Monday, 30 June 2008

Hurrah, J is promoted from Premier Enfantine

It has been a long first school year in J's life. Premier Enfantine or the Swiss equivalent of junior kindergarten starts at age 4. J and his great mate Adam Ant started Premier Enfantine together; the only anglophones in a sea of french-speaking kids. As expected, they initially created their own English-only island in said sea. Some strategizing between us parents, the teachers and the school's inspectrice, and the boys were partially separated from one another and gradually integrated. First obstacle overcome.

J started the 2007-08 academic year with his vocabulary limited to answering 'Oui' to every question posed to him from "Vous allez bien?" (how are you?) to "Est-ce que vous voulez de sauce piquante avec votre chocolate?" (do you want hot sauce with your chocolate?). His mastery ended with "Regarde-moi" (look at me) and "Viens" (come). He ended the year speaking full sentences. Second obstacle overcome.

J is also somewhat averse to change. He had his circle of friends (mostly other english-speaking Canadians) and wasn't invested enough in school to make the effort to engage the french-speaking children. Early in the year, it broke my heart to see him playing alone or resisting any attempts by the other kids to include him. All of my Canadian friends urged me to stay the course, having been down this road themselves. By the end of the year, he had weekly playdates with the other kids and was the Pied Piper of Escargots collecting. Third obstacle overcome.

Finally, J is a very spirited child. He is imaginative, active, independant and benefits from a lot of physical and mental challenge. The restraint demanded by school rules, school routine and strict Swiss discipline was difficult for him to adapt to for much of the year. But a reward system at home, praise from his teachers and a slow acceptance of expectations won the day by the end of the year. Fourth obstacle overcome.
This weekend, our village celebrated Promotion where all of the school children are promoted from one grade to the next. They parade though the streets accompanied by village dignitaries, a marching band, and frantically photograph-snapping parents. This cortege is followed by a village dinner of saucisses, frites and glaces, and a full-on carnival atmosphere complete with bungy-jumping, mini roller-coasters, flying boat rides, babarpapa (cotton candy), a live band and dancing. This is the 3rd year we have participated in Promotion and we had a ball. We got home at 10:00 pm.J anticipated Promotion with the same enthusiasm as he did his birthday party. He was so excited, he hardly slept the night before and counted down the hours until the cortege at 4:30. He marched proudly, hand-in-hand with his french-speaking pal Alyssa. The next day, he sadly lamented the end of the school year and asked how long it was until he could start Deuxieme Enfantine.You've come a long way baby, mummy is very proud of you and of us.


Sher said...

Congratualations to Jack and mum.

Jen said...

Oh my gosh, our Jack Jack is growing up! What a wonderful day, congrats :)

Susie Vereker said...

Interesting post. I like your photos. I used to live in Geneva but sent son to the English School eventually, but he was a bit older.