The differences between the Bulgarian and American education systems are stark and many. Perhaps one day I'll elaborate on some of the major differences and how they affect those of us who are teachers, but for now I'll limit myself to graduation and the senior ball.
Most of the kids I teach (high schoolers) remain in school through June 30th. The seniors, however, take their last classes on May 15th. And then in late May, there is a senior ball. There is no graduation ceremony, no valedictorian speech, or anything else remotely similar to what we have in America.
Last year, I had to pick my brother and sister-in-law up at the airport so I missed many of the festivities associated with the senior ball. This year, I experienced it all. Here's what happens.
Late in the afternoon, friends and family of the kids begin gathering at the school and wait. Eventually, designated drivers in fancy cars bring the kids (who are in no condition to be driving) to the school. More friends and family arrive with the kids, and the kids rush the school, smashing balloons and other displays, yelling, screaming, and taking swigs of booze. After several minutes of this, the kids emerge from the school triumphantly and chant repeatedly.
The kids then get back in the cars and are driven to the center of town where police have blocked the streets and it seems the entire town is waiting for them. Once there, they chant some more.
After repeated chanting, the kids hop back in the cars and are driven to their ball where there is more drinking, more chanting, and lots of dancing.
And, in case you are wondering what they are chanting, this video, taken on May 15th, explains it all. Let's just say that anyone who lives in Bulgaria for any significant amount of time (or even someone who visits in May) has no excuse for not being able to count from one to twelve in Bulgarian.