Tuesday, September 02, 2008

So much for making a good impression

Today was the first day back to school for the boys. Boy1 is in CE2, which is the grade they're in when they're 8 or going to be 8 before the end of the calendar year. And Boy2 is in Grande Section, which is what they're in when they're 5 or going to be 5. So maybe kindergarten. Anyway, same school but different classrooms and teachers and all that. Plus the whole school supply thing which is incredible here. Ballpoint pens, blue and black and green and red for Boy1, each with a different purpose, a fountain pen, compass, right angle, ruler, colored pencils, markers, pencil sharpener, white board with markers, mechanical pencil, regular pencils, mutliple notebooks and binders and plastified sheet covers and I'm leaving some things out. Of course, everything had to be labeled with his name. Boy2's list was much shorter, but he still had one.

When I went to pick them up for lunch, Boy2's teacher asked to speak with me. That's never good on the first day of school. She tried to nicely preface things, but I saw where she was going long before she got there. We completely respect your choice to raise your children bilingually, we understand how important it is to you...BUT. I cut her off about a second after the but, which I didn't used to do. Interrupting is so constant here, I fear I've picked up the habit. Anyway, no matter how she framed it, you realize, Madame, it's for me, it's so when you pick him up and ask him what he did or how his day went, I'm included in the exchange, so there is a transition, if you will, from school to home. Call it whatever you want, what she was asking me to do was speak in French to my child, which I simply refuse to do. The thing is with bilingual kids, in many cases, if they see an open window to speak the majority language all the time, they will. And all of the research on bilingualism bears that out. I tried to explain that to her, reassured her that I would be attentive to the school to home transition, that Boy2 and I would translate our exchanges to her if they had anything to do with what went on at school that day. She looked doubtful and I probably looked like a militant.

7 comments:

Le Tigre in France said...

She's probably just worried about her English being upstaged by your children. Truly. I agree with your standpoint, it's crucial that you speak English to them, they will thank you when they are taking the bac!

L-Dizzle said...

Stick to your guns, you're right! Good impression, shmood impression, I say!

Leah said...

That was me above!

beth said...

I agree with all the above? Since when is being bilingual a liability? She's probably just jealous that an 8 and 5 year old speak better English than she does.

Jertta said...

It's unbelievable that you always have to get along with these teachers that cannot understand the bilinguism... With my three bilinguish children I have NEVER had any problems in French schools. And I always speak with my children an other language than French. All the teachers my children have had or even the ones working in the halte garderie have always just admired the fact that our children can speak perfectly two languages. At the moment school director would even like to develop with my child a friendship with a school from our other country just to develop exchanges in english (the only common language the children would have beside my child). And they always ask my child about this other country, her other language. Even in school trips (sorties scolaires) we speak together the other language than French and everybody just thinks it's great.

I just can't think I am so much more luckily than you are (my children have been in 4 different schools), so I think there is an other explication than just the scare of bilinguism. It is beacause you are from States. I come from a small country, which is only exotic, but "no danger", no need to be better than. With americans I think it's different, the French people want to be better than americans and think you are arrogant with your english language and think it is more important than french language, etc. Don't you think so? So I unfortunately think the problem is not having a second language, but being american,no?!

Nicole said...

Tigre - She said she understood absolutely no English which is what made her uncomfortable and made her feel 'exclue'.

Leah - Yeah, I gave up on that one a while ago.

Beth- I think it's mostly about feeling shut out of the conversation if it had anything to do with school.

Reb said...

ooo. One of my great fears. But, from my mere 2 years of experience, you are right in insisting to only speak English to your children. Really, the experiences with your kids you tell on your blog have inspired me to be strong when it comes to bilindual child rearing. Bseides, the teacher obviously has an inferiority complex and thinks you're badmouthing her/him.