Tag Archives: school

School days and Musees

Yesterday, I’d gone with Jake on his ‘sortie’ to an archaeological site and then to the museum at Angoulème. There were a couple of other parents along for the ride as well, and it felt all lovely and small. With a school with 42 children, it’s very easy to know who all the children are, especially when most of the boys seem to be called Julian and their mothers Veronique. Jake likes to call the Julians ‘Julio’ although I realised he only does this at home, opting for the ‘Juli-[an]’ the French say when he’s at school. I think he’s sanitising the names for us, which is nice of him.

The children seem a lot younger, as I came to realise later in the day, and much more ‘childish’, in a good way. Though I am reminded at this point of a very giggly Jordan (the Julian of the English classroom) laughing all the way back from the WWE wrestling about wee and poo. Another mother turned up, and the kids latched onto her – she was surrounded by about ten kids in a huge group hug and then little Sarah, who spent much of the morning revealing how I’d been spotted in various places in La Rochefoucauld, spent the first leg of the trip telling her all sorts of wonderful information. I like this. So many English primary school teachers shy away from hugs and holding hands. I’m reminded of when I started teaching and I went to a primary school up behind the flats in Sheffield, where a boy held my hand for all the lessons. I realised I couldn’t be a primary teacher because I’d get too attached, but somewhere in the last 15 years, it’s now frowned upon to hug the children.

We first went to Mouthiers-Sur-Boeme, a site with a prehistoric grotte, bien sur, and a few cave carvings. The archaeologists who came from the museum were great. The first, a younger guy with a beard and converse, reminded me just how much I love French ‘city’ people – the intellectuals in their pea-coats and tight trousers and converse – how creative they seem, how different from the blueprint-copied ‘salary-men’ in Japan (and England) for example. The second, older guy, was hugely entertaining with his ‘super-cool’ – it’s really lovely to see people who are genuinely excited about the work that they do.

The carvings, however, brought out the schoolgirl in me. At first, it’s kind of a loose frieze of horses. Maybe. But then, once you really look, someone’s decided one of them is pregnant. No, that didn’t make me giggle. Behind that horse, someone has decided the two horses side-by-side are actually inflagrante delicto. Early Animal Planet. And then a horse being born. A life cycle. Still, the school girl in me got giggly that they’d carved two horses rutting. I’m such a child. Still, the kids didn’t find it at all amusing. I was childish by myself.

The tiny Mme Tasty and Mme Delhomme then took us on to the Musée d’Angoulême where we had lunch. The school had brought us a picnic, which included a very straightforward ham and cheese salad sandwich, a babybel and a banana. There was a bit of swapping going on. I realised all the kids talk at Jake as if he’s just completely French. Others asked me why he didn’t talk much in class, but having watched them talking a lot in class, I didn’t really mind that.

We looked at ancient dinosaur bones – as the Charente is the centre of Dinosaur France – and made flints. The enthusiastic archaeologist even cut his trousers as a demonstration of the cutting power of the flint. Très bien. But I bet Mme. Enthusiastic Archaeologist wasn’t so happy when he got home. The kids went mental for flint, and it just made me wonder if they’d be allowed to do something like that in the UK. Both Julians got cut fingers (from silly boy behaviour, bien sur!) and had to have sticking plasters, les sparadraps, but there was no mass panic.

It was a really lovely to spend the day with Jake – just to see how he’s getting on. It’s quite marvellous really that he’s settled in so well. He seemed a little lost at points when he was with less enthusiastic children, but he seems to have a little posse of boys who are perhaps not the most sensible of boys, but who are lovely all the same. And who says boys shouldn’t be boys? So they cut their fingers! They learned about flint, though! So here’s to Jake’s lovely new friends!

La rentree

Jake’s first day at school yesterday. I couldn’t have been more nervous. It was as bad as leaving Basil at the vets for an operation. If I could have done it for him, I would have done! Madame Tasty, the head teacher (really Madame Teyssié, but it really sounds like Madame Tasty!) had said she thought it was better for Jake to go in alone. As a teacher, I get what she’s saying. Mostly, teachers are a nice breed, even ‘Vile’ pointy Jackie who I used to work with, who said ‘that boy is vile’ at least 20 times a day… if she’d have had a new, non-English speaking pupil who looked a bit terrified in her class, she’d have looked after him. Dawson would have probably sneered a bit and treated such a child the same as everyone else, but he was too scared of being called a bully to show his superiority in such a way. To be fair, Dawson would have used anyone’s weakness, whatever it was, as a way to assert his mastery… making fat kids do more PE – that sort of thing. But neither Madame Tasty or Madame Delhomme, Jake’s teacher, are like that. Madame Tasty has a point. Full immersion will make him learn quicker (or make him hate it completely) and turning up with me in tow when you’re almost secondary school age would make you look a bit of a special. Kids are going to think you’re a mental and not talk to you.

As a guardian, though, I felt like I was taking him to the slaughter, following prolonged and agonised torture. I explained that the worst that could happen is they put him at the front of the class and laugh at him in French and that that wasn’t going to happen. And it didn’t. I explained that French kids love a stare. And they did. Apparently the boy next to him stared a lot! He kept looking at Jake’s writing – which is different from the lovely curly French writing.

I dropped him off at the school gates, and he was a little tearful. Madame Delhomme found him some friends and both she and Madame Tasty helped him out. Both Steve and I spent the morning worrying if he’d be okay, though I knew they’d spend the morning sorting out folders and putting their name on things, which they did. Schools are predictable places.

At lunchtime, he seems okay. Not upset. Wants to get back to school early to play with the other kids. A triumph. No, he hadn’t understood much, but he’d managed to make it through and had done what everyone else had done. He’d played out at break and he’d played football. It’s all good. He wolfed down half a pizza, went off for some milk from the local supermarket (they have a newly installed vending machine, which he loves. Apparently, the milk tastes like ‘English Milk’ – whatever that tastes like!) and was in a panic when he got back because he thought they’d all gone in, but really they were just finishing their lunch.

So we felt a whole lot better about dropping him off after lunch. He seemed okay. When we picked him up, he was fine, too. They’d done sport all afternoon, and played some games, like I used to do in drama, to help people get to know each other. He was very tired – I’m not surprised. It had been a big day!

Then the panic began about what they’ll be doing today. He’s very worried that they’ll spend all day doing difficult questions based on complex text, but that’s not going to be true. I’ve started translating his reading book, and if it were in English, he’d have no problem. I have no doubt by Christmas, his french will be fine. But it’s still a painful process to watch it – and I know there will be hiccups and set-backs. But, each day, he’ll know a little more French, and each day he’ll build up his friendships, and each day it will be a little more familiar. But that’s not reassuring to a terrified boy who might as well be in a class with Martians! Still, the worst day is out of the way. It’ll get easier and easier, I’m sure of it.

Going faster than a roller coaster

Steve’s back off to France today, carrying a bottle of Pimm’s for our neighbours who are picking him up. Thus begins the end of our time in England. He’ll never be here for more than a week, now, God willing. I’ve got Jake with me, in his last two weeks of school in England, wondering if we’ve heard anything about where he’ll be in September. I can’t help thinking it’d be a whole lot easier to teach him myself! I’d really enjoy that. Not sure he would, though!! Plus, he’d end up lonely and friendless. We overlook the role of school in socialising.

PGL 1984

I went to 3 primary schools, spending the most of my time at Lowercroft CP. In my class, there were only 10 girls out of a class of thirty, and you might have thought that the addition of one more would have made it odd. Not so. I can’t remember any girl I didn’t spend time with, or anyone who excluded me, even though I was the last to join the group. Vicky, Sarah, Sandra, Lisa, Nicky, me, Caroline, Dawn, Joanne and Suzanne: I spent time at all of their houses, can still remember where they all live, and it was only secondary school that split us up. Sandra, Lisa and I went to the grammar school, Vicky went to a grammar school in Bolton and the rest of the girls went to Elton. Of all of them, I was closest to Nicky, perhaps because we were similar in nature, and we even looked a little alike, with our long brown pony tails. I think we all had a wonderful time at primary school, and I certainly don’t remember any rivalries. I wish I still had that set of friends.

At Secondary, hormones kicked in, and friendships changed. Initially, I spent time with Sandra and a girl called Katherine, who was probably most like the 11 year old me – a little nerdy, a little out of place. I knew I wasn’t a nerd, like some of the girls, but very soon, I was part of the Holcombe Brook hardcore – girls who knew each other before, travelled together and were good friends already: Emma, Pam, Janet, Michelle and Susan. Friendships cut and changed, and one day I will publish some of my diary entries about these times, but not just yet – they’re a little too close to the bone, still! I was still the social butterfly, even then, when firmer friendships were being formed. Angela and Julie would let me hang around with them. Anna, Laura and Helen would do the same. I went to my first gig with Helen, uber-cool Helen, who is now a head of programming at ITV – we went to see Bjork in the Sugarcubes at Manchester Uni Student Union. I was 13 and it was about the coolest 13 year old behaviour I know!

Helen and Anna London 1988

I went to the pub with Angela first, as she had access to my first major league crush on Daniel Showman (now, unfortunately, not the dark-haired, doe-eyed beauty with the olive skin I fell in love with as a 13 year old) and we had many sleepovers and drunken nights about.

Liz and Angela - London 1988

I think sometimes the in-fighting and best-friend-swapping got to me, a bit. I used to pine for the company of Anna and Laura, who were the people who kept in touch with me when I went to uni. I’ve lost touch with Laura now, which is a massive shame. We had epic letters back and forth when she was at Oxford. I miss her sharp humour and self-depreciation. Laura rocked more than any one I met. Anna and Laura were some cool girls, and no mistake!

When we’re advised not to worry about how we look as teenagers, I think that just about sums it up for me: we were cool indie-chick girls who didn’t care. I was lucky to be allowed to flit from group to group, and what I missed out on in terms of deep bonds, I made up for in being able to connect with many different groups. I looked back at my time at secondary school as if it were miserable and bitchy, but in fact, it ruled! I had good friends (those who never made it to my diary entries) although I seemed to be preoccupied with the bitches. It wasn’t til sixth form that I managed to get away from that preoccupation!

Big-up my school times with Anna and Laura, Liz, Angela and Julie… girls who knew there was more to life than bitching!

Laura, who introduced me to Depeche Mode and David Byrne; Anna who introduced me to early David Bowie: these were the girls who defined my musical tastes for years and years. Even when, as a little mosher, I liked Metallica, it was always good to know they stole ‘leper messiah’ as a lyric from Bowie. It was always cool to like Bowie!

I hope Jake ends up with the kind of friends I did. I hope France will bring him the kind of innocent friendship you can’t seem to find in England these days, when all that matters are iphones and PSPs and Nike trainers and Reebok tracksuits, and wearing £50 football shirts. I know that ET jumper I’m wearing on the PGL photo was dirt cheap from Bury market, but I loved it. I know we were poor back then, but all the girls – all of us – are wearing cheap, functional clothes, with the nod to Mr T and ET. I wish Jake at 10 was so un-bothered by fashion as we were!!