18 March 2010

a Russian school

Our school is currently in a little, tiny building. There are no hallways. To get from one place to another you walk through the classrooms. This actually is not as disruptive as it seems. We're quite used to people walking through. And, the second graders know that unless people stop to talk to us, we're to just keep on working. (If they do stop, then the greeter for the day gets up, shakes hands, and welcomes them to second grade.)

But, we've clearly outgrown our school. Classrooms have been divided in half. Temporary, folding walls have been put up between classrooms. And still there is no place to go for some quiet. There is no art room, no music room, no cafeteria, no gym. Everything takes place in the classroom except p.e. We rent a gym in the winter and use the playground when it's warmer.

We've finally been given a new building! Let me just say that the paperwork involved has been reminiscent of my adoption. The fact that we're a foreign school, sponsored by foreign governments, means that we cannot simply buy a new building. We can't just rent one on our own. All sorts of special permissions must be obtained.

Our new building is an old Russian school that is badly in need of repair. It will be very nice once it's finished (maybe in October) with big classrooms and wide hallways (they're loadbearing walls so we have choice but to keep the wide hallways). We won't have a playground, but we will have rooms for all of our specialists and a proper science lab for our MS/HS students.

On our last in-service day we were able to tour the building before demolition begins. It was a little like walking through Pompeii...or an empty history museum. There was writing still on the chalkboards, some books still on desks.

It was a little eerie.

The bottom floor two floors were just filled with trash. We almost didn't go up to the top floor, thinking that there would be nothing there, either. This is what we saw.

On the end were the survival classrooms. Our Russian staff, even the ones in their 20's, say that lessons in how to use gas masks were part of their curriculum. There was a whole closet full of them! And, right next door, under a stained glass window of a soldier with other war-like stained glass inside, was a room set up to look like...different room in which you might need to survive. There were wooden guns lying around. It was a strange feeling.

I asked if this school had any military affiliation and was told this was just a normal, soviet/Russian school.

There's a happier "All the Soviet Peoples" poster near the end. It was very noticeably different in theme from the other posters on that floor.

Blogger is being cantankerous, and I'm in no mood to wrestle the photo-loading into submission, so just take them as the come. You might notice in the last photo of the hallway that I brought a little bunny along with me. (Her babysitter for the day is in one of the other pictures-taking pictures of her own.)






























































31 comments:

votemom said...

wow.

that's all i've got. wow.

kelly said...

I agree...wow. very eerie.

Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

WOW! THat is so cool and interesting! I can't believe there is writing on the chalkboards still. Amazing- I love stuff like that. Do you know what year the building was abandoned?

Maura said...

That is amazing, strange and spooky all at the same time. Thanks for sharing the photos.

And what a cute bunny from behind. :-)

Rachael said...

Very strange. The stained glass red soldier is especially creepy.

Jen said...

Interesting and sorta cool! How amazing to be in such an old building that seems like people just up and walked away from. What a great way to experience life in that time period. Thank you, for sharing the photos with us!

Debbie said...

do you know why it was abandoned such as it was? seems strange to leave behind so much stuff even if they got a new school? Eerie but cool and interesting. I too just say "wow"!

Carrie said...

Wow. Wow, wow. Can you just imagine the history? The stained glass red soldier reminds me very much of some stained glass I saw in the Lenin museum in St. Petersburg (although for some reason I think the red glass was of Stalin, my memory of that trip is fading!).

What a treasure (an eerie one!) to be able to walk through the building before it's repaired.

kate said...

**The school has only been empty for a couple (maybe two) years. The red man isn't stained glass--just a painting.

They did take most of their things. There aren't books in the library, text books, etc. But there were some usable test tubes.

It is interesting from afar, as a time capsule of the VERY recent past, but a little scary to be hit with the reality of this--THIS is school, just a mile and a half from my home.

Lea said...

Wow, those poor kids. How sad. I'm sure it will be a cheerful, happy place when your kids move in. I will look forward to seeing those pics.

Conethia and Jim Bob said...

I'm with everyone else, WOW!!! It's pretty neat. It gave me the feeling of being back in the WW1 museum in Ukraine, looking at the gillotine there with actual nicks on the blade, etc.

Carrie said...

Considering how recent it is, yes, definitely scary! Looking at it (from afar), it seemed like a relic. A museum, almost.

As a teacher (okay, former teacher), I think it's fascinating. I can't imagine what it must have been like...or what was taught.

Lindsay said...

We found similar when we renovated our current building. Always felt it was a shame that we plastered over the nice socialist wall decorations. If you have the chance grab me some memorabilia for my cold war lessons :)

Lindy said...

A very cute bunny from behind! I'm glad you are getting a new school. And NO playground... that should solve your snowpants problem!

I can't imagine what these grim, militaristic schools do to the psyches of Russian children.

Barb said...

um. wow. that was so eerie.

Dawn said...

Wow! That's something few people our age will ever see.

The Holmes Crew said...

WOW - TRULY AMAZING!

Tina in CT said...

A Cold War time capsule! I grew up in the midst of the Cold War and the Bay of Pigs. The only thing we did was practice getting under our desks or out in the hallway (as if that would help).

So glad that you will be getting a new building.

Thank you for the pictoral education.

beckyww said...

I remember the duck and cover drills. And I think the world owes Ronald Reagan a debt it will never repay.

Tammy said...

That is crazy creepy. Thanks for the description and the pictures. I hope you are both feeling better!

Kathy Friend said...

Stained glass images of war just warms your heart, doesn't it?

There is so much about this that is a head scratcher. My husband said that when he was in elementary school, he was taught about gas masks and war shelters etc. He also said that they were instructed what to do if a bomb hit. So I guess much of this isn't SO odd...but the timing is what is odd! My husband is a wee bit older than us - he is 56. So given the day and time he was in school - that made sense.

Jojo, Julz, Julianne said...

There is a whole lotta work do be done if the school will be "up and running" by next school year.

Thanks for the pictures. They are truly amazing. And the bunny is pretty cute too!

King said...

Very interesting story...the pictures are really good.

Fioleta said...

Oh, the memories! I'm in my early 30s and we had to learn how to put the gas masks on - I think we were even timed. It was part of the preparation for the nuclear attack as well as first aid, military style marching, etc. I would love to get my hands on some of the Soviet textbooks we used at school - I bet most of them were thrown out as garbage.

Matt and Carla Morgan said...

Me, too. Wow.

Speaking of little bunnies - ours could use your prayers. Darn PTSD.

Jenni said...

That is amazing! What great Soviet artifacts!

Glad you guys are getting a new school for the Fall.

Annie said...

Oh, you are truly the luckiest person on earth to have been able to be there and take those photos!!!

I see people's comments about abandoned schools...in Detroit there is some fellow - a writer and photographer - who did a piece on NPR I think about Detroit's abandoned schools...just abandoned in the past few years and just like this one - very Pompeii-like. Scarier yet, he'd go into counseling offices and find kids' personal records just moldering there....including IEPs and other important papers which should have followed the kids wherever they went, books, chalk, lunches half-eaten... Sounds very similar. Perhaps when finances decree that a school be closed, they also decree that there is no money for anyone to clean up.

Funny, I was thinking to myself "that's union workers for you"....but apparently it is just some sort of psychology....

And, hm.....let's look at the building I personally was forced to abandon last year - all of MY personal papers are just there moldering, too, now I think of it.

McMary said...

Like everyone else I have to say WOW--I feel for those Russian children attending these types of schools. I thought it was abandoned years ago until I read that it was only 2 years ago--scary.
But..very cool that you got to see it and take pictures.

Annie said...

I visited two of my children's schools when we adopted them, and frankly - compared to American schools I liked them MUCH better!!! We might not be attracted to the linoleum, etc. but there were lace curtains on the windows, green plants, and while there were a few attractive educational posters, etc....not all the CLUTTER and the chaotic atmosphere that is in many US classrooms. Also - even in the orphanage school, there were only about fifteen children in the classroom.

Furthermore, Ilya and Sergei were both horrified at the level of disrespect and allowed here compared to what they were used to.

kate said...

Your boys and I have been in VERY different schools both in the US and here in Russia.

The classes I've visited in Russia are large--20-30 children is normal and disrespectful in the extreme. There is a veneer of respect from some students in the kissing-up sort of manner that gets you forward in society here. But. There is no INNER discipline. No one has inner motivation. Teachers here are shaming (Are you lazy or just stupid?). Bullying in condoned and encouraged (That's real life.) And while there is much memorization of basic facts, there is little to no higher-order thinking.

By contrast, in the US (I've taught in three states, public, private and hs co-op, in VERY wealthy schools and VERY poor, inner-city magnet school and Christian schools) my students are alert, respectful (including saying yes ma'am and no ma'am), and expected to be self-motivated.

I'm sorry to hear that your experience in American schools is different.

Knowing what I do about Russian schools, from what I've seen personally and anecdotes from both Russian friends and ex-pat parents who tried it, I would NEVER put my child in one. Never.

Annie said...

To be fair Sergei's school was the International Boarding School of Ivanovo, for gifted children brought there from all over Russia and the former republics. Ilya's school did surprise me as he was in a large boarding school/orphanage that was said to be the poorest one in the district. But it was very peaceful and attractive.

My experiences with public school are colored by having ESL students; I think it is hard for districts to know what to do with them. One district just does "enrichment" as their students are mostly studying with their grad-student parents in their own language at night. The other distict (the one we live in)has their program directed at children of migrant workers. Neither setting is right for my kids.

I put Ilya into the Catholic school where I work, but unfortunately, his particular class had a lot of seriously challenging students.

What Ilya says he liked in Russia was the order. He liked the teachers to speak with authority and be able to control the kids and that certainly wasn't what he saw here. He was the target of a bully, and due to lack of communication, I guess, Ilya was punished for any efforts he made to protect himself. That colored his outlook for sure.

My inability to say or do much illustrates the downside of having your own child go to school where you teach - something you know only too well, I suppose, too.