12 June 2015

Jane Goes to French School

Want to see inside a French primary-school classroom?? I know I sure did ...

 French school is very much what I would imagine school to be a couple generations ago in the States. This is not a criticism, not at all. Just an observation. Teachers know best and parents kind of stay out of the way and don't seem to stress it too much. I've only been inside the classroom a handful of times, which is very strange for this former-teacher, avid parent-volunteer.

There is no school email (never received one single email!!), no phones in the classroom, and there isn't a school secretary or office for the primary level. The teachers just seem to take care of it all. If you have a question, you write a note in your child's carnet (a planner book that goes back and forth). If they need to tell you something, they write a note in the carnet or just flag you down during pick-up time. Field-trip? Might be in the carnet or might just be word-of-mouth ...

The primary level kids do not have specific music, art, or PE classes. The main teacher has to find ways to incorporate it in, as he/she is able. And at recess, the playground has little to no play equipment. They play with balls, run around, jump-rope or play games with marbles. And. It can be a little rough and tumble. Boys tussling to workout their issues is considered normal and if you fall down, skin your knee and someone laughs and throws your shoe over the fence, no one is going to the principal's office.

It's very, very different than what I am used to. Not necessarily bad ... big deep breath in ... just different.

**The above photo was posted in the room. I'm not exactly sure where or when it was taken ... but it looks so similar to how the classrooms still are!

Homework is very minimal. This works out fine for us, since it is work enough just making it through the day. (I cannot imagine if we also had the 1-2 hours of homework we were used to and do not miss that at all.)

Many things are similar in concept but just slightly different. Like the penmanship seen above. Similar, but slightly different. Same with numbers. 7's are always crossed or they will think you wrote a 1. And sometimes 1's look like /\ mountains. If you just write a line for a one they think it is an uppercase "I" and are very confused. And of course, when you write the date, it goes day/month/year.

All the children have their birth-dates listed incorrectly in their files. Their mother filled out the paperwork. See above for possible reasons why.

The grade levels are also different. Jane is in 3rd grade in the States and here she is in CE2, which is roughly equivalent. I say roughly, because it seems the curriculum content is a bit different. My kids (even the older two) are about 2-3 years ahead in Math. There are certainly lots of smarty-pants people here, but it seems a universal push for early Math/Science is a little less urgent. (We ordered English math textbooks for the kids and they work on them at home to keep their skills up.)

I am trying to not be overly-critical in describing the pace, however, because I don't think some of these differences are necessarily bad. I do think we have turned into maniacal testing-nuts in the States and kids could use a lot more time just learning and playing outside and reading books made out of paper.

Okay. Stepping off the soap-box.

Good behavior is expected. I am really thankful this is not an area of challenge for my kids or I might have had several heart-attacks. Because French or not, kids still behave like kids. An instructor yelling in the classroom is quite common. And I mean yell-ing. If you are very naughty, you might get pulled into the hallway by your ear or have a textbook smacked on your head. Oh. My. Stars.

 But to help you over your shock, may I just say that Jane's teacher is wonderful. As in, "He's-one-of-my-favorite-teachers-ever" wonderful. He has been so kind and patient and helpful to Jane and I feel forever in his debt.

In the photo, I cut off Monsieur's head on purpose for privacy's sake, but can you see the hint of his warm smile looking on? I have no words for my gratitude and would happily have Jane in his class for another year.

This year has been monumental in so many ways, school being one of the biggest. I am so exceedingly proud of these kids! Can you imagine their courage and bravery?

So, does all this intrigue you like it does me? Anything surprise you or make you more curious? What did I forget to mention? So fascinating to discover all the nuances of life in a different context.


  1. THANK YOU for this post! I have been curious. Here's a question... how many grades were in the school and how many students attended? How many children were in her class? No secretary? wow. just wow. Thinking of you always. Praying for your residual headache-y things.

    1. So, in the primary school there is our version of 1-5th grade: CP, CE1, CE2, CM1, CM2. I'm about 90% sure. It's confusing. (Maternelle comes before and is preschool-kinder.) I think there are 22 kids in her class and 3 different classes for her grade. She's on the same campus as the other kids, as they go to a preK-highschool Catholic school.

      I really should do another post on school. There is so much and I know I'll forget it all some day!

      And, thank you for the prayers, Jill! You bless me!

  2. This is SUCH a great post- I love the daily glimpses. Why is the poster in English behind J ("This is Nigel")? And those DESKS. And that old NEAT!!!!

    1. I wondered if someone would notice that!! The poster is in English because all the kids have English classes a couple times a week. Very simple (numbers, parts of the body, points of direction, etc.) but so cool that it is normal at such a young age. Wish we did this in the States! Incidentally, guess who thinks English class is the best part of the week??

  3. Having gone to American schools and comparing notes with my French husband, and after having lived here 15 years, it is very different than American schools. Not commenting on whether that's good, or bad, just different. Although, when you see the curriculum of French schools, I daresay, I think they're learning more in French schools than in American schools. Your little one will be chirping away in French soon, interpreting for you, kids learn so fast. I wondered about your birthdate comment—did you remember to put the day, then month, then year order? That's always strange for Americans to get used to.

    1. I agree. Not better or worse, just different. In fact, seems the best way to approach all cultural differences! And birthdate ... it was mostly the 1's and 7's that got messed up. I knew about the date/month ordering but I just wasn't writing my numbers "properly" !!

  4. SO FUN to see the differences - I should tell you about how South African schools do things :)