Once, a parent to one of my English students scolded me because she showed up to class the first week after the New Year and no one was there, even though the first class in January was clearly noted on their information sheet as falling on the second week.
She objected, “But I said, ‘See you at la rentrée‘ and you didn’t correct me!” which was as specific for her as if she had mentioned the date.
Petit Prince is still in Maternelle, which is the equivalent to pre-school and kindergarten combined. Public school starts at age 3 (or 2 ½ if your birthday falls before December 31). The first year is Petite Section. Then you go to Moyenne Section, and then Grande Section. (This means, Small, Middle, Big Section).
Following Maternelle, you go to Elémentaire.
At age 6 (or nearly 6) you’re in CP (Cours Préparatoire).
That’s Cours Elémentaire 1st Year, then 2nd Year.
And when you’re 9, you attend CM1, followed by CM2. That’s Cours Moyen 1st and 2nd year. Then you’re finished with elementary school and all those confusing letters.
Then you go to college, which is really collège (it means junior high) from grades 6th, 5th, 4th, and 3d. Yes, they count backwards here.
Then you go to lycée, which means high school, for three years: 2nd year, 1st year and then Terminal, as in “terminal illness,” which you’re totally going to feel like you have as you prepare for the BAC.
The BAC is an all-inclusive exam that decides your entire future for you. A one-week stressful exam that you pass or fail, and which decides if you go to university or not, and which decides if you have a successful life or not. Or just about. This exam is so important, when you talk about your college degree, you say “Bac plus 4” (which is equivalent to a BA or BS) or “Bac plus 5” (which is a Masters).
But we’re not there yet, thank goodness. The school day is from 8:30 to 4:30, and lunch (from 11:30 to 1:30) is either at the cantine or at home.
In the first year of Petite Section, a large part of the afternoon is devoted to a nap. At Young Lady’s school in our old neighborhood, they even had miniature bunk-beds – so cute. You are not required to leave your child the whole day for the first year. And in fact, school is not legally required until age 6, but everyone sends their children at age 3 anyway.
By Moyenne Section, it’s expected you’ll leave your child the whole day. Lunch is either at the cantine, where you pay about 5€ per kid, or you bring them home for lunch. You’re not allowed to send a bagged lunch for them – either you pick them up, or they eat what everyone else eats. This stays the same throughout all the grades.
Young Lady is glad to see that she’s in the same class as an old friend of hers. (I never realized how much this school needs renovation – the town hall is good about these things, and I’m sure they’ll get to it soon).
Young Knight has Young Lady’s teacher from the last two years. She had her in CP, and then the teacher asked if she could keep her another year because it was going to be a split class. I said of course – that I considered it a compliment that she would ask.
And then she confided to me that she was going to request Young Knight (who happens to be buddies with her son, who is also in her class this year) because she wanted to ensure she would keep getting those delicious birthday cupcakes I make. Naturally, that endears her to me as a teacher.
No, no .. I’m just recovering from a cold and sore throat. Really. I never do this any other time. Because that would be, like sooo lazy. Completely unacceptable.