Saturday, June 30, 2007

School Time

Well, hello all. You’ll never guess where I wrote this from. I was in Mykonos, an island in Greece this time last week when I wrote this but couldn't get online to post it till I got back home. There was a conference in Athens and a bunch of us hopped over early to catch the weekend there. That’s part of the reason I have been MIA for so long. Since I was going to be away for a week, there was a lot of stuff to get done, both at home and at work. To add to that, Ayaan started playschool and for the last one and a half weeks before I left, I had been picking up and dropping him, leaving me only half the day to work – so basically I had to finish two weeks worth of work in half a week!

This post is basically about the playschool experience so far. Ayaan’s first day was 14th June. And he has been a complete dude – taking to playschool like a duck to water and not shedding a single tear till date.

On the 12th, they called only the parents to give us an initial briefing on timings, traffic rules, and other such stuff. They also gave us a few books and an uniform – Friday is Uniform Day, an attempt to get kids used to wearing uniforms before they move on to proper school.

To start with, the books depressed me a bit, especially since they wanted us to cover them. I just never thought I would be covering books for Ayaan so early and I begin to wonder if it was all just too much, too fast. But then I went through the books and I realised that they are not all that different from the books that I have been reading to him anyway – a coloring book, an ABC book, a plain notebook through which the teachers communicate with the parents and a general picture book. There is also a parent’s workbook and when they start coming home and talking to you about what they did at school that day, you are supposed to illustrate it with them with pictures, stickers and stories… to basically reinforce what they are learning. There is also this cool book for the parents, which contains all the rhymes that they are going to learn over the year so that we know what they are talking about when they come home and repeat them. Anyway, I covered them all with neon green paper and put Mickey Mouse labels on them, so they look more cheerful and less school-like than they would have with brown paper…

At this school, they don’t let the parents attend with the kids, even in the beginning. Their experience has been that everyone (kids, parents, and teachers) settles down faster if the parents stay out of it and I tend to agree with them. On the first day, I took Ayaan to the school with great trepidation, expecting it to be a highly emotional and traumatic experience for both of us but it was quite the opposite. I took him in and his first response was to bury his face in my legs. Then I just turned him around and introduced him to ‘the nice teacher aunty who will take care of him’ and gave his hand into hers. At which point, he just walked off with her, as cool as can be, without a backward glance.

I had to be back to pick him up in an hour (they will slowly increase it to two hours in the course of the next three weeks) and I cannot summon up the words to describe the sound emerging from the school gates. Try to imagine a hundred babies crying at the same time, at different volumes and pitches. Since Ayaan had gone in peacefully, I was worried he might have started crying because everyone around him was. When I entered, I saw him before he saw me, through the glass door of the classroom, and it was a moment of such extreme pride, I thought my heart would burst. There were about 20 kids in the room and about 18 of them were just bawling like the world was going to end. And there was Ayaan, in the middle of it all – completely unfazed by the chaos and the cacophony and happily playing on the small slide in the corner. He was thrilled to see me but actually wanted to stay on longer – ‘Mama, slide more’. And in the car, he kept jumping up and down and saying ‘Mama, school jayenge’*

I thought this might have just been first-day luck but he has been raring to go everyday – on Friday before I left, the first thing he said to me when he woke up in the morning was ‘school jayenge’. It’s a huge weight off my shoulder, because I now know he was ready to start playschool and I didn’t send him too early. Also, I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy Greece with a relaxed mind if he hadn’t settled down before I left.

I have been thinking about why it was so easy for us, while other kids were clearly upset and took time to settle down. And I came up with two reasons:

  • The timing was crucial. I am glad I waited till he was two; quite a few of the other kids in his playgroup are between 18 months and 2 years. This has really made a difference since he now understands a lot of what I tell him. For over a week before he actually went, I spoke about school to him a lot – about how he was going to have lots of fun, that there would be lots of other babies and many new toys to play with and that Mama would leave him there but would be back to pick him up really soon. It seems to have worked because even on the first day, he was quite excited about going to this exciting, new place he had been hearing about all week. I think our experience would have been quite different if he had younger – it would have been far more of shock for him because he wouldn’t have known what was going on.
  • Since I work, Ayaan is used to me leaving. In fact, these days we have quite a little farewell routine for when I go to work. I kneel at door and he runs to me, dispenses a quick hug and a kiss and then coolly closes the door in my face… saying goodbye to me at the school was therefore not such a big deal.

Anyway, whatever the reasons, I am thrilled and proud to be the mother of a happy, adjusted toddler who’s enjoying playgroup. More on the Greece trip coming up soon.

*Mama, we’ll go to school.