I know that the summer holidays have not even begun for some children, while for others they’re already in full swing, but there are also some for whom the summer holidays are a time of anticipation and excitement and they are those who are looking forward to their first day at school the end of summer.
As the shops are already luring us in with their back to school offers and all the pretty stationery on the shelves reminds me of my own back to school shopping, I thought I’d take you on a trip down memory lane with me, right to when it all started: my first day at school.
Now, don’t start yawning just yet, because the first day at school in Germany is quite the event. It’s a big family affair that really celebrates the first day at school as a new milestone in a child’s life and I loved every single minute of mine.
In Germany, you start primary education at the age of 6 or 7 depending when you were born and also your parents’ decision – they can ask to delay your start by a year, if they have the feeling you aren’t quite ready yet, so you aren’t quite as young as kids in the UK or Ireland.
First day at school – the look – the embarrassment
I started school at the end of August in 1991. I had the most hideous hair cut – picture a boy’s hair cut with some strange growth at the back – and the worst thing about it is that it was completely my own choice. I wore a dress with a colourful floral pattern, black party shoes and frilly white socks – in German schools, you don’t wear a school uniform. On my back, I proudly carried a bright red school bag (Ranzen), but the most important accessory of my day was my Schultüte, a huge cardboard cone filled with sweets, toys, school supplies and small gifts.
I can still tell you exactly what I found in my Schultüte. It had a big Snow White print on it with pale green tulle netting on top and a little plush dog was cheekily poking its head out of it. It was filled with pens, an eraser, a ruler, some Maoams, Haribos as well as a Xanti cassette, which was one of my favourite audio plays back then, and some small toys.
But before I could open it and see all my treasures, there was the formal part of the day: the official ceremony, which sees the headmaster of the school give a welcome speech and a colourful programme presented by students from year 3 and 4. They perform funny sketches or songs for the new students and give their account of what life at school is like.
First day at school – the ceremony at school
The highlight of the day is when all the tutors get up on stage to read out the names of all the students in their tutor group or class as we call it in Germany. It’s a little like the scene in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – just without the hat, but it’s a very exciting moment for students as it’s the first time you get to meet your tutor and the people you will meet every day for the next 4 years.
We gathered in a group and then walked over to the main building where we were shown our new classroom. Hand in hand, all of us proudly carrying our shiny new school bags, we walked into the room that would see us read our first words or carefully follow swirly lines that would eventually form into letters. It has a little play corner at the back of the room and the walls were decorated with bunting and colourful letters. On the the alphabet and on the table each of us found the Fibel, a picture book introducing young children to the alphabet and reading simple sentences and little stories towards the end of year 1.
After a quick introduction and getting to know my new classmates, we had an official photo taken which is a lovely way to remember your first day at school, I think. I would have totally inserted it here, but it’s somewhere in my parents house and I didn’t want to ask them to go through all of their photos. There are literally thousands of them and it would have taken them ages, so you’ll have to settle to my dad’s snapshot at the beginning of this post.
I hope you enjoyed this walk down memory lane with me. I like remembering these special days and it really was exactly that for me. My first day at school got me excited about starting my educational journey and I really enjoyed sharing this day with all my family. My parents and both sets of grandparents came to the ceremony and afterwards we had a lovely meal together that saw me raiding my big Schultuete and all the small ones that kids get from extended family and friends.
Can you remember your first day at school? How did you celebrate it?
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