Breakfast was chopped sugared egg, fatty ham, and cold tea served in tea kettles the size and shape of exhibition pumpkins.
Morning assembly was run by the Head Boy. He explained how to fill in a multiplication table, and then there was a timed drill. Can you fill one in in 70 seconds? Most of them could. I read out the answers in English.
Over the next few days, Camilla gave several groups slide shows of pictures of home, explaining things slowly and clearly. The most interesting group was the teachers, who asked penetrating questions and seemed to be willing, nay, eager, to sit for three hours in order to learn more about solar panels, bartering for eggs, and other American exotica.
In the afternoon, I sat in on an English skills evaluation. We three teachers sat on one side of a barrier of desks, and the student, a boy of about 16, came in, bowed, and sat down across from us. He read aloud from a third grade textbook, answered questions, and even chatted. I was impressed with his poise, despite his white knuckles. America, land of individualists, doesn't do this to kids - they're allowed their anonymity. But here, we've seen lots of people put on the spot like that, including ourselves, and asked to deliver speeches or to exhibit their knowledge. You get good at it. Not only that, but people are genuinely interested in listening.
At the teacher's meeting in the evening, Camilla and I were the featured attraction. We were asked to explain: US history, immigration to the US, Catholics vs. Jews in European history, and all points between.
These teachers seem to orient towards work rather than family. You read about that, but in practice, it doesn't seem as grim as I'd thought it might be, despite the formality of protocols and heirarchy. The relationships between the teachers are deepened by these endless meetings, in which ideas as much as planning are discussed. This is lubricated by the truly hilarious dinners they share.