JD's Primary School celebrated their 80th Anniversary last week with various games, exhibitions and ceremonies. At first, JD was convinced the school was 8 years old until we showed him the black and white photos of the school's first students in 1940.
Can you spot the school's only foreign student in the picture above?
JD's school continues to send inane homework requests through, late in the evening, for completion by the next morning. So one evening last week we were told (at 9pm) to take 3-4 photos showing homework and housework being done. Having already completed all that by 8pm we had to fake photos of JD reading, writing, doing craft, looking after the hamsters, etc. I imagine most/all the parents were faking it.
We duly emailed the photos off to the teacher but have heard nothing more about it, Another pointless exercise?
We thought JD's 85% in the Chinese end of term exam was fairly good until we were told he ranked bottom of the class! We were really upset after all the many hours of homework and preparation we had put him through during the COVID-19 months and afterwards. However, other results came back today including 98% in Maths, putting him in the top ten in his class, and an "Outstanding Student" certificate for English!? Art, Science and Politics were all A's. Just as important was a short written report from his class teacher saying how responsible, outgoing and well-loved JD is within the school. So a better end to the academic year than we feared at first!
JD starts his "end of year" exams this week. English first (should be fine) and then Maths (like the puzzle above, which he managed to do in 20 seconds but which took me 2 minutes to work out!) and finally Chinese (which will be the toughest for him). JD's teacher is very competitive and likes her class to get the best results of all the ten classes in his year group. So the homework is mounting up!
JD's science teacher asked all the students in the class to get two snails for a future experiment.
Amazingly, Jiajia found some for sale online and we duly had two large snails delivered in the post. That was three weeks ago - no further news from the school. I think they've forgotten all about it! Anybody want two snails?
Exam results from JD's first week back at school saw scores in the bottom five of his class. So, when JD's teacher rang Jiajia for "a chat", we feared some sharp words. But when she called, she said she was just genuinely surprised, as we had completed more of the home-schooling work during lockdown than any other family and so she expected JD to return to class ahead of the other students. She suggested a few exam tips to teach JD (like not overlooking questions and checking his answers) and promised to move his deskmate (the naughtiest boy in the class) to another seat and keep an eye on JD's focus. We also worked through a few homework tantrums with JD in that first week, and have tried various punishments (banning his iPad, limiting hamster play etc), rewards (cup of tea, workpoints leading to a toy, timed competitions to complete work, etc) and scheduling changes (40 mins on, 10 minutes off, etc).
This last week has seen a big change (although we are not so naive as to believe it will last forever) with homework done more quickly and with less of a fight. He has apparently been focusing better in class and has now had a couple of exam results in the top five of his class. JD has also got 7 good behaviour stickers towards the 15 needed to become a "Young Pioneer" (i.e. a junior member of the Communist Party). Not quite sure how pleased to be about that one!
JD finally returned to school today after four months of holidays and home-schooling. I've quite enjoyed teaching him English and Maths most mornings, but Jiajia has found it difficult to get him to focus on his Chinese (a subject he finds difficult) and there have been quite a few stressful moments. So we're happy to see the professionals taking over again!
Some schools in China are helping students to understand social distancing by using home-made hats. Fortunately, no sign of JD having to make one, but he does have to take a handful of masks to school each day.
JD and I have taken on a "30-day Internet Lego Challenge", with a new build each day. Yesterday we built "a town" complete with a church, a hospital and a rescue helicopter. Today's challenge was a castle. I don't think we'll be able to keep up the build-a-day pace (and it's sad to have to dismantle each new creation the next day) but it's a little "carrot" to get him to do his homework quickly. He's back to school in 3 weeks.
Being largely confined to the house (while Coronavirus apparently rages everywhere outside!) JD had been keeping up 1-2 hours of homework everyday. I usually do some English and Maths with him in the morning, with Jiajia taking over for Chinese in the evening. In between, he's allowed to play! Usually, the homework is using our own workbooks or ideas, but these two were set by his school, to bring in next term (whenever that turns out to be). One was a display on shapes and their properties, while the other was to make up a game involving (fake) money and transactions.
After a very stressful fortnight of 3-4 hours of homework every evening, JD's exam scores came back yesterday. He did really well, with "A"s in every subject (except a "B" in P.E.). The 96.1% in Chinese was particularly pleasing as JD struggles a bit with Chinese characters, coming from a family who read/speak a lot more English.
JD goes to "basketball practice" every Sunday morning. JD's teacher made it clear that joining the club was technically "voluntary" but that all the class were really expected to sign up. Bizarrely, though he's been 12 times so far, he has yet to touch a basketball!? It's an odd school.
While waiting for him last week, I noticed these wires which run up the walls, but made a wild outward bend for no apparent reason. Strange.
And I wonder if the rounded columns sandwiched between the square pillar sections are an earthquake-dampening measure?
Sometimes the Chinese education system drives me crazy!
What exactly is the diagnostic value of JD's English exam today when 32 of the 45 students scored over 98% and nearly everybody got over 90% (JD got 100%)? Surely an exam like that is simply too easy?
And why did we get a text from JD's teacher last week saying he "needs to work harder on his Maths" because he 'only' scored 98% on that test?
And maybe I should give his teacher my own grade for texting today's homework through at 8pm? She won't be getting 100% from me!
This has been a very stressful week as JD is doing mid-term exams and the teachers have been putting a lot of pressure on the students and parents to prepare their child to pass the tests. JD has been doing 3-4 hours of review at home every evening (even over the weekend) and getting very sleepy (and grumpy) as a result. This was how we found him between homework and shower the other evening...!
I'd like to say it has all gone smoothly, but we've had our share of tears, tantrums and toy-throwing (...and that's just the wife!). The Primary School concentrate on three subjects: JD's English is great, his Maths is OK but his Chinese is weak. Many other students in his class started doing after-school Chinese language classes over a year ago in Kindergarten and, of course, JD only has one Chinese parent. So we were pleased and relieved to hear JD got 97% in his Chinese exam yesterday. He was still only mid-class, but it was a lot better than the 77% he got two weeks ago. English last week was 100%. The Maths exam is today. Fingers crossed...
JD's Primary School uniform was delivered last week - the boys get a bright pink tunic while the girls get blue!? It's either a very progressive decision or someone made a cock-up!
Jiajia was mumbling about the cost - she found the same clothes online for 50RMB but the school insisted that they have to be bought through the school shop at 400RMB -a clear rip-off.
JD rather likes the uniform though and was keen to be photographed in his "at attention" stance. The constant school "marching and dancing" seem to be having an effect on him!
JD's Primary School continues to be an education to me, if not to JD. Can this really be the top school in the city?? Today the teacher posted photos showing how "well-behaved and happy" the students are. Really?? They look scared and bored to me. JD's first three weeks seem to have been all about "control", with very little actual education. The kids get marked every day - with all the grades being sent to all the parents by phone. Most kids get "As" but JD usually gets "Bs". Why? Well, one day it was for "holding his pencil for a few seconds too long when the teacher had told pupils to put them down". Another day it was for "looking at the textbook when the teacher was talking". And another was for "raising his hand inappropriately to answer a question".
As a ex Primary School teacher myself, the "rows and columns" seating and the publicly published minor infringements seem all about the teacher keeping strict control, rather than having any education value. And woe betide any parents who fail to complete the multiple forms, the homework signing sheets or book purchases. They want control of us too!
[And if you're wondering where JD is in the picture above, we were told he was having a unscheduled trip to the toilet ...another "B"!!]
Last week was a steep learning curve both for JD and his parents! He has had multiple random and nonsensical school rules to get used to while learning dance routines for hours every day. Meanwhile Jiajia has had to trawl through well over 50 texts a day from the school ranging from what the maths homework is (received at 9.40pm - to be handed in the next day) to how the school expects pencils to be sharpened. We are trying to bite our tongues, especially in front of JD, but it seems like Chinese schools are indeed as disorganised and petty as we'd been led to believe.
JD managed to get 10/10 "thumbs up" stickers most days last week. He had a bit of a wobble on Tuesday, getting told off for "whispering in class", "not dancing energetically enough" and "allowing his elbow to lose contact with his desk while trying to volunteer an answer"!? We had to apologise to the teacher and give JD a "stern" reprimand at home!? To try and get back into the teacher's good books, we have agreed to let JD represent the school in an "English Speaking Competition". Fingers crossed!
JD [corralled by his teachers, top left] finishes Kindergarten next month. His "graduation" photo came through a few days ago. I was trying to explain to JD that he will go from being one of the oldest students in the school to being one of the youngest, but I don't think it really sank in. He'll start "ShiDa Primary School" - considered the best in Kunming - in September. Then, sometime before those six years are over, we plan to return to the UK for his Secondary education. Time is flying!
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