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More of an Embrace Than an Orientation

By Marianne Brooks
More of an Embrace Than an Orientation

New faculty orientation at American International School of Chennai
Arriving at the American International School of Chennai (AISCH), I was pleased with myself for having already organized a nanny to take care of my five-year-old daughter. Moving to India on our own, with no connections at the school or in the Tamil Nadu community, I was of course worried about her. That the initial orientation began the day of our arrival, I imagined having to leave her with her new nanny straight away. I saw a difficult time of adjustment ahead.
Typically, an orientation would include leaving my child with a stranger in a new home, with none of the familiar trappings packed away in our shipment. It can be a challenge. Orientation can add an extra pressure on the parent to attend to our children, entertain and feed them, and express concern over their wellbeing.
But this was more of an embrace than an orientation. I should have known since my interview, when the Director, Andrew Hoover, asked me what I was looking for in a school for my child. I should have realized, when the Elementary School Principal, Kevin Hall, wrote my daughter a personal letter telling her not to worry about the mosquitoes in Chennai. I should have realized that this school would welcome my daughter as part of the community, not just me as a teaching member of staff.
Whilst new faculty was being oriented to our new work place, our faculty children were engaged in a care program designed to cover the range of ages and interests among the children of the new faculty of 2015. Two experienced classroom teaching assistants and an assistant P.E. teacher ran the program. Every day, the new faculty was welcomed to breakfast with their families. A childcare program followed, including arts activities traditional to Indian culture, such as sand painting, henna hand designs, and Tamil dance. The program also included an alternative sports activity, swimming, and daily down time.
As a parent, I could wish for nothing greater than that my child be valued as a member of the community in which she lives. The school administration decided to include the children in a way that gave them a sense of belonging. Our children were not only engaged, they were given a structure that allowed them to feel confident and creative in their new community.
“It was hard work, but it was a process.” Mona, Grade 4 teaching assistant, and Padma, Grade 3 teaching assistant, took on the program of their own volition, conducted research, and designed it as a celebration. An exhibition was held at the end of the week during which all the beautiful artifacts the children had created were displayed.
As a parent, I know that AISCH is a school that embraces its community through both what it says and what it does. Here is a school that is living its mission. AISCH is an embrace, not just an education.

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02/06/2016 - Ettie Zilber
Your heartfelt description of the welcome you and your daughter received is very refreshing. I was pleased to read that your school administrators understand the importance of a caring and considerate orientation program for the educators with children. It is almost obvious that this has short term impact, but what is less known is the long term impact on the children. In my book, Third Culture Kids: The children of international School Educators, I studied the impact of a Third Culture Kid childhood on the children of educators. This type of orientation program is so important that the children remember the process fondly even when they are adults. Not only that, 30% of these "EdKids" actually choose a career in education, and some also go international. You chose the right school for you and your child. Enjoy this wonderful experience! Ettie Zilber, International school of Arizona



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