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Parenting and entrepreneuring: schools

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

Friday idiom: a stone’s throw

Améliorez votre anglais grâce à notre méthode régulière et ludique ! Prenez rendez-vous aujourd'hui pour votre cours d'essaie gratuit !
Scene 1

Salman: Excuse me, I’m looking for the nearest post office, could you help me?

Rebecca: Hi there, sure! The post office is just a stone’s throw from here. I’ll show you.

Salman: I’m sorry, I don’t know what « stone’s throw » means.

Rebecca: It means it’s very close by. Come, I’ll show you where it is.

Salman: Thank you so much. That’s very kind of you.

Scene 2

Two friends, Sam and Kruti, are walking down a country lane together. Sam looks around nostalgically.

Sam: You know, I grew up just a stone’s throw from that pond over there. This place really hasn’t changed a bit.

Kruti: I’ve heard that expression before, but I’m not sure what it means. Can you explain it to me?

Sam: Of course, it means « close ». I grew up very close to that pond over there, just over the ridge.

Kruti: Thanks a lot! Would you like to walk up to your old house to see it?

Sam: That’s a great idea. Perhaps the family living there now will let us have a quick look around.

Kruti: Okay, let’s go!

So how do you feel? Did you get a sense of the meaning? Let me know in the comments if you have any questions, or send me a message and I’ll get back to you ASAP!

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Word of the day: robust

Améliorez votre anglais avec notre mot du jour ! 
N'oubliez pas de jeter un oeil sur nos formations en ligne, nous sommes là pour vous !

Here are some examples of the word robust in use:

  • I’m so happy with my new table, it’s very robust and aesthetic too!
  • I’m really looking for something more robust, I’m not sure that little car will cut it.
  • Have you seen her new sculpture? Yeah, it looks really robust. So different from all her other work!
  • I would buy the other cupboard, it’s more robust and you’ll need something sturdy with 3 kids running around.
  • Eric said his new son in law seemed like a very robust sort of man.

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Grammar Time: present perfect vs past simple

Améliorez votre anglais avec nos astuces de grammaire ! 
N'oubliez pas de jeter un oeil sur nos formations en ligne, conçues pour vous faire progresser rapidement !

The present perfect always has a bearing on the present. It must be relevant now. If it’s not relevant now, then you should use another tense.

For example. If you’re talking about life experiences, you often use the present perfect because you’re talking about experiences that you’ve had in your life until now. So, you’ve travelled to many different countries in your lifetime. You’ve seen lots of wonderful things. You’ve read books, you’ve been to the theatre and you’ve attended music festivals. But you’ve never been skydiving, and that’s something that you’d really like to do.

When you talk about experiences, as in the above example, you talk about things that you’ve experienced until now. You don’t mention a specific time frame. We don’t know when any of these things happened, we just know that at some point until now, they occured.

If you want to pinpoint an experience to a particular time, use the past simple. For example: I went to the theatre last week. Or, I visited Mexico during my last vacation.

Top Tip: if you talk about a specific time, use the past simple. You may use words and phrases such as: yesterday, last week, last year, in 1999, on my birthday, etc.

Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook and I’ll get back to you ASAP!

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Friday idiom: the ball is in your court

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You’ve done the research, you’ve given your opinion, now you need to say to your partner/competitor, etc, « the ball is in your court ». Basically: it’s time for you to make a decision.

If you’re waiting for someone else to make a decision after discussing the issue and giving your opinion, you can also say of that person: the ball is in his/her court. Meaning that you’ve given them all the tools to decide and/or you’ve given your opinion, now it’s their turn to make a choice.

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Word of the day: nap

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Oh naps, how I love them! A good old afternoon nap can really be quite wonderful! However, too long a nap will make you (read: me) groggy or cranky (make you sleepy or put you in a bad mood).

So here are some ways that people take naps:

  • Pretty much all small children take naps in the afternoon, and babies take them in the morning too!
  • Some people take power naps that are about 20 minutes long, in order to refresh and restore energy.
  • My grandfather always used to take a nap in the afternoon, my step-father does, and actually, most older men I know, nap in the afternoon. Very few women, though, I wonder why? Something to research!

So, do you take naps?

I must confess that I enjoy a good nap on the weekend sometimes, but I rarely have time for them.

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Word of the day: lobby

Améliorez votre anglais avec notre mot du jour! Pour réussir à devenir bilingue, il faut avoir la motivation mais aussi une bonne communauté d'entraide, venez apprendre avec nous !

Every building I’ve ever lived in in Canada had a lobby. Here are a few things lobbies are for:

  • It’s where the concierge can be found, if your building has one.
  • It’s where our building organised Christmas, Halloween, and other parties.
  • It’s where the elevators are located.
  • It’s where you meet people if you work in the same building or if you ask someone to meet you at your office.

Lobbies don’t seem so be very popular in France, but for anyone visiting or moving to North America, be ready for them!

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Grammar Time: present perfect (4)

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Although I know the present perfect can be tricky, there are some ways to simplify your life and to remember when to use it.

For example: use the present perfect with for and since when you talk about a length of time, or how long.

For is used to talk about a period of time.

  • I have been in France for 13 years.
  • Mary has been working for hours on her project.
  • Ida and Jack have been together for a month.

Since is used to talk about the start of a period of time, a point in time from which something began.

  • They’ve been in France since 2008.
  • We’ve been married since May.
  • Alice has been studying for her test since last Friday.

Sometimes, you want to say how long ago something happened, in this case, you must always use the past simple: I moved to France 13 years ago.

You cannot use the present perfect with ago.

Here are some more examples:

  • My grandmother died 11 years ago.
  • Ali and Gem opened their business a year ago.
  • We ordered our food 20 minutes ago.

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Why it’s a good idea to have a French teacher

I like learning on my own. In fact, I love learning on my own; but there are some things in French that just need explaining by a specialist!

By now, I’ve been in France for over 13 years. I speak well, and I have no problems understanding what people say to me, watching TV, or listening to the radio. However, when it comes to drafting articles, emails or letters in French, I’m never 100% sure of my grammar. I need to double check if I haven’t left out an extra « e » somewhere, or if, perhaps, I haven’t added one in where it doesn’t belong.

Currently, I’m thinking about taking a French test. I took an online « pre » TCF test and received a score of B2. This upset me because I know my level is higher than that. But, my knowledge of grammar is a little rusty, hence the need for a real teacher.

Here are the advantages of a teacher over an online app:

  • Teachers can answer your questions! Okay, this seems obvious, but it’s actually very important when learning a language. Sometimes, the grammar rules simply seem outrageous. Without someone there to help you practice and give you lots of examples, you may not get it quite right.
  • Teachers can correct your pronunciation. I’m not talking about accents here, I’m talking about getting the right intonation, making the right sound, and figuring out what to do with your mouth. An app can’t adequately help you with this.
  • Teachers are real people, and if you want to learn how to speak with real people, then you need to communicate with them.
  • Finally, they will train you and keep you motivated. I don’t know many people who have enough discipline to keep learning even when there are more interesting things to do. Maybe you’re that type of person, but you’re really not part of a crowd. If you’re paying a teacher, and you have appointments to keep, you will make sure you show up, and if you show up, then you’ll progress. Of course, there are those who will go ahead and waste their money and not show up, but for most people, spending money on a course will mean showing up for that course.

Now that you’ve been reminded about why having a teacher is a good idea, here are a few tips about different types of courses:

  • Private lessons. These can be useful, however, you won’t get the kind of interaction as you would in a group. Private lessons are good for people who are very shy, or for those who need help in a specific area. If you’re preparing a test, for example. Though even for specific tests, it may be a good idea to practice in groups.
  • In person group lessons. These are obviously great, but, you need to choose your school wisely. In person group lessons will often be expensive as they’re probably given by an accredited and well-known school, such as the Alliance Française. This well known school is good, however, much will depend on the people you study with and how often you have classes. It will also depend on the division of levels, you should always go for schools which divide their students into seperate levels. You should be with other people of roughly the same level as you, obviously. Make sure you follow this up! Another important thing to remember here is that you need to be wary of falling into the expat trap: keep speaking French even if the other people in your group speak English! This is really important because if you don’t practice, you won’t improve.
  • Group lessons at a university. For me, this was a stellar way to learn, but I think it’s best suited to younger people who want to take part in university life. My experience at the university of Avignon was wonderful in part because I was able to make friends and in turn, practice my French.
  • Group lessons online. I’m a little biased because these are the types of lessons that my school predominantly offers. But here are some tips anyway! Online group lessons are convenient because you can more easily fit them into your schedule and you don’t have to go anywhere. This is useful for anyone who lives outside of a major town. Make sure that when you sign up for these, your group isn’t too big; you’re not looking for a lecture, you’re looking for an opportunity to practice what you’re learning. You should sign up for lessons where you get a maximum time to speak. Grammar lessons are important, but they need to be paired with real practice.
  • This last point brings me to my last tip: look for lessons that take place several times a week, particularly if you’re someone who needs motivation. If you only have lessons once a week and you don’t spend much time studying outside of that, you won’t get anywhere and you’ll have wasted your money. Learning takes practice, and it’s the same for language learning as it is for learning to play a musical instrument or cooking. You need to practice regularly and you need to practice deliberately in order to progress. It’s better to spend a little more money on frequent classes than to draw them out over a year and miss out on rapid improvement.

So there you are. In my opinion, if you really want to learn to speak well, you won’t be able to get around paying for a course. Deciding on the type of course that’s right for you is important, and speaking with potential schools and teachers to see what they can offer you is primordial. Learning apps can be fun, and they can be very useful, in the end, however, in order to improve, you’ll need a coach. Everyone needs a coach (read teacher) to push and help them get better.

If you really want to improve significantly, you need a teacher/language coach.

Disagree with me? I’d love to hear your opinion and open a discussion. Let me know what you think in the comments!

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