Tuesday, May 08, 2007

All work and no play...

The new school year started. Marc was in a mixed level class or a classe mélange this year, eight children from his year mixed with nine from the year below. Marc was happy, his best friend Adam was in his class. But I found it a bit strange and wondered how the teacher would organize it. Jacques didn’t seemed worried at all and said it often happened in France that the class was split like that, and it was better than a big class of thirty or more. The teacher had transferred from Bangkok and frankly didn’t seem super-happy to be in KL, with expats it always depends where you have lived before. At our first parents evening she found Marc ‘brilliant, but lazy’, a description that apparently matched Jacques as a child (the things you find out about your husband!). But when she left the older kids to work Marc was often distracted and had problems to work independently (he made paper airplanes or chatted with Adam). We must crack down on that she said. ‘No making airplanes?’ I enquired. ‘Non’ she said very seriously. ‘No fun, only work.’

Nina had a lovely teacher, who was in her third year of teaching the important first year of primary – CP. Nina was in a small class of fifteen with two girls who she knew, Laure and Souad while Elodie was in the other class. Two new girls joined the class, Alix and Maisane. The six girls soon became friends, but Nina was never sure which one was her best friend. Nina tried to play with Souad, but was miffed when Souad chose to play with a boy over her. Meanwhile the other girls were hanging out in the corner of the playground, gossiping and saying mean things about other girls….Nina was torn between chasing boys and being in the girly corner. She hestitated so long she was excluded in the end, and missed her four friends deeply from last year. I could not work out which direction to go either, these new friends mothers were either working, lived absolutely miles away or had restricted play time due to older siblings. Although we would meet up at birthdays or at the Saturday catechism class and say ‘We must get the girls together…’ it rarely happened.

At the condo the French girls were cool with her, although they played together at parties. On the good side she had the daughters of my two friends, Odile and Hilary to chill out with on Wednesday afternoons and weekends, and even though they were a year younger the friendship worked and they often came for sleepovers.

When we met Nina’s teacher she told us she was worried. Nina seemed to be playing stupid to get more attention. The teacher had selected four kids for extra reading practice while the others did English and Nina was in that group. Unlike the other three Nina did not have dyslexia, was familiar with French and able to read (when she wanted to) so why was she acting like this? On top of this Nina started speaking English with a pronounced French accent! The teacher said to keep an eye on her and encourage her to read and write more at home.

But how does one cultivate a bilingual bookworm? We certainly had plenty of books and magazines in both languages at home. But both children lacked the incentive. Was it because I always read to them, were we too busy swimming in the pool or doing outdoor activities or, even worse, did they perhaps have some cognitive problems with text. Should I get a tutor? See a specialist? The fear of failure loomed as I re-read all my parenting books on reading and literacy again….

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