It’s a miserable wet Tuesday morning and my son, my daughter, myself and the (French) mother-in-law are visiting my son’s new school. We are visiting it during the school holidays and the head-teacher has very nicely agreed to open it, so that we can all have a look around and see what my curly-haired boy thinks of it.
It’s a huge building which, the headteacher informs us is ‘Very old…deux-cent’ (200 years). There are many rooms with all kinds going on in each one and, obviously, lots and lots of French writing. I find this daunting and I’m not the one that will be attending, but my son loves it.
We enter one room and the headteacher motions to my children to approach a large box on wheels that appears to be some kind of cabinet. He then, in a very magician-esque way, pulls off one of the panels on the cupboard/box/thingy to reveal BEES! Lots and lots of bees. The idea, he says, is that the kids look after the bees, the bees make honey, and the kids eat the honey.
After showing us both sides of the bee-box he then puts the cover back on, sealing the bees away. ‘What a holiday they are having!’ I say in broken French to my belle-mere ‘The kids go off on vacation to the lakes, or the south of France, and they get to spend two weeks bumping into each other in the dark in a big box’. Potential bee-right violations aside it’s another great idea that this school has – they also have some mini-allotments at the entrance to encourage the kids to start to grow their own food.
Bit too close to the entrance if you ask me – if this was England anything they grew would get plundered when they reached a ripened state.
We carry on and enter the staff room, dominated by the head-teacher’s desk in the centre of the room. He then shows us the other parts of the room (It’s very Scooby Doo – there seem to be doors that lead off into other areas all over the place) and indicates the sick bed.
Now I can’t speak for everybody but in my village back in England the school there had a very simple approach to sick children. If you cough too much – you go home. If you are sick – you go home. Look a bit pale? you go home. It was an almost knee-jerk reaction in its speed the way in which the school would get in touch with you if your child exhibited the slightest indication that they were sick.
I’m told – after telling the head-teacher that these don’t exist anymore in England – that they do this because they understand the difficulties of working life for people with children. If your child is a bit unwell, or is sick, they take them to the sick bay and monitor them for an hour or so. If they perk up then off they go back to play/learn/whatever. If not then they will contact the parent (s).
This is another great tradition that I experienced in my lifetime that has sadly disappeared from the UK – too ‘risky’ these days I suppose, in our culture of blame. So I’m pleased that it still exists over here, in our new home.
My son is pleased as punch with his new school, which eases my mind. He’d been a bit sick the previous night and we were both worried that it was due to worry about his new, somewhat ‘alien’, learning environment. This is clearly not the case though, as he happily runs from empty class to empty class, admiring the old traditions that sit alongside newer technologies – touch-sensitive whiteboards for example.
We reach the cafeteria as our tour comes to an end and, the headteacher informs us, he will be able to dine with his sister as the nursery and the school eat together. This pleases my two children no end, ‘We will have dinner together’ they happily shout.
We head off back to the mother-in-law’s for dinner, walking down the high street, which is beautiful despite the miserable weather. As we do we pass by the local florists. ‘Look daddy!’ my son says, pointing to a bunch of flowers. ‘Oh yes, they are very pretty’ I say to him. ‘No look, there’s a bee!’. He’s quite right, there is, crawling happily over the…whatever it is (I’m not a horticulturalist, OK?). ‘It’s escaped from the school’ I tell him, and he looks back at me with huge eyes. ‘Bad bee!’ he says, ‘We’ve got to get it back!’ ‘We’ll tell the headmaster next week’ I tell him ‘He’ll send out the bee-police’.
This seems to satisfy him and we head off down the high street hand-in-hand, all four of us, looking forward to the future.