Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Open House

Open house at Zoe’s and Maya’s school this afternoon – and what an odd experience. It was scheduled to start at 2:15, and the kids were just getting up from their naps. So the first part of open house was just standing around waiting for the kids to get up and for the teachers to re-do the girls’ hair.
Wow, don’t the kids look lively?! Zoe had gotten up a little early, so her hair was already done, but she needed to change from her slippers into her shoes.

After changing shoes, the kids stand in line in the causeway in front of their classroom to wait for their afternoon snack to be set out. Zoe tells me they are supposed to stand quietly, but they didn’t quite manage that today!

While in line, we heard music piped throughout the school, and the kids started to do finger exercises – touching the thumb with each finger, bending and straightening fingers, rotating the wrists, etc. I don’t have pictures, because Zoe was trying to show me how to do the exercises, and soon all the kids were gathered around laughing at me as I mangled the exercises. When I finally got it right, the little girl in the hot pink tshirt said, “Very good,” just like I do to them in English class. Pretty funny!

Then we got to see the kids eat their noodle snack – as you can tell, a real highlight of Zoe’s day.

I left Zoe’s class at that point to go to Maya’s class, and lo! and behold, it was time for snack!

The parents just lined up in the causeway in front of the classroom and watched the kids eat like they were animals in a zoo – very odd. As the kids finished, they came out into the causeway and played. Maya told me she was all finished, but as you can see, her bowl was still practically full.
So I went in the classroom to try to get her to eat more. Of course, she refused to take a bite – until her teacher came over and fed her. Then she cleaned her bowl. The teacher thought that was pretty funny.

We were all basically standing around doing nothing while the kids ate and ran around. So I went back up to Zoe’s classroom, to find it empty. The kids were in the big playroom, watching a video. And all the parents were sitting there watching the kids watch the video. This is an open house?! I took Zoe back down with me to Maya’s classroom, to find actual activity going on!
The teacher was demonstrating how to make a frog hat. Then the kids had a chance to make their own while the parents watched.
Maya was pretty proud of her frog, but it took me a while to convince her it was a frog. At first she told me she was a duck – it seems Chinese frogs don’t say “ribbit,” they say “quack!” So the whole time the teacher is explaining the making of this green thing, the only word Maya understood was “quack!” So of course she thought she was making a duck – explains the yellow crayon she started out with, to be redirected by the teacher to a green one! But once she accepted she was a frog, she had to hop for me.

Then the whole class put on a little show for the parents. Zoe was getting pretty antsy doing nothing but watching, and it was all I could do to keep her from joining in. I finally gave her my camera and told her to take pictures of Maya. She did a great job! See for yourself:

And that was open house! I talked quite a long time with one of the dads from Maya’s class. He says his daughter talks about me all the time – what in the world could she be saying?! He says he’s been trying to teach her English (and his English was quite good) but she won’t cooperate (after the noodle incident, I sympathize!). She tells him the English teacher speaks English, HE is to speak Chinese!
And hey, my Chinese is getting a little better it seems! As we were leaving school, Zoe and Maya were eating (another!) snack, and Zoe shared her crackers with a classmate as she was leaving, too. I understood perfectly when her grandmother said (in Chinese), "Say thank you to your friend's nai-nai (grandmother!)." The little girl answered (in Chinese), "That's not her grandmother, that's Jin YiLing's mama." The grandmother looked at me, a bit embarrassed, and I just gave her a blank look like I had missed the whole exchange. Tee hee! (Yes, I get mistaken for my kids' grandmother as often here as in the States. Sigh.)
I think the kindergarten has been a good experience for the girls. There are certainly things I would have changed if I could. Zoe's class is way too big with 38 kids. There's absolutely no personal attention from the teacher with so many kids. I think, though, that I should have been more pro-active in getting them to actually teach Zoe some Chinese vocabulary rather than just relying on immersion. But it took me way too long to figure out they weren't doing anything. Still, Zoe has picked up quite a bit in her time here. I think if we were here a few more months, she'd be pretty fluent in Chinese.
Maya's class has been very good -- much smaller, with two teacher's aides as well as the teacher. And I really like her teacher. We had some rough weeks in the beginning, with Maya being the potty accident Queen, but things soon settled down and she's had great fun.
I think we've been lucky, too, that the kids have been really accepting. Before we came, I was told that one Fulbrighter family had brought their 4-year-old adopted from China and put her in a Chinese school. Apparently she was teased unmercifully, with the kids thinking there was something wrong with her since she looked just like them but couldn't speak Chinese. They wouldn't play with her at all. The family ended up sending her home to live with her grandparents for the remainder of the term. Pretty scary story to hear when planning to bring Zoe and Maya here. But we had no trouble at all of that sort. Zoe has made some good friends, and Maya seems to be little sister to her whole class.
I've been lucky, too, to find helpful English-speaking parents to facilitate communication. They've also taught me a lot about daily life in China, and how kids are raised, and how families interact. I doubt that Fulbrighters without kids, or even those with kids in international schools, can get that insight into how the Chinese really live.
Though I've said the open house was a little odd, it doesn't change the fact that I'm truly grateful that everyone here has opened their school, homes and their hearts to my daughters and me.

1 comment:

mimifrancoise said...

Was the open house the end of the school year? If so, What will they do for the next 3 weeks?
Love the Chinese frog. It reminded me that the American and French roosters say different things.