Preschool isn’t normally an exciting topic to talk about, but for us it provides a constant source of new cultural experiences and entertainment. We are happy to see that the principal at the school has started some fun new programs. Each morning when we drop Claire off, the kids start off the day by doing some morning exercises. They play fun music and lead the kids in movements and dances. The school also asked all the parents to download a new app to view school announcements, activities, food schedules and more. I was really impressed by this new app and how it has made communication between us and the school a lot easier. Coincidentally, I just today discovered that the teachers have been using this app to send Cameron and I messages about Claire, but since the app is in all Chinese, it has taken me awhile to understand how to use it. Therefore, I didn’t even see the messages! Thankfully the teachers are still making an earnest attempt to communicate with the confused foreigners (us)!
For a couple weeks during a free trial period, we could use the new app to access the school’s cameras and watch Claire while she was at school. Cameron and I were especially interested to see what kinds of activities the class does during the day. While they do a lot of the usual preschool activities – singing songs, drawing, playing with blocks, etc., I noticed that the classroom doesn’t have a large variety of resources. There are tables and chairs for the kids, a small bookcase with some books and art supplies, two small bins of blocks, and a large TV. In the states, most preschools would have areas or centers with different themes like the pretend-play center, the block center, or reading center where kids would spend a good part of the day moving between centers. I have to remind myself not to compare too much and focus on the good things. She is learning Chinese in what appears to be a positive environment, so that is good enough for now!
Another fun addition that the school made was hiring two young, male gym teachers with lots of energy to do activities with the kids every Thursday. Cameron and I happened to be watching Claire’s class on one Thursday and were happy to see the gym teachers leading the students in an activity with a parachute. It looked like a lot of fun, but the only problem was Claire was not participating. She was running around in a different part of the downstairs area and playing on some playground equipment by herself! We were not too happy about that and had to talk to the teachers about being more strict with Claire. The teachers are still too lenient with her because they don’t think she understands what they are saying. However, Cameron and I know all too well that she understands alot and is simply ignoring them. I think having a foreign kid in the class is also a learning experience for the teachers as well!
When Claire’s school began using this new app, they also started a chat group with the parents in each class. I thought reading the chat group messages every day would be a good way to practice my Chinese and learn more about Chinese culture, until I started reading what people were posting. Multiple times a day, a parent would use the chat group to ask the teachers where his or her child was because they weren’t in the view of the camera at that particular moment in time. The teacher would then have to take their attention away from the students to let the parent know their child was in the bathroom, in the hall, on the playground, or wherever! One parent was sending complaints to the teachers about mosquito bites that her son got at school. I think that made the teachers a little nervous, because a few days later one teacher apologized profusely about a bruise Claire had on her leg. I tried to assure them that I hadn’t even noticed it and that it is perfectly normal for three year olds to have bruises! I saw one post where a parent asked the teacher how much lunch their child had eaten and the teacher actually sent a picture of the student’s bowl! Another time the school was planning a weekend barbecue picnic for all the students and parents. It sounded like fun, but a handful of parents in the chat group complained over and over that it was going to be unbearably hot and that roasting barbecue outside would be intolerable! (Keep in mind it is springtime here and the outside temperatures are far from unbearable.) One parent even said that her child couldn’t attend because he couldn’t eat barbecue meat due to having a cold. Her connection between those two things still leaves me confused. The final straw was when the parents started getting really upset that their children were only visible on the school cameras during 9:30-11:00 and 3:00-4:00. There was so much complaining going on, that our chat group got shut down. I am actually glad it did for the sake of the teachers!
Besides all our school activities, we had a very nice Easter. I found some Easter eggs on Taobao, a Chinese website, and some hard-to-find candy such as Reeses peanut butter cups. I then invited a couple expat families with young kids for an Easter egg hunt and brunch. We did the Easter egg hunt outside in a grassy area between our apartment buildings. I was a little worried some neighbors would see our egg hunt and join in without asking, but thankfully that didn’t happen. The kids had a blast picking up eggs and the parents enjoyed watching them! There wasn’t much talk of the Easter bunny in our house, but we did introduce Claire to the idea of the Resurrection. I can’t say she actually understood much of it, but maybe she’ll understand more next year!