Sunday, September 18, 2005


As I mentioned in my blog the other day, our youngest daughter has not been sleeping very well for the last two weeks. Tonight she has already got up three or four times and we haven't even gone to bed yet. It seems to be related to her starting at our local maternelle (French nursery school) which is just down the road. At the moment, she is doing three-and-a-half days a week.

Today, we were invited along to the school with all the other parents to listen to a presentation from her teachers. She has two, H and F, who both seem to be very nice young women. They work on different days of the week, which must be a bit disruptive, but I guess that's the way it is. When we arrived, a couple of minutes late, all the other parents were already there, seated like good little children on miniature plastic chairs and listening intently to the headmistress who was lecturing them on filling in their contact details on the 'in case of emergency' form.

She handed over to a young man who was standing in the corner. In fact, we had met him before at the pre-start open day which we attended a couple of months ago. He seems to be the stalwart of the parents association or 'FCPE' which is a means for Mums and Dads to keep a close eye on what is happening in the school. They can, for example, make unannounced raids on the lunchtime canteen and sample the delights being offered to the children which they then judge by filling in a questionnaire. If the parents don't like what they find, the school has to find a new catering company. It seems that the parents also keep tabs on some of the finances of the school, but this may just be the spendings of the 'co-operative' to which we are expected to donate 25 euros for the purchase of books etc.

So, after we had been encouraged to joing the FCPE, we then had a talk from the teachers. First, we were asked not to let the children come to school with objects in the pockets such as toys, mobile phones etc. They were, however, to be encouraged to pick up natural objects on the way to school such as pine cones and horse chestnuts which would be made into art works. The teacher then started to enumerate things that she would be obliged if we could bring along to the school to help out. After about the third item, everybody started scrabbling in their pockets for pens and paper. The list included: photocopier paper, scrap drawing paper, transparent covers for books, cereal boxes, boxes of paper tissues, bulbs for the children to plant in the gardens, old computers, music CDs of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, Saint-Saens' Carnival of the Animals...

There seemed to be a lot of stress on organisation, routine, getting to understand 'the pattern of life'. We were asked to make sure that the children arrived at school alert and ready to learn, not sleepy eyed with their dodo hanging out of their mouth. A 'dodo' is the bit of cloth most of these three year olds are still carrying round with them. There is a box at the door of the classroom into which the children are encouraged to drop their 'dodos' when they start the day.

Once in class, the children have to work out at which 'atelier' (workshop table) they will be doing their activities. To find out, they have to consult the 'Camelias' on the wall. Each 'Camelia' wears a different coloured dress which has the photos of five of the children pinned to it. They find their own face, note the colour of Camelia's dress and then head off to the table with the same colour tablecloth. This seems to be a good way for the teachers to remain in control, separate troublesome children etc. Most of the activities are in the morning. After lunch, the children go into a sort of domitory full of little beds and sleep for about an hour-and-a-half, which seems quite a long time to me.

When the teacher had finished her presentation about 'la vie quotidien', a video was rolled into the classroom and we all got to watch some footage of our children in action. This was quite an insight. We noticed that our daughter was the only child who had been allowed to carry her 'dodo' into the classroom. While the teacher read a story, she sat quite remotely, scratching her ankle. While the other children joined in with the actions of a French song, our daughter resolutely failed to budge. While the other children stepped over the hurdles, our daughter tried to pick them up like dumbells...

It seems she may be showing a bit of resistance to the new regime. This apart, the other children seem to accept her okay and the verbal levels are not so advanced that there is much of a barrier between them. They are all so little, there is not much interaction between them yet anyway.

But she is clearly feeling quite insecure at the moment. She doesn't want to go to bed on her own, she wants the light left on, she has to have her dodo and her spotty leopard with her at all times... Above all else, she doesn't want to speak 'bonjour'. When I try to speak to her in French, she says: 'No Daddy, not bonjour. Say hello'. 'Say hello' means 'speak English'.


Anonymous said...


Jonathan Wonham said...

Hello Da, I see I have to show you how the CAPS LOCK button works!

Becky is really in fine boisterous spirits despite her mental overload at school.

I asked her if she likes school and she said: "Yes and no." What do you like about school? I asked. "Painting" she said. Then I asked, what don't you like about school? "Bonjour" she said. "But I like the Bonjour ladies."