Photo by Ben Wicks on Unsplash

Over the last few years, I think it’s safe to say that all of us have experienced major changes in our lives: Covid 19, job changes, school changes, mindset changes; the list can go on. To my mind, change is wonderful- I much prefer change over too much stability. Stability bores me and and makes me jittery. Change can be a wonderful thing, though perhaps not in the same dose for everyone.

Young children, however, do not cope with change so well. They need stability, they need a sense of sameness to help them understand the world and they need constance. You would think that schools for young children, read: kindergartens, would understand this. Afterall, there has been much research into the topic. « To develop to their full potential, children need safe and stable housing, adequate and nutritious food, access to medical care, secure relationships with adult caregivers, nurturing and responsive parenting, and high-quality learning opportunities at home, in child care settings and in school. » (Sandstrom, Huerta 4, Instability on Child Development: A Research Synthesis) This seems like common sense, and is painfully obvious to any parent who is raising a child alongside life changes. Why then, don’t school boards understand this?

By the end of this week, my 4 year old son will have had 6 different teachers. 6 different people since the beginning of the school year, 3 weeks ago. He’s behaving accordingly: temper tantrums, back talk, rudeness, whining, disrupted sleep, distrust of the grown-ups around him. I can’t keep track of all the names anymore, I can’t imagine he can either. To me, the solution seems obvious: put in a permanent teacher. Instead of a steady stream of different substitutes, why not just one? Surely that makes more sense and is easier to organise?

For those of you who do not live in France, school, from age 3, is obligatory. Your child must attend. Homeschooling is very frowned upon and will soon be allowed only with specific permission from the board of education. So now with every child aged 3 and up attending school, one would think the school board would insure proper care. The reality, however, is very different.

Not only are French schools often prone to canteen, staff and teachers’ strikes, but many of them (mostly located in cities) are also run-down, underfunded and/or positively dilapidated. Last year, there were literally bits of outer wall falling off of my son’s school; inside, the walls are a yellowish-gray, the curtains old and stained; there is, of course, no air conditioning in many of them, with summer temperatures reaching up to 36 degrees inside on the hottest days- and we are in a very wealthy town: funding should not be a problem.

Furthermore, the government has only very recently taken notice of the state of the schools in Marseille, France’s second largest city and only 30 minutes from us: at least 200 schools in Marseille are in immediate need of renovation. Some of these schools have no heating, an insufficient number of desks and chairs for pupils, or even holes in ceilings with bits falling down into the classrooms. These are the kinds of environments children are expected to learn and thrive in.

These are deeply worrying matters. These changes, whether in the parade of teachers and school staff, strikes or the states of schools, impact our children profoundly. Is it any wonder that children act out? That they do less well in school? That they feel demotivated, upset, and forgotten?

My husband and I are lucky: he has a stable job and I am an entrepreneur. I work from home and, if need be, can keep my son home. I will battle the school board if I have to. But not every child is so lucky, not every child comes from a home where his or her parents have a choice. So what then? Should we just say: « they’ll be fine? » Are we only striving for « fine »?

The next step is a meeting with the school and parents tomorrow evening to discuss our course of action. Our children cannot remain without a teacher, and we will have to go all the way: write to and pester the school board, threaten them if we must, because our children deserve better.

Want to see for yourself? Have a look below:

https://www.francetvinfo.fr/societe/education/a-marseille-des-ecoles-en-deliquescence_4757467.html

https://www.europe1.fr/societe/cest-un-chantier-monumental-a-marseille-letat-des-ecoles-au-coeur-des-preoccupations-4064458

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