Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chinese Education in Action

Last week the twins’ school had an open house, which of course we found out about a few days before and had to rearrange our work schedules. We took turns in each class, with me sitting in on Ethan’s during the math lesson.

Sitting there watching him squirm in his seat as others sat erect with their arms folded as instructed, I wondered if he was really ready for real school. It didn’t surprise me that he wouldn’t raise his hand to answer questions (or rather did only a couple times and very half-heartedly) - as in any school there are those who always raise their hands and those who don’t and his Chinese is still behind. Still, the teacher tried to call on everyone fairly (at least when parents were watching) and when Ethan didn’t raise his hand, she called him up to answer a question. He stood there still squirmy but listening and he answered the question correctly and loudly enough to meet her standards.

I decided he will do fine for now. During the usual lecture to parents part of the morning, the teachers listed the names of those who were doing well (not sure how that would go over in a US classroom) and both of their names made the list (although I may have misunderstood and those are the kids doing well in English!). I’ve heard that they sometimes use them as examples for other students who don’t get their homework done, as in “look, they have two and they’re still learning Chinese and they still do their homework”. We don't worry about grades at this point, just that they are learning - a 62 in Chinese, a 94 in English is normal (though I wonder how Ethan can miss the difference between a rabbit and tiger in English!) .

I only got to see Isaac in action during art class. The teacher put up all these nice pictures of cakes and things made of playdough and went through all the instructions for making the different shapes. So most of the kids made these small round shapes and little balls and some made some very intricate patterns and designs. Isaac, well, he made a big lump of what most people thought was an airplane but was in fact supposed to be a lizard. I was kind of cringing waiting for him to be told that wasn’t what he was supposed to be doing, but other parents appeared to be impressed, even taking pictures. And when five students were called up to get recognition, he was one of them. I was glad to see thinking outside the box rewarded. And I was also glad he knew how to say lizard in Chinese, because I wouldn’t have been able to help there!