21 March 2013, by Tan Yi Lin
Coco has been attending school for three weeks now since 1 March.
Here’s a snapshot of how things have been going for us:
28 Feb (Thu)
I packed Coco’s little ladybug backpack, dutifully checking against the list of items provided in the centre’s Handbook for Parents:
– Diaper (pull-up pants version)? Check!
– Spare set of clothes? Check!
– Towel? Check!
– Comb? Check!
– Water bottle? Check!
I personalised each item neatly by writing her name on a sticker and ‘waterproofing’ it with a piece of scotch tape. Only after that did I discover (thanks to fellow blogger Mandy) that you could order customised name stickers from blog shops for a mere $3 (for 36 or 60 pieces!) complete with your child’s favourite cartoon character on it.
We had a slight dilemma over whether Coco should be referred to as “Coco” by her teachers or by her full name, Colette. Everyone’s been calling her either Coco or Kaixin since she was born – she has no idea that her full name is Colette. We decided to go with Coco for the sake of familiarity, so that she’s not suddenly introduced to a new group of people calling her by a new name. Plus, since she can recognise the letters “C-o-c-o” by sight, she would be able to readily identify her personal items if we labelled them as such.
1 Mar (Fri)
Dannie, mum and Coco dropped me off at the MRT station and proceeded to the centre. I wasn’t able to join them as I had to be in the office for a morning meeting that day. Anyway, we figured that it was probably better if I didn’t go, in case Coco got teary and clung to me.
Coco was received by Teacher Rina and Min Min Lao Shi and joined her classmates in Playgroup 1 for a breakfast of raisin bread and Milo. Dannie said it was funny to watch her pick out only the raisins to eat while the new little boy next to her picked out all the raisins in his piece to discard.
Dan and my mum hung around while she settled in. The poor boy next to her was wailing his head off for a good part of breakfast but Coco seemed unperturbed. But we heard from the teachers that Coco later shed some tears when she realised that Dan and Popo had left the school.
4 Mar (Mon)
Coco appeared fine as Dan and I accompanied her to school the following week.
However, as we approached the breakfast area, there were a handful of newbies sobbing most piteously around the table and it wasn’t long before Coco caught on to their distress and started wailing too! Lao Shi hurried over to carry her and we quickly made our exit, feeling extremely guilty for leaving a very upset Coco behind.
– Babies have Monday blues too. On hindsight, it was good that Coco started school on a Friday when the other kids were calmer and the atmosphere more relaxed. According to the teachers, Monday mornings are usually harder to get through compared to the rest of the week.
– The daily structured programme starts at 9 am and the bulk of the students start arriving about 8.45 am. More kids = larger occurrence of crying kids = more chaos. We now arrive at the centre about 8.20 am to give Coco some time to have a leisurely breakfast and settle into the morning’s programme before activities start proper.
5 Mar (Tue)
Over the next few days, Coco caught on to the idea that going to school every morning was going to be part of her new weekday routine – and she didn’t take kindly to it.
Today, she started crying as we pulled into the building car park.
6 Mar (Wed)
The crying started the moment we put her in the car seat.
7 Mar (Thu)
The crying started as we walked out of the house.
8 Mar (Fri)
She whined a little when asked to change out of her pyjamas. We were totally dreading the sobbing scene that was to descend upon us…
… but she surprised us by sitting quietly in the car (while I talked my head off, pointing out every single interesting sight en route in a desperate bid to distract her) and letting Lao Shi bring her into class.
Huh? What had happened in the span of one short car ride? What had clicked in her mind and convinced her to go to school willingly?
The following week…
Coco skipped school for the initial part of the following week due to a runny nose (it’s inevitable – kids will fall ill upon starting school) but has gamely continued with the daily routine of going to school since then.
From what I heard from my parents who dropped her off at school, she eagerly showed them which lift to take to get to her school from the basement car park, walked them to the entrance and demonstrated how to store her shoes in her playgroup’s designated cabinet (right on the little pink footprints marked “Colette C”).
I’m really glad that the crying only lasted four days and that she seems to have settled in quite nicely. Although she still shakes her head when we ask her if she likes to go to school, I suspect that she secretly does but doesn’t want to admit it. Must be a pride thing – this is the baby who refuses to cry when smacked or caned, remember?
Seeing this smiley face bid me goodbye instead of a snotty tear-stained one certainly makes it easier to start MY day at work on a lighter note!
What we like about the school
Beyond the things that we liked about the centre during our initial visits (such as the spacious, brightly-lit interior, cleanliness and tidyness, the friendly centre director, the varied curriculum, etc.), we discovered other positive aspects over the three weeks that Coco has been attending school there:
1. Daily communication
The centre encourages daily communication – between teachers and parents, and between parents and child – via a ‘communication notebook’ that is given to each student to bring home to his/her parents daily.
At the start of each week, the teacher encloses a summary of the week’s curriculum and what activities the students would be doing throughout the week. This is particularly useful for us since Coco doesn’t talk readily yet and doesn’t respond to our questions of what she does in school each day. With the summary sheet, we can initiate and engage in conversation (albeit largely one-sided on our part) with her about school.
We also get a daily report on how much lunch she eats in school. Parents, too, can leave notes in the communication booklet for the teachers.
2. Monthly e-newsletters
I either didn’t know or had completely forgotten that in addition to the daily updates and weekly curriculum summaries, parents would receive a monthly e-newsletter via email informing us of what their child’s class has been up to for the month. The newsletter contains photos of the children – newbies, birthday kids, kids in class, kids at play – and a description of their activities in English and in Chinese.
3. Daily change of clothes and diaper
Even though Coco is only in school for about four hours every morning, she comes home nice and clean in the fresh set of clothes and diaper that we pack in her bag every morning.
4. A varied menu
I swear, the kids at Coco’s school have a more varied lunch menu than I do, thanks to the industrious kitchen lady who prepares all the meals on site every day. I like it that Coco is exposed to a wide variety of food and she comes home nice and full from lunch.
Since starting school, she has also become more independent at meal time and is very keen to feed herself. No one is allowed to even touch her food or utensils now.
Only authorised caregivers – whose identity card details and photograph are given to the school upon registration – are allowed to pick up students from school. I can rest assured that despite the school’s location in a well-patronised office building, not just any stranger is able to breeze in and claim my child as his or hers.
6. Caring teachers
It’s heartening that Coco took quickly to her Lao Shi and is very attached to her. She likes the other teachers too but has a special affinity for the motherly Lao Shi, whom I guess probably resembles her other caregivers that she is familiar with i.e. my aunt, my mum and my mother-in-law. Starting school would have been a lot more challenging if Coco didn’t like her teachers!
We’re immensely grateful and happy that Coco’s school experience has been fairly smooth and enjoyable so far. Let’s hope that things continue this way – and get better from here on!