‘You can never become rich unless you like rich people’ – Douglas Coupland.In the short period of time I have been teaching my class of 3-5 year olds, I have began to get to know their personalities rather well. Despite their individual differences – as with all people – these children have one factor in common. They come from a rich background. To attend the kindergarten school I am working is not cheap, my class – as we have a foreign, English-speaking lead teacher – is the most expensive. This common factor is dominant in my class and the repercussions of growing up in such a sheltered, rich household is demonstrated in every school day.These children are spoilt, the girls are consistently dressed in lavish, Disney dresses whilst the boys have designer footwear that they will outgrow within a month. The majority of the class are an only child so they have difficulties sharing, socialising and sometimes refuse to complete the simple task of dressing themselves just because an adult is on hand to do it for them. Parent reactions certainly do not help, particularly as we have a WeChat group (this is like China’s version of Facebook/WhatsApp) for the parents of the class. I still find this very unusual, as I do not enjoy being contacted by parents at the weekend. They use this group to consistently check up on their child; ‘has Bella drank enough water today? Why is Eason not in circle time? Please can you send me more pictures of Andy? (The lead teacher must post photos of the children’s school time to the group), did Rachel sleep today?’ And if these questions are not asked via social media, they are asked at the end of each day.
Despite their obvious lavish beginning to life, I still feel these children miss out on just being children. They don’t have the same social life, ‘play dates’ are non-existent so their only regular company (prior to school) is groups of adults. They live in huge, luxurious flats absent of any garden or outdoor area. I have been told that trying to introduce the term ‘house’ by a westerners standards – two storeys, front and back garden, a gate – is confusing as they simply do not understand this concept of living. I did not realise how much I appreciated growing up in a house with a garden on a quiet street surrounded by greenery. Though the children here do not know any different and many will continue to be city dwellers for the rest of their lives, I cannot help but feel they just need a good roll around in the fresh outdoors. Whilst I am unable to provide this, as their teacher I am able to provide laughter, fun and play and if that is all these children take from my time here, I will be satisfied (that and a few English words of course!). I am certainly learning from them as much as they are learning from me. I love my children however whilst I enjoy assisting the ‘rich kids’ in how to play, I want to be with the less fortunate children. They are the ones I really want to spend my time helping in the long-run. My time in Beijing is certainly contributing to my experience in being able to achieve that.