Some Things Never Change…

I wish I had been able to take photos of the children in the classroom. The Paris public elementary school near us offered education in what they called an ‘adaptation’ class at the time my 6 year old daughter and I were living in Paris for a few months. With 17 children in her classroom, I thought the odds would mean there would be at least one child in her class that spoke English….Wrong! None of the children in the class spoke English as their primary language or even as a secondary language..

As said, rather astoundingly to me anyway, my daughter was the only one from the USA. Now, a few weeks later, an English-speaking girl joined the class, although, she was from Canada. The remaining pupils were from a variety of countries all over the world so voices were heard but they just happened to be in languages foreign to her and vice versa, her English language voice was foreign to the other students in the class.

If I had been able to take a photo of the class, it would have depicted this: The children represented such a conglomeration of countries, the classroom looked like they were having a United Nations meeting! Well, OK, they were a little short in stature and, yes, lacking in maturity to actually pass as a bonafide UN conference meeting but the visual screamed global and united. For me, this diversity made me tingle with delight as I was so appreciative of the opportunity my daughter was able to experience.

School started at 8AM and didn’t end until 4:30PM with Wednesdays off (meant for extracurricular activities) but then the students were thrown back in school on Saturday mornings to make up the time difference needed for their formal education missed on Wednesdays.

Maybe, instead, they could have shaved off an hour of their 2 hour lunches? Apparently, for the French, that was considered ‘impossible’! The school posted their weekly menu on a shielded-from-the-rain bulletin board outside the school so all the parents could see. I never did figure out why they posted the menu every week, other than, maybe, to assure the parents their children were getting a well-rounded meal and best not to feed the same to them for dinner?

The children’s lunch included 4 courses. Yes, you read that correctly!-an appetizer, then the main course, then a cheese course!!!, with a final course of dessert-of course! The photo of the menu above is one I happened to see in Paris just a few years ago.

And, that is where the ‘some things never change’ comes in. My experience, with my daughter attending school in Paris was decades ago. However, when I ran across this more current menu, and seeing that it looked so similar to the ones from decades ago, I smiled. Yup…there was proof: It was actually comforting to know, “Some things never change”!

Other school habits from decades ago, for instance, have been in flux. I know there has been discussion, for years, about the time school starts and ends but minor shift changes happen in ALL schools on that subject.

Questioning whether they ever decided what to do about the Wednesdays off and Saturday mornings issue was the biggie. When reading just these 2 articles, I see there is still controversy about the Wednesday and Saturday schedules. If interested, here are two articles I found when doing a ‘google’ search that cover that topic: https://www.completefrance.com/living-in-france/education/5-things-i-learned-when-my-children-started-a-french-school-1-4397196 and a more recent article from 2018: https://www.france24.com/en/20180903-france-rentree-back-school-cell-phone-ban-new-exams-baccalaureate-tests-french

I also don’t know if the ‘adaptation’ class is still available in each arrondissement. I’m guessing the answer is ‘yes’ as the diversity continues and is one of the things I find endearing about Paris.

And I don’t know if the children still learning French are doing what I observed way back when my daughter was in school: The ‘adaptation’ group of children would yank each other on the sleeve of their shirt to ‘ask’ someone to come over and play at another location on the school playground. Remember… they had no matching language skills (until they became more fluent in French) that would allow them to make a verbal request! So, they creatively found another way to get their point across.

I will say that within a couple of weeks, I could tell my daughter was thinking in French. She would reply in French to some of my questions asked of her in English, yet she was going directly for her answer in French without any time lost on sorting from English first to French. It was rather enlightening to me when I discovered this!

And, when we traveled to the south of France and we were being seated at the hotel restaurant by the maitre d, my husband and I stood dumfounded, while our daughter stepped in and answered his questions in French as to where we would like to be seated. In fact, this led the maitre d to being thoroughly perplexed as he had heard us speak and knew we, the parents, spoke English and zilch French. In fact, he seemed to act as if we had kidnapped her as her French speaking skills were, apparently, perfect, which he was able to confey to us eventually.

What ended up happening, is the two of them, our daughter and the maitre d, became pals, down by the Cote d’Azur waterfront during the time we were guests at the hotel. We could see them, engaged in ‘conversation’ and practicing her French!

But back to Paris for a moment. Because I was not working in Paris, I was able to drop off and pick up my daughter from school every day. Since we were living near the Luxembourg Gardens, we often headed to what I still think of as our/my ‘backyard’….the Luxembourg Gardens. These gardens have one of the most extensive offers of activities for children. Jardin d’Acclimatation might outshine because it is really an amusement park, but knowing that Paris is now making a claim to close to 500 gardens, this one most likely beats all for children.

The play structure area photos below show this area fenced off from the rest of the garden to keep the children corralled while some parents join in their fun and others take the opportunity to just watch. Yes, there is an entry fee, but reasonably priced. I will admit the playground area was not quite this highly constructed when my daughter jungled on the various playful structures.

What did change besides the equipment getting more sophisticated and lavish? Well, when my daughter was in Paris with me, she usually wore jeans or pants. But the French girls wore dresses or skirts. As you can see, things have changed on that subject too…at least at the playground.

Outside the playground area, here are just some of the other offers for the youthful.

My daughter was sold on horses when she was three. I had to put out an APB (all points bulletin) to find an instructor that would be willing to give her lessons. Since it would be a couple of years before her feet would reach the stirrups, you can understand why the instructors resisted taking her on as one of their students. At the Luxembourg, they did have a couple of alternatives. Pony rides or a pony pulling a cart of cheerful children.

Back Camera

Not too many children I know would turn down a rather simple go-cart racetrack.

Back Camera

Or, for that matter, a sandpile and a shallow nearby pool to wash off the sand and cool down from the heat…or to make mudpies?

Back Camera

Then there’s the pond and being the navigator of sailing your very own boat.

Back Camera

Can you see the boy on the oldest carousel in Paris (located very near the fenced playground) holding on to a stick? He is readying himself to capture a ring. Read the article on the history behind the carousel and ring tilting: https://parisfordreamers.com/2019/03/11/the-marvellous-tale-of-the-merry-go-round/

At the end of a day of school and before our daughter hit the playground at the Luxembourg, it is still remembered as the best day when her dad surprised her and picked her up from school, after they had not seen each other for a few months! It also meant no more school, as we were headed to the south of France for a holiday!! Whoooppppeeee!

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