Monday, February 14, 2011

Kindergarten interview

In Hong Kong, children go to school from as young as two years old. However, actually securing a place in a local or international kindergarten can be difficult. Spaces are highly competitive. Some settings require lengthy essays from the parents about their parenting philosophies. Children may have to sit entry tests for which you  are advised to hire a tutor. After all, your child should know all their colours, shapes, numbers and letters before starting kindergarten. Alternatively, there are several guidebooks you can buy to help you prepare for the nerve-wracking interview, offering tips such as the recommendation that you and your child wear your best clothes to the admissions interview in order to impress.

I tell you all this in order to paint a picture for you of the interview for kindergarten our three-year-old experienced this morning.

We had trouble finding a taxi in the rain, so we arrived slightly late and wilted to the all-important appointment. The woman at reception seemed surprised when we politely refused her suggestion of "visiting the washroom". Tirzah and I were then ushered into a classroom while Craig was questioned by a staff member in order to determine his English proficiency as Tirzah's parent. There were two other girls tested with Tirzah. Their first task was to find a matching picture for each square of the lotto board on their table. Tirzah started out well, and I pretended like I wasn't actually cheering inside whenever she put the sun on the sun, etc. Then Tirzah accidentally knocked some of the laminated pictures off the table onto the floor by swinging her doll Alinta around. She hopped off her chair and attempted to pick up the pictures, but the smooth plastic squares proved most elusive. When she finally retrieved the fallen pictures, she decided to gather them all in her hand and they flew everywhere in a spectacular playing card fountain. Once again, she wasted many minutes on her cheerful card rescue mission. Eventually the teacher swapped activities and presented Tirzah with a wooden insert puzzle. Aha! I thought. Now, she'll show them! I relaxed back in my designated "Parent Chair" only to lean forward again in dismay as I saw my little puzzle expert drive a bus UPSIDE DOWN around the puzzle board trying it in every spot except the right one. The teacher had to direct her to rotate the piece ... to hand-over-hand help my daughter who has been doing 25+ interlocking puzzles for months now! I was relieved when the puzzle was removed and Tirzah was instead given some plastic coloured bears to sort. "Can you put the families together?" she was asked. "Where is this baby's mother?" The activity required collecting all the different sized yellow bears together, the red bears, and so on. Is that what Tirzah did? Not even close. Instead, she lined all the bears facing forward on the table in a huge semi-circle of miss-mashed colours and sizes in front of her as though ready to perform a musical concert to an audience of one. At this point the teachers announced we were moving to the next classroom to continue the testing in there. Tirzah happily skipped into the nearby classroom and headed for an activity table only to be told she needed to sit on a chair to listen to a book read aloud. "Do you like stories?" the teacher asked my child. "No!" Tirzah answered, unimpressed, still eyeing the attractive toys around the room. I was relieved that my normally book-loving child remained in her chair for the duration of Brown Bear, Brown Bear and even answered some questions relating to the animals in the book and their respective colours. Following story time the children moved to a drawing table where they were presented with a white piece of paper and fat new crayons. Impress the staff with your detailed portraits, Tirzah. I tried to communicate telepathically. Write some alphabet letters. Mention something spiritual. It was all in vain. My clever girl took the purple crayon in her chubby fist and scribbled a big purple blob on her paper. "What's that you've drawn, Tirzah?" the teacher asked. "I don't know." she answered. And just like that, the interview was over.

I am thankful for a few things:

Tirzah did not pick her nose.

She did not cry and cling to me.

She did not stockpile all the crayons in front of her and refuse to share them.

(All of which behaviours the other girls present were observed to do.)

Plus she looked mighty cute. How can the kindergarten NOT accept her?


  1. I was nervous for you just reading this entry, I can't imagine the pressure as a parent! I don't see how anyone can spend more than 5 minutes with Tirzah and not be impressed by her. If the cuteness doesn't wow you, her personality must.
    I hope she got some high marks for attempting to pick up the cards.

  2. Wow, performance anxiety to the max! My heart goes out to yoU!