Thursday, March 19, 2009
Now the holidays are over and the kids are back at school, life becomes a little easier once again. I do at least, stand a fighting chance, of getting some work done before they return home with constant demands for clean PE kits, replacement whiteboard markers and vast quantities of bread and jam.
From a parent's perspective, there are a lot of great things about French schools. In no particular order these are:
No school uniform
And no bloody packed lunches
Having had kids at schools in the UK, the last two are probably my favourites. Being freed from the tyranny of having to provide a nutritionally balanced, socially acceptable, packed meal for three children on a daily basis is marvellous. I mean, what is wrong with a packet of cheese and onion crisps and a can of cherry coke anyway? Surely that is at least 3 of the '5 A Day' fruit and veg that we are constantly exhorted to feed our little darlings? And if you add a jaffa cake for desert, then the orange gloop must count as a fourth?
And as my daughters are allowed to express themselves sartorially between Monday and Friday - (for the current 'look' think Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribean but with added bling. Sort of Jack Sparrow goes clubbing) - they don't feel the need to go out at the weekends dressed like Ukrainian prostitutes. Which has got to be a bonus.
But there are real downsides to French education. One of which is that teachers believe they are right. Always. This means that if your child is struggling, they will suggest a trip to the child psychologist rather than reflecting on their teaching methodology. It also means that you question their judgement at your peril.
During the last holidays, middle child asked me for three envelopes. As requests for anything other than items likely to be used to assemble WOMD (weapons of mass destruction) are granted without too much fuss, I handed the envelopes over without further thought.
Then she asked for three stamps. When questioned (I always like to check that they are not co-responding with 47 year old lorry drivers they have met on the internet), it transpired that the holiday art homework was to draw on three envelopes, post two to our home address and one to a fictitious address. This would cost about 2€ per child and struck me as a vast waste of resources, especially considering the fuel that would be used to deliver all these missives to isolated rural homes.
So I decided to take a stand and wrote to the art teacher and the head, politely explaining that my daughter would decorate the envelopes but we would not be posting them. I explained that I had no wish to waste resources and hoped that she would not be marked down as a result. I asked for some clarification as to the reasoning behind the project and pointed out that if three classes of children took part, this was rather a lot of envelopes, stamps and diesel.
Two weeks later, I have had no reply from the head and a curt verbal message from the art teacher to come and see him after school. I don't 'do' being summoned like a naughty 14 year old so I wrote back explaining that I would be happy to meet him and hear his views but we would need to fix a time that was mutually convenient. A meeting has now been scheduled for two weeks time. In the interim, he has retaliated by pinning my letter up in the staff room and turning the content into a piece of artwork, adding drawings and comments such as "art is not free".
Apparently most of the other parents also thought it was a rubbish idea and the staff are all torn between being shocked that someone could criticise one of their number and being supportive as the teacher in question is universally unpopular. And I have scored huge numbers of cool points with the college kids for daring to question 'le prof'.
However, 'le system' will probably have the last laugh. Daughter will no doubt be marked down as a result, her yearly average will be affected and she will end up having to go to a 'technical' lycee (career options include swineherd and abattoir assistant) before embarking on a career in Lidl.
I will keep you posted but remember, try and buck the system at your peril....