Sunday, August 8, 2010

Parents Chats at Julia Gabriel

Yesterday, Ryan's PlayClub class came dressed in red and white to celebrate Singapore's National Day, which falls on 9 August.  Here's Ryan in his outfit - I think he looks as though he's off for a golf game.

As promised, we had Parents Chats at the start of class. The head of the centre, Linn Mustapha, led the dialogue, with the rest of the teachers adding their comments here and there.  I realised that the Chats were meant for very general questions, eg. questions about hygiene, hand foot and mouth disease, etc., with the more specific questions to be addressed in one-to-one discussions with the concerned parent. Nevertheless, I took the chance and put up my hand to ask the teachers how I should assess whether the class is a right fit for Ryan.

Linn's answer was, "If he's happy in the class, let him continue." Well, I wasn't too happy with that answer - I mean, if Ryan is happy eating fries and ice cream for all his meals, surely I shouldn't be letting him continue doing so?

I tried again - I asked, what is it that Ryan is supposed to learn from the class? Then Linn explained the various areas that the school is addressing through the various activities.  For example, outdoor activities provide sensory play as do arts and crafts. Free play and arts and crafts encourage creativity and snacktime gives us a chance to work on social skills (saying please, thank you, etc.). Also, being in a group and working in a group builds a sense of spatial awareness and social interaction. Of course the activities like music, drama and storytelling help to develop self-expression and musical/dramatic skills.

Well, I think that the structure of playgroups in most other schools are similar - free play, music, arts and crafts, outdoor play, snacktime, etc. I'm sure these other schools also have in mind the same areas of development - sensory play, creativity, social interaction, etc.  I think that the first answer that Linn gave me - so long as Ryan is happy, keep him in the programme - is essentially telling me that things are pretty much the same whichever school we go, so there's no point changing to another school, unless of course Ryan is unhappy here. Linn's second point was to assure me that there is a lot of value in the programme content and the students do learn something useful.  In other words, I don't have to worry about what is being taught, it's all good. I just have to see if Ryan enjoys learning it.

Actually, I don't critique and analyse every activity to check its educational value or developmental value - all I want to know is that Ryan is not wasting his time. So, ok, I'm willing to take Linn's advice and let Ryan decide whether he wants to stay or go.  If at the end of the term, he wants to stay for the next term, we'll stay. I'll trust that the class activities can deliver the lessons that they are designed to deliver and I'll be happy with that.  At least Ryan is spending two hours every week doing activities which are beneficial in some way - the alternative could be that he just sits at home doing nothing, right?

I should say here that I'm actually quite happy with the class. Ryan does seem to be enjoying himself. Safina and the Mandarin teachers are fantastic (the fourth teacher - the one assisting Safina for the English portion - changes every week).  If I have to identify an "X" factor that sets this programme apart from others, the teachers would definitely be it.

Actually, I might consider switching Ryan over to the Julia Gabriel Learning Centre at East Coast in the future.  The main reason is that our new home will be nearer to that centre.  Also, Linn mentioned during Parents Chats that their East Coast branch had bigger classrooms and the class feels less cramped. This was in response to a concern raised by a parent about the large class size (20 students+20 parents+4 teachers). Linn's response was that the school was working on a solution, which would be either reducing the number of students or finding a new location where they can have bigger classrooms like at their East Coast branch.

Actually, I don't have a huge problem with the class size. I would prefer the class to be smaller of course but it's not a deal breaker for me. This is because, despite being 1 of 20 students, Ryan still gets a lot of attention from the teachers. They always look out for him and he gets a lot of adoration. Anyway, he certainly doesn't seem to mind the crowd. If anything, I think the crowd actually helps to bring out his expressiveness - "the more the merrier" sort of situation.

Anyway, that was the Parents Chats session. After the Chats, we took a class photo - Ryan's first ever! Then we had class as usual. The outdoor activity was Ryan's favourite - swimming! Ryan had loads of fun splashing about and, as usual, he was the last one to leave the tub.


safina ali said...

How I missed Ryan in my class! He must be a big boy now. All the best Ryan.

Pinkie Pirate said...

Hi Safina! How are you doing? Ryan is 5.5 yo now! We still remember our days in JG with you very fondly. Hope you are well!

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