Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sports Day

Recently LBean's school had its "Sports Day" for the younger students.  All of the children were divided into their houses (read about "houses" here), which means classes were divided and each team had Year 1 (kindergarten) and Year 2 (first grade) students mixed together.  LBean is in the Anand House and purple is the house color.

Ready for Sports Day (and I love that
daddy is in the background with coffee in hand)

EBean and I also wore purple to
Sports Day to show our support.

EBean loves to visit her sister's school, so it was great that siblings and parents were invited to cheer on the kids.

LBean waiting for her turn.

Each house team rotated through several challenges on the field.  Teachers and assistants kept score and  a trophy was awarded to the house with the most points.  Anand House was in the lead for much of the day, but ended up with second place after the relay races.  As a newbie parent, no one let me in on the secret that parents and their children run the last race.  LBean chose not to run, but one of her classmates and his mom (and they live in our apartment building) took first place.

LBean with another Anand House student, he is also
in one of her after-school clubs.

LBean was so hungry after Sports Day that she ate school lunch and then went to McDonald's for a congratulatory meal.  All of us took a nap in the afternoon in the air conditioning!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Private International Schools: Harry Potter and other Differences

LBean is entering her third term of school and it’s been interesting observing the differences in her school and an American school.  (**My disclaimer is that I am comparing the elementary school of my childhood memories.  I’m sure that American elementary schools are also a bit different now too.)  I really assumed that a British school and an American school would be alike, but there are differences.  From what I’ve been told, the differences really have more to do with the fact that it is an international school and that the school is different than a traditional British school, too.

Here are some differences that I have noticed:

Summer Uniform
  1. Uniforms-This is an obvious difference and I really like not having to fight LBean every morning about what she’s going to wear.
  2. Buses-Even the buses are different here.  Each school uses a bus that looks like a charter bus (and so do businesses to get their employees to work).  LBean was very glad to find out that they all had seat-belts and I was glad to know that there were bus monitors on each bus.  The teachers also ride the charter buses, although before and after the students do, to get from their apartment compounds to school and back. 
  3. The school year is longer.  I don’t know that they actually attend school more days than students in the US, but the school year stretches out longer.  School began at the end of August and the school year wraps up at then end of June.  LBean’s school year is divided into three terms.  The longer school breaks allow students to travel back to their home countries and for travel to other countries. 
  4. We found out very quickly that all students at her school learn to read in preschool.  This is very different than the preschools we were familiar with in the States.  I think it is funny that both systems generate highly intelligent students, but both go about reading in very different ways.
  5. Because it is a private school, there are extra staff that are not typically available in a public school in the US.  Each classroom has at least one full-time classroom assistant, usually a Chinese assistant who also speaks English.  There are also extra staff to help hang up decorations and students’ artwork in the hallways (hello, no more late, late nights decorating bulletin boards!), taking photos at events, etc.
  6. No special education staff per se.  There are teachers who help the students who are learning English...I was going to type ESL (English as a Second Language), but for many of the students, English is actually one of three languages they speak (Mandarin, their home country’s language and English).  There is a reading & writing teacher that provides additional support to the students, but there are no speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, or physical therapists to provide that very specific instruction.
  7. The school is very open to parents being in the building.  There is a small parent lounge in the school’s common area where parents (and siblings) can come to play, drink coffee, use the Wi-Fi, and get a feel for their child’s school and classroom without intruding in the class.  I really, really like this idea. There is also a play group one morning a week where parents can bring their toddlers to run around and the mothers get a chance to talk and see their older children at school.  Parents are encouraged to volunteer in the classroom, which is no different in the States.  But it was so funny when I agreed to help with the reading groups, the moms for whom English was a second language, were very reluctant to volunteer to help (their reasoning was they felt like their English was not very good-which is not true-and so how could they help the students say it correctly).  They laughed and said that I could take care of the English & reading groups and they would help plan the parties...done deal!  
  8. The school introduces public speaking and performing from the beginning.  It is such a brilliant idea and the school does a fantastic job of giving the students many opportunities to be in front of an audience, but not just for the “big” productions like a Christmas concert.  Each Monday, LBean’s school has an all-school assembly for the younger students.  The children sit on the floor in the common area and often-times a class will stand up right where they are and perform a song from music class.  This gives them a chance to perform, but not on stage and in a very low-key manner.  On Fridays there is a joint assembly with the elementary students and the middle school students.  Each week a different class is selected to perform (LBean’s class presented on toys, their topic for first term) in front of all the students.  The middle school students take turn announcing house points (more on that in a second).  After-school clubs like LBean’s ballet class, also perform at the Friday assemblies.  It’s just a great way to routinely get the students in front of others without the pressure of this “is the big production of the year.”  It also spreads out the number of parents at school at any given time.

Here LBean (in the blue) is singing a song for Chinese New Year.  
She loved singing the song because at one part it says
"shake your butt" and since we don't say 'butt' in our house, 
the scandalousness was very exciting for her.

A song from LBean's class presentation on "toys".

9.  It’s all very Harry Potter!  Because it is a British school, they have striped scarves that match their uniforms, the school is divided into “houses” (LBean is in Anand house) with house colors, and the students earn points based on behavior and performance.  Harry Potter makes even more sense now!
10.  LBean now takes the “rubbish” to the “rubbish bin,” erases her pencil marks with a “rubber” (yeah, that one makes me pause too), and gets “cross” with me sometimes.  Some times we must do things "straight away".

The glassed off portion is the parents' lounge.

The covered playground.
LBean's Bus

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What's That? Wednesday: TCK

Do you know what a TCK is? (We didn’t until we got ready to move to China.)
Let me give you some clues...
Jamie and I are not TCKs (and we will never be TCKs), but our children are.
The children of our expat friends here are also TCKs.
I have at least one friend from the US, who was a TCK.
Once a TCK, always a TCK.
TCK = Third Culture Kid
Third Culture Kid is a whole new idea for us.  TCK is a term that is credited to an American sociologist, Ruth Hill Useem, “to refer to the children who accompany their parents into another society”.  
I just put a put the book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, Revised Edition by the author David C. Pollock on my Amazon Wishlist.  He describes TCK as “A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of  their developmental years outside the parents’ culture.  The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any.  Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.”
In other words, my children are not having an American childhood at the moment.  They are not doing the same things that their American peers are doing.  School is different, food preferences, vacations and even modes of transportation are different.  But, my children are not having a Chinese childhood either.  Although we are in China, they are not being raised by Chinese parents.  So, that puts them in an unusual category and they most relate to those children that are also  Third Culture Kids.  
During our cultural training last year, we were told that our children would probably adjust well to the move to China, but that the transition back to the United States would be more difficult (also called repatriation).  Yikes!   I don’t have to start worrying about it now, but it certainly is a topic that I am very interested in.
It’s also interesting how this phenomenon of TCKs is influencing things that might seem completely unrelated, such as Girl Scouts.  This spring I started a Girl Scout troop for LBean and some of her friends.  Because we are a troop not stationed in the US, we belong to the USA Girl Scouts Overseas.  During a live webinar that I participated in last month, I found out that USA Girl Scouts Overseas was actually started as a way to serve military families (and it still does), but now the expatriate families out-number the military families.  In the webinar there were expat troop leaders from Japan, Shanghai, the Middle East, Europe and other locations.  Just another example of how the world is becoming much smaller!

 My rockin' Third Culture Kiddos:

EBean on the playground before school.

LBean running though the water hose during a picnic
with our Italian friends.

Still having fun in the water!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What's That? Wednesday: The Chinese "Chop"

If you spend any time in China you start to notice the Chinese "chop" on important papers and documents and on other less-than-important things like your receipts from the grocery store.  A Chinese "chop" is a red seal denoting that the document is official.  You can even use the word as a verb and say you need to get something "chopped".

Here is the official Wikipedia answer on "chops":

seal, in an East Asian context, is a general name for printing stamps and impressions therefore are used in lieu of signatures in personal documents, office paperwork, contracts, art, or any item requiring acknowledgment or authorship. ChinaJapanTaiwanKorea, andVietnam currently use a mixture of seals and hand signatures, and increasingly, electronic signatures.[1]
Chinese seals are typically made of stone, sometimes of metalswood, bamboo, plastic, or ivory, and are typically used with red ink.  The colloquial name chop, when referring to these kinds of seals, was adapted from the Hindi word chapa and from the Malay word cap meaning stamp or rubber stamps.

I think that is really interesting that the seals are printed with red, similarly to red wax seals used in the West.  So many things are vastly different in the East and the West, yet on this they are the same.  I remember watching "Where in the World is Matt Lauer?" on the Today Show in high school when he visited the Vatican.  He said that one of the explanations for the origin of "red tape" (i.e. "She had to get through a lot of red tape to get her passport") was because of all of the red wax seals that would be affixed to red ribbon at the bottom of official documents.  So, apparently it doesn't matter where you are in the world, East or West, everyone has "red tape" to work through!