Trouble at School

The children have been going to their Chinese kindergarten for 2 months now. They don’t cry about it anymore, though they’re not usually excited to go. The teachers, in spite of thinking my kids are uncivilized hooligans, seem to love them and are excessively kind to them. The male teacher, on Piper’s birthday when we were all at home because the kids had a stomach bug, came by the house and brought her a new pink backpack filled with school supplies for her birthday, and also brought us 60 Snickers bars for Christmas. He also helped us fix our washing machine when he heard that it was broken. They’re really so kind. Unfortunately, a few things have come to our attention that really bother us, and we’re not sure what to do about them.

The teachers gave me some pictures they took of the children at school. I do know they do some activities that are not TV-related, and maybe it's because of the holidays or something that there's so much more TV watching?

The teachers gave me some pictures they took of the children at school. I do know they do some activities that are not TV-related, and maybe it’s because of the holidays or something that there’s so much more TV watching?

The biggest problem is that we’ve found out that the teachers, well, usually just the guy teacher, will take one of our kids (all of them, apparently, have been at one point or another) away from the school to go shopping with them. Piper’s been to Dahutong (a few blocks away, the massive shopping place) and Toby’s been to Wumart. Piper’s also been a few times to the local market to get food with him. I don’t know about Teddy. I only know about this because we’ll go somewhere and someone will say, “I came here with my teacher! We saw such-and-such.” It makes me uncomfortable, and it’s obviously something that would never happen in America. And even if that wasn’t the reason, Piper said they get to go when they’re bored, and that defeats the whole purpose of being at the school (being around the other kids, surrounded by Chinese, learning the language).

Toby's face here is so unlike his usual face. It's almost cartoon cute.

Toby’s face here is so unlike his usual face. It’s almost cartoon cute.

Also, the teachers seem to be using Google Translate to talk to the kids, and while, at least in the beginning, they’d give me a list of 3 words the kids had learned for the day when I picked them up, that stopped early on, and it doesn’t seem like they require the kids to speak any Chinese to get what they want. Really, the ONLY reason we are sending them here is so that they can speak the language. I appreciate so much everything the teachers have done to help the kids adjust, especially since they’ve never had foreign kids before, and I know they aren’t experts on language learning, but I wish they’d at least make my kids as for basic necessities in Chinese.

Crazy white kids.

Crazy white kids.

Another more general problem is how they treat my kids. They treat them completely differently from the other kids. If my kids don’t like the food that’s served, they’re given a little cake or some bread and egg or something. If they cry they’re given candy or if they don’t want to participate they can do whatever else they want to do. I see the way my children act there and I’m not proud. I know from experience that getting everything they want and getting positive reinforcement for bad behavior turns my kids into nightmare. The biggest problem to me is the unspoken message they’re getting from the teachers is that they’re special and different from the other kids. And also I’m afraid they’ll never show respect to their teachers at this rate. I have considered explaining to the teachers that I really want my kids to respect them, and to that end, I want them to fill out a little chart I’ll make every day for each kid, letting me know if they participated, spoke respectfully, sat at the table at mealtimes and got along with each other, and if they fail in any of those areas, they don’t get to watch their reward-show after school.  I’m just not even quite sure they know which boy is which. But this may be irrelevant anyway, in light of the first problem, and the last one…

I think this was when they learned about magic and got to watch a teacher-made magic show. I also know they've watched their guy teacher get moxibustion twice.

I think this was when they learned about magic and got to watch a teacher-made magic show. I also know they’ve watched their guy teacher get moxibustion twice.

I think they watch TV a lot. They are watching TV every day when I pick them up, and many mornings when I drop them off, and sometimes it sounds like they watch TV the whole time they are there (which is only 3 hours). I know that after the last time I taught there, I left at 10 and they watched a movie until lunch time. It drives me crazy! It’s terrible for them, and not only are they not learning anything, but they’re not interacting with their peers, and half the time the movies are in English. And I don’t know about you, but when my kids get too much screen time, it really comes out in their behavior and attitudes. It bothers me so much. I can’t even express how much. And this reason alone is enough for  me to want to take them out of school. I know that no matter what I say, they would probably continue to show lots of movies, and it’s not my business to come in and change their system of “education.”



Teddy is by far the best eater and Chinese learner in the family (definitely NOT the best eater at home).

Teddy is by far the best eater and Chinese learner in the family (definitely NOT the best eater at home).

Piper actually eating the food!

Piper actually eating the food!



I am not sure what the solution to our problems is. We love this neighborhood, and we do like and appreciate the teachers, and even if the kids aren’t in school there, we will see those people every day, so we have to do whatever we do tactfully so that we can preserve everyone’s feelings. I don’t think there’s any point in talking about the TV-watching, though it irks me through and through, but perhaps we can tactfully raise the points about wanting to work together to have the kids behave better while they ARE there, and reduce the time that they’re there to 2 days, so they can still maybe have those relationships, but they aren’t vegging out every morning, 5 days a week. We still have to somehow ask them not to take the kids away from the school, but I’m not sure how to do it, because I don’t think Chinese people have concerns like this, and I think it would be so easy to offend them. Any advice would be very welcome. The problems boil down to these: too much TV, teachers taking the kids off the premises alone, Chinese is not encouraged, and the kids are treated like royalty (with the resultant behavior problems). Why can’t this be easier?



One comment

  1. I think all you need to say is that you don’t feel comfortable with the child being away from the security of the school grounds and leave it at that, then tell them that they can’t leave the school unless it’s with you. From what samantha’s telling me after asking her why they would think it’s ok to take the kids off of school grounds with out prior permission she said that she’s Chinese and even she doesn’t really understand why they operate the way they do (small kindergartens like the ones in our community) IMHO it sounds like this school is a glorified babysitting service, which unfortunately is the truth for a lot of the smaller kindergartens out there. Perhaps you can find another school in the area and make it clear from the beginning that you don’t want special treatment for the kids and that Chinese is the only language to be spoken? At this point it sounds like they would be picking up much more of the language by simply doing lessons with you or a single qualified teacher that came to your house to tutor them in the mornings.

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