Last week was a bit of a blur. Monday and Tuesday, we had our first set of Parent-Teacher Conferences. For the past four years, I worked in a school that held Student-Led Conferences. Student-Led Conferences are just what they sound like- student led. My homeroom students would sign up for a 30-minute block of time and they would sit in my room and tell their parents about their learning. I (happily) sat to the side and only chimed in when absolutely necessary. It took the parents a bit of time to get used to- many were expecting the more traditional parent-teacher conference where the teacher talks about how well Johnny is doing and how clever Susie is, with the veiled hints that s/he may not be quite as brilliant or well-behaved as one might imagine.
I really liked Student-Led Conferences. It was a fairly easy day for me.
Our new school saw a bit of a mixture of student-led and parent-teacher conference types. Each parent signed up for a 10-minute time slot. The students were expected to attend, and were told to be prepared to talk about how they thought they were doing in class. I must admit, I was a tad bit nervous because in the past, no matter which type of conference, I never had many visitors. Parents are not usually that concerned with the arts grades, unless their kid is failing. But this year I’m teaching English and, of course, this is a ‘real’ subject (their words, not mine). Out of 61 available time slots, 45-50 of mine were filled.
I also had an email from the principal saying ‘angry parent alert- be prepared.’ So I was. But I was still nervous.
The conferences took place over a day and a half- Monday afternoon and all day Tuesday. I was pleasantly surprised by how, well, pleasant the parents were. The ones who were concerned about grades were easily placated when shown examples of their little darlings’ work (‘see, he spelled every other word wrong and only wrote 100 words of the 500 requested… perhaps it’s not 8 work…’) or when I explained that, despite their obvious talent, we had only just begun acting and none of them were quite ready for Broadway (I did actually say that, and it got a few laughs). The ‘angry parent’ was angry with her kid and his lack of trying, not me.
I only had one truly baffling conference where a parent said that the 20-minute silent reading that my kids do once every six days was a waste of time. I was struck completely mute and stumbled my way through the rest of that conference because I honestly couldn’t believe she thought that… plus, I was busy looking for Ashton and his ‘Punk’d’ crew.
All in all, the conferences went really well, but I was spent by the end. Luckily, last week was only a four-day work week because we had Friday off for Armistice Day. Armistice Day is the celebration of the ending of World War I. The Rugby Star was in Helsinki, coaching soccer, so it was just me and the girls. I didn’t fancy spending a three-day weekend in the apartment so… ROAD TRIP!
My friends D and T and I decided to head south over hill and dale to the town of Zlatibor (Zlakibor, if you ask the girls). We found an amazing little hotel- Villa Natural Wood, booked a three-room cottage and set off. The drive down was nothing if not spectacular. I expected highway, because, despite many years of NOT living in the US, I always expect highways when traveling a long distance. But nope- no highways were to be found on this trip. It was all little villages, back roads, terrifyingly high-twisty-turny mountain roads, and roads that were far too narrow for our cars and the various farm animals we encountered to be on at the same time. It was reminiscent of the drive to Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. The girls loved the views and I tried my best to keep up with D as he drove like a Nascar racer through the mountains.
Our cottage was the perfect size for the six of us, though it was unbelievably cold when we arrived. The views from the front and the back more than made up for that, though.
On our first afternoon, we drove into town for lunch, checked out the market streets, and played on the treehouse in Avantura (Adventure) Park. The girls were too small to go zip- lining or cross any of the tree-based obstacles, but they had fun anyway.
On Saturday morning, we woke up to a heavy rainfall. We were worried that we might be stuck inside all day… and though the cottage was big enough for eating and sleeping, it was not going to be big enough for us to be together all day. Luckily, the rain stopped just after breakfast and we got ourselves ready and headed out for an adventure. Our first stop was the Gostilje Waterfall. This beautiful waterfall was about 25 kilometers outside of town- up and down more twisty-turny roads- but was well worth the drive. The Ladybug kept saying, ‘It’s my first waterfall and it’s so beautiful!’ We walked from the falls to almost the bottom of the stream where the water met the river, until we got to a very rickety bridge that looked like the perfect spot for little girls to go tumbling into the water. We climbed back up to the playground above the falls and let the girls get out some energy, then retired to the restaurant for a Serbian lunch of meat, bread, kaymak, and fries.
There were a few hours of daylight left, so we decided to continue our adventure and visit Stopica Cave. The girls were very excited to explore a real cave, though I might’ve scared the little one by reminding her of the ending of ‘Going on a Bear Hunt.’ Oops. Mom-fail. After assuring here that bears did not live in caves like this one, she was ready to go in. We could only go about 250 meters back, but it was a lovely 250 meters. There are natural tubs, lit with colored lights, that give a magical-fairy quality to the cave (so said the children). In the furthest reaches, there is a crashing waterfall and the platform in front of it is made of plastic so you can see the water rushing beneath your feet. The children and the adults were duly impressed.
But the best part of the day for the kids (and for me, I won’t lie) was that night when it started snowing. We turned off the lights in their bedroom and watched the snow fall, warm and snuggly in our jammies and socks. It was a perfect ending to an adventurous day.
Sunday saw the day dawn bright and cold. We packed out belongings, did about six ‘final’ walk-throughs and then drove into town for a bit of shopping and lunch. Everyone ended up with wooly slippers and a few trinkets. Lunch was more meat, fries, and bread, then we hit the road for the long drive home. The girls slept for a bit and we listened to David Walliams read The BFG for a while, and we were home safely in bed by 7pm. The girls- and their mommy- fell asleep hard after such a great trip with great friends.
Many of my colleagues have said, ‘Where?’ when I told them where we went for the break which is a shame because it’s such an amazing area. I definitely think it was worth the drive and D, T, and I have already discussed going back (with The Rugby Star) in the spring, when it’s warm enough to play all day at the playground, and maybe dip our toes in the stream by the waterfall.