Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Bit of Certainty

After the last month or so of various bits of uncertainty, life is slowly beginning to come together.

Dave had a meeting with his boss yesterday, who formally asked him to renew his contract.  Uncle H-- will not be moving us to Hong Kong in October or shipping us to the states over the summer.  We had speculated both options, and are quite happy with what has been presented.

The school situation is still in limbo.  I toured two schools in the French Concession, a neighborhood not far from our home.  In fact, this neighborhood is certainly closer to our home than L--'s current school.  I first toured The Nest, a brand new school teaching the Reggio Emilia approach.  This same approach structures the days at the Wonder Center, and we love it.  However, I did not love the school.  A few plastic play structures made up the play room, a handful of white pieces of paper with finger paints made up the art room, and dirty steps and dingy dining rooms completed the facility.  None of the teachers had training or experience with Reggio Emilia and none of the classrooms were mixed-age.  The director of the school seemed quite committed to the Reggio Emilia approach and may well be a wonderful teacher.  Unfortunately, she has not proven herself to be a good director.

I walked out of The Nest feeling wildly discouraged, as if nothing could possibly live up to The Wonder Center.  Then I went into Tiny Tots.  And although it is no Wonder Center, I think it will be fine.  I walked in the door, after having left The Nest, and my first thought was These people clearly know what they're doing.  The rooms were bright, clean and cheerful.  The entire space was quite inviting.  The staff were friendly and the children smiled at me.  The school does not have mixed-age classrooms, which disappoints me.  But when asked about their classroom structure, the tour guide had a sufficient answer.  She explained that their class sizes are quite small - with a 4:1 teacher:student ratio.  This way, children can progress together with children at their own stage but teachers can tailor projects and assignments specifically to the needs and gifts of each child.  They do offer a half-day program - and this program brings them home a full hour earlier than the Wonder Center, which would be lovely.  And although their day is quite structured, their learning is all based in play.  The children all seemed to be quite comfortable and having a truly lovely time.  I think that my children will do fine there.

As I became at peace with this option, I learned that the The Wonder Center may be able to keep their doors open after all.  Cancellation of her lease had caused the director to close the doors this summer.  But the complex which holds the lease had promised a preschool on their grounds to a number of new residents - each of whom now threatens to leave if the preschool disappears.  In a bit of a panic, the chastened landlords have asked the director to stay and she must decide whether or not to trust them.  In short, we still don't know whether or not The Wonder Center will remain in Hongqiao.

Add to that the uncertainty of most of our friends.  Many contracts have been shortened with the fallen economy, sending many people home permanently this summer.  Friends applying to the Foreign Service have months to wait before learning whether or not they will be accepted, and then asked to make multiple short-term moves over an undefined period of time.  And I am quickly learning that none of our friends plan to stay in Shanghai over the summer.

And in the midst of this uncertainty, I am learning to relax.  About a complaint, I received a text this afternoon saying Dont worry love!  It is out of our hands.  I may have the message framed and hung on my wall.    I have moved to where I am not worried about the school, I am not worried about any potential moves, and I am not worried about money.  I am a bit worried about our house - it went back on the market at the beginning of March, but has only seem a few showings.  Word around the neighborhood is that we are wildly overpriced.

Don't worry, love.  It is out of our hands.

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