Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Our Way Home 回家的路 - First Week of School

You may want to start from the beginning...

My "fearest" moment had finally arrived.... the first day at local Chinese school! Of so many new schools my girl had gone to, this was the most "stressful" first day at school for both her and me! I could recall when she was in kindergarten, she cried and cried refused to let me go on the first three days of school. She was fine on the forth day onwards. When she was in Singapore International School, I was there for the first 2 days. When she moved to UNIS Hanoi and British International School, I was irrelevant after the first day of school.

But for this Chinese school she is attending now, it took her 1 week to settle in! Now that I recalled, it was a blessing we made our way through. I am truly proud of my girl for willing to and being brave in accepting the new challenge. Whenever I talked to friends about putting her back to local school, all of them looked at me with their eyes opened as if I had done something I should not have done. Some of them were surprised she could adapt in the first place.  

First thing in the morning when we arrived, we were asked to see the deputy principal to get the class allocation. We waited outside the deputy principle office. There were quite a long queue waiting for the allocation surprisingly. Soon, it was time for us to see the deputy principal. The first question the deputy principal asked was: "Is she able to read Mandarin?". My girl said yes. Then the second question she asked was: "Is she able to understand Malay?". I said yes.
She shrugged as if she wasn't sure if we knew what we were talking about or whether we knew what was going to come. To be very frank, I was as worried and uncertain as her but we have to sound confident, look confident right?

After meeting the deputy principal, we were given some forms to fill up. We made our way to the canteen and started filling up the forms. It was a Monday and there was assembly going on. We saw rows and rows of children queuing and listening obediently to the principal. Thereafter, everybody stood and sang one song after another. If I was not wrong, at least 3 songs they sand. Unfortunately, the only one I could recognize was Negaraku :( ... While I was busy filling up the forms, I soon realized that everybody in school had stopped whatever in hands and stood up straight. We were the only few who did not do it. Sigh... After few years staying outside of Malaysia, we sort of forgot how to respect our own country! I felt rather embarrassed myself. On this note, I told myself that of all the challenges ahead of us and nostalgia we had over the luxurious life style when we were staying overseas, this justify our return and in fact this is our home our tanahair, we must come back.

After 10 minutes or so, all the children started marching back into the classrooms like troops.

I soon realized my girl was in panicky condition. It was indeed a total disastrous cultural shock for her. She started to cry wanting to go home. Refused to even look up when I called her. My heart sank miles down to the bottom of the dead blue sea. I felt like pulling her hands and said: "Lets go, we are not staying here!" But, I knew I needed to be strong, my role being there was to help and support her. I could not lose my footing...

The only thing I could do was to comfort her and encourage her to pull herself together. 

After all the kids and teachers had gone into their classrooms respectively, we made our way to the designated class my girl was allocated to. When we arrived at the classroom, there wasn't any empty seats available. She was even more panicky!

We introduced ourselves to the homeroom teacher and I managed to explain to her my daughter's current state ie. cultural shock wanting to go home stage haha!!

The teacher was kind enough to give me her mobile number so I could contact her in case my girl faced any difficulties or I had any questions. I must say that my girl would not have made her way through if not because of this dedicated teacher. It is very rare to find dedicated teachers like her nowadays.

Immediately she assigned some kids in the class to go table hunting and after about 10 minutes, they came back with many sets of tables and chairs. I was delighted to see the kids are just so helpful. As soon as the teacher assigned them the task, they decided among themselves to split the team and start the hunt. Soon, each team came back with a set of table and chair. It was fun seeing such scenario which we do not get to experience in international school because everything is so organized in international schools and children do not need to worry about anything, not even stationaries as they are all readily available within their reach.

Also unlike international school where buddies would be assigned to new comers, ie. a way of helping new comers to make friends so to speak, in local school, you are on your own. My girl had a bit of a struggle initially. My husband and I had to visit her every day during break time just to make sure she managed to find some buddies. In the second week, the situation improved. Every other day I heard new names. She started making friends which was great. Once they have friends in class, everything would be fine.

It is entering 6 months now since the first day of school and she had been through 2 exams already. Things are getting tough but I always remind her to look at things positively, at times put ourselves in other people's shoes. Like some teachers like to scare the kids with cane. I told her to look at the number of kids in the class and looked at some very naughty kids in class, sometimes the teachers just could not help it.

Three months ago, a new teacher came on board and he happened to come from the elite school nearby. As expected, he was strict to the kids and very demanding. She always complaint to me about how boring, how strict, how serious the teacher was... Two weeks ago when she received her test papers, she got 93 points as compared to 80 points before. She progressed. Because of this "demanding" teacher, she managed to get over with 6,7 and 8 time tables. She had been struggling with this for months in international school and could not get over with it! And now she made it through.

These are just ups and downs they will experience in school. I guess instead of pushing her to score higher points, penalizing her for making silly mistakes in exams. The least and the best I could do for her is to encourage her, support her and to nurture her with the right mindset. Somehow, the kid will survive one way or the other.

Today, I look at her. She seem to be more matured now. Many things she does on her own now. She tidies her own school bag and gets her school shoes ready for the next day on her own. She cut her nails on her own. She even started to do revision at night on her own. Unlike before, nothing worried her. She didn't need to bother what she brought to school because there were no text books to bring for a start! There were no homework to do. As soon as they leave their classroom, they leave everything behind. Clear mind ready to play! And, absolutely no issue if she forgets to bring anything to school. Most of the time, she could not even recall what was being taught in school as soon as she reached home. All she could remember was what she played in school and who she played with. Not that she did not learn anything, just different approach, stress-free and more of learning at own pace. Perhaps the learning was so fun that it was hard to recollect exactly what was learned. 

On the other hand, the shortcomings of the local system is of course the teaching method is rather "square" I must admit. Truly speaking, lesser homework would really help nurture a happy and more healthy growing kids, physically and mentally. I wish the government's intention to enrich the education system with livelier content and more activities orientated could materialize soon. This would really help to improve the local education system.

But as of now if you ask me now, I would say I have no regrets sending her back to Chinese school! Thanks to 侯彩风老师 (my girl's homeroom teacher) and Bravo to my girl too!!


  1. Hi Pooi Nie,

    It seem like we are in the same boat :-)

    Nice knowing that your girl already settled down at the school..

    Here in Doha during the off day, i always ask my boy and girl practicing the M'sian workbooks..

    My boy now is in Year 4 in Doha, instead of year 3 in M'sia.When i taught and helped him with the assignment, i also need to read the UK history...huhu...never mind at least i got some info... ;-)

    Here there are a lot of public speaking and task given by the teacher..Here they are not totally based on 100% exam..

    But whatever it is,....each country have it's own style and unique how they approached the students in school.

    i think each system have pro and cons..right..

  2. hi Cayang (is this how i should address u?),

    yeah... yeah... each system has its pro and cons. How I wish there is something moderate ha!

    in international school, it is really not easy to "quantify" what they have learned because there is no text books, no exams and during parent-teacher meeting, teacher tends to say great things about our kids :).. at times, we hardly know what they are not good.

    But on the other hand, i do find that through their speech and ideas, somehow the knowledge input from school will naturally flow out from their mind. Quite amazed!

    Well, is just one of those things.

    Your kids enjoy staying in Doha?

  3. There is something wrong with my setting...huhuhu

    yeah..they liked here very much.but i am so concerned...

    Pooi Nie..where are u now..in Singapore or m'sia..?

    sorry a bit confused ;-)

  4. No problem Aida :)

    i am back in Malaysia now. We were in Ho Chi Minh City for 1yr+ then Hanoi for 1yr then Ho Chi Minh City again for another 1 year.

    I think we have moved enough in that 4 years ha!

    What is your concern? about ur kids' education or because they like Doha so much?