Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Search Continues…

After giving the lowdown on Ke’er and Qiming, I visited New Garden at Fu Li Cheng on Monday. Since Wayne was going to the airport (in Sanya for a client meeting for three days), he gave me a lift in the taxi (thank goodness he called for a cab, as there was none as we were walking out!), and stopped us opposite a shopping complex called Viva. We had to walk past and around that, then further into the massive Fu Li Cheng development to get to D area, and it was very cold with strong winds so I had no choice but to carry Rosabelle. And now I still have a backache from carrying her over such a long distance (about 20 minutes?) as I had no idea the kindergarten was located all the way on the other end of the development, phew!

Anyway, here’s the report card… (it costs the least of the 3 schools so far, and I am undecided whether I should visit Little Oxford):

New Garden - The Good (quite similar to the points for Ke’er and Qiming):
- Information for parents clearly displayed
- Some amount of children’s art being displayed in common areas and classrooms
- TV is used only occasionally as a supplement
- They have a once-a-week cleaning of toys, with bedding sent home for parents to wash
- Their sick-kid policy of sending kids with fevers home
- They practise a half-day bilingual scheme where one English native speaker is in class/leads the class for the earlier half of the day
- As they are in a relatively high-class residential area, their surroundings/compounds etc were all quiet, clean, and safe-looking.

New Garden – The Stellar
- I had to make an appointment to see them, and the teacher said she left word with their security guy to let me in, marking strong security/communication amongst staff.
- The teacher received me at the gate and sat me down, presenting me with a folder to browse through as I looked at their menus, syllabus, and general information – the curriculum looked well-planned and thought-out. I forgot to bring cheese for Rosabelle so she just ate some seaweed, and as we were preparing to leave the room, she took her down jacket and passed it to the teacher, saying ‘阿姨帮玥玥穿吧!', heh!
- Parents’ comms seems very good and comprehensive with a daily report, and the teacher was involved in PTA all of last week.
- They offer healthy foods (no junk food), using organic foodstuff and healthy olive oil!
- As I am at times hesitant about putting Rosabelle in a class of younger kids for 2-3 year olds (the case if she were to enter the September class, as in China, the school term cut-off is for kids born before 1 September), since she might not be learning as much, if I delay her starting of school till after her birthday, I can get her in the class for older kids (aged 3-4 years old) as they accept admissions at any time, as long as there are vacancies.

New Garden – The Bad:
- There were more art murals and decorations than students’ crafts in the public areas.
- They have no website even, and the teacher described their syllabus as following some Taiwan curriculum as their founder or partner is a Taiwanese… hmmm… not sure how superb the English can be…
- Their teacher : student ratio is relatively higher with 3 or 4 teachers to every 25 kids.
- I saw the children immediately jump into bed after their lunch; no down-time or working off the lunch at all!
- Their classrooms seem much smaller, and there was little open space on each floor (quite narrow) for children to run around much.

New Garden – The Shocking:
- They do not have their own open field, using the concrete open space (not a grass field) in front of the school for activities, so you can imagine there might be strangers lurking around since it’s not enclosed and open to all in the neighbourhood.
- Their playground area is a pathetic enclosure of 3-4 structures situated in their compounds, and away from sunlight…
- I caught sight of a few female teachers with fringes almost covering their faces, and with colourful dyed hair, and not looking the most happy. Alert, alert!
- They only had cubbies in the classroom, but outside, they provided wall hangers for coats (looked quite messy, and kids’ coats were overlapping each other, and teachers had to help them get the coats since they were all hung up at a higher level). Worst of all, I saw that their hats/scarves were all thrown into one single cupboard box – one class per box. Aiyo!
- I think I immediately started looking out for ‘The Bad’ and ‘The Shocking’ quite early on in the visit as I peeked into the classrooms and saw a wall mural that read ‘Activities for thes month’ (sic), with the ‘e’ at the end of the word coloured off. But it’s still wrong, as there’s no such word, unless they thought by erasing the ‘e’, they had created ‘this’? Goodness… the level of English is thus very, very dubious then…

Anyway, we then headed home after the visit, as I did not want to stay out too long, given the next day on Tuesday was Mommy & Me time at 3e. Since Wayne was in Sanya, I had to book a cab that morning, and had already given up all hopes of any driver returning my call when as we were wearing our shoes, this lovely driver called me. Yaaaay! It sure is impossible to get a cab at 9:30am in the morning, with toddler in tow, in such cold weather!

So we hopped into our lovely cab and finished off her egg breakfast in the car. We got to know a few other new friends and mommies, those that I did not manage to get their names the last week. We had lovely pasting of cherry blossoms on painted trees on paper plates (which she presented to Nainai when back), sponges and paints, cups with scooping of pasta, and sadly, the same old books. I’ve been wanting to tell the teachers and keep forgetting, so I remembered and told Rebecca that it’s the same old books on the shelf since our last semester of Mommy & Me! They should at least add on new ones occasionally, or better still, change the books for this semester.

Anyway, I find Rebecca more stifling than Alison. Rosabelle was taking a cup of pasta shapes in her hand, and she was almost shooing my girl back to pour the shapes back into the table, for fear of people stepping on them. Hello… the old idea of all these activity tables and sessions are so the kids can create a ‘mess’ and not be inhibited by what goes where, right?

There was once when I wasn’t supervising Rosabelle, and she actually pushed Alice, Rebecca’s 18-month-old daughter. I’m not sure why she did it, but I made sure she said sorry and picked Alice up and give her a kiss/hug after, heh!

After the class, it was cheese time in their lobby, heh! The school and facilities are really good – teachers always sing to the children as they are dressing for outside time, and if not for the distance, the rather ‘elitist’ concept, and importantly, the fees (about RMB9,000 per month!), I will let Rosabelle come to the school.
After that, we took a taxi to Hard Rock Café, where the first level was all closed-off as they were preparing for a 2pm company event, so we headed on upstairs. As I was looking through the menu, Rosabelle was occupied with drawing with crayons, when they suddenly dimmed the lights. I had to tell them to switch them on, and some ‘boss’ of the crew told them that there were still customers dining upstairs, and to not adjust the lights. Thank you very much.

There weren’t very much healthy dining options, so I ordered a kid’s set of spaghetti with tomato sauce (with two slices of garlic bread and free flow of Coke, which I took of course) – RMB60. So expensive! But it was worth it, as our girl enjoyed and fed herself the whole plate of spaghetti and finished all but about two tablespoons worth. Clap clap!

As for me, I ordered a starters combo of spring rolls (had a tad of spice and Rosabelle rejected it), chicken wings (I’d asked for non-spicy – was so tasteless! But Rosabelle liked munching on a small drumstick, haha…), baked cheese potatos, chicken fingers (was spicy and Rosabelle rejected it), and onion rings (she took a few bites and decided she did not like it).

At one point, I felt guilty, and like I was such a bad Mommy that I was piling on the greasy, deep-fried foods on her plate. She was very game to try them all and thankfully rejected them, only eating the chicken drumstick, that was relatively bland and the most ‘healthy’ of the lot, haha! So I ended up with a lot of left-overs (and I had the same junk for dinner that night…).

We ended up with a huge mud pie that I couldn’t even finish (Rosabelle only liked the roasted almond shavings on the dessert), and then got ready to go as we went to the souvenir shop, the only reason why we were there for lunch. I’d seen an ‘Imagine’ (John Lennon) T-shirt in the magazines and had been wanting to get one for my brother-in-law, a fan of HRC tees, and when I saw it, decided it wasn’t as nice as in print. But I still bought it anyway as it helps some hunger foundation, and it’d make a good souvenir, haha!

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