Cour d’Assises or Parents Meeting?

Yesterday I headed out in the chill wind to my first Lycée parent meeting. As ever, the meetings were behind time, and there was a quantity of parents grumbling outside the door. I had been suprised when my daughter had only handed me one meeting time. I should have been forewarned!

Inside the classroom, the tables had been turned to form a wide ‘U’ of 8 professors, intimidatingly seated side by side, whilst some three metres away on the other side of the room, a lone table and two empty chairs lay in waiting for the unwary parent. The table was in fact so far removed from the professors that I looked for reassurance from them that this was indeed my intended seat;

With an inward snort, It was all I could do to refrain from declaring,

“Guilty as charged, your honours”

…before throwing myself at their mercy.

Remembering that this was my daughter’s educational future at stake, I took my seat meekly.

My daughter has a place on the OIB (Option International Brittanique) in which History/Geography and English Literature are taught in the English Language. One of my little perks through collège has been to ‘test’ the quality of the various English teacher’s command of the English language at parent/ teacher meetings, giving them a minor attack of stress whilst at the same time giving myself a much needed break from the intense French conversations with the other professors.  Imagine my delight when I was offered the choice of the entire 8 professor/parent meeting in the English language for the first time in three years.

Barely had I uttered my agreement than the French teacher not only disagreed, but point blank refused to speak English before launching a french tirade against my daughter’s mastery of the French language. The result was that all the other professors were forced to follow suit. The language reverted to French. Had I been in the individual man to man meetings which so identify the collège privé, it would not have mattered that one teacher preferred to speak in a particular language, everyone was at liberty to make a personal choice. However the ‘assises’ method guarenteed that the most forceful professor held sway and dominated the proceedings, rail-roading any other voice in the room.

“Elle manque les bases” she declared. Her declaration that I should find my daughter a private specialist French teacher was generally underlined by the opinion that if one has not mastered the intricacies of the French language then one is stupid. Was Madame Française not meant to be the French teacher? I have read about this attitude suffered by other non- maternal French speakers, but this is the first time I have been a recipient in all my time in France. The intimidating layout of the room did nothing to encourage a conversation though I had a good attempt at arguing my daughter’s corner, inwardly amused that my own mastery of the French language, so much inferior to my daughter’s was in all probability excruciating to her ears. But at the end of the day it was hierarchy verses the subordinate.

Guilty as charged for the murder of the French Language!

On orientation for Premier, the French teacher clearly believed the Bac L (literature) choice would be a ‘mauvais idée’ (bad idea), Monsieur Math speculated on a choice of the acclaimed Bac S (science) since the proportion of marks allotted to literature subjects and essay writing were reduced, but there was a squawk from Monsieur Chimie (chemistry)at the far end of the table. Like me my daughter is not keen on things exploding out of test-tubes! Bac ES (economics and sociology) it was then! Discussion over! A happy medium for a happy daughter.

It was our first experience in the state sector, and it was a far cry from the accessibility of the private one. Perhaps this situation is universal or perhaps each school is unique in it’s approach. Certainly the layout of the room gave no room for confusion about the way the meeting was going to proceed. Sadly I left the room at the end of the allotted time knowing only the feelings of the French teacher. My daughters progress in all the other subjects remains a relative mystery.

“Elle est mignon” – offered Monsieur Math as I got up to leave, (she’s cute)

“Well thank heavens for that” I thought as I left the room….

…..If all else fails at least she’s pretty!

Did none of them remember her Brevet Mention Bien?


Mention Très Bien – 17/20+

Mention Bien – 15/20+

Mention – 12/20+

Aquis – 10/20+

6 thoughts on “Cour d’Assises or Parents Meeting?

  1. Wow this parent teacher meeting sounded really intense. It sounds more like the parent is being interrogated! I also would insist next time to have the meeting in English. Don’t let the French teacher bully you. My mother walked away from her first parent-teacher meeting with the French teacher when I was in kindergarten feeling she had raised a failure as a daughter. The French teacher kept fixating over the fact that I didn’t seem to grasp the concept of how to hold scissors the right way. This apparently was some kind of crime in a 5 year old!


  2. 12/20 = mention assez bien. Bienvenue en France ma chère! This is why I hate education in France. They’re judging your daughter’s French when the average French person can’t even write a note without making a mistake. I’m sure she has a pretty good command of the Fench language. Unfortunately all that pomp and circumstance just focuses on all the wrong things. Lucky for you that you have a choice and you don’t have to follow the opinions of the panel. What counts is what your daughter wants to do. Good luck!


    • Yes I forgot the mention assez bien. I also agree with you that in getting a decent brevet note she must be doing something right! I think it’s important to remember that at the end of the day her Bac will be marked by somebody completely different, and who knows, although grammar and spelling are important, hopefully what she actually has to say will be the bit that counts!


      • I wouldn’t worry about it. As long as your daughter can maintain 12 or above average, she’ll get her Bac. The main thing is to choose the one that interests her, where she can do her very best. there is a certain elitism attached to choosing S and L is considered to be useless unless you want to be a teacher. Mathilde will be doing L because that is where she can shine. She wants to go to fashion school, but preferably abroad. I really would like them to have the experience of anglophone education. I’m sure your daughter is doing well. There is a certain jealousy toward children who are bilingual, especially when they are anglophone and have picked up French very quickly. The French love to think that English is so easy and French is difficult. Courage Maman! It’s almost the end. Mathilde is in second and Victoria is in troisième and we can’t wait to get out of this “psycho-rigide” educational system. Good luck!


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