Friday, September 03, 2010

American School of Grenoble, a school within a school, Friday, 3 September, 2010

There is a 1:30 meeting on Friday at the American School (Rees’s school) to brief us on how they work and to sign more forms. 1:30 is also the time Kadin needs to be back at school. It is only his second day, but I ask Carina if we can just drop Kadin off at their bus stop at 1:00 on our way to the American School. This works out great. So Kadin returns to school with Sam and Carina and we go with Rees to learn more about the American School.

The American School is a private school embedded in the Cité Scholaire International (yes! CSI Grenoble!), the big, international public school in town that houses what we would call middle school and high school (they call them Collège and Lycée). The Cité Scholaire is one of the most prestigious schools in the city and students have to pass tough entrance exams to get in. There is even student housing near by and students commute to go here. As part of the American School, we just have to pay. I know the American School is in the same building as the CSI and the kids eat in the same cafeteria and that Rees can go there, but that is all I know.

Well, what we thought would be a 1 hour meeting turned out to be a 4 hour marathon of explanations, tours, and form signing. Rees and I left towards the end to go get Kadin—our insurance appointment will have to wait until Monday.

Turns out Rees is in what is called Collège in the 4ème étage. (Both kids are in some sort of 4th grade!) It sounds impressive for sure, but they count down from 6th grade (6ème étage) to 1er étage (11th) and then Terminal. They really do have a way with words that I am only beginning to appreciate.

We find out that Rees will go to school anywhere from 8am to 6pm, 5 days a week. Lucky for him the American School does not do Saturday like the French CSI does. Wednesday is a half day with classes anywhere from 8am to 2pm. He will take all the regular American 8th grade curriculum in English (Math, Science, English, Social Studies, etc.) but also have his other classes like PE, computers, and music in the regular French school with the French students. In addition, he will have about 2hrs of French instruction each day. This is ideal because this particular school has excellent facilities for science, technology, PE, etc. The American school is able to benefit from having a small, close knit community and American curriculum as well as having all the infrastructure, facilities, and exposure to French found in the French school.

At the same time, that means the American School has to follow all of the French school’s rules. Some are a little odd. Like, for example, there is no way to take your child out during the day for a doctor’s appointment. There are gates that open and close at specific times and the students have to be in at the right times. Students have a Carnet or a school passport which must be in their possession at all times. It has their picture and schedule (also Retard notes and Pink Slips for absences) on it and they need to show it to get in the gate at the critical windows. If you miss your gate, tough. And students are not allowed to bring any food to school and can only eat food purchased at the Cantine at lunch time.

There is a Vie de Scholaire which sounds like a euphemism and is part of what we would call the Dean’s office. It is the only place you are allowed to be if you don’t have class and have a gap in your schedule. You can get a pass from the Vie to go to the library. You are not allowed to hang out in the hallways at any time, they are only for passing through. The head of the Vie (I forget the French title, the CPU?) has students who work under him/her called surveillents. Guess these are kind of like the prefects at Hogwarts (and the shifting staircases seemed kind of synonymous as well!). What an unfortunate name! I think Rees understood the underlying zeitgeist well when he said he wanted to have a mug shot on his Carnet.

And not only do you have a different schedule everyday, your classes can move to different rooms depending on what equipment might be needed for that class. There is also no substitute teacher system at this level so if a teacher is absent, that class becomes a gap. And your schedule can also change from week to week. And there is something in the schedule called Heur d'Arc de Ciel, literally "hour of the sky arc" or "Rainbow hour." Sounds like another euphemism. Wow. It will be great practice for high school. But certainly confusing at first, especially in a foreign language.

Despite all this, Rees is actually psyched about his school and game to give it a try. He has a sense of humor about all the rules and is ready for the challenge. Go Rees!


George Swain said...

Hey Jenny,
I am so excited to be able to follow your time in France on your excellent blog. Please keep it coming! The school sounds like a trip. Such a great experience for Rees. I am loving the "no picking kids up mid-day for doctor's appointments" rule and may need to work that one into our handbook somehow. I will need to go back to your previous entires to read about all the other aspects of transition. Wishing you all the best in this tremendous adventure. I have wireless and plenty of time for reading and communicating so it looks like we may end up being a lot closer over the next few months as I recover than is usually the case. I plan to jump-start my own blog and detail my recovery there. Jessie will likely keep posting periodic updates on the CaringBridge site, too. This rehab hospital is amazing! Hope you're all doing well. Give Greg a big hug for me. Love - George

Lisa said...

I laughed when I read your blog re: French organization (especially in regard to how things are numbered.) Reminds me of a conversation we had on our last family road trip at the beginning of August:
Erin was teaching Avery to count in French and I was surprised to learn that after a certain point (60?) there wasn't a designated word for "sixty" - the number was expressed as "forty and twenty" (or some such). "Ninety" was something like "twenty, four times and ten." We decided that this was why the French are more known for gorgeous fashion and wonderful food rather than engineering.
On the other hand, having lived in India, I do respect that other cultures have a "choreography" to their organizational systems that escape me at first glance, but make more sense as I spend time there. Indian traffic seemed a chaotic mess initially, but after a time, I realized that it was quite organized given the unpredictable conditions drivers face: washed-out roads, animals napping in the middle of traffic, mixture of bikes, carts, scooters, cars, goods carriers, families living right up against the road, elephants, chickens, goats wandering around). Facing those variables, could I handle traffic as seamlessly as the Indian drivers?
At any rate - you all seem to be doing a superb job adapting and appreciating this fascinating culture.