Dr. Drew 2:03
We’re going to have author, Teru Clavel, psychologist, in here any moment. She’s there but not fully on the board. Let’s see if I can get her up. Teru?
Teru Clavel 5:23
Dr. Drew 5:24
Hey, thank you so much for joining us.
Teru Clavel 5:27
Oh, it’s my pleasure.
Dr. Drew 5:28
You know, I’m interested in your book, World Class. I know we’re going to talk about mental health days, but give us a little primer on your book, One Mother’s Journey Halfway Around the Globe in Search of the Best Education for Her Children.
Teru Clavel 5:39
So I educated my kids in the local public schools of Hong Kong for four years, then Shanghai for two and then Tokyo for four years and then moved back to the US and they were in public schools in California starting in 2016. And last summer, in 2018, we moved back to our hometown of New York City. So this story basically chronicles what my kids experienced, what I experienced and researched as an education journalist, and what we can learn from what works and what doesn’t work in these various education systems.
Dr. Drew 6:12
Were you were you moving from school to school with the intention of finding better educational systems or you had to move for other reasons?
Teru Clavel 6:21
Great question. It was actually for work, actually, that we moved, but the kind of side really positive outcome was that my kids and I were able to experience these different cultures and communities and languages. And yeah, it was a tremendous opportunity.
Dr. Drew 6:39
So when you went to you started off in Hong Kong, and then when you went to China, and then I think you went to Japan, right? All of those were work moves or once you did Hong Kong, you’re like, “Wow, this is great. I’d like to experience other places in Asia and just see how they work in the school system. Is that what happened or did you move for work all three times?
Teru Clavel 6:57
It was for work, but we wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t something that we felt was going to be good for the kids. So, you know, when we moved to Shanghai, it was the fall of 2010. And at the time, a lot of people were still living a pretty nice expatriate life in Hong Kong. And several people in Hong Kong came to me and said, “No, are you crazy? Shanghai, it’s a hardship post, and what are you doing?” And of course, once we started looking in Shanghai, and I said, I want to put my kids into the local public schools. And at that point, I had three, people said, “You must be really crazy… kids to go to international schools if they’re expatriates” and you know, it’s funny, they would remind me, “This is a communist country.” And I said, “well, yeah!” and maybe fortuitously, just after we moved was the first time that the OECD released its PISA scores were Shanghai participated. And if your listeners aren’t familiar, the PISA exam is administered to 15 year olds across, at the time 60 plus economies and countries and it assesses for science, teading and Math and Shanghai came head and shoulders above everybody else including Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, Finland, and I thought, wow, you know what, I’m justified in doing this. My kids are getting the world best education. So it was both work but with an enthusiasm to do so.
Dr. Drew 8:21
So you put them in a school in Shanghai, did they have to speak Mandarin or Chinese or whatever language was spoken there? And it wasn’t an English school and they were just fully, like, immersed in the culture and the language at that school?
Teru Clavel 8:33
Yeah, that’s right, fully engaged. So my son, in first grade, he had been going to Mandarin immersion school in Hong Kong, so he was already fluent. And his school in Shanghai didn’t have heat or running water. So even the bathroom still had troughs, believe it or not.
Dr. Drew 8:51
Teru Clavel 8:51
And then when we moved to Tokyo, they didn’t speak a word of Japanese and at that time by an eight, a six and a three year old, but I think because they already knew how to read and write Chinese, they weren’t so intimidated by the Japanese. So within a handful of months, they were at grade level in reading, writing and speaking Japanese.
Dr. Drew 9:09
Wow, that’s crazy! And have they retained it? Have they retained all those languages?
Well, you know, if anybody knows teaching, you know, or maintaining a second or third language in the US can be somewhat challenging. But it’s something that I think is really important to them and I think they realize it’s an asset. So we do as much as we can to maintain it and they go to outside of school programs to do so and one of my children gets it in school, so very lucky.
And if you were just to summarize what you’ve learned. I’ve heard a lot of information… how would you summarize what you’ve learned?
Teru Clavel 9:44
Oh, that’s a good question. More than anything, I feel like especially having come back to the US in 2016, what I felt most that these countries do, not just you know, China and Japan but they prioritize education, so much as cultural value. And, for instance, in the US, it became really apparent to me that corporate interests can oftentimes trump what’s in the best interest for children in the classroom?
Dr. Drew 10:10
How so? How so?
Teru Clavel 10:12
Well, you know, there’s such an abundance of technology in our classrooms in the US. And where we were in Asia, the technology was pretty much a plug in the wall, you know, and their classrooms were lucky if they had a smart board. And so when I think about whose interests are being met, whose needs are being met, when I look at all this technology, when there’s been reports time and time again, that technology does not increase academic outcomes. And we see all the anxiety that tech time and screen exposure is creating in our children. And I wonder, you know, who’s doing this? And if you look at how often companies like Apple or Amazon are in our school districts lobbying for their products, you know, or you know, some some, let’s say food manufacturers are in lobbying for their cheese’s to be served in the cafeteria, I wonder when is nutrition going to come first? Or when are the proven academic results going to come first, when we see kind of, you know, obesity increasing in our country and anxiety increasing, so that was something that was really, really jarring to me. And then I kind of wondered, you know, how can kids be kids, one of the most joyful things I found about kids in Japan is, you know, six year olds are on their own basically. And they go to the school back and forth walking on their own. Some kids take a bus and a train and have to walk sometimes hour plus commute on their own starting at six years old. And they go to afternoon activities on their own and the community values these kids so much that I felt like everybody is looking out for them and their rules and discipline and people follow that and it starts in the classroom.
Dr. Drew 11:55
But the crime rate in Japan is like zero, right?
Teru Clavel 11:58
Oh, it’s, well compared to the US. Yes, yeah, sure.
Dr. Drew 12:01
So there’s a you’re not worried about that. Right? You know, you feel confident that people are looking out for your kid. So this sort of dovetails into other topic, so called mental health days. I, it sounds like you’re, you’re really advocating for mental health ways of life and ways of educating.
Teru Clavel 12:17
Yeah, you know, I think it’s a shame that this is even an issue in the US because I would hope that we would all look at the underlying causes of why this is taking place. Something else that was really different when I came back here versus an educational practice, is this idea of multiple tries on test projects, homework, assignments, quizzes, which I think on the surface is a really beautiful thing. We want to give all of our children many opportunities to succeed. But I would say the flip side of that is, how do we teach our kids to face challenges and overcome what people may deem as failures and to build that resiliency? And I think we’re taking that opportunity away from our children, when we we give them kind of countless times to finish a project. And that just doesn’t really happen. And I, you know, I have personal stories and that of my children as well. And here, you know, we think about participation trophies or the 12th place trophy.
Isn’t that isn’t that over with though? I mean, that was, you know, 10 years ago, right?
Dr. Drew 13:24
Because, I mean, I can tell you a great story when my son when we came back in the summer, he went to a chess tournament and it came back with this, I think he was about seven years old, and he came back with this enormous trophy and his younger brother said, “Oh, my gosh, you know, you won the tournament!” or something like that. And it turned out he came in fourth, but there were only four participants in the group, you know?
Oh, they didn’t want him to feel bad because the top three got trophy so they gave one to the fourth place kid too?
Just everybody got a trophy, literally in that case. Oh my goodness.
Teru Clavel 13:59
You know, and it’s one of these things where I’ve definitely learned from failing. And I even write in World Class about how one of the most stinging moments and such an educational experience for me was, when I was in Tokyo. I was in my early 40s and I failed my driving test. I mean, I had my driver’s license since I was 16 years old. And it was such a hard test. And I thought, wow, do I respect this country because are the roads here safe or what? You know?
Dr. Drew 14:28
Teru Clavel 14:28
But that stung. And I’m probably one of the safest drivers on the road now. Because I had to practice really hard for a driver’s test after I’d already been driving for probably 25 years.
Dr. Drew 14:39
Now, your training was in comparative international education, correct?
Teru Clavel 14:44
That’s right. Yeah.
Dr. Drew 14:45
So you were really kind of set up, or at least you had a frame of reference to shepherd your kids into these various environments that the average person, I would think would just get lost in that.
Teru Clavel 14:55
Yeah, so I am half Japanese half American and my home was culturally, Japanese. Japanese is my first language. And growing up, I spent most of my summers in Japan and for some of them actually went to school in Japan because their academic calendar before summer vacation ends at the end of July. So it wasn’t such a leap for me to think, okay, I can send my kids to these public schools. But how naive of me to think that Japan was like Hong Kong because the culture shock putting my kids even into school in Hong Kong, where, you know, the everyday street language is Cantonese and the language of the school was Mandarin with some English. And it was it was still very, very different. And in Shanghai, for sure. The culture was was jarringly different. So yeah,
Dr. Drew 15:44
World Class chronicles all this correct?
Teru Clavel 15:47
Absolutely. And it’s 50% anecdotes and funny stories. I mean, I think as parents we can all relate that we make tons of mistakes that we hopefully can laugh at and maybe cry at and then 50% research and what we can learn from from those systems.
Dr. Drew 16:04
Has anybody criticized you for being a helicopter parent?
Teru Clavel 16:08
You know, I did I get that I get asked that. And sometimes Tiger Mom, too at the same time. I feel like the real answer is intentionality. And I’m the first person to say, I refuse to help my kids with homework. It’s thier work to do if they asked me for help, they really don’t understand something that I’ll probably direct them to a book or something like that. But if they can’t do it, or they don’t do it, then I feel like it’s up to them to figure it out.
Dr. Drew 16:35
Can you hold on a minute I want to keep this conversation. Are you intrigued?
And I’m wondering since it seems to me you’re in a perfect position to be the critique or to give us a criticism of our current educational system. Hold on one second Teru Clavel. you can find her information at teruclavel.com.
Dr. Drew 17:17
We’re talking to Teru Cavel, her book is World Class: One Mother Journey Halfway Around the Globe in Search of the Best Education for Children. And we’re just, we’re just, we both.. you know, I have 26 year old triplets. Leanne has a four and a six year old daughter and my kids all went to higher education and I pushed it hard. But I had to push hard. It was not an easy you know, I was not a Tiger Dad, but it was not an easy process. It was a constant…I always felt like I was like, always pushing somebody up. And I just don’t understand how you did this, putting kids in, immersing at different ages, in environments where not only they don’t understand the language, they don’t understand the letters of the language! I can’t understand how you did it!
Teru Clavel 18:06
Well, I think I was also lucky that my kids were young enough. The last move that we had like this was on my oldest was eight. And that was when we moved to Tokyo, and we were there. until my oldest was 12. And then we went back to the US, but I think always valuing education. I mean, maybe that’s what people consider to be being a Tiger Mom, but I can’t remember a time when we haven’t had a meal where I wasn’t talking to them. You know, when, you know, you hear you’re supposed to speak to your babies in the womb, I mean… Right,? I would be talking to them. What did you learn and how was your day? And what did you get from it? And you know, how will your friendships and we always talked about what was going on at school? And you know, something that is actually really interesting is people often in the US asked me, so what are your issues with homework? I mean, how do you get your kids to do it? And my children have had homework since they were three years old in preschool. So it’s never been a situation where school doesn’t come with homework. It’s always been a packaged deal.
Dr. Drew 19:08
Yeah, mine too, but I had times when I’ve really had to get behind them and make sure they got through some bumps. They were kids, right? There’s one thing or another, you know, football injury or various things. Yeah.
Teru Clavel 19:21
That’s a good point, too. Because I would say, and I hear this a lot too, where, you know, it depends on your school, but it’s not necessarily cool to be smart. Right? Some kids get teased and it’s more cool to be the captain of, let’s say, a football team, then it is to be a straight A student who’s maybe studying for the math olympics.
Dr. Drew 19:41
I don’t think that’s the problem with some kids not doing their homework at night, though.
Yeah, just kids being kids.
Yeah, exactly. I think that’s what he’s talking about.
And maybe it was that you had a bunch of them. They were all bought into it. You know, I mean, it was a whole squad there that was working hard but…
Teru Clavel 19:56
I mean, you bring up a good point. I mean, for me, the way I think about it and I have this conversation with my kids all the time now. And they’re 15, 13 and 10. It’s: Education is such a privilege. And it should be fun because you’re learning and challenging your brain. And it’s the gateway to opportunity. And you can do it.
Dr. Drew 20:16
And granted, it’s a great way to do it. But you know, with piano lessons and everything that we all you know, I mean, I think getting one who’s now a musician, getting him through his periods where he wanted to leave piano, it took some serious, some serious parenting and of course now he looks back and goes, “Oh, thank god!” Then…months of conflict and all kinds of stuff. So I think the bottom line is stick it out. I guess it would be our fundamental point here but I’m out of time Teru, we can keep talking and it’s fascinating to us. But we thank you for writing the book and for spending your time with us. Thanks for the insight. The book is World Class!
Teru Clavel 20:52
No, thank you so much. Thank you.