Typical School day of Polish Child in 2006 and 30 years ago

The school year begins in Poland on September 1st. My 10 years old son is a 4th grade pupil this year. His usual day begins at around 7 am when he wakes up. Dresses up and goes downstairs to have his breakfast. Which he usually has with his two years older brother. He likes the most a plain version of corn flakes with cold milk plus bread, butter and some cured meat. His older brother likes the honey flavored corn flakes with warm milk, hates cured meat and eats bread, butter and all kinds of cheese and cheese spreads. They leave home at around 7.50 am, their two dogs accompany them to the little gate in the back of the garden. Sometimes one of the dogs jumps over the fence and accompanies the boys almost to the school-yard gate!

30 years ago the school year began also on September 1st. The school year was celebrated in the same day as the anniversary of the World War II. When I was a schoolchild we did not have variety of cereals available. We ate for breakfast so called "milky soup" (zupa mleczna) - that consisted of a plate of milk with rice or noodles.

The lessons start at 8 am sharp. You can't be late as being late means that you are impolite and you get the minus (-) sign for that. If you have too much minus signs you will not be awarded with an annual school report that has the white-and-red strip printed on the front side. Such special report is given to pupils that have an average grade exceeding 4.75. The worst grade in Polish school is 1, the best one is 6. The white and red are the colors of Polish national flag and all the children in the fourth grade want to get their report with white-and-red strip. One lesson takes 45 minutes. The breaks between the lessons last from 5 to 2o minutes. The 2o minutes break is called the snack break. The children eat their snacks, called in direct translation from Polish – 'the second breakfast'. They also drink their drinks. My 4th grade son takes his drink and 'second breakfast' from home. He likes the most lemon-flavored mineral water with no gas and a sweet roll and an apple, a pear or a banana. His older brother hates mineral water with no gas. He'd like to drink coca-cola, ice-tea, sprite or fanta everyday. But his parents don't allow him to do so and say that such drinks drunk everyday are harmful to his health. So almost each evening the older brother of my 4th grade son prepares his own ice-tea. He brews a tea using tea-bags in his special metal and plastic bottle he uses while biking. Squeezes a lot of lemon into the tea and puts the bottle into the fridge. In the morning his ice-tea is ready.

30 years ago we had to be at school on time also. Usually schools in Poland are in the walking distance, so children do not need to take buses except the rural areas. The grade system was 2-5, "5" was very good, "2" was failing. We also ate so called "second breakfast" at school, sometimes the lunch also. We usually did not bring juices to school. The drink available in the school cafeteria was usually a so called "compote" - made of fruit cooked in sugar syrup. Read more about Polish school system in the article school in Poland thirty years ago (late 60s, 70s)

Since he is in the 4th grade each lesson of my sons class is dedicated to different subject, and each subject is taught by different teacher. It was not so in the grades 1 to 3 when there was one teacher that taught all the subjects to one class of pupils. The subject my son learns include Polish language and literature, English language, mathematics, computer science, history, biology, art drawing and painting, music, physical exercises. Some children have a religion lesson at school, but not my son since his parents do not approve teaching religion at school. Physical exercise is one the favourite classes of my son. They play soccer, hand-ball, volley-ball and basket ball mainly. There are 11 boys and 12 girl in the class. Two of the pupils are Chechen, one is Ukrainian and one is Russian. The morning classes usually end at around 1 pm and my sons runs home quickly to do his homework. The homework usually takes half an hour. It is usually learning a poem by heart, writing a short story and so on. Apart from the homework the pupils are given a list of books every pupil has to read during the school year. Four books in the fourth grade. Apart from that my sons reads a lot and likes to do so. He reads a book each evening right before he falls asleep. The last book he read was a Polish translation of ... American author - 'Chasing Vermeer', by Blue Balliet. An excellent book with many riddles. Even the father of my son read this book, and liked it!

30 years ago we had the same teacher teaching in grades 1-4. We did not have a kindergarden class. The first class was started for 7 years old children. we did not have religion at school but since almost all children were Catholics - the religion was taught for the same classes at church buildings. we had to have special clothing - a white shirt and the dark blue shorts and tennis shoes for the physical exercise class. We did not have computer classes also.

The book my son reads are either from the school library, nearby public library or from his parents library. My son may use his computer for 60 minutes a day, and for 120 minutes each weekend day. He didn't like that limitation a t first but slowly got used to it. His favourite computers games are all parts of Age of Empires and Need for Speed. He likes all kinds of handy programs such as dictionaries, 'Fine artist' and so one. His computer is not connected to internet, he doesn't like that too. So when he sometimes want's to check something on the web he uses his Mama's or papa's machines and in their presence only.

Three times a week he's got music classes in the primary school of music. He learns how to play the guitar, read and write the musical notes. He learns a lot about the greatest musicians of the world. He travels to his musical school on his own or with his brother, he's very proud of that. They have to go several stops on a kind of commuter train which resembles a tram, or a streetcar. He comes back from music classes with his friends in a car either in friend's or his own parents. On two afternoons he has additonal English lessons with a native speaker that vistits him at home. My son is very thrilled that he can understand the lyrics of the English language songs he listens to on the radio. One afternoon each week my son attends the swimming pool. He goes there with his brother and with at least one of his parents. He loves to swim. One aftrenoon each weekend he rides a horse. This is not his favorite sport but he certainly wants to be 'as good as his brother' who loves horseback riding. And in the weekends he rides a bike with all his family and goes somehere 'in the city'. This is usually a cinema-theatre, a drama-theatre, a museum an so on. On weekend he visits his grandma too! He likes that very much. He has many friends from his both schools and neighborhood and he likes spending time with them. This plus his quite a tight weekly schedule makes him quite a busy young man. But he seems to like it and even plans to join the dance lessons one afternoon. It seems to me that is because of one of his girl-friend he likes very, very much.

30 years ago many children had extra classes outside of school. Some of the classes were paid, some were not. There were so called Youth Culture Centers (domy cultury) were we could learn art, music etc for free. We did not have a chance to learn foreign languages as good as it is now. The first foreign language was Russian - at fifth grade. The other languages (the choice was between English, German and sometimes French) were taught only in secondary schools, that means it began in 9th class since the elementary school lasted 8 years.

Three or four times a year all 4th grade pupils go together for 'a picnic' instead of going to school. They either use their bikes, public transportation or rented bus. They visit interesting places or just go for the fun of having kind of barbecue party together. Not the real barbecue but just a fire with „Polish kielbasa” pulled on the stick roasted over the fire. The children are accompanied by their two form tutors, each from one class. Plus as many parents as parents like, but no less than four to help care for the kids. During winter children can go for the 'white-school' (biala szkola). They live in the nice part of Poland, usually mountains all one of the lake districts. They have some classes there, but mainly the just go skiing (during the"winter school" and so on. The white-school is however additionally paid for. Some classes also attend so called "green school" (zielona szkola) - visits to the countrysite during the green season.

30 years ago we had sometimes some extra school trips, but they usually lasted one day. In this case it was usually the schoolbus taking us there

We don't pay for the school our kids attend as they attend the public school. We pay however for their books, and all additional 'attractions'. We don't pay for the music school either. We pay of course for additional English lessons, swimming pool, horse-riding. Well, that's it. At first I thought I'd better omit the numerous digressions by my son. Later on I thought that it is them that your pupils might find interesting.

30 years ago we were lucky enough to have free swimming classes in the second grade. We also participated in some extra cultural events like visits to theatre and cimena. For some time we even had some extra opera lessons done by some real opera singers... Monday before 8 am. Not the best time to listen to the opera & operette - although this was a real effort to make us more culturally inclined by school and artists. I do not think we appreciated it very much at that time but the artists tried to do it interesting singing some especially joyful and funnny pieces of operette.

written by Bujno (Wojtek), contact the author by e-mail
The commentaries "30 years ago" done by Jaga
November, 2006

Read more about Polish school system in the article school in Poland thirty years ago (late 60s, 70s) .
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