El’s new school

It has been nearly a term at El’s new school. 9 weeks had flown past very quickly, and he has settled nicely into his school. He seems to like this school a lot, because he has more friends. I do not get to pick him up from school, so I do not have a chance to speak to his teachers. They do not bring any assignments home, so I have no idea what they are doing in school.

Recently, they held a meeting for the parents. We went there and I am mixed about the school. They are still working on very basic topics, such as family, learning phonics and still learning numbers 1-10. I wonder whether El would be very bored, since he is way beyond that. As for the Mandarin lesson, think the curriculum is not too bad.

Unfortunately, something which I am very particular about is their main weakness. Both the teachers were not strong in their languages. The English teacher had grammar errors in her speech. Her pronunciation was good, but I was very distracted by errors such as “One of the game” and “Although…but…”. The Mandarin teacher had pronunciation problems. She mixed up ‘s’ and ‘sh’ and other type of ‘qiao she’ sounds, and ‘n’ and ‘ng’ sounds. The last time I discovered a Mandarin teacher had such errors, I withdrew my son from the enrichment centre.

While they are kindergarten teachers and I do not expect them to be university graduates, the least I expect is to have a good grasp of the languages they teach in. El’s previous teachers made grammar errors in their writing, but their spoken language was good.

Despite having a large vocabulary, El still makes mistakes in subject-verb agreement. If his teacher makes such mistakes frequently, he will not be able to improve them. His Mandarin is totally weak, and he speaks in a singing tone. I wonder whether I need to send him for Chinese classes.

I was a little perturbed when the teacher told me how worried she was about the children cutting off part of the artwork, and she would trim to make their work better. Could we accept what the children produce, or do we push them to do better, or even improve their work on our own? She also mentioned something about how busy she was, and she might not have the time to put the labels on their work. While I appreciate her honesty, I could not help but wonder whether she could have done more.

They gave feedback that El was easily distracted in class. I wonder whether it is because he is bored in class. During the Mandarin class, which was right after break, he would continue eating, or hide at the library corner. He was not interested in Mandarin lessons.

The teacher also mentioned that he would write in a very untidy manner, and he did not colour pictures properly. I told her that at his drawing class, he would colour very well, and fill the entire printed drawing with crayon colouring. He also enjoyed the classes very much. She was surprised and did not seem to believe me. Then when my husband mentioned that he did not like to practise piano, she immediately jumped to the conclusion that he had a lot of activities. Heck, these activities take no more than 2 hours in a week.

The teachers mentioned that he was quite assertive, and would demand in a loud voice what he wanted. He also was quite stubborn. While I acknowledge that he could be a handful, she seemed to suggest that the family environment was the main cause of the problems. I agree with that, as his grandparents are spoiling him. However, after being a parent for some time, and observing various teachers teach my children, I have come to a conclusion that teachers play an important role.
In the past, I used to think that children misbehave in class due to their own upbringing or own issues, but now, I know that the teacher plays a large role. It is really hard to be a great teacher. I constantly do self-reflection to improve my teaching and my classroom management. There are a lot of things I still have to improve on, but with experience, it gets a little easier each time. Hence, by simply suggesting that El was exhibiting a lot of problems in class was largely due to the family, I beg to differ. If his art teachers could get him to colour and draw properly, why couldn’t his school teachers do that?

Was it due to class size?

His former class was very small. With less than 8 children, and 2 teachers, they had lots of attention. With 1 teacher and 20 students, they do not get much attention. I am concerned that if he continues to stay in his previous school, with dwindling class size, he will get a rude shock when he goes to primary school.

Do they belong to the old school of teaching?

Towards the end, after telling them about the other issues El faces, the Mandarin teacher actually asked me whether they could pray for him. I was taken aback. We do not share the same religious affiliations. I am not opposed to her praying, but what was I supposed to say? Thanks but no thanks? I told her she could go ahead, but if that was her way of solving the problems, then I think that is not enough. I need real concrete suggestions on what I could do for my son.

With my previous post on how teachers could talk to parents, I went to tell my colleague that when we meet the parents of the students in our class, we must really provide a balanced view of their children. They need to know that despite not doing well in certain subjects, there were a lot more to them as teenagers, as CCA members or leaders, as friends, as students.

I know the teachers mean well for my son. They are very caring still. I was probably over reacting about their language skills (though as a language teacher, I know how hard it is to change the mistakes that have been accumulated from young). My son enjoys going to school. My parents-in-law are happy. My husband is happy.

But I am not. Is there anything I could really do?

Nobody could fully understand the pressure I face from my parents-in-law, or the pressure my husband face, about which school to send El to. I also wonder why I am not a stronger person to insist on what my child requires. I feel alone at times, when I feel that I am struggling against so many voices, and it is just easier to give in. His previous school was very expensive, even more expensive than a university education. I do agree with them that the money could be been better spent or saved.

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