A French Teacher's Memories: First Day At School
Anyone know how it is to go to school for the first time.
Teachers live through this experience twice; and the second time
is not the less impressive.
Despite my diplomas that allowed me to teach in state secondary
schools and my requests, I had been appointed to teach to a
sixth-grade class. At least, I almost worked in my backyard. The
morning classes went smoothly. I knew that my pupils were
experiencing many new situations. In primary school, they were
all day long in the same classroom with the same teacher, who
knew them by their first name. During their first sixth-grade
day, they met a different teacher at each hour, each time in
another classroom that was to be found among hundreds. They were
mainly concerned by finding and reaching the right room on time.
Any of them would have been happy to recognize and to sit beside
the girl or the boy they did not want to be seen with last year,
when the world was not that large.
The afternoon classes began at two o'clock. (As much as
possible, lunch time is scheduled on regular bases for the
youngest.) I unlocked the classroom and let the children enter.
I counted them as they passed in front of me. One was missing. I
checked in the attendance notebook: no pupil was reported
absent. I had no idea about what I was supposed to do and began
to wonder how to report the fact, when TocTocToc, somebody
knocked at the door.
- "Come in!" A little girl came in.
- "Excuse-me, Madame, I was lost." Before I could reprimand
those who laughed, she began to vomit.
I pointed a girl out: "Go to the infirmary with her". -"Where is
it, Madame?" she asked.
I did not know. I had no time to reflect, the second girl
vomited, then a boy, then I could count no longer.
I thought of a food poisoning and sent two pupils who looked in
good health to warn the chief supervisor "or any grown up you
find". Yes, I was losing my head at full speed!
At last, the cavalry came to the rescue: firemen (in France,
they dealt with any emergency issue, not only fire), ambulances,
the medical staff and the cleaning team.
As the pupils in the other classrooms were not affected, it
could not be because of a food poisoning and No!, I am not
noxious! The first girl vomitted because of her fear of being
lost, late and alone. The others let themselves be led by her
because they felt the same fear of being lost, late and alone.
To yawn is infectious also. I would have prefered she yawned.