We Are Huili: How My Adolescent Son Is Thriving at Huili

This week’s article in the We Are Huili series is by Ms. Fang, whose son, Joey, joined Huili School Hangzhou two years ago and is now a boarder in Grade 8. Ms. Fang was a bit concerned when Joey first started at Huili as he was about to enter adolescence and she was not able to be around him every day.

What are the changes that adolescents experience? Are these changes nothing but signs of rebellious behaviour? How will good education and parenting positively affect adolescents and assist them to thrive? We hope you may find some inspiration in Ms. Fang’s story.

Respecting Your Children’s Personality and Thoughts

I find Huili’s educational ethos particularly meaningful in that it encourages each pupil to discover what makes them unique, whether it be in academic performance, extracurricular activities or in the process of developing their personalities. It is essential for adolescents to feel respected and appreciated in order to grow and thrive.

At the same time that their studies are becoming more academically challenging, adolescents are also transitioning from children to young adults, which requires timely adaptation and adjustments. This is why I have paid close attention to Joey’s emotions, values and behaviour at this crucial stage of his life.

I would not consider Joey to be a rebellious adolescent by any means, thanks to Huili’s respect for individuality and inclusive identity. Here at Huili, he has no need to express himself by being defiant because his thoughts and feelings are respected and valued by his teachers and classmates. As a parent, I share the same values as the school, treating my child like an equal and communicating with him with an open mind.

As an adolescent, Joe has a stronger sense of self-awareness. He now has and insists on his ideas, and experiences some normal emotional ups and downs. I have thus adjusted the way I communicate with him. I talk to him like a friend, treat him as an equal, and ask for his opinions. When he insists on his own, I choose to respect him, as I believe that adolescents are capable of telling right from wrong and can make their own judgments about whether or not they should listen to their parents.

My role as a mom is to accompany Joey through difficulties and challenges, share my thoughts with him and give him more space to judge and cope by himself.

Learning to Be Independent and Confident as a Boarder

After starting at Huili, Joey also experienced life as a boarder for the first time. With another new change, it was natural for us parents to worry if he would be able to adjust to this way of living. The boarding staff at Huili told me to have faith in children, and indeed it has turned out that children can adapt to a new style of living better than we envisioned. It was not long before Joey began to enjoy his boarding life.

In Joey’s words, his teachers at the Boarding House are professional and attentive. Whenever a boarder feels gloomy, boarding staff are always there to guide them through any difficult times with great patience. Two years at the Boarding House have equipped Joey with some valuable life skills, such as folding his quilt, organising his clothes in an orderly fashion and managing his time properly.

Joey’s confidence has boosted dramatically as a boarder, too. He was honoured to be elected as the House Representative of De House when he was in Grade 7. As House Representative, he was given more opportunities to be part of campus activities and stood in the first row with his housemates when performing on stage, a place that he had once been too reserved and shy to take. Now, however, seeing him demonstrate himself with incredible confidence, I am very grateful to Huili for this change.

Improving Oneself through Inner Drive

What we want for Joey during his junior high period is for the school to increase his thirst for knowledge, motivation to learn and ability to think independently, and to instill in him positive values and outlook on life, rather than merely teaching textbook knowledge. This is also one of the reasons we chose Huili. It is my belief that children of healthy characters with positive values and outlooks on the world have an instinctive motivation to learn and inner drive to improve themselves.

When Joey first started at Huili, he found the curriculum and extracurricular activities quite demanding. Many lessons are delivered in both Chinese and English at Huili, requiring a higher level of English ability for all pupils. It was quite challenging for Joey to grasp new concepts in English at the beginning. Fortunately, his teachers were responsible and assisted him in adjusting to this new learning environment. There was a time when Joey was having difficulty mastering a maths concept, so his maths teacher came to him after class at the Boarding House for a one-to-one tutorial lesson to help him understand it. Following teachers’ advice and his own exploration, Joey found a way to thrive under this bilingual teaching approach. He previewed lessons for the next class in Chinese and tried to understand the contents and logic before attending the class delivered in English only.

I am surprised to see that after two years at Huili, Joey is now able to learn chemistry and biology lessons in English. He does not need to translate what he is learning to Chinese in advance. I believe that this is thanks to Huili’s progressive model of bilingual teaching.

Academic performance is not Huili’s sole focus; rather, the school encourages pupils to develop their interests and hobbies by introducing a wide range of extracurricular activities. Joey has discovered new interests in ice hockey and kayaking at Huili, which he has been practicing since then.

I could not approve more of how Huili values pupils’ interests and hobbies. Being a well-rounded person does not only include academic excellence, but interests and hobbies as well, which I believe constitute a part of one’s character. Joey started learning piano at the age of four, and we encouraged him to learn fencing when he was eight. We do not pressure him to excel in these areas; instead, we hope these hobbies can enrich his life in the future.

Currently, Joey spends over ten hours per week on his hobbies, which he has achieved through his time management skills. However, he may grow anxious when overwhelmed with multiple tasks, such as juggling course reviews and interests at the end of a term. When this happens, I usually talk to him, help him list the priority and urgency of all tasks, and suggest he prioritise his learning at the end of a term and invest more energy into his hobbies after the term ends. After our discussion, Joey can then make proper plans to manage his learning and extracurricular activities.

In this diverse and inclusive Huili environment, Joey is experiencing adolescence more smoothly than we imagined. As we witnessed him grow and thrive in his exploration of the world, we decided to send his little brother to Huili as well.

His brother is now thrilled to be a Grade 4 Huili pupil, not just because he can be with his older brother, but because classes are dynamic and he has more time to do sports. He said that time seems to go by extremely fast at Huili, as he is excited to go to school on the school bus every day, and has made many friends in just a month, whom he misses very much on weekends. I believe motivation to learn emerges when children enjoy their lives at school, and I hope my boys will grow happily and embrace their exciting lives at Huili.