Mexico City, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 01/17/16

Personal Experiences from Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico 01/17/16

School Name:


Background Information:

1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?


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2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?

Currently in 5th, 7th, 9th (British equivalent = J5, F2, F4)

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3. During what years were you affiliated with this school?


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4. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?

US Gov

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5. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?

We wanted a smaller, more diverse school without bullying and where the kids could meet expats. We heard the competing school had bullying issues and catered to the super wealthy Mexicans.

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Admissions & Welcome:

1. Are the admissions and placement procedures clearly stated to prospective families, either on the school website or through other means of communication?

B? Not really sure how this all works but all three of our kids got in without a problem. And even though our son was younger than the cutoff date, we were granted permission for him to continue on with the upper grade as he had already completed the previous grade at the previous post. We have heard where sometimes there is a family who doesn't get both kids in but this seems rare. There is always a Wait List and the headmaster is often telling us about this. Lots of kids who start off at the American school seem to transfer here after a term or two there or at least try to. Two different families I know transferred their kids to GG from other schools and were thrilled with the results.

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2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?

B+. There are always kids transferring into the school at various times of the year so the kids are used to it and it is not so nerve-wracking for new, shy kids. Ours had no problem {at ages 8/10/12). The kids usually get a buddy in class to be shown around and there are always new family orientations. Might be nice if they had an orientation day with new families the day before school starts to walk around and meet their actual teachers and buddies.

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Administration & School Procedures:

1. Describe the general climate of the grade level that you teach or your child attends:

The campus is compact and very welcoming. It's easy to maneuver to classes and the sports field is in the center so kids can enjoy the greenery on breaks and afterschool. The air is better there than at home in their neighborhood. . There is a pool and basketball court. Whenever we visit the students always look very happy. My kids love their school. They have thrived in the last 2.5 years are sad to be leaving when we transfer out in the summer My kids have tons of friends, do well academically and take sports, drama and music.

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2. For the following attributes, down to the next blank box, grade your experience at the school on a scale of A (excellent) to F (unacceptable/terrible) and provide comments:<br><br>Overall fair and equitable treatment of all students and families:

A-. Our family and kids have been treated very well. Haven't heard of any problems in this regard and we have friends of all sorts from all over the world.

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3. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?

B. This depends on the teacher. We receive emails from time to time from the teacher in primary about stuff going on, or trips or parent meetings or whatever but there is no regular correspondence from them. We also recieve a Unit letter from the Head of Primary about what to expect for the new unit they are starting. This is helpful. In upper we almost never hear from the kid's teachers but they have 8 or more of them. We meet with them a few times a year and discuss how our child is doing.

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4. Aside from school fees, are there required expenses such as uniforms, laptops/tablets, musical instruments, or field trips that parents are expected to cover? What are the approximate costs?

Lunches are available for sale at school and there is a snack bar with some good stuff for sale like quesadillas and even sushi! Uniforms are expensive so buy them big and make sure your kid doesn't lose them!! Maybe laptops for the seniors?

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5. Services for gifted students who need academic challenge and students with learning difficulties:

B. There are various levels in Secondary for students who excel academically, such as Extended or Advanced Math, English, etc. Kids with learning issues can get extra help or tutors.

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6. Availability and variety of after-school activities for various ages:

A. As mentioned above there are loads of clubs for various sports, arts, music and academic help. My kids take at least three (free) clubs after school. The older kids have an opportunity to try out for varsity teams and they will have matches or competitions at least once a week after school. This school had the reputation when we arrived of not being very good with sports offerings however that seems to have changed tremendously since we arrived three years ago. Every afternoon there is either a boys or girls tournament in VB, BB, football etc. More for the secondary kids but every so often for the primary kids. There is plenty to do.

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7. Maintenance of appropriately high standards for all students:

A-. Our kids are challenged academically and are doing very well. They test the secondary students and if they are falling behind have a chance to maintain their level, for example in Math especially, but if they are having trouble they may be dropped to the lower math class or bumped up to the extended or advanced class. The primary kids have interesting units of inquiry in which they do hands on projects and studies which include trips.

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8. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):

This varies at all grades. My 5th grader has a bit of English, spelling and Spanish every week. He has math assignment to be done on the computer. This was new to us but it is across primary that they do math on the computer. Of course the kids have no problem with this idea but need to remember to do it! The secondary students have more homework and it comes and goes. Sometimes there will be nothing and then a big project which is time consuming. Sometimes there's homework over the weekend or on a long holiday break for the eldest kid.

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9. Administration-parent communication:

B+. This has gotten MUCH better since we arrived a few years ago. We get all kinds of school updates and 'circulars' with info. Sometimes there's a last minute reminder about something like a play/concert or no activities after school or recycling day and there is very little notice which is frustrating but as a whole we are kept in the loop about most things well in advance. Now. I will add that for new prospective parents they should not give up if they don't hear back from GG right away. I had emailed and not heard back for awhile. It's best to call and try to get one of the many efficient English speaking secretaries like Tzuhua who is very helpful for new parents.

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10. Teacher-student communication:

B+. My kids say they usually know what's going on well in advance and have no issues to complain about. Sometimes if they get a grade they don't like they will discuss w/ their teachers and have it resolved or explained. We have our kids attend the PARENT TEACHER meetings with us so the teachers can speak directly to them and let them know what's going on for good or bad with their studies.

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11. Academics, answer the following questions "yes" or "no" with an explanation if appropriate:<br><br>Are there any classes or subjects where students are not appropriately challenged?

No, not really. It of course depends on the teacher. My eldest son said he wishes the English class was a bit more interesting but that changes as the term goes on so not a big deal. Sometimes I wish the Spanish classes were more challenging and interactive, for example, take the class on a field trip and make them do all the transactions alone in Spanish!.

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12. Does your child receive any special-needs assistance or instruction at this school? If yes, what types? Who provides services and where:

No, our kids don't but we know of one or two kids who get special tutoring and after school help for various reasons.

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13. Do you believe the special-needs assistance is appropriate and fills your needs? Explain:

It's not applicable to us but some parents have said they wish it was better.

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14. Does the gifted and talented program meet the needs of students? Please explain:

No, I think there could be more to offer those students needing/desiring it however we have never attended a school abroad with these offerings so it hasn't affected our children too much. They are challenged academically and are quite well-rounded with their education so far, especially at this school.

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15. Does the school offer a wide variety of elective or non-core classes such as art, music, and drama?

Yes, as mentioned above. Lots.

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16. Please describe any classes or programs that you believe are missing:

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17. Are there academic requirements such as trips or other activities that cost money in addition to school fees?

YES!! There is a residential trip for grades J2 or J3 and up. They are several hundred dollars and students are expected to attend. They are camps at various haciendas around Mexico. They are safe and well planned and orchestrated however not all families can afford this I would guess. My kids have gone for several years and love them. Also: UNIFORMS are very costly!! We have been able to find similar cheaper slacks in the USA instead of the expensive school pants.

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18. What activities do you feel are missing?

They had rock climbing for a while and then stopped the last year for some reason. Also maybe a fun water sport like water VB or water polo since we have the pool. Also maybe an advanced cooking class with Mexican specialties!!

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19. Have your children participated in the activities offered? If no, please indicate why:

yes, lots every term and every year. They are all free.

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20. Does the school provide appropriate assistance to new students?

They do the buddy system. Maybe the school could do an orientation day the day prior so kids can see their new school and meet the teachers and maybe their buddy. This is done in other schools abroad. But our kids fell into place pretty easily and met kids on the bus etc very quickly/

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21. Please describe any problem areas or challenges in social interaction at the school:

Nothing really. My kids are pretty outgoing.

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Academics & Resources:

1. What personal or academic counseling resources are available at this school? Is there a dedicated college counselor at the school? Is he/she familiar with universities worldwide?

B+. Haven't used this at all or much yet but as far as college stuff, there are lots of Colleges/universities of a very high standard that come and attend the school fairs and try to recruit the kids. They have a career/college advisor. There are also therapists/counselors at the school for various issues.

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2. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?

A. There are a few libraries and students who have a high reading level can get permission to go into the upper/advanced library to take books from there.

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3. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?

B+. There are a several computer/IT labs. All three kids take IT and do various projects such as creating web pages and much of their research for their classes on the computers. Young kids use ipads for some subjects we are told.

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4. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?

A-. PE, which includes swimming, is offered twice a week and there are sports days and a multitude of clubs offered after school including rugby, cricket, football, basketball etc.

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5. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?

B-. It's not as good as we'd like as most classes in Primary have like 25 kids to one teacher and an Aid that circulates the 4 classes. (There are 4 classes per grade level.) Secondary has fewer students; they rotate to their Spanish class or electives and there are around 15-20 kids. But the kids never complain and we've not found it an issue.

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6. Are Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses available in upper grades? If this is an IB school, is the full diploma required of all students?

A. The Secondary kids in grades F4 and up are part of the IGSCE program and then IB which are very academically challenging and varied. Kids can choose from certain electives like Art, Drama, various Sciences, Business studies, languages etc. We're very impressed with the course offerings and how our son is progressing with the program.

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7. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?


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8. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?

A- There is orchestra for primary and secondary as well as private (free ) lessons offered one day a week during school hours (kids rotate out of a different class every week so they are not missing their major subjects. ). There is also group music instruction in violin, etc for a club after school. Drama and music theater are also on offer. My kids have participated in all of these.

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9. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?

yes, except for Spanish class I am guessing.

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10. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.

They have advanced classes for those who need it. We know of a few kids who were admitted at a higher grade level than their age because of their academics/testing/previous schooling. There is also a MATHCOUNTS program for the older kids [ages 11-14?) which is an intensive math completion program. Our son participated in this and did very well.

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11. What extra-curricular activities (including sports) are available at this school? Have your children participated in these activities? What activities do you feel are missing at the school?

yes!! Mentioned above: various sports, swimming, music, drama, art, academic support, volunteer/charity type as well.

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Social & Emotional Well-Being:

1. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?

Yes. Our kids have lots of friends. Mexico city is very big and sometimes that can be a huge issue. trying to attend bd parties or playdates when families are spread all over town and traffic is a pain. So I urge my kids to socialize at the clubs after school and occasionally playdates unless the kid lives in the neighborhood. Many people get drivers for this reason. Most of my kids' friends are international expats but they each do have a few good Mexican friends too.

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2. Are there are any problems with exclusionary behavior, cliques, or bullying at this school? Please describe any problems your children may have experienced in this area.

This is a huge issue for us and we chose GG for this reason. They have no bullying problems that we know of or that any of my kids have experienced. There will always be a few tough kids around but bullying is not tolerated. At times kids can get snarky on the soccer (football) field and only pass to their friends etc. I have told my kids to deal w/ this themselves and if they really feel the other kids are not sharing the ball or being unfair to tell the coach.

Early on when my middle kid tried to play BB some kid said he "sucked'. My son looked at him and said " you're right'. My son immediately got a basketball hoop at home and practiced and kept playing with the kids at lunchtime and is now very good. He said a lot of the local kids will always be better than him at football also since they were born playing it but he wasn't going to stop playing just because of that. And he got better because of it.

Also, the more Spanish your kid can learn the better because the local kids often speak Spanish on the sports field. It helps to know the terms. All in all it seems that the kids are always pretty happy at the school on the campus when we walk around. Kids rotate to different groups and are able to have freedom. It's a happy place... which we feel helps our kids learn better.

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Overall Impressions:

1. What is the greatest strength of this school?

I think that it's a friendly, warm place to go and although more than half are locals, the kids all seem to be very happy and are enjoying themselves. They put the kids to a high standard academically but there's plenty of sport and enjoyment mixed in.

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2. Greatest challenge?

Distance. The school is a bit further than we'd like and with traffic can be a pain to just pop in if you like to be involved. Many people use taxis or UBER or get a driver so not to deal with the driving although I have plenty of friends who drive there and volunteer or whatever. I am a wimp and don't drive. However the kids seem to have no problem with the bus ride which from Polanco is about 20 minutes.. On a Friday with traffic that can be doubled. SO kids bring books and ipads. This is life in Mexico however and everybody is pretty used to it, including the students!

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3. Would you choose this school again? Why?

Definitely and we are sad to leave in 6 months. We debated extending here and the school was one of the main reasons. We recommend it all the time. I wish I went there as a kid!

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