Thursday, September 12, 2013

Year 4 at Dulwich

New Senior School at Dulwich

Beginning of a new school year, a new school term is always chaotic! New class, new friends, new schedules - just so much going on! Besides this year was the grand opening of the Senior School at Dulwich. The new building is just across the street from the old, and the entire Senior school has moved - giving the Junior school some stretching room. With the new building, also come brand new facilities - new pool, new gym and - can't wait to get there - a new library!

Every year, the classes get shuffled as they move up to the next grade. The kids do get to pick a couple of friends that they would like to be with - but almost everyone gets moved around. This is done to ensure the even distribution of different nationalities across all the sections, but I think it also underlines the ephemeral quality of our lives here. Even the teachers move around - they teach different classes every year, and there are always new teachers coming in to replace those that have left! Manasi's new teacher is really new - she flew in to China a week before school started - and I'm sure it's going to be a month or two before she fully settles in!

Last year, Manasi was the new kid on the block - this year, she's more sure of herself, more confident. She has volunteered to help a couple of new girls in her class - show them around the school, eat lunch with them, things like that. Each class elects representatives for the Eco Council and the Student Council - candidates have to make a little speech, and then the class votes - and Manasi is the Eco Council Rep for her class this year. Actually, what she really wanted was to be on the Student Council - but she couldn't do both, so Eco Rep it is! She's taking it pretty seriously too - 'Go Green' is the motto in our house these days!

With the new swimming pool, came the excitement of the new swimming teams! The school announced there would be 3 teams - an 'Elite' team, a Junior school team and a Senior school team. There was a huge turnout for the swimming trials - almost 80 kids for about 20 spots on the team. Manasi did make it to the JS team, but as can be imagined, there were a lot of disappointed kids and parents. What made it worse was the letter - 'We regret to inform you that your child has not been selected....'!!! Seriously, these are 8-10 year old kids - there isn't a better way to let them down gently? And besides, if a kid really wants to swim, who cares about timing and making the cut? Without a doubt, the school has to have a team - but I feel it would have been better if they had kept the selection a bit low-key - and avoided a lot of hurt feelings!

Speaking of hurt feelings - our share was just around the corner! Ever since they announced that this year's production would be 'Aladin', Manasi has been in a fever of excitement! Of course, what 8 year old girl wouldn't want to be Jasmine - and Manasi with her beautiful voice thought she had a fair chance of landing the role! When she made it to the second callback, expectations soared through the roof - it did worry me a little bit, and I tried my best to keep her grounded, but in vain! She was - forgive the pun - in 'A Whole New World', and it was really hard when she didn't get Jasmine. She couldn't see that making it to the second callback was an achievement in itself, and that her dad and I were so proud of her!

I'll admit that this post would have had a completely different tone if Manasi had got the part - but she didn't, and as she raged about how unfair everything was - we, as parents, struggled to turn this experience into a Life Lesson. Rejection is a bitter pill to swallow - how do you explain to a child that not being picked doesn't mean 'not good enough'? How do you explain that an audition for a school play is merely the first of many, many hurdles that life will bring along - and even when you stumble, you have to find the strength to dust yourself off and keep going. Life Lessons - sooner or later, our children have to brave the world, learn to face disappointment and make the best of things. I only wish it could be later than sooner!

This whole week - first the swim team, then the production - served to sharply contrast the British and American styles of education. Here in Dulwich, and back when I was a kid in India, the emphasis is on excellence and competition. Children are made aware of their shortcomings very early on - only the best walk away with the accolades and honors, everyone else is but a spectator. While this style does encourage students to strive to be their best, it can also stifle creativity and lower morale. American schools, on the other hand, promote individuality. All students are taught to believe that they are perfect just the way they are! Manasi's 2nd grade class back in Peoria had their own play at the end of the year - there were no auditions, no callbacks - every single child got to be on stage, if only to say a couple of words. This system might hold back the individuals who are truly gifted, but the vast majority of children enter the real world armed with tremendous confidence and self-esteem. Now, wouldn't an American school with British discipline be just the perfect solution?!

Anyway, with all this drama, Year 4 in Dulwich is off to a bit of a rocky start! Plenty of things to look forward to in this term though - a field trip to the Natural History Museum in Shanghai, and the big trip to Shan-shan island at the end of the month! More homework this year, more stress on responsibility and time-management - and hopefully, more Math (sorry, Manasi!). Here's to another great school year!

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