Tuesday, June 18, 2024

’10 out of 10′: expat family rates their first week at Mexican school

Schooling can be a hot button issue these days. In many places, there is so much polarization that the topic seems to have been added to the “best not to discuss” list, like religion and politics. Here in Mexico, there has been a recent flurry of controversy about new public school textbooks, though it doesn’t seem to have taken over the national conversation as much as up north.

Last night my wife and I had dinner with our friends who recently moved to Mexico. They have twins who started the sixth grade and just finished their first week.

Our friends’ kids have experienced a change in schools before, having moved from the Chicago area to Denver three years ago, so this wasn’t their first time adjusting to a new school in a new place. Do you remember when you were in middle school? Imagine a new school year not only in a new school, but in a new country – that would not have been an easy change!

My first question to the kids was “on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your first week in school?”  Both kids enthusiastically shouted “10 out of 10!”

I was taken aback by their answer. As my wife and I do not have children, we are always curious about parenting in general, and love to ask both the kids and their parents about the journey. The kids seemed genuinely excited and enthusiastic about their new school, their teachers, their friends, and the curriculum.

I then asked the parents about their first impressions. Understandably, they also began the week with anxiety and feeling stressed – were they being “bad parents” by moving their kids from highly-ranked suburban schools in the United States, to the relatively unknown experience of schools in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico?

After week one here in a school in Mexico, they both had very positive first impressions as well, with their expectations exceeded. I would describe the discussion with them as almost “in shock”. They talked about how “normal and drama free” the school environment felt.  They talked about how strict – in a good way – the school culture was. They commented on the use of uniforms in the school. They talked about the diversity of the teachers. They reflected on how it seemed to be like the “type of school environment that they went to when they were kids” and how different it was from the suburban schools of Chicago and Denver that their kids had attended in recent years.

These responses and reactions from both the parents and the kids could not be more of a contrast from similar conversations with friends in the United States. We have seen such an increasing level of stress in many of our friends and their children regarding schooling in the past years. There seems to be a perpetual drama about the curriculum, mental health issues, violence, drug and alcohol abuse. We always hear about how school is so different now, and so stressful for the kids. The answer to these issues has seemingly become an increased obsession with sports, on the part of both the kids and parents. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked my friends and their kids about school in the U.S., only to get a response about the sports they play.

What we found most interesting about our discussion with our friends and their kids was how often we have heard similar responses here in Mexico. No matter what school, public or private, foreigners or Mexicans, upper, middle, or lower class, we almost always hear the same type of response: they love their school.

Perhaps it was similar to the way our parents likely didn’t experience much drama or as many complaints when we went to school. They just sent us off to learn, have fun, and engage in some extracurricular activities.

I understand that what I am describing here might not resonate with many readers situations, but its what I have observed on both sides of the border. I don’t know what to make of all of this other than I find it intriguing and fascinating. What could be going on here? Are we measuring the right outcomes? Does this point to broader issues in our society?

I don’t have the answers to these questions here but think they are well worth pondering.

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