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FRESH OFF THE PLANE: Miscommunication!

We were happy to learn that there was an orientation session for parents at our children’s middle school. As newcomers to Canada, we saw it as an opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the new school system.

The first pleasant surprise was the very bright and cheerful lobby that we walked into. It was full of the students’ artwork and photographs of all the graduating classes going back several years. There was a table with some of the science projects that the grade 8 students had done and I was happy to note that none of them looked like they had been helped by their parents.

Memories of elaborate projects at our children’s school back in India were still fresh. My wife and I had lacked both the skills and the time to come up with similar ones, much to our children’s dismay.

A smaller table held a coffee pot with freshly-brewed coffee and homemade cookies.

My wife smiled at me. “I already love this school!” she said.

We were met by student volunteers who led us inside the gym where the session was to be held.

A lady with a very friendly demeanour welcomed us at the door and the second pleasant surprise came when she walked onto the stage and introduced herself as the principal. None of the starchy stiffness that we were used to.

My wife smiled at me. “I really love this school!” she said.

The principal introduced the staff and then gave a brief talk on the school. Its history, the services and programs they offered, their expectations from students where behaviour was concerned.

We listened with keen interest, fascinated by how schools functioned here.

In all the information she was providing, there was mention of a Communication program. I perked up on hearing this. My wife obviously had the same thought at the same time because she elbowed me in the ribs.
“We should ask about this program, Sunny and Bobby both deserve to be in it.”

So after the session, we waited to meet the principal and told her we were interested in signing up our sons for the Communication program.

She looks a little surprised.

“You don’t have to worry about that,” she said. “It’s not like we place all children of all newcomers in ESL or Communication programs. We do so only after they are tested and if they need the extra help.”

Extra help? Our kids needed no extra help, they excelled in English and always got top marks for essays, we informed her.

“So then why are you interested in placing them in Communication?” she asked, puzzled.

“Well, because as I said, they are really good at communicating and we thought this program might hone their skills further,” I explained.

The lady was silent for a few moments, processing the information. Then she understood.

“Oh, you think Communication is a program for gifted children?” she asked. We nodded eagerly.

“Well, actually, it’s a program we offer for children who are struggling to keep up with the rest of the students in their class. So if your sons are good in English, I don’t think they will need to be in Communication.”

– Harry Singh

What’s your story? Every newcomer, no matter how savvy or where he or she comes from, has a Fresh Off the Plane (FOP) story to share about their early days in Canada. Do you want to share your story? E-mail it to us at canadaboundimmigrant@rogers.com.

Posted: Sep 1, 2015

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