Am I Taking Things The Wrong Way?

I have a question for everyone and would greatly value your thoughts. The lady who does the canteen once gave my son some lines to do because he wasn't well behaved. I'm not one of these parents who think the kids should be allowed to get away with anything and I would have punished him if I had of known.

However, I don't think the lady who looks after the canteen should be giving my son lines to do as, she doesn't know how much homework he has already got and she doesn't know his level of writing and one child will do the lines in 10 minutes and another will take an hour. Also he really hated school before and is just beginning to sort of like it and start to work so I don't think it's the right message to give "learn to write that way we have got a new way to punish you"!

Another time he told her he was happy it was Tuesday and he could go home and play as he could do his homework on Wednesday morning. She told him the homework should be done on Tuesday evening. I'm not stupid if I get him to do it on Wednesday morning there is a very good reason for that.

Yesterday she wasn't happy as she found my son's coat a bit tight to do up, he had a thick jumper on and his other coat was in the drier as he got it dirty Sunday and she told him he should buy another!

Is it me or should I have a word with her? I told my son if she had any more comments to make about his clothing or how I plan things at home she should tell me directly!

On a positive note I went to see Alex's teacher who, as I said before, is also the head mistress and talked about how he is getting on and as usual that went really well. At the end of the meeting I said to her by the way I was quite shocked to learn that my daughter had to walk about with only her socks or tights on and if they found her shoes a bit dirty a simple note in the parent/teacher book would have been enough. I could tell from her face that she was shocked as well and didn't know Maddison was walking about with no shoes on and she said she will pass the message on. We shall see but from the look on her face I don't think my children will ever have to walk about in their socks again and if anything else happens I think I will just let my husband go and sort it out!

I agree with Sharon about being British and tactful. I gave up on that years ago, in the UK even, since it seems that gentile manners is a thing of the past that a few people cling on to but... Also, having a Latin wife who can be terribly Swiss and discrete and the next moment tigerish, we tend to do a double act. We have had immense problems over a badly thought out school trip to Paris for three classes in the summer. The rest of the school is being penalised in a way since they had no 'spectacle' at the end of the year and no other classes get their usual trips this school year, plus CLIS children who should be included were simply not counted in. We find the proportion of six children to an adult for the trip inappropriate if there are children who fall ill during, no provision such as stops for those who suffer travel sickness, and, and, and... So, after a 'debate' at the meeting about the trip for parents some friends who are not happy and ourselves acted. We wrote a detailed six page letter with all of the flaws like not consulting with children about the trip, no risk assessment, no guaranteed funding and the things already mentioned. That was in November. So far no response. So we went to see the mayor and shouted at him about how awful the school has become since the last director left and warned him the regional inspector would be called in if anything goes wrong, not the local or departmental but the important one with real powers. He visibly blanched. That is how things are done by French parents. When in Rome...

Oh dear Beckie - sounds like this is one of those situations where your British tact wouldn't be of any use anyway - if I had a French husband, I would leave him to deal with this in the way he sees fit!!! Hope the little love gets to keep her shoes on today..... courage ;)

The result isn't as lovely as I thought as I have now found out this woman has been replacing the teacher when she's not there and decided my daughters shoes were too muddy so she has been making her walk round the school without her shoes on. They might have been a bit muddy, we have got mud everywhere at the moment (really surprising seeing as we live in the countryside and it's been raining non stop and snowing as well!) but if she's got a problem why can't she write a little note and I would address the problem?!?! They can't be that bad as my son is a mud magnet and walks everywhere my daughter walks and his teacher hasn't said anything!

Anyway, today I cleaned my daughters shoes, including the bottoms, and carried her to the school bus, and like usual the floor of the school bus was covered in mud (not by my child as I carried her) and put her on like that so nothing had better be said and she better not have been walking round in her socks again! I already had an appointment with the school head mistress today so I will go in and have a word! My husband says if it isn't sorted he will go in and in his words "Being French I won't bring any of your English tack into the conversation!

My daughter has been in a french school for 4 years. Now at college. My experience from french & english friends, including our closest french friends who are both teachers, love their own kids but hate their jobs and some of the kids in their classes. Teaching (or anything related to kids) is not a vocation in france. It is a government job with salary and pension. Liking children is not a qualification or even a consideration. My strategy was bribery. Every summer break and christmas, there were gifts given and I made myself very visible. It seemed to work in terms of my daughter being given more consideration perhaps. However she has been desperatley unhappy pretty much all the time. It was leave or last resort! My magic solution for a happier smiling daughter. We sold our house and moved into town so that she can come home for 2 hours at lunchtime and any free periods, of which there are many. It has worked like magic, she can cope with anything in smaller chunks and her homework gets done at lunchtime as part of the deal.

We have forfeited our garden and other things, but it has been worth it.

Absolutely lovely result. Long may it go on.

It doesn't surprise me at all that Finland came out top in education and I find it very interesting that there is also a lot less crime there, although now you mentioned it, it actually makes perfect sense. I would be very interested to learn their methods of parenting too.

I have to say though that only I have issues with the dinner lady and my son's first teacher at the school, I do really like my son's current teacher. At the start of last year I asked her keep me informed about how he's doing and she always has and it's not just the bad stuff she also - wait for it I know we're in France - praises him! When he wasn't working she told me and one day when I went to pick him up from school she said "Alex has got something to tell you" Alex turned round and said "Emily told me I had worked really well today" The teacher said to me he has been working well for a few days now and every time he does work well I tell him.

I was so proud and so happy and so was he, I know this may be wrong but I went straight out and bought him a toy and that weekend I made sure he did all of his favorite actives, I told him I won't do it every time because he has got to learn to work because that's what he's meant to do at school but because I had been on his back about not working I really wanted to show him the difference and teach him that hard work will always pay at the end of the day.

We still have bad days and good days but he is getting there but I'm sure if he had a teacher that only put him down all the time I would be having real problems with him. As for the canteen lady I think I will wait and see what happens, but if she makes another remark I will go and see her and have a little "chat" - I'll keep you informed. Thanks again it's nice to have support from such great people and to know that I'm not alone.

True, oh so true!

Tracy, being always curious about things, I thought I would look to see how much better the French turn out than anybody else. INTERPOL International Crime Statistics, UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), the International Crime Victims Survey, which currently covers 17 industrialised countries, and the UN affiliated European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control all have statistics that include France. In fact the supposedly awful England and Wales (Scotland has a separate justice system, etc, so no UK stats) show relatively little difference between the two countries. According the criminologists and psychologists the way we are brought up and educated has a great deal of influence on whether or not many offenders, especially in property crime, come to break laws. Well, if the French education is as successful as it believes its education makes it does criminology put it in the middle of the European statistics close to England and Wales? The countries with lowest crime rates overall are low population, small cities, and correlate with the highest educational standards. Thus Finland whose education comes out number one worldwide is also criminologically a rather well behaved country. They have entirely banned punishments such as smacking, lines and so on in favour of children being peer 'judges' of each other from when they enter school aged 7. If a child does something bad then the sanctions are bad, but are mainly in the form of sanctions that are agreed between children, teachers and parents up to and including suspension from school. Makes interesting reading. I have just done this at random so it is by no means scientific but out of interest it makes some sense.

I wish I knew the answer Brian. Yes my daughter was upset but more about Daddy finding out and shouting at her for being naughty than anything else, the actual punishment took about 20 mins which I felt was appropriate for her and the deed at her age. However, she really enjoys writing and will often copy out long paragraphs just for something to do.

My daughter is a naughty child though, partly through boredom partly through character and all her life I have found it difficult to know how to discipline her. Maybe that is the wrong word but children do have to learn correct behavior and she delights in misbehaving. I feel we are fortunate that we have such an excellent school on our doorstep, it seems that other areas are not so lucky.

I agree completely Brian. Positive reinforcement is so important-isnt it? A child who hates writing for example shouldnt be given writing as a punishment. There are many arguments regarding the treatment of AEN/SEN children, as we have already touched on and I believe again that a good teacher is one who knows her children and chooses appropriate punishments that actually make the child stop and reflect on their behaviour/actions and the consequences thereof- its this idea of critical reflection/metacogition that is bandied around all too often.

Yes, but where is the line drawn? My daughter in CLIS has had 10 lines of similar length. It takes her around 10 - 12 minutes a time to copy each line. That makes about two hours! She is a special needs child, but special measures do not apply for the children in that 'class', on the contrary punishments are the same as for all other children. One of her 11 year old contemporaries who cannot read or write at all has had lines because it was half a dozen children being collectively punished for one event. Can somebody explain the point? If my other daughter, who is generally very quiet and well behaved, got lines on top of heavy homework then my wife and I would seriously write a heavy complaint copied to the inspectorate. It is not that they do these things, it is how far can teachers be tolerated in the manner in which they do it? Plus, as we heard when we were being told how lucky we are with this school, we were told how a teacher at their child's school is well known for having tantrums in class and then randomly handing out punishments and once tore up a letter of complaint in front of the father. It is where there are such teachers, and nothing to do with the very good ones, that reform needs to end this so-called tradition of oppression. OK, I am being very children's rightsy and pro-child but it is the 21st and not 19th century and if this country wants to retain its status in the world it needs to change and education is a big part of how that begins.

oh dear - yes I see what you are saying and I suppose this change will not happen in my daughter's school life. Interesting point about French returners - now you come to mention it I have noticed returners do wish for a different approach - especially those from the States. Indeed one of the couples I am thinking of have returned to the States.

I don't like to knock the French system - I find it seems to work so well in so many ways, and perhaps it is not the French who need a different approach to education, perhaps we need to be able to understand and adapt. I just don't know how. But in any case, I firmly believe that punishment or the practice of engendering a fear of failure is not a great encourager.

Call me old fashioned but I believe if a child has been naughty, an apology to the person concerned is common decency, not a punishment. However, as I mentioned above, I don't agree it is the canteen staffs role to hand out lines. On the other hand though, how are canteen expected to keep order when some kids are not used to it. My experience is that I have one child who is an absolute lamb and one who is an absolute little monkey - which is very insulting in French to call a child a monkey, though my other option is to call her a little 'divil'!

Steve- to be fair, the same issues occur in the UK now, as most teachers dont look after kids during lunchbreak either.

"Ne faites pas aux autres ce que vous ne voulez pas que l'on vous fasse"

My daughter (CE1) had to write this out 20 times last night as apparently she had been naughty at school - she was in tears that Daddy would shout at her again for having another punition! However, my daughter is quite a lively child and I have faith that she deserved it. I didn't tell daddy, not necessary as her little brother took great delight telling him the minute he walked through the door!!! Lines work in our house!

Heather's chocolate idea is a good one - I do a major creep excercise come Xmas and Summer breaks just to keep in with the canteen and patrol crossing staff and IT WORKS. Just a Christmas card is well appreciated.

By the way - does your son want a pigeon? It can;t fly and so is a bit like a chicken. It fell out of our church as a squab some weeks ago. I thought it would die - but it seems to be thriving. Not sure how I would get it to you (it can;t fly!) But if you live anywhere nearish Grenoble you can have it, the box, its food and grit.

Amanda, there are a few French people who are 'allergic' to the outside world. They are beginning to decline in number and influence, however it will take a long time to change. Amongst our friends are people who will not stand this kind of treatment of their children. The mother who raised the petition is a qualified sport teacher, whereby sport is taken more seriously than much else in the country. She is highly protective of her daughter, her partner holds back because he has a short fuse with such issues. Both have spent a lot of time out of France, indeed the father's family now live abroad.

Teaching must be reformed and one of the driving forces will be the large number of people studying then working out of France before they return with families where children have been initially educated elsewhere. They may well compare their own education with what their children are getting elsewhere, indeed it is changing. One of the major problems is introducing pedagogy into the training. Science of education academics are mostly psychologists and their rather narrow, mainly Freudian view, holds their discipline back. If those grandes écoles have a root and branch change and then are incorporated into the training of teachers (they are not now) then things will change a lot. Problem - all of that will take 20 and upward years to have really truly at the heart of education.

Yes pedagogy too often does not seem to embrace a pastoral or nurturing aspect and I have problems with this. My child is having major problems at school which I believe have their origin in this very issue and also in my response to it all. She is in College now but the problem first arose with one particular teacher in an otherwise good primaire. Although this particular teacher's behaviour knocked the confidence out of her, at the time I put it down to the errant behaviour of one rather weird, verging on cruel, teacher. Little did I realise then that this was a portent of things to come. There seems to be a huge cultural gap in what I believe constitutes good teaching method and what her French teachers believe, and, I suppose what the French themselves believe and respond well to.

I am not alone I have numerous non French friends and acquaintances who have the same issues - some even with children in nursery. It is a problem to which I cannot find any common ground with the teaching staff. I have pleaded with them by letter and personally to treat my child with more respect and take a more encouraging stance only to be met with looks of complete incomprehension (but may be that is my French!) They seem to think that good teaching is pushing, cajoling and displays of resentment or impatience at failure. And to be fair this method seems to work for the French - but it is such a diametrically opposed method for me that I cannot work out how to respond to it all and so my child is suffering as a result.

Unfortunately the parent teachers meeting last year had such a negative effect on both me and my child that I decided to give it a miss this year - especially as her results have worsened this year. Punishment has become the norm in our home and I can see my child slowly being broken down. I am at a loss as to what to do. So you are not alone. I understand that times are changing and newer more patient teaching methods are being practices by many, many more teachers - but it is those remaining vestiges that can make or break a soul.

As for the Canteen - in our area the canteens are run by the Mairie and the school has little or no jurisdiction. Apparently canteen staff are able to issue "punishment" - now there's a word we come across all too often here! I remember with amusement when a child I know (then about 7 years old) was commanded to write lines and also go to the Mayor himself and apologise. I imagined that he might also be put in the village stocks just to rub it in. Thankfully his mother simply ignored the last request.