Thursday, April 24, 2014

The New Kids

We've been seeing some new faces around our school lately! That's because we have a few new children who have joined our Beijing Group Educational Foster Care Program, and they have, in turn, joined our school. Being the new kid in class can be difficult for anyone, but the Little Flower teachers have been working hard to make sure that these newcomers feel comfortable in their surroundings. The other students have helped out as well!

The first "new kid" is Li, a five-year-old girl with Down's Syndrome from GH #3. She arrived at Little Flower recently, and joined our school after just 1 week here. She's a bright, outgoing girl who loves to talk.

She does have some delays with her speech, and it can sometimes be difficult for our teachers to understand her, but that doesn't stop her from chatting with classmates and teachers alike! This is a skill that our teachers will work on with her in the coming months.

She has great concentration and is extremely curious, with a desire to explore everything around her. Naturally, this can sometimes lead her to mischief. Our teachers have reported that she tries to eat a lot of things that probably shouldn't be eaten... This, of course, led to a more thorough round of child-proofing in the classroom, where some of the smaller toys had to be put away. Li can also be rambunctious around the other students, taking off her shoes in the middle of class, or nicking food from her neighbor's lunch bowl! But no matter, the other kids have been helping to guide her in the right direction, especially the older ones.

Because we employ individualized education methods, and have kids of different ages in the same class (many of whom are foster siblings themselves!), we see a lot of big-brother/big-sister relationships at our school, with older kids helping out the younger ones.

The other new kid is Zhen, who just arrived at GH #4. He had spina bifida, and two successful surgeries in 2009. He's the most pleasant, laid-back kid you'll ever meet. He's extremely easy-going and warms up to everyone right away.

We also have a few other kids joining the school this week: two older girls and one boy. The two girls, Ling and Jia, are between 11-12 years old and recently arrived from their orphanage, where they had a small classroom but never really attended school. Because they aren't familiar with a real school environment, we decided to bring them into our Early Education Center as a sort of trial run. This will give them a chance to adjust to the daily rhythms and activities of an academic environment before transitioning to public school.

Similarly, we have Gui, a 12-year-old boy, currently living in GH#2, who started at our school on Tuesday. He's extremely shy and a little bit timid. He doesn't like big crowds or noise, and has been largely staying at home. Little by little, however, we've been trying to bring him out of his shell. The next step, of course, was to get him into school.

Because we suspect that he's had some kind of emotional trauma in his past, as well as experiences with bullying in his orphanage school, we want to create a safe, relaxing environment as he transitions back into a school environment. A few days ago, Maria, one of our teachers, visited him at home to talk about how he felt about going back to school.

She reports that he acted very much like an average teen, with some outward indifference to the situation, but that he did give her a shy smile! She told him that they would be able to start slow, with a choice between half days or full days during his first week. "When a child has experienced some kind of trauma, it's very important to let them take charge--to see that they have the power to decide what they want for themselves," Maria explains. Hopefully, Gui will be able to interact with our other two new older students, and they will be able to help each other adjust to the new environment.
Maria and the other teachers will be able to closely observe these kids, whether it's to see how they interact with other students in an academic environment, or to see what might trigger any anxiety. When asked whether or not she found it a challenge to deal with so many kids with different needs, Maria replied, "Not really. Our school focuses on individual education. Everyone has their own interests, skills, and potential. So everyone's different anyway!"

Let's hope that all of our new kids get into the swing of things very soon!

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