Aero: Claire Darling – France 2014 – Life at School


Aero: Claire Darling – France 2014 – Life at School
Creative Commons Image via The LEAF Project

Aero: Claire Darling – France 2014 – Life at School


Claire Darling

The French high school had a much different atmosphere than those in the United States. It seemed as though the students had more freedom.  The amount of kids who smoked at the high school was incredible. It seemed like everyone did. Smoking is only allowed in certain areas like the courtyard and outside the school fence but that is very lenient. In our high schools an athlete seen smoking even outside of school on their own time can get in huge trouble. The students also had more free time and flexibility in their schedules similar to college.

Kayli and I attended mainly English classes with the equivalent of sophomores. The first class that we attended was an English class; they were practicing English by talking about Jim Crow Laws. The teacher showed images of “colored only” drinking fountains, restaurants, etc. and asked what they could gather from the picture. You could practically hear crickets when the students were supposed to answer. I learned that it is because the French are mute when it comes to learning languages. I find this odd because they seem to place a lot more value in language; they are required to learn English and one other language.  The French students prefer Spanish to English because it is a lot more similar therefore easier to learn. We got to attend one class in French where we learned about aspects of culture, in our particular class the topic was different instruments used throughout time as well as some songs. The teacher played songs and was very interesting. I couldn’t understand everything he said but I got the general idea of it and the power point filled in the rest for me.

The school facility itself bore many differences from public schools in the United States. Overall, it was much nicer. Part was in an old abbey and the rest in more modern buildings. I noticed that the rooms did not have clocks in them which I believe reflects on the lack of importance of time for the French. That was really odd to me because I’m often looking at the clock during class. The rooms all contained tables rather than desks. In many of the rooms the tables were in rows so that multiple people were sitting next to each other. On a very basic level this fits in with the general rule of proximity in France – everything is close together. I also believe that it effects the way classes are run because there was a lot of chit chat and whispers among the students. I know that in the United States the use of separated desks sends a message and encourages us to face straight ahead and focus. I found it interesting that each and every student, even the teacher, had a pencil bag which they would set on the table in front of them at the start of class. 

ML@FLCC France 2014 Flickr Gallery

ML@FLCC France 2014 Flickr Gallery

The self- separation of the kids by gender at the high school was striking. In the classroom boys sat on one side of the room and girls on the other, not because anyone told them to, in fact when the professor asked a boy to move to the other side he refused. The same can be seen in the courtyard and the lunch room. Madame Guillaume was very interesting to talk to about this because she has observed the same thing and has even tried to get a research grant to study more about it. She said that there are limited resources when it comes to educational grants. She also explained that she doesn’t like the gender divide, she wants the students to see each other as individuals not defined by gender. Since it is part of the culture now those who break the mold and hang out with lots of boys for example may be considered “easy” in her words. It was sad to think about the valuable friendships the French youth may be missing out on solely because of the gender divide but then again that’s just the way it is for them.

Overall I gained respect for the French school system and see the value they place on education. It is amazing that they achieve such quality at no cost to the students and I think the United States could learn a thing or two from France. 

Learn More: Study abroad with Modern Languages @ FLCC

– Claire Darling

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