OK – this is yet another trip back in time. The week before we left for Ireland, I chaperoned for Callie’s field trip.
I can’t really figure out the French system for this stuff – I had volunteered, verbally and also on paper to go along for the ride – and was told only 2 parents would be allowed. Since, a month later, I hadn’t heard anything I naturally assumed that other, Frenchier, parents had been chosen as chaperones.
The day before the trip, Callie came home sooooo excited that I was coming along! What???? I had to go back to school to pick up Zander from extra help and asked. Yup – I was it! Cancel yoga and my other Tuesday class, get André to take Griffin for lunch, and off I went…. It was an absolutely gorgeous fall day, could have used a little advanced notice, though!
We started out by hanging out with the Maitresse de la Foret (or Teacher of the Woods) in La Petite Ecole dans la Foret (or the Little School in the Forest). They asked lots of questions and the kids answered, as usual, by raising hands. In France this is called “lever le doigt” or “raise your finger”. As you can see, this is because they literally raise their fingers to be recognized! Tava is the one with the blue shirt.
We then headed outside – the kids paired up with baskets. The teacher showed them sanglier (wild boar) prints in the mud, had them taste a certain edible nut that is common in this area, collect acorns (called glon in French) and search for little pine boughs that had been nibbled off by squirrels. Callie and her partner, Sigrid, are holding one above.
We walked further, discovering mushrooms and then, reaching a field, the maitresse de la foret told them to run around for a minute while she set up a scavenger hunt. They were thrilled to be free for a moment – but the regular teacher soon organized them all into a game with restricted movement. In general, I think French kids have less freedom during field trips than during their regular school day. In school, they have 2 recesses, plus lunch recess, for unstructured play – but here – it was all structured, all day. Hard for a bunch of 6 year olds. Pictured above are Callie’s classmates Ada (left) and Cyrine (with basket).
We searched for bugs in bark (Alicia found one, above) and worms and looked at worm poop – I love the kids expressions when they see it! Far right is one of Callie’s teachers who is holding a bird caller. We did a great game where the kids were different types of baby birds and the mama birds (teacher and chaperones) hid in the forest calling them.
We had lunch and then went for a walk in the forest to see the ‘zoo’ they have. The kids were really rowdy during lunch and the teacher did quite a bit of yelling at them and threatening not to let them go to the forest later. I knew this was a false threat, since the bus wouldn’t return for about 3 more hours – and it also seemed totally ineffective – but, hey, I’m only a chaperone…. Callie tells me that both her teachers scream all the time – it gives her headaches. In fact, one of her teachers even tells her to cover her ears so she won’t be so traumatized by the noise. Well, that’s considerate, I guess – but it does concern me how much screaming goes on by those who are supposedly in charge. But, again, I’m not teaching them, so who am I to judge? Of course, despite bad behavior and dire threats, we headed off for adventure yet again. This leg of the journey was done without the expertise of the teacher of the forest – who I think only works in the mornings. We were left on our own to find our way to the animals. I had been here once before, last fall, with André and the kids, and thought I knew the way. We made it to the sangliers pretty quickly (whew!) but it took a bit of time to find the deer. When we did, it was great since they were quite close to the fence. The kids loved seeing the animals. Photos above are Aneesa and Yanis.
We journeyed onward, and I got some fun shots. Pictured above are some of Callie’s classmates, first Jade, the trio of boys - Yanis, Jaysim and Evan and lastly Aneesa (again) with the basket.I was feeling pretty happy about the whole adventure until it was time to turn around. Back we headed, led by the teacher. The entire day I’d been playing sweeper – behind the crew, keeping everyone together. Soon I noticed she was turning in a different direction than I had expected. I figured she might know a shortcut but, soon enough, she started veering in another confusing direction and shortly doubled back to find me and the other chaperone. Turns out, she has no idea how she got to where we are, and no idea on how to get back. When she whispers this to the other chaperone, she is greeted with a totally blank stare. Well, people, I am sure I’ve mentioned this before, but let me say it again – directions are not my strong point. I often quip that I can’t find my way out of a paper bag! But here I was, the only one with any idea how to get us back. It was the blind leading the blind as they say. Led now, by, me (aaah!) Of course, the kids just followed merrily along, I doubt they noticed anything. It was absolutely essential to be completely confident about the problem. Keeping 24 kids under control is hard enough, without them all knowing we are lost. Next time, they should include ‘excellent navigational skills’ as one of the required traits for at least one chaperone!
In general, I find that the hike back is always faster and easier than the way there, but this time, the walk seemed interminable. I was literally sweating, and my eyes were strained from searching ahead for any recognizable landmark. In the end (YAY me) my instincts were perfectly right and we made it straight back to the little school. Maybe I am not as bad at directions as I think I am. It’s all about what you are used to. For example, I used to think I was a terrible housekeeper. I look at my mother’s house and two of my three sisters’ houses and they are just immaculate. It wasn’t until I joined the babysitting co-op in Mt. Airy and got to go inside lots of other people’s homes that I realized we are actually pretty neat. Who knew? Same with computers. I’ve always felt like I’m not so great with technology – but, in my current French class – I am the technical wizard – I fix the computers, look up information and help out when things crash. Yes, André will always be better than I, at finding the way - but here I was, leading everyone out of the forest!
I guess this is one of the reasons why it is so important to not be isolated from the rest of the world. You begin to think that ‘normal’ is the same as what is just in the immediate vicinity, but when you get out of your comfort zone you have a chance to access talents you never knew you had – or even find something you thought was a weakness turning into a strength. It works the other way too – of course – you may think you are great at something only to find, when entering a larger arena, you fail. My difficulty in learning to speak French is a prime example. I figured I was a very intelligent person, good with words, and eager to communicate. I thought my desire to communicate would make learning the language easy for me but I was totally wrong. It is much harder for me than for many others. End of muse, end of blog….. but still blundering in Besancon.