Whole Child Education

Seeking certainty in an uncertain world

Justin has been a so-called “so-and-so’s good kid” ever since he was very young. He studied in a famous public elementary school and came out in front in every test. In G4 final exam, he took the first place again in his class.

But after that exam, he chose not to stay, and transferred to the then newly founded Dipont Huayao Collegiate School Kunshan (Hereafter referred to as Dipont Huayao).

You can imagine if he chose to stay in his old school, he would continue to be a top student. Then why did he choose to transfer? What kind of hardship and joy has he experienced in Dipont Huayao?

Let’s listen to his story.

To make it easier for you to read, the following statement will be in Justin’s mother’s first-person perspective.

Before coming to Dipont Huayao, Justin had been studying all the way in a public school, performing excellent academically. In the last final test in his old school, he even got first place in his class. Leaving a public school with a “class first” title causes incomprehension among our friends: what more do you ask besides academic excellency?

Justin didn’t achieve academic excellency without hardworking. To get good grades, his anxiety began to increase. Especially since G3, I noticed his obsession with good grades begun to affect his physical and mental well-being. Every time a test came, he became all on edge; if it was a big test like mid-term or final exam, he would become so anxious that he even lost sleep.

How could I not worry about him? So many kids suffer from mental problems nowadays, and I don’t want to regret or compensate when things are already irreparable for him.

But he is not the one to blame. No matter whether you’re a student or a teacher, if you’re in that environment, you’re tied to a set of value: grade means everything. Without a good grade, you won’t be noticed even if you shine in other fields. All my boy could do is to strive for a high grade.

He’s a competitive boy who want to gain attention and admiration from his teachers and classmates through his grades. But I know clearly it is an unhealthy mentality. He can’t be at the top all the time. Once he drops and he couldn’t accept his drop, what can I do to help him?

I discussed with his dad many times, and we agreed that’s not what we want for our child’s education. We want him to be outstanding, but we hope even more that he could love and accept himself, and thus become neither humble nor pushy when he enters the society. We do believe he will enter good schools if he follows his old path, but we want him to achieve comprehensive development.

In the recent two years under the circumstance of the pandemic, people have seen too many uncertainties. “Knowledge changes fate” might still be true for a case of our generation, but when it comes to our kids’ generation, academic knowledge alone is no longer enough. One needs not only qualification, but also EQ, social skills, teamwork skills, along with problem solving ability, insight and original view as well as creativity … None of these can be achieved by immersing in test papers.

That’s why we decided to transfer him to another school.

We never expected to be at loss after transferring to the new school.

At first, he returned home every evening sobbing and complaining to me: “Ma, I can’t understand the teachers.” We were mentally prepared for this, for the new school has a much higher requirement on English than the old one. So I asked him is it because the lessons are delivered in English? To my surprise, he said that’s just one reason. “The way of teaching, I can’t get it too.”

Seeing him in a loss, my anxiety increased day by day. Does it mean the old way of learning suits him better? After all, he had performed so well academically, but now he found it extremely hard to fit in this new environment. I couldn’t help thinking: did we make a wrong decision?

Besides, formerly I was more or less able to help with his study, or at least I could make some effort learning with him. But now I could barely offer any help. Everything should be done by himself.

The school gives many PBL assignments, requiring them to make PPT slides and do presentations; some assignments require teamwork, asking team members to take different roles in one task … He has never done any of these in his old school, and now he has to start afresh in every single challenge.

Two things helped us make it through.

The first thing is a discussion between his dad and me. His dad thinks Justin’s old environment is like a greenhouse, and he was a greenhouse flower.

We didn’t encourage him to step out of the greenhouse until now. He is a bud waiting to bloom after he adapts the environment outside. He’ll surely struggle, but if we pull him back now, it would be a crueler procedure for him to readapt the outside environment in the future.

The second thing is a talk between Justin and principal Zoe initiated by Justin himself. I was surprised Zoe was so patient with him, listening to his troubles, encouraging him and offering many practical suggestions and help.

Although I always console and encourage him as well, Justin thinks it’s just “a mother preferring her son”. He doesn’t really take my words into heart. However, the recognition and encouragement from professionals such as teachers and the principal mean differently to him.

That day when he came home, he was a completely different person: his eyes were bright, dancing into the room. I knew he began to believe in himself. As I expected, his English level increased soon after, having made big leaps in English reading, writing and mathematics.

During his hardest time, I used to say to myself: after this semester, we’ll go back to the old school. But now the situation has completely reversed. I often play with him saying: “If you don’t listen to me, I’ll transfer you back to your old school!” And he would reply with a red face: “It’s not fair you always threaten me with this!”

Besides academic progress, Justin also gains great experience in Life Block and advisory.

More importantly, he’s changed in every aspect in the new atmosphere, improving remarkably in getting along with classmates, attitude towards setbacks, self-planning and self-management.

Last holiday, Justin volunteered to plan his schedule. How to arrange his learning tasks, sports activities, recreations and rest? How to carry out his plan? He was doing it all, which is a big delight to me.

Formerly, it was I who made his daily task checklist, asking him to tick off the tasks one by one. This time he made the list himself, though he dragged a little in carrying it out. I heard him mumbling about some misarrangement that should be corrected next time. If everything was still arranged by me like they used to be, how could he have developed such consciousness? Every such experience is an opportunity for him to learn and grow.

After Justin’s G6 year arrived, fewer and fewer things need to be taken care of by me and his father. And I have noticed myself that I’ve also improved as a mother, developing with him together. From being mistrustful and worried to giving him confidence and letting him learn from mistakes, my development made me closer to and more harmonious with him.

At the gathering of mothers, we often complain about kids reaching adolescence. Justin brings me such problems as well. Sometimes he would talk back to me, but he would soon apologize: “Sorry about my attitude, ma.” He also have social problems, but he’s willing to share them with me, and I’m willing to listen and giving my advices.

As a mother, I’m ready to support him spiritually, mentally and emotionally. Many schools boast their “holistic education”, but in Dipont Huayao, I see with my eyes how a “full person” is holistically cultivated: the school has an overall plan on learning and cultivation to realize the kind of education we expect; while the families pay attention to children’s physical and mental health as well as character development.

The school and the families have now all been in their positions.

Justin’s experience of switching his track to Dipont Huayao is both real and precious.

It’s real because almost every student will inevitably go through this procedure during track-switching; it’s precious because the school, the parents and the kid have all played active roles, cooperating with each other and joining their efforts, overcoming various challenges successfully and in quick action.

Therefore, Justin’s mother kindly shared several tips with all the families who are making or going to make the decision to transfer.

Not a few parents are giving their attention to track switching. Should or should not their kids switch track? In the process of track switching, what suggestion will the school give to students and parents?

With Justin’s story and parents’ questions, we consulted Ms. Liu Congrong, vice president of Dipont Education and administrative principal of Dipont Huayao.

Following are Ms. Liu’s statement:

In fact, we don’t clearly distinguish “institutional education” from “non-institutional education” in Dipont’s system, or describ transiton as“track switching”. All the schools want to cultivate kids into talents for their countries, and that’s no exception in our country. But there’s not only one road that leads to Rome. To reach the goal of becoming a talent, we have various choices. As every child is a unique individual, parents and the school should find a unique passport to success.

Adults understand the saying that “the most suitable one is the best.” It’s the same case with education. Finding the most suitable way is more than anything. However, with a traditional teacher facing forty-some students in a traditional classroom, it is nearly impossible for a traditional school to give enough attention to every student.

I used to work as a front-line teacher in a public school. From my personal experience, two kinds of students usually get the most attention: top students and those lagging behind. However, the majority in the middle gets what I called assembly-line-style education. Individualized education programme is hardly possible for them.

That’s why in Justin’s story, the first thing that moved me is his parents’ doing. They have a long-term plan for their kid and spare no efforts in supporting their kid with all kinds of resources.

We don’t stress the differences between institutional and non-institutional education because we know that even a transition within the same system could face inadaptation. I think Justin’s parents chose for him a school with richer and more various resources and more individualized education.

And they are also very patient, giving Justin enough fault tolerance during the transition process, which is very precious since children grow in ascending spirals. During this process, if you only judge from one dimension, you may only see a peak or a valley, but that’s not the whole picture of their growth. The take-off of their grow begins from a big leap after a deep squad, and that’s the beauty of education and growth.

Justin is so lucky to have such parents.