And now for something a bit different. About a month back I got a direct message on Twitter. It read, “I need to rant about terrible preschool education in France. Cud I do a guest post?” I thought it sounded interesting and since the word rant actually appears in the blog title I figured why not? This will be the second anonymous guest on this blog. The first created quite an uproar yet I also think it was a starting point for some productive conversations including guest post responses (one each from Michael Free and Manpal Sahota The guest post I am sharing now is on something I know even less about than guest foreign teachers in Korea. It is about pre-school and primary Education in France. I hope nobody will take my posting of this as my views or a larger critique of France and French education (some things I know nothing about) but rather just sharing a rant based on one person’s experiences that might be of interest for others while hopefully being cathartic for the author. Well that is more than enough from me. I will turn it over the guest poster.
[PS- Note for N. American (and other) readers: It looks like "creche" is what I would call "day care." ]
I am an English teacher based in France. I have taught here for over 5 years and have a young family.
From a teacher’s perspective, the French system, like every country, has problems but it is from the viewpoint of a parent that I am currently angry about and why I feel this rant is quite deserved in the hope that it can ring some bells.
What’s my rant about, then? Pre-school education and primary schools.
1) Pre-school education
There are several places in France that literally say “there is a 3 year waiting list” for a creche. This means “no creche.” Thus, one of you needs to quit work for at least 3 years.
The current alternative is to hire a private nanny. Qualified? Certified? Well, that is unclear. From what I’ve seen, they often aren’t and I often come across they ferrying 2/3/4 kids around shops, parks or just sitting at home with them.
In total, I think I’ve visited 6 creches. I put my kid in 3 and had to remove him. The private ones seem, at first better, due to quality and shiny newness. At our first private one the first ‘non mummy’ 30 mins of adaptation my son was hit by 2 others in a room of while 2, yes, 2 assistants looked on. Then when I asked about the list of activities on the board, I was told that they didn’t do them.
Nursery 2: Public. This time a much bigger version but with the same mentality of lock up kids in a room and give them pens. Not changing nappies, giving sleeping syrup at lunch and screaming at the kids seemed to be the name of the game.
These seem to be full of ‘physical’ assistants dragging, pulling and slapping kids. Teachers who walk around and only really start working as soon as the bell rings. On the first day, I was pulled aside to ask why my son wasn’t eating there. My response was “he needs adaptation time”. Then I was signed up, sold some bibs and he went the next day. 2 days later he was removed and told not to go back in the afternoons as he didn’t nap. The problem was that the teacher had got bored of preparing stuff for non-nappers to do, as she had got bored of preparing differentiated activities. This she announced in the PTA, actually she said “the first few years are just about socialising so I don’t have a curriculum or accommodate the 2 age groups”. Then, 3 days later, the teacher asked us to take him back.
Now, 6 weeks in and my son still wakes up crying having nightmares, gets up at 7 so he can cry and beg not to go to school, has to be ripped off my leg when I drop him off, comes home saying he was strangled, hit by kids who were following the teacher’s orders, has been constantly ill, has had several allergies, always on Saturdays, has become extremely angry, reclusive and has reverted to just screaming and doesn’t want to speak. He has been to 4 doctors, the hospital and countless pharmacists. Why? He is constantly ill with flu and coughing. He also doesn’t want his dad and the teacher has told my wife to drop him off and pick him off. The result, he is super clingy and has reverted to just wanting mummy all the time. This makes school even worse.
Yes, we have to say that some kids are bad or problematic crying etc, but who wouldn’t be but whatever, this is not how you teach kids and teach. There is no teaching just manhandling. I’m not a genius, but if kids don’t feel safe and trust their teachers, they ain’t gonna do anything. 5-10 crying kids in the morning is not a good sign.
I’ve heard countless times that ‘teaching is an easy job with good money and holidays’ and it really seems these types go for that. there is not ‘teacher attitude’, they come, they go.
The result is kids are used to aggression or nonchalance, then go to school and have problems, quit at high school, fail uni or just live off the CAF (soc sec) and then companies moan that it’s nigh on impossible to find decent workers. Then, it’s clear why the unemployment level is what it is and why many areas are just too bad to go into. It all starts from the kids.
Now, it seems my son is being labelled as ‘problematic’ with a view to throwing him out. Perhaps this is what happened to the other 20 kids who seem to have disappeared from his class.
The French education system doesn’t work. These are not teachers, they don’t want to be teachers and hate kids. The seem to be just doing it for a ride, the perks of a contract and few hours. Then to get an even easier life, they just get rid of kids.
I teach old teens and young adults and I can now see why they are as they are. Imagine this kind of education for 18 years? I mean, why should you care about yourself when your teachers don’t.
What do I want?
I don’t think I want a lot, just teachers who like kids and like teaching. They just need to say hello to my kid and me and smile. That’s it in the morning. If they did that with every kid, the day would start off good. Add a few songs and games and it’s easy and everyone is happy. Then you don’t need to hide from parents, lock the classroom door, interrogate my kid about what I and my wife do and then brainwash my kid to do bad behaviour.
The next step
Well, it seems to be either I take him out or he gets kicked out. Now, finding a good school in October is the next challenge. Homeschooling is another. As the teacher, the doctor, other parents and even the plumber put it “this isn’t normal”. No, it isn’t. I now need to fix all these problems caused by one teacher and my kid loses allegedly a good school in the area which would then let him get into a good high school etc etc. We even bought a house next to the school so we would be within the area. That’s all out the window now. In fact, today, all I am thinking about is who do I report the fact that he has been strangled 3 times too. Should I try the incompetent teacher who says “don’t speak to the director, just come to me”; the ‘never there and never replies to calls” director or just report it to the cops.
I am a teacher and I take my job very seriously. These people should be ashamed. They are not teachers at all. In the French system, they write an essay or two and get a certificate to be responsible for a group of children. These are supposed to be the best of the best but have never taught or been observed teaching or studied anything about teaching. That is wrong!