Hi! I’m back for a bit of an update for anyone who still reads this blog! (If you’ve wondered where I’ve gone, please take a look here ExpatChild)
Sadly, Rhiannon’s schooling in Berlin turned out to be a total disaster on so many levels.I won’t go into the full, gory details here, but from an academic and personal point of view, school here has been very damaging for her.
Her education suffered greatly due to a number of factors, including a culture here of negativity and criticism with no tempering praise. Her confidence and self-belief has been shattered by this.
Being put up a year was not a good move. Switching curriculums from the British curriculum to the International Baccalaureate wasn’t a good idea either, and unfortunately we discovered this the hard way.
Academically, it wasn’t much of a problem until she moved to Middle School. A few lessons pushed her beyond her limits, but others taught subjects she covered many years ago. Teachers gave no leeway or assistance in subjects where she’d missed out on over a year’s worth of teaching and the pressure mounted. She was expected ‘to know’ and was heavily criticised for not understanding certain things she’d never learned.
On the personal side, she was battling hard to be accepted into a difficult peer group who were older than her. While she has absolutely no problem making friends – at school - the mothers of these friends were unwilling to allow their child to meet her outside of school.
More than once I have heard this killer comment, “There’s no point being friends with her, she'll be leaving soon.”
“Soon?” We’re here for four and a half years! And it’s not just from parents; I’ve had it said to me by teachers too. Unacceptable. The children also picked up on it and repeated it to Rhiannon.
This ‘outlook’ (inlook?) is possibly more prevalent here in Berlin as it’s come up several times. Other parents of expat children say they’ve experienced the same closed-mindedness too. Since writing this post here https://expatchild.com/my-expat-kid/, many, many people have contacted me telling me similar tales, and most of them are expats living in Germany. You have been warned!
In some international schools, the pupil turnover is high, so they are used to the comings and goings of friendships. Here, however, there are actually many more 'locals' than other nationalities in the international schools and it made life pretty tough for her.
On top of all this (and more), there was a spectacular lack of support with regard to some nasty bullying from a disturbed individual.
While on the surface she coped remarkably well, leading to my previous optimistic posts, it all came to a head during October 2012.
We had a decision to make. One thing was clear; she could not remain in that school.
But where now? There was only one other option here in Berlin and we’d heard many poor reports about that school too. Plus, the bullying was not only taking place within school, but online and over the phone too - changing schools again wouldn't solve this.
Rhiannon wanted to go to boarding school in the UK. And we agreed that this would be the best thing for her for many reasons.
I cried for four days solid. I did research, asked advice from a mum of boarders here and pulled out all the stops to extricate her from the damaging environment here.
In December 2012 Rhiannon and I flew to the UK for a day (not recommended!) to visit a prep school and fell in love with the place; the teachers were amazing and the children even more so.
That school then pulled out all the stops and offered Rhiannon a place from January 2013. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we couldn’t sort everything out in that short a time, so she started there after the Easter holidays in April.
It’s been a roller-coaster of a journey, but she’s doing remarkably well there. Her education is finally on a stable footing, the children are charming, and educational support is high.
In fact, Rhiannon came out with this, very telling, comment, “Everyone is really friendly and nice. Even the boys are nice and kind. It’s not normal!” I explained that yes, that should be normal – what she’d experienced at the school in Berlin was a long way from normal.
Her confidence and self-belief have rocketed back and her future is looking much brighter than it was last autumn.
We're extremely proud of her and so relieved she's now somewhere stable, encouraging, safe and healthy.
I’ll come back with another post in a day or so to fill you in on other news!