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Monday, January 12, 2009



First Week of School

Day One
Daddy dropped me and the girl at school and left to send the boy to kindy. She looked miserable at first but fortunately she was seated next to a cheerful boy who started playing rock, paper, scissors with her and she cheered up considerably. Anxious parents were allowed to peer into the classroom but as soon as "lessons" started, we were chased away. So we all sat at the canteen. The canteen was crowded with parents and it looked and sounded like a market.

My girl's class teacher looks unapproachable and impatient. She looks the typical fierce type of Chinese School teacher. Even the parents are afraid to approach her. Haha. I saw that some of the other class teachers were more symphatetic, kind and nurturing towards the new kids and spoke English to some of the kids who had trouble understanding. To me, that is the better way of helping a child to settle in. Just our luck.

When the kids came out during recess, I showed my girl her regular seat for break time. The school canteen is small so having a regular seat helps the little ones from having to fight with the older ones to buy food. We were told that since the canteen is small, quite often by the time the little ones get to queue up to buy food, recess is over. So priority was given to the little ones to have catered food and a regular seat. They had bun and milo on the first day.

A majority of the parents were English speaking professionals. Everyone exchanged phone numbers and shared fears and anxieties. We were drawn together with a common thing. Our kids. We made quite a lot of new acquaintances. There are 7 Std One Classes with about 40 students to a class.

I did not have transport home so I had to wait at the canteen till school dismissed! Yawwwwnnn. There was nothing to do since class was in session. I was certainly not going to stand outside the class and be a nuisance to the teachers. So I sat in the noisy canteen where some mothers looked like they were having a party, chatting and laughing loudly. I had my lunch there and packed some lunch for the family. The food looked quite reasonable and food preparation looked clean enough.

We were informed to teach the kids where to wait for us so that we can find them when school dismissed. We kept on changing our minds about where she should wait. The school tried their best to have a good traffic management system but still it was chaotic. They gave us conflicting instructions too. One moment the kid had to wait here, next there. It was all very confusing for the kids.

Day Two
Parents were not allowed into the school compound anymore accept during break time. I did not know this so I had not prepared my girl for it. When I dropped her off, the guard stopped us at the gate. I wanted to show her how to get to her classroom which was a long way ahead. "Tapi dia tak tahu" I told the guard but he did not relent. "No. We will show her", he insisted.

So I let the girl go in alone to the lobby. She looked totally lost. The guard was ushering some other Std One kids to their classes but he missed her out! Finally another guard saw her loitering by herself and shouted at her to go with him. I saw her looking very reluctant (and I am sure it is because I had taught her not to go anywhere with strangers). The guard went and sort of pulled her along but he was back out in a minute. I don't think he showed her all the way to the class. He merely pointed the way.

I was told by another mother who had arrived earlier and gotten in somehow that she saw my girl standing outside the class alone, afraid to go in. So she guided her in. The same mother told me that another lady had gotten quite vocal outside and scolded the guards and teachers for not allowing parents in. "Its only the 2nd day!" she grumbled.

There were a group of parents still loitering outside the gate and the headmaster chased everyone away. "What are you all still doing here? Go. Go home." he said "Your child is attending school, not you." lol.

My girl was afraid to go to the toilet for the first two days because she did not understand what teacher said about going to toilet. She also did not know how to pull the longer flush for the squating toilet. Oh! My fault for not teaching her these living skills! So I showed her how to go in by herself and how to flush afterwards and told her the equivalent words for "going to toilet" in Mandarin.

So now, she goes to recess, the toilet, and then line up outside the class after that.

They had fried noodles and chrysanthynm for break today. I just watched my girl nearly choke on her noodles from afar because she is a slow eater and she was trying to eat fast (because I told her to do so) and she wasn't used to eating fast. Haha.

There is 40 or more students in my girl's class. The school has 7 Std One classes. The head had informed us that we should go and inform the teacher if our child is weak in Mandarin. So I go up to the "unapproachable" looking class teacher and informed her in my broken Mandarin that my girl does not speak or understand Mandarin. I give the teacher the benefit of doubt and hope that she is kinder than what she looks.

Going home is of course chaotic like the first day. After picking up the boy at 12.15pm, we went straight to the school and had to queue till 1.15pm. By the time we got home it was 2.00pm when in actual fact we are only about 15 minutes away from the school.

Day Three
We dropped her at the gate with no incident because this time we had instructed and shown her how to get from the gate to her class.

They had fried rice for break today. Parents are allowed to come in during break times for the first week. The girl was fine by now but I just couldn't resist coming to watch the kids. Its quite fun watching the kids. I try to observe without interfering.

We had worked out the logistics of dropping the girl off in the morning but picking up is still a problem.

Day Four
Hubby sent the girl on his own in the morning. At break they had a hard boiled egg and a sausage. I watched the kids struggle with their hard boiled egg. Haha. Many of them looked at it not knowing what to do. Some of the smarter ones helped the others break it.

Although I had thought my girl how to break a hard boiled egg and help me make egg sandwich before, she still stared at her hard boiled egg for a while. Haha. Later I found out it was because she didn't like it.

I knew the girl had been eyeing some nuggets and wanted to buy them on her own so upon seeing that the queue had cleared, I gave her a dollar to buy. She was so happy. She gave the man a dollar and got back 80 cents. Then she wanted to keep the 20 cents in her coin box. I allowed her to have one nugget and told her that I will take the other home. "Please remember not to eat my nuggets mummy", she said. Haha.

The kids didn't need us now. All of them looked fine. The standard one kids these days are all very well prepared. Hardly any cried.

Day Five
Dad dropped the girl off at school before work. A system has set in. Thats great.

They had nuggets, chips and orange juice today. Not exactly the healthiest of foods but it made the girl happy.

There is more confusion in picking up the kids again. We had been told all week to ask the kids to wait for us at diffrent locations but the location has been changed on Monday. Hmmm.. I don't think the girl knows how to go to the new location. It involves going down two different sets of stairways. Even I was confused and got lost a few times. Will have to wait till Monday to see how things goes.

Otherwise, we are all settled into our new routine by now.


We have been told that there will be very little or no homework for this first 3 weeks. So far the kids are doing simple revision ABCs, coloring, singing, origami etc. So, we haven't been tested yet on the homework load which Chinese school is known for. ;)

What is my girl's conclusion about the first week of school? She doesn't have any friends because she can't speak Mandarin to them. She doesn't like the teachers because she does not understand what they are saying. She thinks she won't like the school until Std 6! Omg. Haha. She is afraid that she will be beat by teacher. She had already saw one teacher walking around with a rotan. She is afraid that she will be beaten even if she tries her best but makes a careless mistake. Looks like the culture of fear has already set in.

Other posts I wrote today:
A Healthy Mom is a Happy Mom
Countdown to Chinese New Year

10 comments:

  1. This school is pretty strict. For my boys the parents are allowed in the compound the first week, hang nearby the kids. I think they shouldn't be so strict during the first week. Like your girl, No2 hardly understands Chinese and ALL the parents and children there speaks Mandarin.You can imagine how stressed out I was during my first experience 2 years ago.

    They always say our children are in good hands...but like what you've noticed, sometimes the kids seems lost, some teachers are fierce looking and don't seem to bother about crying kids!!!!

    One thing I know, they will eventually settle down.

    Magictree

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  2. Yah I agree with you. On the 2nd day of school and they already refused to let the parents in. They said they would guide my girl in but I saw her wondering to the lobby on her own looking so lost and unsure.

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  3. On the bright side, the more encounter she has, the more she will learn .... if things were smooth sailing, then not much will be learnt. Just got to make sure they are in safe hands ;).

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  4. My girl has her friends from kindy, so she is ok overall. Just me being kan-cheong for her.

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  5. Annie,
    Yah. Hopefully.

    Jess,
    My girl has only 2 friends from kindy and unfortunately they are not in the same class.

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  6. I hope your girl will grow to like her school eventually, which I think she will. :) kids adapt faster than we thought! But like all parents, we worry non-stop once they start school huh? Me too..hehe.. But I always tell myself, things will settle!

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  7. blurblur,
    The poor girl is not feeling very well today but she is afraid not to go to school so I let her but I told her to tell the teacher if she feels a fever or feels like vomitting. Poor thing.

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  8. Your girl will eventually settle down. Kids pick up new language pretty fast.

    I did not go check on my girl on the first week during recess (now, I feel bad of not thought about that)

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  9. Oh dear....i hope the fear will vanish soon.

    So sweet yet so heart breaking yet so difficult yet so endearing to see our kids go through what we call life.

    We watch from afar trying hard not to interfere. Bless be the day when we can walk away with no fear in our hearts ourselves.

    Take care mummy!

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  10. Elaine,
    No need to feel bad lah. They will learn better without us at their backs. Hahaha.

    Ann,
    I wonder if such a day will ever come?

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