thought it would look good with my brown chairs (See Furnishings).  So a deal was struck.  I paid half down and the other half to be paid upon delivery.  Delivery charges would be $500 pesos.  The piano would be completely refinished and repaired.  I could order a bench for an additional $1000 pesos, however as I had already overspent my budget, that wasn’t gonna happen.  The piano would be tuned once it arrived, by one of Lulu’s sons, and I would receive a written copy of the 5-year guarantee.  

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We could hardly wait until Friday.  I told my son that he could stay home from school to receive the piano.  He was ecstatic.  Only the piano didn’t arrive.  After a few messages, I confirmed a delivery date for Saturday morning.  Then, before I knew it, we had a piano.  My son plopped his butt in a chair and off he went into the musical world.  Yes, it was out of my budget.  Yes, it’s a luxury item.  Yes, it cost more than my moto.  But, oh the sound of a piano!

Note:  All pianos pictured (except for MY piano and the Winter piano) are available from Su Majestad El Piano.

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Piano-by-chords

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Men, Women and Pianos

Frédéric Chopin: The Piano Concertos Arranged for Two Pianos

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