Here's another guest post by Mark:
You know when it is getting near the end of the school year when it is Sports Day. That's what it is called in England and it takes place round about the week before the last week of term. [The exact format of Sports Day varies from school to school, but usually involves the school being split into teams that compete against each other in various events. Points are awarded for each event and a winning team is announced at the end. (Ed.)]
Here in the USA, or at least in our corner of North Carolina, there was a similar event last Friday at our girls' local elementary school and it was called "Field Day". I am on guest blog duty for this event because Viola was ill last Friday, so I left our guests behind for the morning and went along to the Field Day.
It was an enjoyable occasion and was in most respects similar to what we have been used to in the UK. The emphasis was on having fun and the competitive element was minimal. We are talking about games in which children run backwards and forwards, in relays, with holey buckets full of water, trying to fill up a big dustbin; there was a sack race and there were various throwing games. No egg and spoon race (apparently a British phenomenon), but otherwise Field Day was still recognisable as the American mirror of our Sports Day.
There were, nevertheless, a handful of differences, none of them surprising and several of them most welcome. The most striking difference was a big fanfare at the beginning of the day. All the children, the teachers and the parent volunteers gathered at the front of the school, in the circle normally used by the school buses. First, a fourth grade (= UK Year 5) student made a brave attempt at singing the American national anthem; then the whole school said the Pledge of Allegiance, with all hats off and hands on hearts; there was then a light hearted "field day pledge"; and then all the students marched to the middle school field where the games began. I rather liked this grand opening ceremony.
As the students (even kids are called "students" here rather than "pupils" as in the UK) processed to the field, each class was led out by a flag that was specially designed for the event by the class itself. The sense of occasion was also enhanced by the students all wearing field day t-shirts, specially designed for the occasion, and ordered several weeks ago. They were colour-coded by grade (year). It was useful to parents like me who have two kids in different grades and so can see quickly where each grade is gathered on the large field.
Another difference was that the day was run, like much of the American "public school" system, by volunteer parents. I have never seen this in the UK, where Sports Day is a teacher-run event. Teachers were present and involved but not, as far as I could see, central to the event. Each class had its own mini-marquee, again provided by volunteer parents, usually transported in SUVs that were driven on to the field. I was hugely impressed by the energy and efficiency of the volunteer parents, especially a friend of ours who provided huge ice-boxes full of cold water bottles, chopped-up water melon, chopped-up oranges, chips (crisps), pretzels and the like. You'd be lucky to get a sip of water at the Sports Days we went to in the UK, but it was not -- of course -- a hot as it is here (about 30-32 oC (86-90 oF) last Friday).
I thought that I was safe from the sun because I was under the mini marquee's shade for much of the day, but I came back with a sunburnt neck. So now I'm a true country redneck.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Here's another guest post by Mark: