Friday, November 4, 2011

The kids are going to Swiss public schools

Yet again, unbelievably, the internet is down at our apartment. It went down Friday around 7 PM, which means (remember nobody works on the weekend at all) that we won't have any internet, except what we have on the phone, all weekend. Incredibly frustrating, because we have so many things we need the internet for. But in the spirit of looking for the silver lining, and all that jazz, here it is - if I did have the internet (read - web surfing) , I probably wouldn't be so diligent with the blog posts (I write them up in Notepad and then post online). So, there you have it. 

Anyway - back to the kids and schooling thing. Both Peter and Kenny are in the public school system here. This is, of course, a huge adjustment for them because they don't speak French, and in the schools here, all instruction is in French. We enrolled them a few weeks ago, and so far they've had 2 weeks of schooling (even though we've been here 3 full weeks, one of them was the autumn vacation). Also - every Wednesday is no school. I had a hard time believing that at first, but that's the way it is - it's just a no school day. Apparently that's the day when the activities (that would in the US be after school activities) occur. 

Peter, even though he just turned 4 in June, is in a class at the same school that Kenny is in. It's called 1P - which is kind of like preschool, except a bit more formal. He's one of the younger ones, but there are 4 or 5 that are younger than he is. At the beginning the parents were allowed to walk him into the classroom. But now that they've beein in school for a while, they're supposed to go in all by themselves, and he's been doing that. He hangs up his backpack on a hook, takes off his shoes, puts on slippers (right now he's just using his crocs), then goes into the classroom. 

When they go into the classroom, they shake hands with the teacher and the teacher's assistant, and say "Bonjour". That's a big deal, and they're quite formal about it - the kids stand in line to do it. He has two main teachers, one teaches on Monday and Tuesday, and the other on Thursday and Saturday. There may be more overlap than that, because I've seen the Monday-Tuesday teacher around on Thursday. We're supposed to buy him a smock to cover his shirt for when they paint, and they've mentioned it a couple times, but even after looking at a couple places, I couldn't find it. I think it's one of those things that is only sold at the beginning of the school year. We also had to buy a special pair of very thin slippers that are used in their dance class, I had no problem finding that at a shoe store close by to where I work. 

Kenny needs a gym shirt and shorts, we'll try to find that this weekend. Kenny was started in the 4P class, in which all the kids seemed quite small, but after they gave him a math test, they transferred him to the 5P class. His classmates are his size and age, and even older now. They split the kids differently by birth dates here than in Bellevue. In Bellevue, Kenny was among the oldest in his class, but now he's one of the younger ones. His 5P teacher is a man (Kenny likes that!) and speaks English quite well, so that's good. I don't think his 4P teacher spoke English at all. There's 1 kid in his class who speaks some English. I thought that there would be many more international kids who spoke some English, but no. Maybe everyone else is going to private international schools. 

Kenny has done a lot of what in the US would be after-school activities - for instance, they go to a flute class, and they also go to a swimming class as part of the regular class activities. He's also started German class, which is not necessarily something that's good for him now - yet another language. 

I try hard to wring some more information out of the kids about how school was when I come home from work, but I've been about as successful as I was in Bellevue - that is, not very. I do hear from Kenny frequently that school was "great". Peter has generally been saying school is "good". I ask Kenny if he plays with other kids at recess, and he says, "of course". So I guess he's not being excluded from things. Apparently one kid in Kenny's class has been assigned to work with him on things like making sure he stands in the right spot when they're lining up, telling him what's going on. This is not the English speaking kid, though, so Kenny says that he uses a lot of hand signals. I need to be a little smarter about getting information out of the kids about their day. I'm thinking bribery - specifically, I just bought a bar of chocolate which I think I'll use. I'll sit them down, say "tell me an interesting tidbit about school and you get a piece". I think that could be quite effective in jogging their memory. 

I ask the both of the every day, "What words have you learned in French". And I usually get back, "nothing!". Not what I want to hear. But then Peter told me yesterday that he learned jeuene and bleu (yellow and blue) so that was good. Of course those are words that we went over in French kids dictionary too. I'm sure they're learning things, just perhaps not articulating it too well. 

Kenny told me a story about how the boys in his class took a girl's jacket, and kind of played keep away with it. He seemed a little shocked. Did that kind of thing not happen in his old school? Also he said boys chase girls sometimes, but they don't seem to mind. The school itself is a little dingy looking. Or maybe it just seems that way because when I'm there, I'm dropping off Peter in the morning and it's a large covered area that doesn't get much light. 

The playground has more interesting equipment than his school playground in Bellevue. I'll have to put some pictures in, but there's an interesting concrete pit/depression that the kids are always playing ball in - bouncing it off the sides to one another. Also there's an outside ping pong table that always has kids playing on it. And I haven't seen it yet, but there's a zip line that Kenny is really excited about. 

So up till now Kenny has been going to regular classes with other kids, with no special French language instruction at all, at a school called Ecole de Contamine. Starting next week, he'll be going half time to a different school, I think it's called Ecole Crete Champel. That's the only place where they have the French language instruction. I'm hoping it'll really jump start his French learning. For Peter, they don't have anything like that - I guess they figure at age 4, he has plenty of time to pick it up before things become too academic. 

It's great that Kenny will be getting special French classes, but it also poses huge logistical difficulties. The school schedule is from 8:00 to 4:00, with a 2 hour break in the middle for lunch. During this 2 hour break, Kenny needs to switch from one school to another, but of course Peter will still be going to the original school. We're still figuring out how this will work, but I know it will cause major hassles, probably including me needing to come home from work during the day. Not something I'm looking forward to. 

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