Thursday, January 27, 2011

Parental Engagement Week 2011

This past week, all GEMS schools around Dubai had their Parental Engagement Week.
'GEMS' is a corporate body that runs and owns several private and international schools in Dubai. 'Parental Engagement' is their effort in encouraging parents to be more involved and engaged in their children's development.
It was a hectic week, but boy, was it all worth it.

I had the opportunity to sit in Izani's class to see how he's learning to read and write using the Phonics method. Watching how attentive Izani was in class raised my confidence that he is going to do okay in school :) Watching how creative his teacher was in engaging her young students was really inspiring. It was also a little intimidating, because when it came to when it was my turn to sit with Izani and engage in some learning games, he totally ignored me! I tried using the sing-song voice, the freddy fingers, the exaggerated expressions, but no go. I finally threatened to leave, and that worked in making Izani sit down and play with me. *shame*. I definitely am not teacher material :( I don't know how I got through all the readaloud sessions I had been doing before, without pulling out my hair. Perhaps I was more patient before?
Anyway, back to Izani's learning, I really love the learning environment. They truly truly believe in learning through play over here. (Now here it comes ... ) I hope that Malaysia has something similar to this, in Alor Star.

Then I got the chance to sit in Anis's class and see how she's learning to write better. They call the session 'Big Write' and the children were taught how to expand their writing using the principles of V - vocabulary (using different, descriptive and 'exciting' words), O - openers (using great and appropriate openers to start a sentence and engage the reader), C - connectors (using relevant and appropriate connecting words to relate to sentences or ideas together), and P - punctuation (using the correct punctuation and speech marks to control the flow of ideas). Masya-Allah, I really don't remember when I learnt how to write like that, but I don't think it was when I was only 8 years old. I remember learning words, I remember learning writing sentences and paragraphs, but I don't think anyone ever taught me writing this explicitly. I really hope Anis remembers all of this when we leave this school.

I also got to sit in Ihsan's Math class where he showed to me the different methods he was taught on how to do addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. He showed me which were his favourite methods and why he liked them and I shared with him mine. We then had a race in solving a few SATs questions. No guessing to who won. (me. tee hee) I really liked it that the teacher said there are no wrong or right method, just use one that you are most comfortable with, because our brain works differently. As long as you show you understand the problem, show that you know how to solve it, you get points, even if you get the final answer wrong. The final answer costs only one point. What an epiphany.

Aside from classroom sessions, they also organized talks with renowned speakers and authors.
Dr. Ron Clavier, a neuropsychologist, talked to parents how a child's brain develop from being childish to adolescence to adulthood. He explained the limits of a child's ability to process information, and how to handle it. He revealed what to expect in the future years of our children turning into teenagers, how their 'changing' mind would affect their perspective of the world and their behaviour towards it, and how we could reason with them. He also explained how to tell when your teen is ready to be an adult, and ready to accept adult privileges and responsibilities.
Another speaker was Mr. Bill Lucas, an expert educator, who tackled the topic "How to help your child to succeed in school and in life". He said that though schools may teach a child the curriculum of the 3 Rs (Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic), both schools and parents need to also teach them a curriculum of these 6 new Rs - Resourcefulness, Remembering, Reciprocity, Resilience, Responsiveness and Reflectiveness. In short, we should teach our children not just WHAT to learn, but more importantly, HOW to learn, so that they continue learning throughout their lives. It's really just like the old adage, "Give a man a fish, then he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, then he'll eat for a lifetime".
Masya-Allah, so enlightening and enriching.

It wasn't all academic and boring, they also had fun sessions like the Art Carousel, where school staff offered parents and students a chance to try 3 different 20 minute sessions of activities ranging from Indian Paper Folding, ballroom dancing and beginner guitar. We did Mask Designing (which is basically gluing sequins, plastic jewels, glitter and feathers on paper masks), Bookmaking (where we learn how to make an 8-page and 16-page book just by folding and cutting paper - no glue involved at all!) and we joined Rock Challenge (dancing in groups! Izani had a blast!).
The highlight of the week had to be the drumming session with Dubai Drums. They brought in 200 african drums and had 3 half an hour sessions of teaching parents and children how to play them! This was the only time I had thought to bring the camera, so this was the only activity I had pictures of:

We enjoyed the drumming session very much! I am seriously thinking of getting an african drum the next time I go to Global Village! :D

Overall, it has been a tiring and enlightening week for me. I am so inspired and motivated at the moment. I have learnt so much about my children and how to handle them. I just hope I remember it all and can put it into practice.
This also makes me wonder if schools in Malaysia have something similar to this. The week had really made me feel like the teachers and I are a team, and we have one goal, that is to groom our children to become not just information guzzlers and spewers, but to become learners, do-ers, investigators, creators ... adults who can survive in any situation and have healthy and fulfilled lives.
Please God, give me the strength to keep at it!


  1. "Masya-Allah, I really don't remember when I learnt how to write like that, but I don't think it was when I was only 8 years old. I remember learning words, I remember learning writing sentences and paragraphs, but I don't think anyone ever taught me writing this explicitly"

    I also dun remember how I can read n write,but some said I was genius at the age of 6.That was the time that I can read and write.But now no more surprise when children can read at the age of 4 or 5.

    And the MATH's method,i also remember...I really did a long calculation with one and a half page,and just guess! I got 0.Teacher said 'wrong format,you should follow what I taught you'...
    that's the system when we growing up..

    Send my regards to all children..happy seeing them in the picture.Izani..sampai kejam2 mata!

  2. Anonymous10:07 PM

    salam. i write this as a 'kakak',someone who excelled academically, a string of As all the way throughout school and the priveledge and rezeki of receiving a government scholarship to study overseas after SPM.please reconsider. it pains me to say that the malaysian education system will be a step backwards for your kids. too much emphasis on rote learning, not enough on learning and thinking skills. e.g.80% of kids get 8As at PMR, what's the point? a life of endless tuition classes, no time to be children. that's just at school level, what about tertiary education? i couldn't not write this. i hope i heven't caused any offense.

  3. maybe it is time to start similar schools in Malaysia...

  4. Rose - Izani tu gaya aje lebih, pukul nya tak kuat mana pun, and takde rythm lak tu!

    Anon - No offense at all. I welcome all opinions. :D
    Like you, I too feel that rote learning is a step backwards, BUT, I also feel that the pressure on children is exerted more by parents than peers/teachers. I cannot control other people, but I can control myself. I actually was going to blog about this, but was bogged down with other stuff :P Will do as soon as I can.

    Lau - I takde qualifications lah.. you know anybody? Oh by the way, I think there are a few schools that are like this. One of them seems to be a private school near Subang Airport (the name escapes me at the moment). My mom walked into it and said "This is exactly like Ilham's school!". My nephew is going there at the moment. My sister says he seems to be enjoying it very very much. So, there is hope!
    I just wish they'd open a branch in Kedah, though :)

  5. that drumming session is awesome. haven't heard such session being done here...

  6. I agree with Anon tu Elisa.. malaysia system torture our kids mentally.. they don't enjoy learning.. perhaps, people like us can suggest something to the PTA (PIBG), InsyaAllah..

  7. hohoho...i am so glad i stumble on your having fun reading it.....i am supposed to be working by now, but still bloghopping..happily....teeheee....anyway lucky nya your kids got to experience great learning in school...3 of my kids go to private school, after 6 years in govt offence, but rasanya cukuplah menaruh harapan hoping the education system will change for 6 years...the private school is not perfect, but more stimulating and conducive learning environment esp for my dyslexic daughter ;)

  8. oh btw..yes my kiddos go to the school yg dekat airport tu ;-) It used to be called APIIT SMart School, now dah tukar to Sapura Smart School.