Russian School Diaries: Sweet Memories to Keep

In Russia, Ukraine, and everywhere about the former USSR, every student of primary and secondary school must have a so-called diary (дневник [dnevnik]) – a printed notebook, where the student is supposed to make daily entries of their tasks for homework, and teachers usually leave short notes for parents and put down the student’s grades whenever he or she made an oral presentation in class or got a test grade in the class register. Dnevnik is a so-to-say form of communication between teachers and parents via the kid’s book of daily notes.

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The school year extends from September 1 to end of May and is divided into four terms with a week-long vacation periods between them. The programme of study in schools is fixed, it amazes me how stable it has been over the years: the program which my mother had at her maths class in the 1950-es at the age of 12 is practically identical to what my daughter studied at her age of 12 in 2003. Neither can schoolchildren choose the subjects they want to study. The class load per student is 638 hours a year for nine-year-olds, 893 for thirteen-year-olds, plus there are official hours of additional classwork within the program. The students are supposed to write with pens of blue color, while teachers always use red. You can see the student’s notes in blue in the “dnevnik” below, and the teacher’s entries in red: the grades, the teacher’s signatures, and sometimes short notes for the parents asking to pay attention at their kid’s behavior or attention in the classroom.

dnevnik1

Students are graded on a 5-step scale, ranging in practice from 2 (“unacceptable”) to 5 (“excellent”); 1 is a rarely used sign of extreme failure. Teachers regularly subdivide these grades (i.e. 4+, 5-) in daily use, but term and year results are graded strictly 2, 3, 4 or 5.

The teachers’ entries into “dnevnik” have always caused excitement in our minds, and the mother’s or father’s voice, saying: “Show me your dnevnik!” remains in everyone’s memory till the end of our lives!

High school kids are usually bored by school, and those wh want to show that they don’t give a damn to the school rules, can do this to their “dnevniks” sometimes:

dnevnik3

But the most memorable are the humorous moments, when teachers, being driven to madness by kids, leave very funny notes in dnevniks. In Russia and Ukraine, we even have websites, where people contribute photos or scans of their kid’s dnevnik pages with very funny teachers’ notes. This page, for example, has a few entries about a boy’s bad behavior:

  1. “Нарисовал половой орган на доске!” – “He drew a penis on the black board!”
  2. Кричал “Ленин жив!” – “He cried out “Lenin’s alive!”, and in the bottom part of the page:
  3. “Продавал одноклассника в рабство” – “Tried selling his classmate to slavery.”

Looks like quite an action-packed day for a school boy, doesn’t it?

dnevnik4

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Jerry Jay Carroll

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