Scout’s first day at a public Mexican high-school


With only five weeks left in the school year, Scout started Mexican high-school today. Not a private, bilingual enclave with other expat spawn, but a public high-school (Secundaria) with more than 700 students, many of whom resemble adults. In other words, the deep end of the pool. Today was her first day. She’s what they call an oyente—an auditing student.

It was all her idea. Shortly after we arrived, Scout announced she wanted to drop into a school for a while. She goes to a tutor every day, which gets her out of the house, but she’s missing kid time. And she wants to amp up her Spanish.

I wasn’t sure what to arrange or where to arrange it, but (long story short) a boat captain we recently met down at the dock helped us get her into his daughter’s school. It’s just a couple blocks away from our house. I love when life works out life this way. This is how Scout ended up spending a day in Turkish school a few years ago…because we met a friendly teacher in a bar who invited her to visit.

Visiting the campus

Yesterday morning Captain Bernie and his wife gave us a tour of the place. It wasn’t bad. Massive mango trees and sub-tropical foliage softened the look of concrete classrooms with bars on the windows. Kids streamed into classes and milled around the covered sports court. They all fell silent and stared as we passed by. Clearly they’ve never had another gringo student there ever, much less one starting the last month of school. They seemed to think we’d accidentally wandered too far from the beach, like lost crabs.

Scout’s only ever homeschooled or gone to private schools, so I wasn’t sure what she would make of the size of the school and all the attention she was getting. I asked if she was comfortable and immediately got an eye-roll in return. Ha! Served me right. Scout’s always brave and competent. So, before I knew it, Scout, Captain Bernie, and I were off to buy uniforms from the local school store. (All public-school students in Mexico wear uniforms.) I paid about $30 for the skirt, a pair of knee-highs, two blouses, and a couple of class arm patches. Scout says the outfit is really itchy.

The First Day of School

The three of us walked over to the school just before 7am. It was still dark. God, how do families so this regularly? Why doesn’t everyone homeschool?!? Fortunately for me Scout had set her own alarm for 5am, so by the time I rolled out of bed and stubbed my toe at 6am, she’d already done her yoga, showered, dressed, and cooked up a plate of bacon and eggs. There was nothing left for me to do but gulp down coffee and make amends with grumpy Archie for having woken him up so early.

Captain Bernie’s wife, Margarita, met us at the school and introduced us to the rather terrifying Director, who frowned at us and then immediately passed us off to a lady named Francisca. Francisca’s main job seems to be herding students and managing parents. Though I suspect Mexican parents require a lot less managing than their counterparts north of the border. While we waited for Francisca, Margarita and I chatted in Spanish. (Apparently I can chat in Spanish now.) She told me the Director had been her math teacher 20 years ago, but when I asked his name, she didn’t know it. Twenty years ago he was “Maestro” and now he was “Director.”

After the bell rang, we all headed for Emma’s classroom. Francisca introduced Emma to the teacher (didn’t catch a name, but he seemed friendly), who sent several boys out of the classroom to find an unbroken desk. We waited in the doorway while fifty pairs of eyes stared at us. The boys returned with a desk, and the teacher asked Emma if she spoke Spanish. She nodded and then took her seat. That was it! Mark and I waved goodbye to her and then left to let nature take its course. Survival of the fittest and all that…

How’d it go?

Mark and I picked her up at 1:30, excited to hear how it went.  Scout bounded out of her home ec class as clumps of smiling girls waved goodbye. Her blouse was tucked in now, like the other girls. She reported that her day had been a swirl of Almas, Lupes, Alejandras, and Marias introducing themselves. (That’s a nice thing about Mexico. The kids hang out together in big friendly groups rather than little cliques.) The math teacher was cool, the others were a bit shouty. In all subjects except Spanish, she was way ahead. Oh, and could Margarita come over on Monday?

I think Scout is totally amazing and brave. My newly-minted 13-year-old wants to improve her Spanish and make a few pals, so without batting an eye, she plunks herself into a foreign high-school for the last month of the year and doesn’t give a crap who is staring at her. She knows she can handle anything.

It’s all coming together, folks.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 BONNIE HARRIS May 29, 2014 at 10:48 am

So wonderful, what a great life you are giving her. Bravo


2 Heidi (@WagonersAbroad) May 31, 2014 at 9:57 am

Oh reading this just gave me chills. I am so proud of her and I’ve never even met your family. Congrats to you all and well done Scout! It is going to make all the difference to be in the daily local life of school. Have fun with it.

For us, in Spain, it was for the language immersion and socialization too. We have always told the kids grades weren’t our focus. That said, they rock on the grades anyway. It is wonderful how the kids can just take charge and express their desires and interests and then make them happen!


3 Alex May 31, 2014 at 10:03 am

How does she spell Scout in Español?


4 Karen May 31, 2014 at 10:15 am

I can just picture her working thru her day, confidence exuding. Hats off to Scout! and you and Mark, too, for the opportunity and support you provide her. Wow!
PS….love the socks


5 Renee May 31, 2014 at 10:22 am

Thanks, Karen! Miss you guys… xoxoxox


6 Maureen Bellinger May 31, 2014 at 10:25 am

OMG, Steve and I are soooo proud of you Scout!!! I just love your bravery!! (I got shivers too!)

Of course, Steve especially liked the line about her being ahead in most subjects!

We love the four of you and please hugs to all!! Bow wow, Archie!


7 Cathryn Haynes May 31, 2014 at 10:48 am

Are you still in Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo?


8 Renee May 31, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Yep. Will be here through Octoberish.


9 Cheri May 31, 2014 at 11:46 am

I love this. I love that she wanted to do it, that you supported it and that it is turning out well. Just proves what I always say, “attitude is everything.”


10 Renee May 31, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Thanks & agree. The sooner kids can make their own choices, the better .


11 Cliff May 31, 2014 at 12:26 pm

I can appreciate the fish out of water feeling. I was in a high school doing my EA practicum this past week. Never been in a high school in BC before.

Good for Scout. This is all going in her memoirs, no? 🙂


12 Renee May 31, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Cliff, how was the class time, did you enjoy it?


13 Patti May 31, 2014 at 12:28 pm

What a beautiful girl with such a zest for life. Well-done to all of you!


14 elaine May 31, 2014 at 12:40 pm

good for her! highschool already?! it totally doesn’t surprise me how brave she is….you guys have one pretty amazing kid! I wish you were closer so I could hear all about while sitting around a table, eating & drinking with you.

please tell scout I say hi & send a huge hug!

miss u guys


15 Renee May 31, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Oh that would be so much fun. Let’s meet up soon, either here or in Vancouver.


16 Mark May 31, 2014 at 5:14 pm

Elaine, we miss you, too. Looking forward to sitting around that table again.


17 Jackie Trueblood May 31, 2014 at 12:48 pm

I am so impressed! I would absolutely love to have Scout as my student. Of course, I would have to teach in high school, rather than fourth and fifth grades, and I’m not quite ready for that! Scout has way more courage than I!:) Enjoy the experience, Scout!


18 Connie May 31, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Scout is an absolute credit to you both. You have given her an amazing life. Strangely, I also feel a bit proud of her! Such a confident and clever child.


19 Renee May 31, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Thanks, Connie. Appreciated… 🙂


20 May 31, 2014 at 7:46 pm

Wow, that is amazing of her. Glad that she can just jump right in there. This is definitely the best way to immerse herself into Mexico. Good for her and for both of you to be brave and let her do her thing.



21 Sharon June 1, 2014 at 6:52 am

Wow what an amazing girl and what an amazing experience. I hope this can be my daughter one day!


22 Mexico Cooks June 16, 2014 at 8:50 am

Unless things are really different on the coast, secundaria is middle school. Preparatoria is high school.

Let me know what you find out about this, I’m always interested in learning something new about a different part of Mexico.


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