Thursday, December 02, 2004

A French Day

I've already explained I haven't been sleeping well. It's been raining since I left to pick the kids up at school. And boy is it dark out and it's only 5pm. I'm not in a great mood.

I've mentioned before that there is this concrete wall between school and the parents. Every year for the past four years I've done my American thing of bringing projects for the kids into school. I always ask the teachers first. Today, after much thought and consultation with my US sister, I asked my son's teacher if I could bring a holiday project to school -- a spice ball -- oranges with cloves stuck in them with a ribbon around. I explained that I'd bring everything in (since I'm not allowed in the classroom) and that she could do the project whenever there was time. The teacher shook her head. There are only three weeks left before the vacation and she wouldn't have time. Fine.

Unfortunately, the principal was eavesdropping nearby and started reiterating how there isn't time for things like that. Then a French mother tried to console me by saying that it wasn't me, it just isn't appropriate for the mothers to get involved with the school activities like I was suggesting -- especially not at my son's age (as opposed to my daughter's age -- she's still in maternelle/preschool and they are a bit more flexible for the 5 and under age group). I felt like telling the French mom that I've been here for four years and I know they don't encourage parental involvement but I like to be involved -- I just can't shake this American cultural tick! Then when she saw my expression after her little pep talk, but not understanding, the mother asked me "having a bad day?" Just having a French day, thank you very much.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
5:16 PM



Auntie M-

I worked with public schools in the US for a couple of years and we desperately wanted parents to get involved. The company I worked for managed public schools across the country and you could tell the huge difference it made when the parents and the community were a "part" of the school. Therefore, it is incredibly difficult for me to imagine parents not being allowed to participate.

Watch out American school system when Auntie M gets back to the States. You are going to have four years of projects that have been stored up.

And I never appreciate being reminded of what a foul mood I might be in.


# posted by Anonymous : 6:34 PM  

I have a friend who is a teacher here in the US, and she just did parent's visit (to their home). It took her over a week. Just the thought of someone taking so much time to meet all the parents seemed incredible to me.
But, I think it's great!!!

# posted by Magabe : 7:37 PM  

That teacher sounds wonderful and dedicated to her students. It's nice to hear there are still teachers like that.
When we return to the US I will be one among many parents that volunteer, I'm sure. I probably won't be able to do enough volunteer work there, and I'm looking forward to it. Some of my best school memories are when my mother helped out with class projects.

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 7:51 PM  

Antie M... combien des fois dois-je te dire que c'est comme ca en Frenchie land?? The question... Do they want us to feel bad and un welcommed because we are not one of them... Or is this just the Parisien life style? Hmmm I wonder... But after being here for 15 years, I have MOHO that they have just a power trip thing that they can't get rid of.. Sorry for all the Froggies reading this! :)

# posted by NeeCee : 8:38 PM  

what do you mean you are not allowed into the classroom!!!???I certaintly don't understand that at all! Oh well...

# posted by jill : 11:38 PM  

They tell me it's not allowed-- and this is a common experience for friends with kids in French schools. I tell you, I get nervous when I enter the classroom because I know I'm not supposed to. It's really weird.

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 11:59 PM  

I think that the French just do things differently and believe their way is the best. Just as the Americans are so often accused of. I do want to bring in studies that show how parental involvement does improve a child's progress in school. It just doesn't seem right not to let parents help out in some way, if they want to!

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 11:02 PM  

Hi Auntie !

Thought I'd pay you a visit ...(smile)

As you correctly state, the French feel that parents are supposed to take care of "parenting", while educators in the public schools are supposed to take care of "educating". If a parent in France wants any input at all into the child's classroom or with the child's teacher or the curriculum, the parent should send the child to a private school. Have you thought about a private school - or have I missed something and are the kids already in one ? Given the catastophic happenings in l'Education Nationale ...

To be competitive in the French educational system and reach a decent grande école on the first try, starting in 6ème a child should be doing from two to three hours of homework - with the parents, of course - per class day, with some on the weekends. That's where the parents come in - helping out with homework. In the private schools our kids went to, parents were heavily encouraged - were drafted, even - to participate and organize activites.


# posted by L'Amerloque : 5:03 PM  

Thank you for your comment. Bienvenue. The kids are in a private school, one of the bilingual schools. However, the school takes money from the French government and must abide by all French curriculum requirements -- at least that is my understanding.
Regarding homework, I thought it was a French law that children can not have homework. Does that requirement end in 6eme or did someone make that up? Since I don't read French law I often just believe the things I'm told about the government.

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 6:04 PM  

Hi Auntie !

Glad to be here.

>> The kids are in a private school, one of
>> the bilingual schools.

And the parents can't give input ?!?! You might think about changing schools ... sheesh. We had a choice of sending the kids to a bilingual establishment or a French establishment, and we chose the latter. We don't regret it. (We're a Franco-American couple, not both Americans, so perhaps the choice was easier to make than if we had both been Americans living in France for a "limited" time with an eventual "return" to the US of A.)

>>However, the school takes money from the French
>>government and must abide by all French curriculum
>>requirements -- at least that is my understanding.

Yes, that is correct. A private school "sous contrat" that accepts gov't money must follow the French curriculum to the letter – but can of course offer other things over and above that. (smile)

>>Regarding homework, I thought it was a French
>>law that children can not have homework. Does
>>that requirement end in 6eme or did someone
>>make that up?

I think someone has been putting you on. Of course there's homework - and plenty of it - in the serious schools. It starts well before 6ème, too. You might want to check out "Devoirs du soir, devoirs de vacances" at:


Now, in certain quarters, it is felt by some "modern educators" and "psychologists" that children should not be given "homework". There has been quite a bit of agitation recently about this, and there are rumors that one of the upcoming educational "reforms" might, in fact, outlaw "homework" outright. Believe it when you see it. (smile) If the French feel that their educational system is going the way of the American and British ones, they'll be out it the streets en masse. I remember when over a million people gathered in Versailles when Mitterand wanted to "nationalize" the private schools (the organization behind that was fantastic and is still in place). Nowadays over 20% of French children are being educated "dans le privé" and there are long waiting lists for every private educational institution in France, given the increasing problems in the Education Nationale. Of course, some private schools don't give homework to their students, but, as the old adage goes, "Ya pays yer money and ya takes yer choice." (smile)

Helping kids with their homework is turning into a huge growth industry here. My daughter has a part-time tutoring job ("pour arrondir ses fins de mois", elle fait de l'anglais, de l'allemand et du français) with one of the big companies: her principal "élève" is in 5ème and, believe me, there is homework both from the school and from the Franco-American tutor.


# posted by L'Amerloque : 8:45 PM  

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