A French Teachers Memories: First Day at School

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.

Gabrielle Guichard is a French teacher who can be listened to on

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