Friday, July 03, 2009

Surviving Singapore School Week 1

Picture above was taken on Monday, right after Sean's first day at his Singapore school. Sean left Singapore when he was 2 and has never been to any school or enrichment programme in Singapore. He's been to a German pre-school, a Montessori school in London, a British prep school and in Moscow, an IB international school.

I can't quite believe it but the little fella survived a whole week in school. Because of H1N1, my promise to him to be in school for him the first week couldn't be fulfilled. I was not allowed to hang around in school, in fact, he was whisked away from me the morning of the first day and I didn't see him again till school was over.

Every single day of his first week, he cried in school, for various reasons, mostly when he feels lost and doesn't know what to do. Thankfully, the frequency of his mini-meltdowns dropped from as high as 3-times a day to a low of just once by Friday.

I have to say I've been mighty impressed by how committed the boys' teachers are. On Monday, Sean's teacher contacted me and said she felt so sorry that Sean was crying, and that she had only known he was joining her class that very morning. She also wanted to know Sean's ability level so she could provide the appropriate challenge for him. And even after talking to her, she still wanted to meet me the next day, explaining that it would be good for Sean if I walked him to the classroom myself and stayed for a while so he'll feel better. Very thoughtful, methought. She seems like a very firm teacher who understands little boys well.

The teacher assured me that he'll be much better as he gets to know the routine and the school better. True enough, by mid-week, he had already told the teacher he did not need his buddy to take him to the toilet. By Friday, he went to his day-end meeting place with Brian by himself too. The school is really big and the walk from his class to the meeting place is quite confusing, so I think he's finally got his bearings right.

On Thursday, she called me again, assuring me that things are progressing well and also to provide me some other information. She started the conversation with this, "Your son is very cute...At 1230, he comes to me and says, Can I go home now...? I'm tired." So typical Sean! He seems very comfortable with her, and she says he asks her lots of questions. For now, he's still eager to go to school and is always up by 6am, well before me and Brian drag ourselves out of bed, on a couple of days he woke up even before my mum!

Brian's English teacher too called me on Monday, to introduce herself, to find out more about him and to let me know what she'd be doing this term. She sounded young, enthusiastic and speaks excellent English (it's not a given that Singapore English teachers speak the language well). She later emailed me a bunch of powerpoint slides and documents she had sent earlier in the year to parents.

While Sean has little to no homework, Brian's been doing tonnes of homework daily. We did manage to sneak in a movie outing on Thursday afternoon, but with swimming lessons and Chinese tuition slotted into his busy week as well, it was only after school on Friday that he finally had a breather to play his guitar.

What a world of difference from schooling overseas. We're chugging along fine for now. Fingers' crossed for a better week ahead. At least there are just 4 days, so in my books, that's already 20% better :)


Anonymous said...

Hi Lilian

Such a poignant picture. Although Sean's expression is not visible, I can imagine how he felt. Has he made any friends in class? His teacher sounds really nice!


monlim said...

Sean's the cutest lah, fancy going up to the teacher to ask if he could go home! Very glad to hear he likes school (despite the tears), it must be quite an adjustment for a kid who's never been in the SG education system.

I fully empathise with Brian's workload, L-A's is the same. Everyday, it's at least 3 test papers for homework and that's after doing goodness knows how many in school that day. SLOG man!!

Lilian said...

Thanks LL. Yalah, heart was a bit pain seeing him so tiny and so lost going to big boys' school. I don't know if he's made any friends, but the one time I went to his class, I saw him chatting with a couple of his classmates. His older brother is not as chatty. Both are coping in their own ways I guess.

Yup, his teacher seems very maternal and nurturing, although she tells me she yells at the kids a lot, and for Sean not to get scared if she does that, cos "I'm not yelling at him". :) His classmates seem like a happy bunch after half a year with her.

Lilian said...

Mon: I think L-A's workload is definitely heavier. For Brian, he had extra cos the teachers gave him some that the others had already done. Then again, he is spared from Chinese homework from school, that would have taken him so much more time to do, so it's a big load off. You're right, it's testpapers after testpapers, which is really good practice for him, so now I don't need to print misskoh papers anymore. He just brought home the prelims timetable and it starts on 12 Aug, yikes, so soon!

Alcovelet said...

Gosh. What a milestone for Sean! He sounds like such an independent boy, charming his teachers right away and wanting to find his way around by himself. And it's nice to know the teachers are so warm and caring.

The homework load for Brian must be quite a shock. But on the other hand, it's good that he's getting all this rigour and practice before PSLE. So it's great that you guys don't have to go it alone for the preparation. I'm thinking, monkey see, moneky do, so with the whole standard heaving towards the exams together, there will be this automatic desire for him to work as well.

Well done, Brian and Sean!

Lilian said...

Indeed Adeline, it is a real milestone. Eddie was telling Sean it's actually his (Sean's) first time at a real school, cos the schools he went to in the past all masak-masak play-play one :) I joked that his Moscow school is actually a playground, not a real school! But was really reluctant to see him go to big boys' school, somehow feels like I'll be losing my baby-ish baby, but Monica says it's time I stop babying him :P

Yeah, it's great Brian's having all these practice papers from school. I feel assured that the school is doing lots to prep the kids, so on my part, relax lah, more ME time yayyyy.

Lilian said...

LadyB: Got your comment. Thanks and Hi right back at you :)

elan said...

HI Lillian,
Yes, Brian's English teacher Mdm C is extremely dedicated.She has been teaching them for 1.5 years. She constantly emails the boys and keeps an eye on them even when she is away on long leave for courses and she checks on her relief teacher's work all the time. The class is very lucky to have her.
I'm not usually on the comp much on weekends (hehe!) so will repl to our email later.

Lilian said...

Thanks for the info Elan. I read a couple of her old emails to parents, wow, she's really thorough and obviously put a lot of thought in her writing. Shows how concern and committed she is.

Yeah, I know you're superbusy even on weekdays, your schedule makes me mabuk! Told you you are superwoman what.

tjmummy said...

Hi, I crossed over from Mon's blog. This post strikes a chord with me. Both my sons are returning to Spore this year end too.
They've also never been in the Sg system. Elder son has to reg for P1 this year. So he's a yr younger than your Sean?

I also worry abt him adjusting, and wonder if I should just homeschool them a year to break them in.

Then again, am I just being too worried, and that perhaps he'll get used to it in a couple of weeks too?

Both of them are in an IB intl sch here too. They'd so much fun and my younger one still tells me what he wants to bring to school to show his dearest Ms B (his tr).

I don't have the heart to keep reminding him that after this summer hols, we're never going back to that only school he's ever known, anymore. sigh.

Lilian said...

Hi TJmummy, I can totally empathise with you. I think going back to Singapore school is probably what most overseas parents dread for their kids. The good thing for you is that your kids are still young, so they are likely to be much more adaptable.

If intending to send your kids to school eventually, I wouldn't suggest homeschooling just for a year. At the start of P1, all the kids will face big boys' school together, there's orientation for them, they are all new to one another, so it may be better than what Sean is going through now.

Which country are you in right now?

I believe your kids would have benefited lots from their time overseas during the crucial growing up years. I'm sure they will do fine in Singapore too.

All the best to you and your family!

Anonymous said...

Lilian, your presence helps your children the most!!

Actually children are pretty resilient and that is their strength against adults. I realise from personal experience that the younger they are, the only thing they care about is where the family is more than where the friends are. So I believe Sean will fit in very quickly after a while. Brian may face more adjustment issues but given that he is very focused towards PSLE, that may help him to settle in quickly. No matter what, where parents/parent are/is counts the most at the end of the your kids are in good hands. :)


Lilian said...

Thanks qx. You're right about kids being more resilient that we often think. And what you said about the importance of family is so true. A couple of months ago, Sean suddenly said he loves Moscow. When I asked him if he preferred Moscow or the other countries he's lived in, he chose Moscow. I probed further and asked why? He said cos he loves his Moscow house. Why? What's so nice about your Moscow house? He said, because you're in it. :) I smiled and said you're so silly, I'll be with you whichever place we go to, not just Moscow.

I've also explained to Brian that as he grows older, it'll get harder and harder to move from place to place BUT he has to remember that friends may come and go (good thing there's Facebook and emails these days so they can still remain connected) but the one thing that remains constant in his life is us, his family. It is even more crucial as kids reach adolescence that they continue to look to home as a place of sanctuary, where they are accepted always no matter what, where they are able to voice their fears, insecurities, hopes, dreams and no one will belittle them. This applies not just to third culture kids like mine but to all kids. Hopefully, with this approach, they will turn to us more than to their peers for matters that are important to them.

Minako said...

Lilian, you are such a talented photographer. The shot made me almost cry, as I felt Sean's positive efforts for survival as well as his pain.

Lilian said...

Awww thanks Minako, you are such a sensitive soul.

Puzzled by Puzzles! said...

Lilian, I didn't know u are back in Sin. At least your kids are back in REALITY! mine still living a sheltered life. :P It's good that Brian can get some help from the school and teachers. I am sure he will do well.
I feel for Sean too. It's not easy to "blend" into a new environment altho most pple always say that kids adapt easily. For each move, I worry abt them.

Lilian said...

Sandy, I'm 100% sure your kids will do very well when they eventually return. Will you be back in Sg this summer hols?

Anonymous said...

Lilian, I like the photo!! He is a strong boy, can carry such a big sch bag with one hand. ^_^

Now, got good teacher to guide your son, you can relax already!


Lilian said...

Thanks Chris. The teacher is super committed, today is Youth Day which is a holiday for teachers too right? She called me in the morning! Really on!

bACk in GERMANY said...

A picture paints a thousand words!
Aiyoh, I almost cried too when I saw the pic... poor baby Sean... But he's grown to be brave now... so funny when you said, he told you he almost cried but didn't.

You're very good lah... makes the blurry sheltered path seem so uncertain... Yeah, makes me think about sending my baby to P1 next
year too... Poor P1-ers who have to learn so much and to grow up quickly in a big school... aiyoh... scary thoughts!

Lilian said...

Actually hor, the blurry bit was to blur out the children in the background LOL! Didn't mean to tug at heartstrings.

If there's any child that has superb survival skills, it's Bryan. So trust me, he will not need to worry. He's so steady and such a people person. You only need to worry that he'll be gang leader/mafiaboss/godfather in his new school :P

Lilian said...

Oh, today he didn't cry and also didn't 'almost cry'...yayyy...

elan said...

Lillian : tried to blur out the other children in the background? Then I have to reluctantly tell you that Chris immediately recognised his classmate in at the bustop (the one with the red back pack :-) It is a really well-taken and poignant photo.
Good to hear that Sean is settling in. Does he go and find his korkor during recess?

Lilian said...

Christopher is super sharp! Paisay (x2) LOL!

Nope, Sean doesn't look for his korkor during recess. I don't know if they have it at the same time.

Super busy this week, reply your email in a few days. Definitely wanna try your home-made ice-cream one day, yummm :)

breve1970 said...

Yes, I almost wanted to cry too when I saw Sean Sean carrying his heavy schoolbag in the photo. But he is a brave boy and he will adjust very well in no time!

Its Hayley's turn next year and the thought of her in the school pinafore and her mega heavy school bag also make my heart weary.

I remembered I was quite choked with emotions when I saw Hannah with her P2 buddy at recess in the school's canteen last year. How time flies and she's in P2 this year! Sigh.

Lilian said...

It's that big schoolbag propped against the tiny frame that really makes us mummies feel so much for our kiddos.

Hayley will have her jiejie in the same school right? At least the school will be familiar to her. Our kids are growing up FAST :(

breve1970 said...

Yes and no... me going to be a mad woman next year.

Han will be in the morning while Hay goes to school in the afternoon. Think I had better live in the car. LOL!

petite fleur said...

Are you back in Singapore ?? I really have been so out of touch. Sorry.

LOL at the blurry picture not tugging at heartstrings.

I've love to meet up now that you're back too.

Lilian said...

Back in Sg for at least the summer, possibly till mid Oct. Yes, we'll arrange to meet maybe in August with the rest of the ladies. Really want to see The Girl, everyone was gushing about how gorgeous she is :)

tjmummy said...

Sorry to check back so late.
We're in China right now. Before this, USA.
Really hope my boy will have a teacher like Sean's. Just afraid my son'll find school too stressful, or boring (I think Sg timetable very little time for play or recess) or he may just lose his love for learning when he is not allowed to speak up or ask too many Qs. :-)

Right now, cos the IB syst has UOIs and each unit, the kids can choose how they want to approach it and what mode of assessment they want (oral, report, model etc)- similar to yours?- my son loves learning and going in depth into each unit. Each kid learns at his own pace.

And if my son finds something interesting at home, he is allowed to share it in school. Whatever and anything. The teachers always let the kids have a lot of presentation time.

Then if he finishes his class work early, he is allowed to go to the library to do his own reading, or do some other stuff.
So he is never bored.

Just wondering whether P1 is also pretty flexible? My sis used to teach P1 in Sg, she says my son is in for a big shock, so I'm worried, lor.

Lilian said...

Hey TJMummy.

I really like the IB UOI method too, and you're right, each child really moves at his own pace. How much you get out of each unit is dependent on how deep you want to delve into it.

Sean's only been at school for a couple of weeks so I wouldn't know if the entire year will be the same but for sure, it's nothing like what you described at your boy's school :( He doesn't tell me that much about school anyway but I don't think it's as flexible as he is used to overseas. A lot of emphasis is given to covering the syllabus.

I would suggest that you don't vocalise your worries to your boy. You wouldn't want him to have a negative impression of Singapore schooling life before he even starts.

I explained to Sean it is just a different experience, he'll learn more concrete academic stuff, he'll learn how to remain focussed even if things get a little boring and that builds tenacity. Every system has its pluses and minuses, some more minuses than pluses, but if there isn't a choice, ie, we have to be in that system, then we should make the best of wherever we are. He knows there isn't a choice, bored or otherwise, he's going to school. So far, fingers' crossed, he has not resisted going to school.

Remember, many of the fears we have when thinking of returning to Singapore never come true. Well, that's what my friends who've returned say :) So stay positive, all the best again and keep us updated.

tjmummy said...

Thanks Lilian, that was encouraging.

Yup, I haven't spoken about these concerns in front of my boys. Certainly don't want them hating school even before they go back.

Yes, good idea. They cannot have a choice! They need to go to school whether or not they like to, so we'll all try to look at the positive side.

I'll update when the time comes!