JD had an Open Morning at his school yesterday which Ava and were able to attend. It was very well run with the students sharing breakfast, dancing, painting, doing PE, having story-time and eating lunch. And we saw first hand what the teachers have been telling us - that JD is smart enough, but not always willing to follow teachers' instructions or participate properly in class activities. Thus, he just stood still during a fan dance, made a green ball of gunk instead of a multi-coloured tissue and was shadowed by a classroom assistant during the PE activities! Not great but, the teachers insist, not a big cause for concern. We forget sometimes that he is 6 months younger than the rest of the class, and coping very well in two languages. Still, I gave him a little talk afterwards about his behaviour.
I gave a short lesson to JD's Kindergarten class this morning. There were 24 kids and we learned the names of six animals before playing some flashcard games and singing "Old MacDonald". It was quite tricky as they had no English at all, so it was all about body language and a little simple Chinese. JD was a bit bemused [see photo] to see Daddy out front and he burst into tears as the lesson ended. When I asked him later how he'd felt, he said "Dizzy"!
JD's Kindergarten organised an outing to a park last weekend, The organised activities started with a team race of Daddies running with their children perched on their feet. Our team won and JD got his first balloon of the day. The second activity was even more inventive. Each team stood next to a large piece of card and their shadows were drawn around. Then the shapes were coloured in to make a unique record of the team. Unfortunately, the sun went behind a cloud when our team were trying to make our shadows so Jiajia and I got to work inventing imaginary shadows which the kids then enjoyed painting [see below]. As Jiajia, JD and I left for lunch in a restaurant with the family of JD's best friend - a cute little girl named QiQi - it just started to rain, so we had certainly got the best of the weather.
JD's school doesn't believe in giving much notice about anything. A text to Ava last night informed us that a parent had to be at the school for a couple of hours this morning and then take their child home for the rest of the day. I think the idea was to show some of the things the kids get up to during a typical day. It included an educational cartoon [see above], singing, toilet trips and a cup of tea!
There was also a simple cooking activity, which involved the children rolling small dough balls [see left] which were then boiled and eaten in a sweet milk sauce (called "tangyuan"), It was interesting to see how JD interacted with the other students (all of whom are older than him) - not always in a very caring, sharing manner!
In the afternoon, had to attend a short meeting at the University where I work, but it was an informal one and they were happy for JD to be there. Afterwards, he and I went to the Uni's swimming pool. I get a hefty discount as a teacher. It is Olympic-sized, clean and was not at all busy, though a bit chilly. JD was shivering after 20 minutes. We then went to the Teacher's Canteen which served us up some fried rice [see above]. JD fell asleep in the car on the way back. Busy boy.
I've given out my fair share of homework over the past decade or two, but I'm going to have to start getting used to receiving it. Despite being only 2½ years old, JD's kindergarten are already piling on the homwork tasks each week and they are way beyond his ability and far outside of his areas of interest. But this is China. The first week was a "junk model" (we sneakily reused a life-sized dragon head I'd made for a previous Halloween), and the next week was a 5-page A4 booklet showing how you care for the environment (it took me two hours - see photo above - JD stuck a few pictures in and cut paper randomly for a while). This week's is a crochet project (see below - JD tossed the ball of wool around). I don't know whether we can keep this up for much longer!
This is the last week of JD's Kindergarten classes (though we may pay to stay an extra couple of weeks to take us up to the Summer break). He's slowly learning to concentrate, work with other children, sing, dance and copy actions. Well in theory, anyway. On a good day he's a star. On a bad day he just doesn't want to be there and it's a struggle to keep him focused. But with the likelihood of full-time Kindergarten classes from September, it's been important to maintain some sort of school routine.
We've started taking JD to a small hour-long class, twice a week. It's been set up especially for very young children of "western" families. Teacher Zhou [in blue] speaks some English, and is very patient with the toddlers as she leads them in singing, dancing, drawing and simple Chinese character recognition. So far, JD and the other attendees have been fairly distracted, but we hope with time they'll have a good chance to mix with other kids in a semi-formal setting, and get used to a regular "trip to school". The Kindergarten school itself is really nice - astroturf playground, swings and slides, very friendly teachers and lovely displays of children's work on all the walls. Unfortunately, it's quite a trek across the city to get there. But we've signed up for three months to see how it goes.
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