Friday, November 14, 2008

The little things that count

The primary school year has officially ended. Phew!

Caitlin came home with a cert for Fun Gym, a cert for Art from the Little Art Bug workshops the school organised, a cert for completing the dance programme and participating the the IJ Dance Fest, a cert for music accomplishment in class (she's not tone deaf after all!) and finally, a cert for "completing the school year with fun and laughter!"

I liked the last one best - it has been a good year all in all for her.

So far in my experience with IJ this past year, I have seen countless little touches that were not present in my experience with my other kids' schools. Even before the school year began, when Cait went for Orientation night, she was given a small laminated card, written and illustrated by her P1 counterpart in the same Hibiscus class who welcomed her to IJ and to the Hibiscus class. I thought that was a nice touch!

Then looking at the programmes the school offered - from gym to dance to Little Art Bug workshops etc, it seemed that while there was emphasis on the academics (can't run from this), there was also good emphasis on the non-academics. I liked this aspect too.

Her movement through the year in terms of Chinese, also demonstrated differentiated learning in full swing - from taking the bridging module in the first half of the year which meant extra classes and small group learning, to making that huge improvement and then switching over to the core modules, that also impressed me.

We went for the Parent-Teacher meeting recently. We were presented with a file of Cait's writing. Each girl had a writing file. The work done in that file over the months accounted for 5 marks of the overall final scores. I liked that progressive development was taken into consideration. A detailed report from the school was included to show where her strengths and weaknesses lay in terms of writing skills.

Incidentally, she loves to write - I saw her late one night, working away at her desk. I asked what she was doing and she showed me a large notebook - pages of writing. She was re-writing the story of Cinderalla, and on the opposite blank pages, there was a simple illustration. I looked through it and thought - well, good effort but she sure needs to work on paragraphing! Gosh, three pages of ONE paragraph!! And she needs to work on expressing her own ideas as well. Still, its a good start and I was suitably impressed - none of my other kids have done this. Not even Isaac!

In her report book, it was not only the grades that were reflected. Assessments and grading were provided for art, for PE too! And it was not just a 'Pass' or 'Fail' grade or As, Bs, Cs etc. But ticked boxes indicating the level of skill she demonstrated. So for Art, for example, while she showed good awareness spatial concepts, of line, colour, contrast and tone, and could make use of various media and techniques to bring out these skills, she still needed to be developed in terms of creative concepts, in developing her own ideas and to be confident about expressing these.

I don't know if many other schools do this, but I did appreciate that these observations were recorded for parents. It told us a lot more than just the usual letter grades. I did not see this done for Gillian's or Isaac's pri school.

And finally, the tiny certs they gave were also a nice touch. It reminded the girls that these were their accomplishments to be proud of, and of how far they have come. What a nice confidence booster.

I like these small thoughtful touches and these are what sets certain schools apart from the ordinary. The first year of pri school for Cait has been relatively a good year. She started the year out strong, then had this big emotional anxiety attacks that lasted for a good part of the year, but then ended the year on a high note with a fantastic performance at the Dance Fest, great grades (high band 1 for English and Maths and band 2 for Chinese) and a nod for the artistic gym CCA early selection. I'm proud of her. She is happy where she is now, lots of friends and they come from all classes and not just Hibiscus. Cait is really Lil Miss Social Butterfly - so there have been many invites to many a birthday party practically every other week.

It's just the beginning and it does get tougher.

Next year, the academics get ratcheted up a notch, gym training is stepped up to 2x a week, ballet exams in March and we plan to remove the school bus option - so she has to learn to take public transport by herself. We will give the girls a lift to school in the early morning, then she will take bus home by herself. No point continuing with the school bus since 3 days out of five, she will have to stay back in school either for ballet or gym.

Having a kid go through P1 is always an exercise in bated breath - will they take to school well? Can they adjust? Can they cope with the academics? Will they fit in, make friends? I look back on the year with fond nostalgia because I know the honeymoon is over, even though Cait is pretty blissfully unaware. Its uphill from here and the intensity will build over the years. I hope she will come through okay.

1 comment:

ee lin said...

I like Caitlin's P1 year. The little touches DO make a BIG difference, imo. If my A can have half as good a P1 year next year, I would be pretty satisfied.

Btw, my old convent school back in Penang also had flower names for classes in pri school. Nice to see a tradition being upheld.

You know what you said about parent/alumni links when i complained abt getting dd into school? I've come to realise you're right. If we were back in Penang, yes, I'd want A in my alma mater, I'd show her my old tramping grounds, my class etc. There would be very strong emotional ties there.