Friday, 11 October 2013

In Love With Our Local Public School

Japanese elementary school study schedule
Every two weeks I get the class schedule. I know what he is studying every period of every day.

So this whole blogging thing? Yeah, not going to be happening in any proper way for a while. Sorry to anyone who has commented or emailed me lately, I will get back to you but I can’t promise when.
I’m hopping on today just to talk about how much I love Tiger’s school. I loved elementary schools here when I was teaching in them, but seriously, seeing them from the “other side of the desk” has just made me love them even more. They have done everything that could humanly be done to support us, from loaning us supplies they thought would be too expensive to buy to extra academic support through to sending walking buddies to our house every morning to pick Tiger up so he can walk to school with friends. When I need to buy something and the teacher thinks I won’t know what it is, she prints pictures off the internet for me. When Tiger didn’t want to go to school one day the teacher called to talk to him and if he still hadn’t wanted to go she was ready to come over to our house in the middle of a class to talk to him in person. When he did get to school, the teacher gave him a huge hug. 
Japanese elementary school teacher-parent note book
The teacher sends me a note every day in this book, and I respond. If anything happens at home or at school, we both know what is going on. It also tells me what his homework is and what he needs to pack the following day.

Over and above all of that, within a week of him enrolling in the school the board of education sent two staff over to visit him in class and talk with me, his teacher and the principal and vice principal. Because it was me, they sent two English speakers (both were my bosses at one time or another) so that I could speak more comfortably in English and they translated for the school staff. They asked detailed questions about our relationship, even how Tiger was getting on with the dogs, and we were able to come to some shared understandings about how to tackle some of his issues in a unified way with the greater insight that arose from the meeting. I have never felt that anyone was not on his side, not even for a moment. The school even said to drop around any time, just to say hi, because when kids see parents involved at school they feel like their parents care about their education and don’t just send them to school to get them out of the house. For a child with abandonment issues this is even more important, of course, and I am thrilled that the school sees me as a partner and not as a nuisance. They give me so much information about his day, it really helps me to prepare him (he likes routine and predictability, not so big on surprises). They even mentioned right away that later this year there is a family history project and they are already preparing an alternative plan for Tiger.
Japanese elementary school lunch menu
Excuse the fuzzy photo... his school lunch menu for the month, complete with calorie count, protein content in grams, and list of nutritionally significant ingredients.
From the first day, everyone has been supporting us. My old boss even helped us apply for child welfare payments. The principal and the child guidance center have been in touch to coordinate Tiger’s care in and out of school. My husband’s supervisor sent him home with a bag full of boys’ shoes when I called in frustration during a week of rain that the orphanage had only given Tiger one pair and they were sodden and we couldn’t leave the house to buy new ones because he was refusing to out the wet ones on. As ALTs we sometimes question whether we are really part of the community; that question has been resoundingly answered for our family and we are humbled by the kindness we have received these past two months.
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  1. Interesting. We are homeschoolers and hope to homeschool our daughter too if/when we end up adopting. There is some question as to whether we will be able to do this legally during the "in-between" of her coming to live with us and the official adoption, and then there's the eventual naturalization. Our ISSJ agent wasn't even aware that it is in fact possible to legally homeschool in Japan. I shudder to think what we may have to go through with the local school district to get them to understand. We have some protection due to our SOFA status, but we aren't sure that will cover an adopted child. It's good to hear you've had a good experience with the local public school in your area. We may end up going that route ourselves.

    1. This probably deserves its own post at some point, but Tiger was SO HAPPY when school started. I was upset that delays meant we missed out on the whole summer holiday with him and I was worried that school was starting too soon, but actually sooner would have been better. He went from being in an orphanage with 100 other kids on hand all day and all night to being an only child. He had never been alone. When the other kids were saying goodbye the worst thing they could think of about him being adopted was "you'll probably have to take a bath by yourself, and they might even make you sleep alone!"
      While I was focusing on wanting to bond with him and form a family environment, he was terribly terribly lonely and ached to be surrounded by other kids.

  2. Don't forget to update your blog profile. Your missing a very important new member in your family.


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