Thursday, 14 July 2011


For this year, J and C were in Klasse 5 (age 11) and 3 (age 9) respectively. For both of them it was really a year of consolidation, I suppose, though J ended up having a rather disrupted year in terms of teachers and other issues. Fortunately for us he doesn’t let these things faze him.

You might remember that I blogged that J’s whole class had attended his teacher’s wedding party – well, the inevitable happened and she fell pregnant almost immediately. So gone were my high hopes of J having one teacher (well, one 80% and one 20%) teacher for the whole three years – because – at the same time, the 20% teacher also fell pregnant. Was it something in the water ? Wonderful for them both, not so great for the kids. Both teachers left permanently at the Fruhlingsferien break of Klasse 5, with a new 100% class teacher just for the summer term. Who was OK I think.

I guess the highlight of the year for him was Steinzeitlager (“Stone Age Camp”) – which I had also blogged about, in anticipation. Well, they had the most brilliant time, aided by excellent weather, and came home absolutely reeking. For 5 days they had slept in tents in the woods, washed in the river, used an eco-loo, cooked by camp fire that they had the responsibility to start, and generally had a ball. OH picked a carful of them up and drove home – with the windows all open – whereupon J was put straight in the bath, where he stayed for some time. My fears of a Lord of the Flies reenactment went unfounded.

At the end of the school year, the whole class also did the Veloprufung – the equivalent of the Cycling Proficiency Test. It comprised practicing under the supervision of the local police, how to use the roads responsibly (children are not officially allowed to cycle on roads until they have passed this test, though they can of course use foot and cycle paths, of which there are billions. Well, maybe millions. Or perhaps thousands.) and was in three parts: first part was a physical check to make sure that the bike was in working order (lights, brakes, etc); then a written highway code test; and then the actual cycling, which is watched / judged by police and volunteers.

After this, he and his friends started to go to the Badi (the open air swimming pool in our Gemeinde) on their own, showing an increasing amount of independence – and swagger, of course. They are boys.

The low point was him breaking his arm, on ice in the dark playground (early German lesson) the second day of term in January, and being out of action for the whole ski season. Coming only 6 weeks after OH was knocked off his bike by a car, cycling home from work at dusk, this was a horrible shock, and a horrible start to what turned out to be a horrible year. The school were quick – instant, in fact – to deny responsibility for the black ice on the playground. Which, at the time, was neither helpful nor comforting, since this declaration took place at 07.40am as he was being carried off the playground to A&E by OH. But that is the case – his insurance covered the cost, and legally, they weren’t responsible. Of course it was his left arm – he’s lefthanded, and both bones in his forearm were broken, needing surgery, pins and an overnight stay in the Spital. He had to have his whole arm recast a second time, because with only a half cast he was waving it round his head like a lunatic, and the doctors decided he needed more physical restraint. So, a whole arm cast it was, but he learnt how to dress himself and if you didn’t know it was broken, it wasn’t easy to spot. So it became quite comical – he couldn’t move it from the elbow, but he could swing it out at right angles to his body, like some maniacal Bond villain. When it was all over he kept the cast, the pins and the initial sling – adding them to his increasing “gruesome box” which now includes bits of his old brace, and the sling he used when he broke his collar bone playing rugby at the age of 8 – and probably a few other unmentionable things that I have repeatedly tried to forget. I just hope he doesn’t think that a gruesome box is going to impress the girls in a few years’ time (“hey, darling, come up and see my gruesome box. It’s all the supporting bits for where my body’s been fixed over the years. And I’m only 14”). His teacher was, initially, very sympathetic. He had only just got to grips with the Swiss handwriting (“Schnurrlischrift”) and there he was struggling with a broken arm. She helped him a lot, and he even managed to learn to write with the cast on. But it meant that he couldn’t manage his bag, so I had to do a school run, in a terrible winter, 4 times a day. Sometimes he was allowed to stay at school and do his work there, so he didn’t have to manage his bag, but that was entirely at the teacher’s discretion, which became more unpredictable as her pregnancy progressed. It being Swiss school, at random times of the day - I would be in the middle of something, working, sometimes even in a meeting with my boss - I would get a phone call: “Mum, teacher’s got a doctor’s appointment, we’ve all got to go home, I’m not allowed to stay in the classroom, you need to come and get me NOW”. Needless to say, this was horrendously disruptive and drove me bonkers. But we survived.

In terms of his work, his marks started reasonably high and stayed high. The second semester saw him being marked in his German for the first time (auslanders are given a certain length of time in school to integrate before being marked as if they are Swiss) – and all showed good signs.

C had a fairly uneventful year, from what I can remember. He continued with his teacher from Klasse 2, who seemed to be both uninspiring and unchallenging. I still maintain that he needed this to get to grips with the transition to the Swiss system, but OH disagrees. So we agree to differ. There is much more to tell about his transition to Klasse 4, of which more in the next post. There were a few “characters” (for want of a better way of putting it) in his class, and there seemed to be a few cases of unpleasant behavior going unchallenged, which was worrying. Then, about 6 weeks before the end of term we heard from the Gemeinde that he would be in a whole new class, in the much bigger school next door, with only one child he knew, with a male teacher, for Klasse 4 onwards. I panicked. The school next door has a reputation for having much more severe social integration problems (our Gemeinde has a high proportion of auslanders, particularly from the Balkans, who, strangely enough, don’t all get on) and I was very concerned. However, on speaking to the neighbours, it transpired that he had been placed in the class of one of the best and most popular teachers in the whole Gemeinde, so we approached the situation more happily. Since he would be in a different school to his brother, he would have to learn to stand on his own two feet. All looked positive.

His marks continued OK, and his maths kept at a reasonable pace for Klasse 3. All in all, an uneventful year. Unlike the next.

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