Monday, July 27, 2015

Monday Musings: Happy Birthday!

"I'm sixty years of age.  That's 16 Celsius."
-- George Carlin

I’m one year old!  Well, my TpT store is, anyway.  (Does that make me 33.8 Celsius?)  This week marks the one-year anniversary of the opening of my store and that got me thinking about how birthdays are celebrated in other cultures and what the impact can be on schools.

When children are born in the US, they are zero years old.  But in China and Vietnam, and other countries in Asia, when children are born they are considered one year old.  Birthdays were not really celebrated in the early 1990s when I was in China but some families did buy birthday cakes to mark the day.  However, the cakes I was invited to share had way too much frosting and didn’t taste very good at all, probably because it was not a traditional Chinese custom.
Monday Musings about birthdays
Chinese birthday cake; source: CakesDecor
When children come from other countries or when parents register their children for school, it’s really important to take a close look at the date of birth and not just rely on what the families say.  I sometimes had students who were technically too young for the grade they were in, because the child’s age was calculated differently from the standard way in the US.  This may or may not cause issues later on for students, depending on their level of maturity and physical appearance.  (Have you ever encountered a situation like this?  Please leave a comment below if you have.)

I once asked a former student of mine, an ELL whose parents immigrated from Vietnam, how old she was.  She said it was complicated!  After hearing her explanation, I think what she meant was that according to Vietnamese culture she was one age and according to Western culture she was a different age.  But I still couldn’t figure out if she was in the “right” grade for her American age or not.

Musings about birthdays in other cultures
Vietnamese boy; source: Pixabay
Similarly, a student I had from India was in a grade two years ahead of where he should have been if going by the year of his birth.  One reason was that he was pushed ahead one year in India but it was also because his age was calculated in a different way from how it’s normally done in the US.  He was clearly not as mature as the other students in his grade—he was in middle school—and I’ve wondered how he fared in high school.

My Dominican and Puerto Rican girl students occasionally talked about celebrating their quinceaƱera and what it meant to them but since they were only 12 or 13 when they discussed it in class with me, their big day was still a few years off.  I don't know if celebrating their 15th birthday had an impact on the school system but I can well imagine the girls were not about to do any homework that day!
Musings about birthdays in other cultures
Celebrating a quinceaƱera; source: Pixabay
Regardless of whether I’m one year old or two years old, I’m happy to celebrate my TpT birthday this week!  But I think I’ll pass on the cake.

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