Wednesday, January 29, 2014

An unexpected visitor

The twins have been in primary school for about a month. And it's become very clear to us that of the two, Evan is enjoying it much more than Jordan is. There is very little that appeals to Jordan in school. It isn't a good fit for her. Her teachers, too busy with 34 other children barely know who she is. Time outside in the play areas are less than 30 minutes on non-PE days and slightly less than 60 minutes on PE days. Her kinesthetic strengths are quashed by the need to sit for hours on end and the effort that she has to make to do so has exhausted her to the point that she doesn't really have any interest in doing much else.

The Singaporean parent in us wants to tell her that she's got to just suck it up and get used to it. It is after all the Singapore education system that she is going to find herself entrenched in for the next goodness knows how many years.

The educator in us is saddened. We see before our eyes what Ken Robinson was talking about when he spoke about schools killing creativity. Jordan, the one who drew at every chance she got, wasn't drawing anymore. And when she did draw, it didn't amount to very much. Her drawings seemed to reflect her mood; blah and uninterested. Then yesterday, we kept her home because she had a ear infection. She was the happiest child in pain I had ever seen. She had an entire day at home with nothing to do and no school to go to. And what she did was draw. Draw and draw and draw. She drew a mildly disturbing narrative of a pirate killing a bear for food but it was coming of her in oodles. She seemed free of the artistic constipation that seemed to have defined her for the last month. I spent most of last night picking up scraps of paper all over the house that she had drawn on.

The month has been us tip-toeing around her, trying to figure out what would work to bring back that spark in her eyes. It brought us joy to see her drawing with such fervour.  But at the same time, it saddened us. Being in school seems to have dulled her desire to create and we worry about the long term implications of that. Will her desire to draw and create really be beaten out of her by the rigor and demands of our one-size-fits-all school system? Will she end up being mediocre because much of what makes her Jordan doesn't fit into what is expected of a Singaporean student?

We try our best to give her time outside of school that she can just be Jordan. We have freed up their weekends and some of their weekday afternoons but it wasn't till the unexpected breather yesterday that we saw the Jordan of old surface. I want to hope that it really is just a period of adjustment for her and that she will be able to find that balance between boring school and fun everything else.

This morning, that chirpy and enthusiastic Jordan had retreated back into her shell once again; to be replaced by the surly, grumpy one who wasn't keen on going to school and slouching into the school gates with a storm cloud over her head.

Hopefully it blows over.


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