International schooling experience in Shanghai

My daughter has started going to school, for 3 weeks or so now. The experience has been good so far, though the change for her has been extreme: 2.5 hours a day, 3 days a week in US, to 8 hours a day (with 2 snacks, 1 lunch, and a nap included), 5 days a week in Shanghai – could challenge anyone, not to talk of a 4-yr old! However, she has coped reasonably well. Her enthusiasm of new school was visible in first few days of her start; she was bubbly and excited. However, 5 days into it, and she refused to go to school!

 It may have been triggered by an incident that happened a day before (more on it later), but we had a problem on our hand. On the first day, we let her stay at home but frequently reminded her during the day that she needs to be in school. Towards the evening, she said she wants to go to school. Her teacher called up in the evening and we discussed what could be happening to cause her to not go to school and she promised she would keep a close eye on her next day and days after to make sure she is comfortable. Next day, when we were getting her ready, she was again reluctant, and as the time approached for her to take the bus, her discomfort increased, and finally as I was taking her down to the school bus, she broke down, started crying loudly and saying she doesn’t want to go to school. It was a hard decision to still push her to the school bus and the teacher was kind enough to accept her in that shape (I am sure a US teacher would have refused it, and maybe reported us for child torture!). We were tense the whole day, not sure how she would take the school given that she was crying. When My wife received her from school bus in the afternoon, she seemed OK though down. Her teacher also reported that she was OK the whole day, and she thought maybe she was not comfortable in Chinese class (since she couldn’t understand a word) and so teacher promised she will help her out in Chinese class for next few days. Another good thing that happened was that there were many events to look forward for her – one of her friends invited her to birthday, there was a zoo visit planned, and there were Diwali and Halloween celebrations planned. For next few days, we kept our fingers crossed, but her approach to school kept improving and now she seems happy going to school. Of course she remembers those episodes and once in a while she mentions that she will not say “I don’t want to go to school” again! It is good to have a smart daughter! J

The incident that may have triggered this response (though they may not be related) was insightful for us, as well as frustrating; it showed us how hard it is to run an international school which has to take care of so many different needs and demands from so many expats, government and other stakeholders. The teachers apparently check the kids everyday for any visible signs of diseases, hygiene issues and general cleanliness. One day the teacher called us an hour after my daughter went to school and told us that they found something white in her hair and we should come pick her up and take to some doctor because they feared it could be lice and could spread. We were disturbed (and frustrated at the school!), and I had to go to office because of some meetings, so my wife offered to go get her (first time she would go out alone on a taxi). She went there (probably fuming!). However, after talking to the school teacher, we realized it is the right procedure for them to follow because the repercussions are severe if they go wrong (they had to close the school for 2 weeks last time some lice thing was suspected of spreading in students). We were also concerned that my daughter might feel bad about this experience but she seemed OK (in hindsight, she may not have been). My wife took an appointment with the doctor, took her to the doc and she also agreed that there is nothing in the hair which is cause for concern (it was probably some rice fragments stuck in the hair or some other innocuous stuff) but she advised us to use some shampoo to allay any fears school authority might have. We did follow that advice and things have been fine since then.

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