We went with our daughter on her first visit to l’école maternelle today. There was some trepidation for us and her – as with all families introducing their eldest child to their first ‘big school’.
Although l’école maternelle isn’t a big school in the same way as her going to a primary school in England (this step is a year later in France) it is in the sense that the one we have chosen is on a large site attached to l’école primaire and, additionally, all the grades up until le lycée.
I had tried to prepare her wih this song and also with looking at pictures of the school itself online. If you should need it I also found a short film about an école maternelle here, as well as these episodes of T’Choupi at school.
I had to prepare myself though with lists of questions, as you would with any prospective school visit, but I wanted to ensure that I could ask them in French. At the bottom of the post is a list I came up with – I’m not saying the French is perfect, but it may help you to form a list of questions for yourself.
Be Prepared For Straight Talking
Before I went my mother and I were discussing how to word these questions and she told me to remember how direct the French are, where we would go round the houses. One of the questions is an enquiry about my daughter having a staggered start, but the headmistress (Madame la Directrice) interrupted me. No, the best thing was to just have her there all day – she would get used to the French quicker that way! It just made me smile – her directness.
Be Prepared Too For ‘La Bise’
What also struck me about the interview was her greeting of my daughter. In England we are now so focused on ‘child protection’ issues that there have been discussions about whether it’s ok for an adult to cuddle a child when they’re crying after being hurt. Madame Directrice greeted La Plus Grande Fille with a kiss on the cheek, and left her with one too!
My husband and I commented on how different that was to the UK and we both thought how nice it was.
La Pompier To The Rescue
We conducted the interview in French, so in case you’ll be doing the same I thought I’d share some things that came up – knowing topics in advance sometimes helps me to understand quickly what’s being said.
- If there is an accident and an injury is sustained the pompiers are called. As a result they ask you to sign a form to give your permission for this.
- This is only the initial application and the child isn’t accepted until they receive all the forms.
- As this was a private Catholic school the fees were discussed.
- Les formateurs scolaires are the items you have to buy for your child when they start school. We were given a list of things to get for her.
- We were also offered the opportunity of a before and after school club.
The Grand Tour
Madame Directrice also gave us a tour of the school which had lovely bright classrooms, play areas, canteens and a little gymnasium. Our daughter was a lot happier when we left and when we talk of the move now it is a lot more solid in her mind.
Now onto those expressions;
Combien des élevés dans chaque classe? How many children are in a class?
C’est possible pour …….. commence d’abord tous les matinées et puis tous les jours? A présent elle/il va l’école maternelle pour………., mais nous pensons qu’il/elle sera fatigué concentrant dans une nouvelle langue. Is it possible for ……… to start in the mornings at first and then go to a full day? Presently he/she goes to preschool for ………., but we think that he/she will be tired concentrating in a new language all day.
Nos fils/fille a commencé apprendre français chez nous; est qu’il y a quelque chose je dois faire attention à pour assister il/elle? Our son/daughter has started to learn French in our home, is there something we can particularly do to help him/her?
C’est possible pour il/elle utiliser ‘tu’ a la place de ‘vous’ quand il/elle parle avec les enseignes?
Quel titre donnez vous les enseignes de l’école? It’s possible for him/her to use ‘tu’ instead of ‘vous’ when he/she speaks with the teachers?
……… peut été timide quand il/elle est dans une situation nouvelle. Nous sommes inquiètes que quand elle a beaucoup des personnes qui parle francais autour de il/elle qu’il/elle sera nerveux. Mais il/elle est aussi très sociable et nous espérons qu’il/elle sera heureux ici bientôt. ……….. can be shy when he/she is in a new situation. We are worried that when he/she has lots of people who are speaking French around him/her that he/she will be nervous. But he/she is also very sociable et we hope that he/she will be happy here soon.
Comment voulez-vous assister les enfants qui sont inquiète quand ils commencent? How do you help help children who are anxious when they start?
Est qu’il y a quelqu’un qui peut parler anglaise un peut pour assister il/elle si necessaire? Is there someone who can speak English to help him/her if necessary?
Si nous sommes inquiets c’est possible arranger venir à l’école facilement pour discuter ça? If we have concerns is it possible to arrange to come to the school to discuss it?
Si il/elle ne fait pas progrès dans la langue très vite il/elle restera dans l’école maternelle? If he/she doesn’t make progress in French quickly will he/she stay in the pre-school?
Quel c’est necessaire que nous achetons pour les formateurs scolaire? What school things do we have to buy for schoo?
Nous savons que nous devons avoir les certificats de vaccinations – nous avons demander notre docteur pour un record. We know that we must have certificates of vaccinations – we have asked our doctor for a record.
If you’ve done all this before and would like to add any thoughts, I’d love to hear from you.