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Mom with Big Ideas

February, 2008
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CNY Celebrations 406 When she was asked to lead the Parent Organization at Yew Chung International School of Beijing, Virginia Knott was helping the primary school coordinator on some special projects last year.

  “Well, why not?” Virginia recalled answering. “Basically, the job of the PO is to help plan events and projects for the students and to promote the school and children.”

  Holding to this commitment to the job, Virginia came to work at the school everyday till 4 pm during the early days. She was able to organize quite a few activities, such as the Beijing Olympics themed carnival last May and the pre Terry Fox Running challenge in October. The children ran laps on campus during morning breaks. Each lap was sponsored by the parents for 1, 5 or 10 RMB. At the end of 8 days of running the students together ran over 1,115km. This was a unique way to raise 25,000 RMB for cancer research and the children really pushed themselves. 52 students far exceeded the 8km target .IMG_3680

  The latest “Wish Tree” charity drive last December was another huge success. All wishes were fulfilled, that is, 75 needy children were  designated to participate from Compassion for Migrant Children (CMC) as well as 43 students from No. 3 Balizhuang Elementary School of Beijing. Each child made three wishes on paper and folded this as an ornament to hang on the YCIS “Wish Tree”. Students removed the wishes, purchased the gifts and returned them wrapped in beautiful packages to the school.

  “This is the first year we did the ‘Wish Tree’ charity drive. It was really fun because people knew who they were buying the gifts for, and exactly what gifts the child wants by reading the lists ,” said Virginia. “We’d like to keep it going year after year, and the recipients will be school children that need help. Children learning to help others who are not as fortunate as they are is an important life lesson. Schools helping schools is a good way to promote this idea.”

  Sitting in the small PO office, Virginia said life is easier for her nowadays as many things are organized. There is a core committee of parents at the PO who have been meeting every Wednesday since the beginning of the 2007 school year to discuss upcoming events and what should be done next. In addition, a lot of parents volunteer to support special events like sport days, bake sales, the Christmas Bazaar, book fairs, school carnivals and other big celebrations.

  As a routine, Virginia still comes to work at the PO office at least 3 days a week, 4 hours each time, checking emails on the PO’s website and making sure those questions from parents are answered and that all PO members are up to date with on going activities.

  Virginia’s daughter, Cara is now in Grade 7 while her son, Curt is Grade 5, and this is their 3rd year studying at Yew Chung. They both are very happy to see their mother at school everyday.

  Sometimes the students come to Virginia directly to ask for her organize events such as a school dance. She is always more than willing to listen to them. “They do like someone like me being here so that they can voice their ideas,” said the mom. “When I talked to other parents, I also asked ‘what do your children think about this or that?’ In this way we can get more input from the students, and their suggestions have all been good so far!”

   Through her daily work, Virginia discovered that many parents at Yew Chung tend to be shy and that they are not used to having direct interaction with the school until there is a parent-teacher conference. Parents tend to think they are responsible for their children after school time. There are many opportunities for them to contribute during school time too.

  “If you really want to know what is going on in the school, you need to be there to see for yourself,” Virginia strongly suggests. “Especially at international schools, teachers are usually on a three-year rotation plan as are many of the parents.”

  The president also recommends parenting courses organized at YCIS, which might serve the needs of many parents. She would like to encourage parents to simply get involved. Most teachers (especially in primary years) would love to have the parents there to help with some special projects they are doing in class.

IMG_0480  By contacting the PO, parents and even new teachers can get good perspective about what is going on outside the classroom. Those new to the school, may receive more current information about the school from parents who are involved in on going activities. “They know how the school has developed the weakness and strengths. They have seen first hand how far YCIS has come over the past few years. We have some parents who do stay here for a long time, all of these people are very good source of information for everyone in the school,” Virginia said.

  For the year 2008, her goal is to continue to help Yew Chung students reach out into the community they live in, and to encourage them to take part in outside events and activities which promote educational and life skills development.

  “We have an incredible academic record, which people really should know about,” explained the president. “The moderate-sized campus is actually very popular among new families whose children are used to studying at smaller schools back in their home countries. Parents also like our bi-lingual program and strong Chinese Department.”

  Virginia also hopes to continue with and develop new projects that encourage Yew Chung students to make friends with students from other international schools. Once these connections are made, they can have many joint activities where students come together for music performances , movie nights, sporting and fun events.

  “Through this type of communication, the students will hopefully develop better friendships, social skills, and even improve their language skills,” she said.

  A Pen Pal project is also on her mind for Yew Chung children in Beijing and children from a small town in Oregon, USA, where Virginia and her husband have a summer house. Once the project is kicked off, children from both sides can learn about their different ways of life and cultures by writing to each other.

  “This is the kind of project I really like to work on,” said Virginia. “Maybe we can develop it into an exchange program later on. Well, why not?”

By Xing Yangjian

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