Back to School: International Education
When I started this blog back in April, one of my intentions was to point out what I was learning about the differences between being moved to a foreign country as a child as opposed to moving your family to a foreign country as an adult. Based on my experience thus far, doing it as a child is winning hands down. For one thing, I was blissfully unaware that there was even such a thing as a visa until I was well into adulthood, and I can tell you that dealing with them is no fun, no matter what country you happen to be in. Mr. Logical and I look back on our childhoods and have no memories of any stresses or strains involved in adapting to new countries and cultures. We just did it. Of course, as children, we were blithely unaware of the amount of logistical fallout that the adults involved were contending with as they packed up to head to the next country, so that's probably why our bouts of fond reminiscing do not always result in the same level of enthusiasm from our parents.
My regular readers have already listened to me whine my way through most of the moving process, but one area I have failed to mention is education. More specifically, Son #2s school. (Son #1, having honorably acquitted himself of high school in the US in June, is planning on spending the next 6 months to a year
So. Son #2s school. As Mr. Logical and I both did as children, he will be attending an ' international' school, which is a short way of saying, "School for children who speak (some) English and whose parents expect them to be prepared appropriately for a return to life and higher education, (probably) in their English-speaking country of origin." Most of these children are citizens of English-speaking countries, but not all, and not all of them speak English as a first language. The classes, of course, are conducted in English, but there is special instruction for those children whose English may not yet be up to speed for the classroom. Part of the beauty of an international school is that your child gets exposed to children of many other cultures, and, as a result, becomes (one hopes) more sophisticated, open-minded, tolerant, and accepting; it also gives one the opportunity to break down barriers, dispel cultural stereotypes, and achieve insights that one would not have gained Back Home. (At least that is what I am expecting him to state on all of his University entrance essays; in reality, as far as I can tell, the main insights he has gained include the dexterous use of chopsticks - even for eating rice - and a hearty appreciation for 'Korea's Got Talent.' But I digress.)
This particular school is divided into a British Division and International Division (I am assuming 'International' is a succinct way of saying, "Everyone Else, Mostly Americans and Canadians".) Now, as an educator myself, I can appreciate the enormous undertaking it must be for any school to take hundreds of children from educational systems all over the world and begin to figure out how to: a) place them so that they are neither bored nor overwhelmed; b) address the myriad issues that accompany not only moving to a new school, but also to a new culture; and c) all the while prepare them to (at some point) successfully re-enter their own country's educational system. As you would expect, the school requires quite a bit of input in the way of records, test scores, and the like. However, even I was amazed by the amount of information I was required to provide in this case. We had to send Son #2's report cards for the last 3 years; recent standardized test scores; two recently graded papers from his mathematics class; a writing sample; two confidential teacher evaluation forms, an evaluation from his counselor, and a calculation of his grade point average and class ranking, in addition to providing all the other usual applications, forms, and shot records that are always required. I can also tell you that he does not have tuberculosis and his hematocrit count is acceptable, in case you were wondering.
I am not going to lie; as I slogged wearily through the application process, I gave much more than passing consideration to the idea of home education, but my natural inclination towards sloth eventually won out, and our reams of paper were duly faxed and emailed and pdf'd across the world. (As a side note, I have no idea how all this was accomplished before the advent of modern technology. Maybe you just arrived at the school office and hoped that what you'd brought would be enough.) Anyway, at the end of the day, Son #2 was accepted to the school, and, last Monday, we were summoned to meet with his counselor and discuss his schedule in preparation for the first day of classes, some two weeks hence.
Mr. Logical drove us to the school (no thanks to the GPS, which calmly and competently navigated us directly to a private university several blocks away from our intended destination) through traffic which made me
However, the real excitement occurred when we sat down to talk with the counselor about his schedule. As it turns out, despite the fact that the school is technically divided into British and International divisions, the high school students are not (as I had imagined) taught in completely separate classes. That meant that, Son #2, in addition to taking his electives (sport, drama, art, music) with his British classmates, also would be taking some of his academic (iGCSE) courses with them, which would still meet the requirements of the US school system for graduation and prepare him to do well on the SATs. Now, I should point out here that the majority of Son #2's perceptions about the United Kingdom (despite having a Canadian grandmother who grew up collecting photographs of the Royal Family and who has never been quite resigned to the fact that Canada is no longer a British colony) are based almost solely on his being an ardent devotee of the Harry Potter series. In some ways, this has been broadening, because he now knows about things like 'trainers' and what 'snogging' means, and -as I mentioned previously - it is just this sort of cultural insight that will enrich him in untold ways. However - and no offense to JK Rowling, I think she's a genius - I do think that, in Son #2's mind, the concept of 'British' and 'Harry Potter' have become inextricably linked. So when the counselor explained that he would be together in classes with students from the British division, I swear he expected her to pull out a Sorting Hat then and there.
Needless to say, this did not happen.
He is taking it all in stride, though, and was relieved to know that he wouldn't have to wear a uniform (the British division students do) or an academic robe (no one does, thank God) and obviously, there are no three-headed dogs or cave trolls or dark and brooding potions masters to cast a pall over his days, which is clearly a good thing. He's also aware that things may be different than they were back in Texas and Arizona, that it may take a while to get used to some of the differences he will run across, and that the learning curve may be steep in the beginning. All told, that's a heavy load to place on a pair of 14-year-old shoulders, especially when they (the shoulders) have not grown up moving internationally.
The good thing about all of this is that, while it's all a bit new and strange and overwhelming, he's excited and enthusiastic about it all. In fact, if I dare say it, I think he's really looking forward to starting school this year.
Even if his classmates are all Muggles.