Last Bell

Friday, May 25th brought about the day the students and teachers had all been waiting for—Last Bell.

When I was in grade school, we always ended the school year with an assembly where everyone got end-of-the-year awards, and this is similar to the Ukrainian tradition of Last Bell. Everyone gathers in the school courtyard, and the Director (who we’d call a principal) of our school gives a speech and then hands out awards. All the children come dressed up, and in true Ukrainian fashion have choreographed dances prepared to do in front of everyone. This was second the “Last Bell” that I’ve attended, but I think it was even more highly anticipated than last year’s—I’m looking forward to summer so much that I might be even happier than the kids that school is officially over!

The Last Bell Ceremony began with the playing of the national anthem (which goes, “Ukraine is not yet dead,” such an uplifting tune) and the promotion of the 10th grade to the 11th grade, which is the last year in the Ukrainian education system. The new seniors carried the Ukrainian flag around the courtyard while we sang the national anthem.

Vlad carrying the flag, Sasha and Olia modeling the Ukrainian uniform.

After the Director’s speech and the presentation of awards, many dance numbers followed. Here’s a picture of my favorite group—the fifth grade! They should get an award for best dressed ; )

The ninth form also deserves an honorable mention for their beautiful waltz—they all looked sharp in their school uniforms too, but I think I prefer the fifth grade’s costumes.

The Last Bell ceremony ended with two of the first graders making a route of the courtyard while shaking bells, signifying the “Last Bell” of the school year and thus concluding the ceremony. All the students cheered (and some of the teachers too), and with that, we’re officially on summer break!

I realized that this is my last, “Last Bell” ceremony. I always thought of the 2 year commitment to Peace Corps as a long time, but as my second year draws to a close and I start experiencing my “last” of certain events and holidays, I realize how fast the time has flown. I’m not sad that this was my Last Bell ceremony though—I think if anything Peace Corps has helped me realize that one of the requirements to be a teacher is to have the patience of a saint, and this is something I don’t possess. Don’t get me wrong, I love the kids that I teach (or at least, some of them) but I don’t feel like my life calling is to be a teacher. I still haven’t determined what it is, but at least I can knock “teacher” off the list of possibilities! So while I feel a tad bit melancholy after some of my “last” events (like graduation!), I can honestly say today I’m only feeling relief. One more school year down, 2 months left to teach in the fall and I’m DONE!

After the ceremony, I chatted with some of my favorite 4th graders who begged for pictures. Bogdan (second from the left) even begged for my number, but I sweetly refused. I don’t need any prank calls from 4th graders this summer ; )

This year it was a toss up as to which class was my very favorite—the 4th and 5th grade classes were full of sweet, intelligent kids that were a joy to spend time with. But these kiddos right here have a special place in my heart and I might even miss them this summer. (That is, if I have any free time left to pause and think about it!)

From left: Amina, Masha, Sasha, Vitalik, and Bogdan.

So now that summer break has officially started, I’m packing my bags and heading to camp! Next week I’ll be working at a school camp in Uman (central Ukraine), and the week after I promised to help teach at a summer language refresher camp for Ukrainian teachers of English. My friend Michelle has planned it at an institute in Chernivtsi, and many of my Peace Corps friends will be there to help teach. And after that, the work is over and the fun begins! Mark is coming to visit me in Sokyriany, then we’re picking up my sister Tori at the airport in Kiev! I can’t wait 😀

Happy Summer! Wishing you warm weather and some time off to enjoy it : ) All my love.

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