Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Bad Day In France:

School One's fourth graders were annoying during their evaluations. Be quiet and do your own work, it's a test.
School One's third graders were more annoying during their evaluations. Be quiet and do your own work, it's a test.
School Two's ridiculous fourth graders were ridiculous during their evaluations. I sent out B* because he can't figure out how to not bother everyone. However, I was supposed to send him out with a classmate because he ended up hiding in his classroom (not where he should have gone, he should have gone to the principal's classroom). This was made even worse when one of the resource teachers (I think?) came to look for him and he was not in the principal's classroom nor was he in English. The three of us found him in the hallway with his jacket, apparently preparing to leave. Oh my goodness. He was not the only one who was acting up. I took away all of their tests and screamed at them. Be quiet and do your own work. It's a test. I'm going to take off five points from all of their tests. They were ridiculous.
School Two's Merci Madame, the secretary and computer teacher, has a name: Anne. All right then. She and I both lamented the lack of hard work in schools both by teachers and by students.
School Three's fourth graders did well on their evaluations. They finished ahead of time, so I pulled "Where is Thumbkin?" out of nowhere and now they've at least heard "How are you?".
School Three's third graders are just. so. dim. I blame their schedule. One hour of English one time a week does not allow for real progress or retention of any material. I feel so bad for some of them, especially V* and S* who are seriously lacking any stimulation at home: you look in their eyes and there is just nothing. It breaks my heart. They're benign.

I fully maintain that the French high school students who are taking their final exams (le Bac) right now would never pass my Regents, APs, SATs or ACTs; but I concede that as a high school student, I would not have passed their exams. This is not based on cultural reasonings, but just simple "What are you taught and how are you taught to express it." American high school students are taught to manipulate information and derive meaning from it, whereas, at least in my opinion, French high school students are taught to memorize the meanings.

But at the elementary level, before all the non- and low- and even mid-acheivers are weeded out, I fully believe that French elementary students do not perform at the same proficiency level of their American counterparts.

This universal education is a common idea in both France and the US; the US emphasizes more on equal opportunity, while France emphasizes performance. At least everyone in the US is supposed to receive a quality education. In France, I see so many of my students who will never pass the 'regular' high school tracks. They'll be tracked into the vocational high school programs. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but in a country that has such a rigid social structure, it immediately sets you up to stay where you are. No wonder so many French are born, live, and die in the same town. They never had the opportunity to do anything else. Had Andy been a French student, I guarantee that because of his home life, and not due to his ambition or intelligence, he would have been tracked into a manual labor vocational high school program. But because Andy is American and has ambition and intelligence, he got to go to college to study something admittedly useless but that interested him and not dictated by some shadowy figure.

I just keep seeing this "lowest common denominator" idea in the French education system. It's not equal opportunity; it's opportunity for only the good students and little support for students who even minorly struggle. In the US, anyone can improve their opportunities by hard work. I just don't see that in France. Hard work just is not rewarded. My teachers are thrilled that I work as hard as I do for them; I'm not great but I do try hard. But I would be appreciated just as much had I not done all this work, had I just photocopied the pages from the textbook and followed the stupid I Spy password gimmick.

Please, can that high school in New York call me already so I can leave this disappointing world of French education?


Au Soleil Levant said...

I feel totally the same way about how they shove students into vocational education. I hate how these kids are judged as being either worthy or not worthy starting from pre school! It's ridiculous! These kids get absolutely no other view of the world outside of the tiny little towns they come from. No one ever teaches them to dream or to hope for something different or be ambitious or to break out of the system.....unless you're one of the lucky few, that is. And if you're someone who comes to learning and ideas later in life, well, you're screwed. If you don't have your bac/bac pro/bps/bghftoiqznfmoisnds you have no chance to break out of your life. What would they have done with Bill Gates? Or Einstein? I just hate to see the kids treated like that.

La Niortaise said...

I agree that I wouldn't have passed the bac here either, which makes me hesitant to take up studies in France in general! But, yes my kids were not used to "thinking for themselves", having a go and trying, rather than just regurgitating what they'd memorised. Tiring sometimes. Better get back to writing up my report cards.