By Alexander, age 13

First day at school in FranceTo start with we came over and lived in the holiday house that we bought 6 years ago, and (with an estate agent) drove around aimlessly looking for a good house. But we were choosey and all wanted the house to have the element we wanted:
I wanted a big house with a lot of room.
Daddy wanted a good view.
Mamma wanted an en suite bathroom.
And my 9-year-old sister wanted a pool.
When at last we found a 10-year-old house that we liked, and bought it.

When we were fully installed and comfortable, on the 6th of August 2004, we started looking at the schools, and found a lovely primary. We thought that a college – the French equivalent of a secondary school – would be too hard for me at first. And the primary was in a little village in the valley, so we tried that, I did one day there with my sister and it was HARD.

The next day, when we went back, the teacher told us that the school inspector had said that I was too old to go to the primary, so we left my sister and we went off to find a college. When we found one it was closed because the colleges open a week after the primaries! So when it re-opened I ended up going straight in to a college where there are, of course, many more people. The first few weeks were hard because every body was talking to ME because I was THE English boy.

But after a couple of months I settled in and started to take special French classes with the English teachers. (And they also don’t have uniforms). When I arrived I could only say: “Bonjour”, “Ca-va”, “je ne comprends pas, je suis anglais”. So you can imagine how hard it was when you had people chattering to you and each other in an alien language! But the English teachers who taught me French, relieved me of this loneliness.

The time tables in French schools are also very different from English because they have school from 8:30 am – 5:00 pm, also they have Wednesday afternoons off in the colleges and the primaries get the whole of Wednesday off! In some schools I believe they have Saturday mornings at school (yuck) but mine doesn’t (fortunately).

Now after two and a half years I’m doing much better, although I am still taking special lessons. I’ve joined clubs and made many friends that way, because soon after I arrived, not able to speak French, the other pupils lost interest in me and left me on my own (but quite frankly I preferred it on my own because it was too hard to be surrounded by aliens that speak with the speed of the shuttle).

So as I said I’m now doing very well at school, better notes and many friends. What do I mean by notes? Well in English colleges you do a lot of SATS at the end of the year, but with French schools you do a test about 3 times a week. For example: you have spent two weeks studying the Romans in history and then about 3 days in advance of a test the teacher will tell you to revise, which you must do or get about 3 out of 20. In the first year when I arrived I only got 0’s (except in English) but it was okay because in France if they think you haven’t done very well in the year they will talk with your parents to see about redoing it. This is called “redouble” which just means redoing the year really, it is annoying but it will do you a power of good as the year before you couldn’t understand a word and missed the things you NEED to learn in life and next time round you’ll be ahead of the rest.

Always remember to try your best because the excuse “ I didn’t understand my home work,” won’t last forever. I speak fluent French now, so for me it’s definitely run out. After two years or so you’ll speak fluent French too, and how many of your friends in England will ever be able to say that?

©Alexander Lawrence 2006

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