My son and I are leaving our small town in southeastern United States to live for a year in a small town in southeastern France. It couldn't possibly be THAT different, right?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Rough first day, but we're still standing

    I knew that this day was coming, but I've been trying to delude myself into thinking that it would not be THAT bad.  Kids are resilient, right?  They're tough, right?  Well, yes, they are, but they might need to cry and kick and scream a little before they decide to rise to the occasion.
    Jed was not as apprehensive about his first day as I would have thought that he would be.  He woke up in a good mood, got ready quickly, and he even let me take the obligatory first day of school photo.  When I look at these now, though, I can see a bit of fear in those beautiful brown eyes that I love so much.

    Right on time, we headed out for school on foot along with lots of other excited/ nervous parents and children.  When we arrived at Le Bouquet, the gates were still locked, and there was a huge crowd waiting to be allowed to enter.  At 8:30, the gatekeeper swung open the doors to the most uninviting playground you can imagine (all asphalt, with two soccer goals and nothing else).  The parents then pushed their way to the cement wall of the after-school building where each teacher's class list was posted.  The scene was like general-admission seating at a heavy metal concert because everyone needed to see (for the first time, as far as I could tell) who their child's teacher would be for the year and then find the teacher among the crowd (which wasn't easy since they were not carrying signs or wearing name tags) before the bell rang to enter the building.
    When we finally found Jed's teacher and introduced ourselves, I said with a big smile, "This is Jed, and he does not speak French----yet!" to which his teacher replied, "Yes, I've been told."  That's it.  No "Hello, Jed." No "Hello, Mom."  Nothing.  Great first impression, Madame Vanlaer!  Fortunately, Jed was oblivious to the snub.  There ARE advantages to ignorance after all!  Jed didn't really want anyone to make a big fuss over him anyway, and when he saw that his friend, Ange, would be in his class, life was good.  He fell into line and kissed me goodbye.  Easy for him to do!  I felt like bursting into tears.
    I came back to the apartment and began to prepare for my own first day, (which is tomorrow) but all that I could think about was Jed.  I was just getting ready to leave to run some errands around 11:45, when I heard a familiar voice from the courtyard below.  "Mom!, Mom!"  I ran to the window, and there was my sweet boy waving up at me.  "What are you doing home?" I asked.  "I don't know.  They just let us go."  
    I buzzed him in and got the full story.  It appears that when it came time for lunch, Jed just left school with his friends and their parents, and no one questioned him.  French kids can come home for the two-hour break or stay at school and eat in the cafeteria if their parents work.  I signed Jed up for the cafeteria so he should have stayed.  In theory, someone at school should have known that!  
    Fortunately for both of us, I was here when he arrived.  I don't know what he would have done if I had not been home.  When I walked him back at 1:30, I told the gatekeeper about the incident, and no one had noticed that he was missing.  Now that really makes a Mom feel good about leaving her child in the school's care, doesn't it? 
    Negativity alert!!!  Read no further if you are sensitive to real feelings.  Jed was so upset when he came home for lunch that I did not think that I would be able to get him to go back in the afternoon.  (Turns out they wouldn't have missed him!)  He said that the teacher kept asking him questions and that when he could not answer, the other students laughed.  He just broke my heart!  We both cried on the sofa for a while before I could give him a pep talk.  I told him how proud I am of him and that he is the bravest boy in the whole world and that things will get better.  My speech must have worked because he did not protest when it was time to return.
    At 4:00, I had a meeting with Jed's French language teacher, Madame Estivale.  She will meet with him twice a week during the school day, and a local volunteer will meet with him once a week after school.  Madame Estivale assured me that he will learn very quickly.  I really hope so!  
    She saw him today because his teacher wanted her to evaluate him to see if he should go back to first grade.  The teacher was shocked, apparently, that Jed could not write in cursive and that he could not read the word Gerard in an English-language book that she gave him to read and that he did not know how to add columns of three-digit numbers.  Poor little Jed had to go to the principal and to the psychologist and to the French teacher for evaluation today.  It sounds like his teacher just doesn't want the extra hassle of having him in her class. 
    School lets out at 4:30, and today at least, the scene was just as crazy as the morning rush.  The gate keeper opened the gate, and kids poured out into the street looking for their parents.  As I walked by Jed's teacher, I asked if I should tell anyone that he would not be in aftercare today, and she said yes.  I went over to the building to inform them, and they had not even received the list of kids to expect yet.  They said that it should arrive from City Hall sometime this week.  Great!  
    I told Jed that the goal of this first day was just to survive, and he did----no thanks to the adults running the school!!!  Jed has a much better attitude towards this first day than I do so I am sure that he will be fine.  Most of the kicking and screaming and crying that I referred to in the first paragraph came from me.  It remains to be seen whether the adult in the household can learn to rise above!



  1. Oh, Margaret, I was horrified to read of Jed's first day. No wonder the French have such a bad reputation. I never encountered it on my visit, but I wasn't dealing with bureaucracy. How old is his teacher? I sure hope she becomes more flexible (and polite) QUICKLY. Was the principal nice?

  2. The principal is VERY nice, and the school has an excellent reputation in town. Jed feels great today. No more tears!

  3. Yes, Jed IS the bravest boy in the world! (And you're no slouch in the bravery department yourself, Margaret.)

  4. oh goodness; that is a sucky first day! But, as you say, he made it through. I am sure it will get better and I am sure all that lax supervision will be a delight to jed once he settles!

  5. Today was no "piquenique" either. Jed saw that they were serving fish for lunch, and he almost threw up on the spot.