**Item 2 Updated on 5 Sept 2014
Here are a few things we encountered while looking for interest classes mostly in the last couple months, which is how we spent a lot of the summer hols.... I was getting more and more questions "off-blog" and realized how much I had yet to post. These unembellished stories I wrote and rewrote, trying to figure out how to actually say useful stuff without erm, zinging anyone:
1) The Little Kiddie Teaching Staff With Paper
During a session Somewhere, the Miss fell head first off a shoe rack several feet off the ground. She was unharmed (by some miracle, thank God - it was a hard floor). A teaching assistant had been standing right next to her, watching her. Turning back from washing my hands, I couldn't get to her in time to break her fall without say, shoving said staff (who doesn't work there anymore, I heard) out of the way. Said staff could've simply reached an arm out, the Miss was that close to her, but she simply didn't have that reflex.
That incident was a catalyst to our not going back to a "relatively strict" class/interest group. "Relative strictness" actually made it look even worse that no one thought to stop the Miss clambering up the shoe rack installed into the wall, not even when she was jumping up and down excitedly on the rack while they were all singing.
Said fairly strict establishment appeared to have very talented, qualified staff in art, music, etc etc. In contrast, some of the most popular (by consensus among my mum friends) teaching assistants they've encountered may not have as much "paper" beyond the basic degree - but when dealing with little kids on a playground or etc, they were outstanding. (I mention, because nowadays everyone is all about paper and training, educating little kids has mushroomed, ballooned into such a new and different phenomenon than what most of us remember - that bit's the no-brainer. The bit we might miss is paper needs also an "x" factor, EQ, some practical knowledge...)
So, don't miss the forest for the paper, it's a jungle out there (sorry couldn't resist 🙂
Also, I know at least two fairly well-known and upscale early education places who received this feedback (because I know the people who gave said feedback)- that teaching staff were chatting too much with parents over unrelated stuff like vacation plans during toddler exploratory play or whatever they call it. Paper qualification in early education means squat if you are not actually engaging the little kids you are so qualified to inspire and stimulate. That could look especially bad if you are charging for said higher qualifications your staff boasts... (Don't speculate please - one of these places we have never even set foot in.)
Both rockstars have had early education teachers (some of whom have now left HK) who had no time for friendly parents and small talk until they had settled every little kid under their charge. You know, the kind of staff who can "see the whole room" even when they're talking to you, the parent. They can talk to you and still see that little guy clambering up a sofa back from way across the room, break off mid-sentence to go retrieve them, or have an ear open for how those two little ones have sorted their toy-sharing issue. I greatly value this "x" factor. Because little kids can throw big fat curveballs.
2) The Hardworking Other Parents
One of the rockstars had an outside-school activity which I thought they were doing f-airly well in. (This has previously been seconded by various other mums present ok, I am not so DELUDED.) So it was erm, rather surprising that on the very last lesson, after several other appraisals every few months without this ever coming up, this conversation took place in front of everyone else in class including said rockstar (which btw is the biggest reason I am this pissed):
Teacher: Your child is really below standard in (one particular) area.
Me: (Thinking: OMG since when?? Last lesson in this pretty long course before the child takes a little "test" for a certificate then only you tell me?? And my child can totally hear you!!!) Umm, they can definitely catch up no problem, it's just that I never knew they were behind - so really it's me, I didn't push. If I knew earlier they need more work I would do more. (I said that because my child can totally hear the teacher say this in front of everyone, and then said child has to go take this little "test" which comes with a certificate after the teacher says this??? WHY would you say this now instead of in the last few months? Because there's another course coming up after this one? Or my child only just deteriorated very quickly, drastically?)
Teacher: You remember this other child who used to be in this class? The mother is soooooo hardworking ok. SO much better when a child's mother is hardworking. (Repeats this several more times).
O...Kay. When a teacher starts publicly comparing like this is when I start to do so too. HOW is she handling every other child in this class?
Observation: This teacher had done nothing to correct another child who was literally jigging all over the place at the front of the class so much said child fell on the floor while the other little kids practiced their little "test". Said other child nearly hit my "below-standard" child and STILL the teacher said nothing. NOT ONE WORD. (Oh, and btw when said other child did her "test" no one disturbed her.)
Conclusion: No respect for this feedback.
We haven't had the actual "test" - but if this other child is allowed to distract other kids that much even during class and "mock test" and then we are told this child who is distracting everyone will be taking the "test" right together with our kids (rather than each kid doing it individually)..... what kind of freaking cockamamie test and extra curriculars certificate is this in the first place??
This event isn't totally "fresh" - before I let fly, I actually asked other mums: Did you see what I saw or was I high? Um.. Y-eah that kid really fell down after jigging in front of other kids' faces too much while they were doing the trial "test".SO, ME IMPLIED LAZY MUM ISSIT? #notfallingforthiscrap #un-freakingbelieve-able #reversepsychologyFAIL #It'sarebellion! #LazyMumsOfTheWorldUnite! #Lazymumpride #OMGCaffeine #OMGAdrenaline
Watch my kids work hard at other activities that matter. Where we actually believe in the "test". Because I don't believe it is asking too much that when we do this..... "test," other kids who for some mysterious reason cannot be kept from jumping in front of the faces of children doing mock test (as in, within 30 cm of child's face ok) until they fall down on the floor are still going to take the actual "test" with them. Since I didn't see it, it wasn't in front of everyone, I'm going to assume you didn't correct the jigging, misbehaving child. Because you had no qualms telling my child in front of everyone that my child sucked. Why should you have any qualms performing a real correction of misbehavior in front of everyone else, if you actually did it?
You canNOT allow THAT behavior AND also try to imply other mums of the kids who at least don't distract other kids are LAZY without looking...... n-ot so good.
**Update: While naturally checking out potential follow-on courses after completion of That Fateful One, one of the courses was in the same center (with a newly transferred teacher from a different branch).. We didn't know they were going to then ask her for a second opinion after the first lesson, for one thing this is a large center/group and we assumed this thing didn't have "legs"... But they did ask her. The rockstar in question was found to erm, very much not suck. ("Quite sound" I believe was the phrase used...)
3) Love at First Bite.
Ok, that sounds kinda creepy but stay with me anyway, I saved this for last... It is one reason we chose to stick with this place after summer was over, for the Miss.....
One day I go to pick up the Miss, and find several senior school staff waiting for me, including the principal (later, also the head teacher). The Miss had been bitten by another child. The reason I don't mention this place by name even though I consider this story very positive is because almost every single one of my mum friends' initial reactions was OMG!!! WHERE IS THIS PLACE WHERE MISS GOT BITTEN?? So just in case it still looks bad, I won't post the name of this place (unless I somehow find out they are fine with me doing so 🙂
It was communicated to me that the biter's mum had been called in, and in order to carry on in the activity/school, a shadow teacher (i.e. additional teaching staff to specifically shadow this child) would have to be hired by the parents. Otherwise cannot carry on. Though the Miss bore the brunt in a first bite, the boy wasn't really speaking, and had a previous hitting/pushing misdemeanor. This is why I like this place:
My Question: Did the Miss provoke the biter in any way? (Don't scream, you will find out why I ask, below, even though yes I am horrified my precious baby girl had a bite mark on her)
Their Answer: No, the other child was after a toy she had. He just walked right up to her and bit. (Which made me think the bruising probably got that bad because they couldn't get him to let go, rather than them being unaware until it got really bad..)
That answer affected a lot of my later responses because:
a) They could have claimed the Miss provoked it, and I wouldn't have been the wiser. Their honesty opened the door to me possibly becoming a lot nastier, as the pompous, self-righteous parent of the "wrongfully injured" child. They were honest anyway. That to me is invaluable.
I think even the most upscale of places cannot 100% screen a first bite. (I assume biters look quite like "non-biters".) How they react and handle all the "crazy parents" (like yours truly) after it happens tells you a lot that you will not see from just the paper.
Sadly (and probably partially brought about by too many parents freaking out unduly), too many care-givers might try to circumvent a parent potentially turning nasty by going, inaccurately, "Oh, but your child also was at fault..." Or else "Well your child does these other <insert> misdemeanors>..." (Heck, some are just gonna take the easy way out because Human Nature).
I hate that. I consider it extremely damaging to your parenting efforts, when you're trying to discipline little kids, keep them from fibbing, crying to get what they want, pretending they're hurt or scared when they're not really..... Because it will badly affect the consistency of the responses your little kids get to their various behaviors.
b) My first impulse was to praise the Miss sky high for being brave (vs freaking out about the bite because that will make her decide to freak out even more), in order to negate as much as possible future problems with her willingness to being dropped off for activity. BUT I ran the risk of praising her and heaping on the attention for picking a fight, if she provoked the biter in any way. And so my question to this place opened the door to them taking the easy way out by asking if she provoked it. (They could very easily have said "Yeah! She was also pushing/ snatching/ whatever". They didn't. I believe you have to "reward" that unless you want it to disappear very quickly.)
c) While communicating how they would deal with the biter/ parents of biter (child not allowed to continue at this place unless with shadow teacher - which, I hear from friends in other places roughly doubles school fees or can even costs a bit more than the whole original fee, depending), they still said to me a.k.a. parent of "wronged"child, "It is often almost as hard for the biter's parents."
Again, even as I bristled with irritation (My Precious Baby Girl Just Got Bitten!) I respect the guts and the integrity. While neither rockstar has ever had a history of biting, childhood and parenthood is a long journey. Are we so sure our child is never going to (if not deliberately then accidentally) commit some offense that may have another "wronged child's" parents coming guns blazing after our child? (Plus, they were already so honest about her not having provoked it...)
Potentially worse, I don't want a previously "honest" school/ staff to claim minor (or <shudder> bigger) misdemeanor just because I went all Avenging Mummy Dragon on them when they were more honest.
Parenting is a long journey. School staff are also human, we all are. When your child is away at school/activity, you're going to be dependent on the staff to tell you what happened. What they tell you is going to affect your ability to parent effectively.
And so the blazing guns need to only come out when absolutely necessary.
**Take Out The Trash Post* inspired by West Wing episode where the White House announces all the iffy stories they don't want the press to have a field day with at the same time - because 1 bad article with X column space vs 5 bad articles with X column space... So yes, I crammed 3 into 1 post...