In our Chinese custom, respect for your elders trumps most other values. Hence, I was not surprised when we enroll our son in a local Chinese school, the first thing the school principal taught the newly accepted primary one students during orientation was to bow in respect whenever they see an adult, be they teachers, principals or visiting parents.
Over time, this practice becomes part and parcel of the students’ demeanor in school. I was both amused and impressed that my Chin-dian son has to abide by the school’s commitment to this Asian value. I was even more tickled when my Indian husband also “bowed” to the school principal when he met him by chance in school one day. The principal’s message of respect and teaching during the orientation had subliminally stayed with my husband.
This practice of “bowing” is common in all Chinese schools. What is not common is having a principal who stands by the school gate to greet the students every morning and bids them farewell at the end of the school day. The principal in question is Dr. Chin from Tao Nan School where my son is a student. I was not aware that he was doing this until it was shared by Asia One EDvantage.
Firstly my son takes the school bus to and from school. Secondly, he was in the afternoon session. Hence, he does not have the benefit to be greeted by Dr. Chin every morning. However, Dr. Chin does his ’rounds’ in the afternoon during recess to mingle with the lower primary students. I know this because I was a parent volunteer during recess in his first school year.
It was heartening to see the students so comfortable in the presence of their principal. (I remember quaking in my school shoes whenever the principal approach). I was also impressed that Dr. Chin took the time and effort to meet his students and establish a friendly rapport between him and his students, as well as the staff and volunteers who work on the school grounds.
While some parents from other schools may snigger and make fun when they hear of the principal’s unusual practice — greeting his students at the school gates, dictating that they have to bow and greet him when they see him — parents of current Tao Nan students know that it is an effective way for the principal to make himself visible and accessible to the kids who pass through the school gates.
“Dr. Chin always respond when we greet him,” my son said, adding “he never just walk away.” I too, have witnessed Dr. Chin countless of time with his fair share of greetings, followed by a friendly conversation with the students and parent volunteers. As a result, he has built an atmosphere of mutual respect and friendliness on the school grounds. I also think it is great that this principal practice what he preaches and models this Asian value for the young in such an amicable and kind way.
A principal like Dr. Chin is hard to come by. I’m grateful that he is the principal during my son’s first year of primary education, as his attitude and leadership are solid grounds for a strong foundation to my son’s academic journey.
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