Last Friday was Community Day at Ryan's pre-school. The celebration was supposed to be a picnic on the school grounds but the rain put paid to that plan. The rain couldn't stop the festive mood though and the parties went on in the classrooms. The photos in this post were taken in Ryan's classroom during the party.

The students were encouraged to come in cultural or national dress. I knew that Ryan would have wanted to don his Chinese traditional outfit but it is a little small for him now (plus he has worn it so many times) so I pulled out his kurta instead. After three years, he now fits properly into it.

Two weeks ago, Richard and I had a meeting with Ryan's pre-school teachers for this term's Parent Teacher Conference. He has three class teachers, one of whom is a Mandarin teacher. All three expressed that they were so happy to have Ryan in class and that they are impressed with him in many aspects.

We started the meeting with a discussion on his Mandarin. His Mandarin teacher said that he seems to recognise many characters and his pronunciation is spot-on. We have received the same feedback from previous teachers so that did not surprise us. What did surprise us was hearing that Ryan is able to write the Chinese characters as well! His Mandarin teacher said that he is able to write them out precisely, stroke by stroke. Richard and I were flabbergasted! We have never taught Ryan how to write the characters so it is a complete mystery to us where he learned this. As with the mystery of the hanyu pinyin, this needs some investigation!

Ryan's Chinese teacher also mentioned that, although Ryan can converse in simple Mandarin, he only does so when he is conversing with her. She gives him no choice as she does not speak any English to him (although she does understand and can speak English). She suggested that we should try to set aside some time with Ryan at home during which we converse with him in Mandarin.

We asked if we should send him for Mandarin classes to give him more exposure. She was adamantly against it. She said that it would not make a lot of difference unless we "bring home" the language. Mandarin enrichment classes is more for learning the language and in Ryan's case, his knowledge of the language is already quite good. The issue, rather, is that, to Ryan, Mandarin is a language that is only used in school with his Mandarin teacher. Sending him for enrichment classes will simply give him another school and another teacher. It will not truly encourage him to use the language in his everyday life. His teacher advised that Ryan needs to see us using the language so that he can see that it is all right for him to also speak in Mandarin at home.

So I've been trying to sneak in some Mandarin words here and there and, recently, when Ryan goes to his usual fruit stall, he thanks the shopkeeper in Mandarin! Completely unprompted, he says "xièxie". I was so stunned the first time that I actually asked him, "Pardon? What did you say?" So, small steps forward.

Ok, back to the meeting with his teachers. After we discussed his Mandarin, we talked about other stuff generally. His core teacher said that everything is fantastic and there is just one thing that they would like to work on with him, which is to be more assertive. They all told me that Ryan is so gentle with his classmates, even when he is obviously uncomfortable. They had to teach him to hold up his hand and say, "Stop, I don't like that." The first few times, he said it so softly and gently that he might as well not have said it at all. The first time he actually stopped a classmate in a firm voice, he got a high-five from his teacher!

His core teacher mentioned that, in the same vein, they are also working on giving Ryan the chance to voice his ideas while in a large group. She said that Ryan is not shy because in smaller groups he is quite unrestrained. In big groups however (and we are talking when the whole class gathers together), he does not always volunteer his ideas. So the teachers consciously make the effort to ask Ryan what his view is or whether he has any ideas or if he wants to add on to his classmate's suggestions. I asked if we could do anything at home to help with this and the teachers said no, this is something that only they can work on because they have the big group dynamic in class.

His core teacher said that Ryan's ideas are always very impressive. In her words, "his ideas are very sophisticated" and "Ryan can single-handedly drive our inquiries with his ideas". We have received similar feedback from his previous class teacher so, not too surprising, but nevertheless such words are always, always wonderful to hear.

The teachers are all impressed with his reading skills and they told us that Ryan is regarded as "the expert" on reading among his classmates. If there is something that needs reading, Ryan is the one to do it and he is always happy to help his classmates out.

No issues with his social skills and his interactions with others. He is doing really well.

We also shared some funny stories about Ryan and it is wonderful to know that there was so much love for him among the five of us.

Ok, one last photo. Here, Ryan is holding a meter rule and, as you can see, Ryan is just a little taller than a meter (he is about 103 cm). He is still the smallest student in his class. One of his classmates is a whole head taller than him!


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