Friday, June 29, 2012

Semester 1 at the Kindergarten

It must have been almost a year and a half ago when Barbara went to our business man friend Jerry and proposed that he could open up an International Kindergarten in this city.  To her surprise, he said "Yes, let's do it.  Oh, and one more thing, you're in charge of it."

A few weeks later and Jerry put down a swack of cash for a cluster of apartments on the first floor of a new building development in our neighbourhood.  They finished all of the designing and installations of floors, doors, video cameras, computer screens, dance room mirrors, flat screen tv's, and everything else by the end of last Summer.  They let it sit for 5 months so that all of the fumes from the paint would be gone and it would be nice and safe.

So there we were, last Winter and only a few months away from the start of the first semester.  Barbara was in charge of everything to do with the Kindergarten; finances, budget, purchases, registration, hiring, lesson plans, answering a million questions from Chinese parents, in Chinese.  It was a tough time.  A lot of "I have no idea what to do" and a lot of stress in taking every day at a time with not knowing what each one will hold.

I recall one particular day when, after fiddling around in an Excel document for a few hours, when Barbara just got up out of her chair, fell down on the floor, spread herself out on the carpet and wept.  Who of us does not know that completely helpless feeling?  Not knowing what to do, knowing that a lot of money has been invested in something you are in charge of.  That sinking feeling in your stomach, those tense, sleepless nights, those shaky phone calls from mother's asking a lot of questions in an way that you are not culturally prepared for.  There is a lot to relate to for a lot of people, but for her (and for us) it was a pretty new thing to go through.

I felt for her, of course.  Our relationship is a tricky surgery sometimes.  I dabble in trying to help out by trying to give her answers to her problems, then the monitor flatlines and a black out for a moment.   I take a breath, get the sweat wiped from by brow, then go back in and realize that my approach was all wrong.  In the end, I hug my patient.  It's the medicane I often forget about, yet it works most of the time as a short term treatment.  She needs regular doses.

Then, eventually, March 4th rolled around and I was sending my son and my wife off to their first day of school.

From there, things seemed to get a little easier.  A lot of little issues and questions seemed to sort themselves out with each passing day.  She tackled things as they came.  She got a lot of help from a few key people in the know, and she had a great co-teacher who made things work so well.

The class consisted of kids from the ages of 4 to 6.  She had Americans, Chinese, Canadians, a Korean, a Mongolian, and a Tibetan.  It was a very energetic and diverse group, as you can imagine.  Every days they would learn things in both English and Chinese.  A few of the kids couldn't speak English, but after time they grew more comfortable with it.  The same can be said for all of the foreigners and their Chinese.

While picking up Miles from the school I walked with one of the parents.  Curious about how his daughter was doing in the school, I asked, "So, does she like school"?  Upon which his response was, "Are you kidding?  It's all she talks about."

One boy did not speak any English, and at first he was timid and shy.  After a few weeks he was starting to be naughty.  Barbara mentioned this to his mother, who replied, "Oh, good.  that means he really likes school.  He's being himself."  Barbara liked that reply.

I am sure that there are more stories.  At the semester ending party,  Barbara, of course, teared up while welcoming the parents and thanking them for entrusting her with their kids.  The kids did a little performance of their games, songs, and dances and we finished things off with ice cream.  Parents gave Barbara cards of thanks, one mother cried so was so thankful for Barbara.  It was really a great time to see all of the parents and all of the kids together and to see this part of the process finished up and in the books.

Spring Class of 2012

There is a long way to go, but this first semester was a huge step.  Next semester the school will be bigger, not to mention that Mr. Jonas will be attending.  He's sure to add some sizzle.

After being here for 6 years, 6 tough years of confusion and clueless as to how we can contribute to this great city, it is a great feeling to see this happen.  Totally worth all of the hard times.  It's an amazing honor to be able to contribute to helping these kids start off on a healthy, fun, and exciting education.

I am very thankful for my Barbara.  I knew she had it in her, but she blew away all of my expectations. Amazing woman, loves kids so much, and is the perfect person to help get this Kindergarten off of the ground.  I am just happy to be a long for the ride, and give her hugs when she needs them.

Goin' on a bear hunt...


k.m. said...

great post! we have been SO blessed by your families efforts to put this thing together and it went SO well. our kids had an incredible first semester, and we are looking forward to many more! thank you, thank you, thank you!!! we love you guys and are so very thankful for you!

Brett G 英 明 said...

Thanks, guys. It's been great to have such a great response from everyone.