As I walked through Nunnally Hall towards Ms. Katie Taylor’s 3rd grade class the period before Pep Rally on Friday, November 4, I stopped to look at the variety of art made by the Lower Schoolers and started feeling nostalgic. There were colorful drawings in the walls, writing pieces, and posters with “rules” and suggestions on how to be polite. I haven’t been to a lower school in years, and that indescribable, carefree feeling that a child gets at school took me by surprise. Even the smell flooded my mind with memories. I don’t know what it smells like, but it feels like childhood.
But a few things seemed different from my own Brazilian lower school experience nine years ago. After chatting with both 2nd and 3rd grade kids and their teachers (Ms. Taylor and Ms. Jessica Catoggio), I realized how complex their schedule is. It seemed strange to me that they have different teachers for each subject, that they move class rooms, and they are able to choose which language they want to study. Although there are many differences between the Collegiate Lower School experience and my Brazilian experience, one consistent part of Lower School is the excitement the kids have in school. I asked most of the kids if they like being at school and if they have fun, and all of them claim to love being there. Also, when I asked a few kids if there is something that they don’t like, almost half of them answered me that they like everything, and those who responded negatively complained just about a subject that they do not enjoy.
Another thing that was similar to my lower school in Brazil was the curiosity of the students. In Taylor’s 3rd grade class, the kids had already prepared some questions for me, and it turned out that my visit was more about me than it was about them, and I loved it. A majority of the questions were curious if I play soccer, what life in Brazil is like, and what I study in my Brazilian school. Some of them also wrote down things that they wanted me to know about them on Post-It notes. “The reason everybody is dressed up like this is because of Pep Rally” one of them wrote. “In third grade you learn a lot of math and spelling” wrote another kid on his Post-It note.
What I enjoyed the most about third grade is their “market project.” “We are learning about economics, we have jobs and get money,” as one of the boys was pleased to explain to me what the project was when I asked him. He told me that they can build things and bring them to class to sell to the other classmates. They also can earn money by cleaning the room or getting a perfect score on a test.
In Catoggio’s 2nd grade, which I visited right after Pep Rally, I moved around the classroom talking with kids while they were trying to build a turkey out of paper. I was excited to talk in Portuguese with Logan (’27), a Brazilian student. He wasn’t sure about where in Brazil he was from or how long he has been living in the U.S, but I was impressed at how fluently he spoke both English and Portuguese. He made my day after thanking me for being there and saying how happy he was for “making a new friend.” All of the other kids were just as cute, drowning me in question on various subjects. I told them a little bit about school in Brazil and explained why I was in the United States. I also had an interesting talking about tarantulas with some kids – they were shocked to find out that I always find huge tarantulas in my house back in Brazil.
My limited time in the Collegiate Lower School filled me out with delightful emotions, memories of my own childhood, and discoveries. I was impressed with the kids’ behavior, even though everyone was exited because of Pep Rally. And, although I was nervous about how things would work out in my visits – considering that my experience with kids is very limited, and I never know how to interact with them – I left the Lower School feeling that I could not be more joyful with the reception I had.