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Classes for Parents

March, 2011
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"I always wanted to try to make a mosaic, and the class is nice because it’s informal," says Jo Kaine, a parent of Yew Chung International School of Beijing (YCIS), who has been participating in YCIS parent art studies class for around one year to awaken her own handicraft abilities.

"We talk about all sorts of things; it’s like therapy, but art therapy,” said Kaine, adding that having small children at home makes it difficult for many parents to undertake such creative activities. Jo Kaine is very happy that she is able to continue the course this year. Nowadays, approximately 30 parents are attending YCIS Beijing’s art classes each month.

The art class has been in action since June 2010 with the help of Judy Chick, the other YCIS parent who serves as the teacher to offer tips to parents in the class. "We are doing a different project each course from decorating a coffee table, platters and also photo frames. Class parents will first think of a pattern or design they would like to do for that project. They can then get inspiration from the mosaic books we provide or they can choose some ready- made pattern that they like which will be prepared for them,” said Chick.

The classes have even garnered interest amongst the school children in Year 3 that have been studying the Romans. The teacher asked if they can show [the parent's] mosaics as an example of commonly used art. "One student even came in [to the parent class] and helped her mother stick on tiles,” added Kaine.

Both Kaine and Chick believe the classes help parents with the same interests come together and them to make friends. “We need to find a way to settle into a new place and a new country, and the school provides a safe place to make friends in the school;" echoing the views of all of the other parents participating in the course.

Similarly, Beijing City International School (BCIS) has been running Mandarin courses to directly help parents unaccustomed to an exotic culture so that they can better interact within Chinese society. Wendy Wang, a Chinese linguistic teacher at BCIS as well as a parent of a Grade one student, serves as their teacher. Some of her students have been in Beijing only for a very short time

"In our class, learning topics are all related to everyday life. A combination of vocabulary, useful sentences, grammar and speaking are used together because the parents are at different levels and are from different backgrounds,” said Wang, who also emphasizes the value of acquiring language skills within the international school community.

Alongside Mandarin lessons, BCIS has offered English classes to parents since last year. Susan Girardey, the parent teacher has put aside 2 hours a week to mentor the other parents lacking confidence in using the language. "At this time I feel that the parents need to build their communication skills, so we have a different topic each week. Parents get up in front of the class and discuss the topic for about 5 minutes. It helps them to improve their English skills. It also helps them to overcome their shyness or insecurity about speaking another language with others."

Beijing BISS International School has also been promoting the English courses for school parents so that they can "communicate better with the teachers," according to Jenny Sysko, the English teacher. "I think there are many other benefits. For example, the parents can learn more about the school, making them feel a part of the school community. They were able to make new friends, learn about other traditions and listen to the opinions of other students."

The general diversity within the adult pupils seems apparent throughout all of the international school classes, reaching as far as Finland and other European countries, or Asian countries such as Korea, Malaysia. There are even pupils from New Zealand. YCIS Beijing’s Judy Chick reiterates the fact that having such a cultural diversity has been advantageous. "We are lucky as we can try delicious food from different countries, and learn new languages and cultures during festive holidays every year.” BCIS’s Wendy Wang added, “This is not only a class but a place for parents to have a chance to gather together." BISS’s Jenny Sysko further repeats the fact that the parents have even visited museums together, and that the connection between the students has grown considerably.

With the introduction of parent class programs at various schools, it allows for parent to actively engage in their child’s education and discover what is happening on campus. Parents not only get an opportunity to build a close connection with the school, but also connections for lifelong friendship.


By Suswati Basu


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