It’s Swiss Sunday! Permission Slips

I haven’t done a Swiss cultural post for a while, so I thought I’d do one for fun. Today, my 3rd grader is at the local swimming pool with his class. (I’m writing this on Friday, even though I’m publishing it on Sunday.) A normal thing to do, but it will probably make your American head spin. Here’s why:

  • No permission slip. The teacher just sent home a note saying “this is what we’re doing. Send swimming suits and 5 franks so your kid can buy ice cream.” Except she said it in German.
  • No advance planning. The teacher looked at the forecast and said decided it seemed like fun. So they are going.
  • There are no lifeguards at the pool. It’s a public, outdoor pool. Any by pool and I mean a baby pool, a diving pool, a lap pool, and a fun splashing pool that varies in depth from about 3 feet at one end to 6 feet at the other. There’s also a twisty water slide. Swiss pools don’t do lifeguards unless it’s a super scary slide or something. I would not want to be a teacher taking kids to the pool without lifeguard help.
  • No parental help. She might have grabbed a parent, but I doubt it. 16 kids, no parents needed on field trips.
  • They walked to the pool. Google Maps says it’s 2.2 kilometers, but I suspect they took the 2.5-kilometer trip as it’s off the main streets. They will walk back to school as well, but the teacher will let the kids go if they pass their house, so they don’t have to backtrack.

I still find this amazing. I still have to sign permission slips for my 13-year old that attends the international school. The parents there are a more litigious bunch.

I also still get caught on weird cultural things. This is his 5th year in Swiss schools (2 years of kindergarten), and in the past,they’ve run around barefoot in gym class. This year they have to have gym shoes. Except no one told me. All the other parents just *know* these things. It’s so strange to me.

The other weird thing is that in 5 years of schooling, he has yet to have a teacher that works full time. He’s always had a teacher in a job share. I don’t know if that’s just his luck or if that is super common in the Swiss schools. His head teacher from the past two years just had a baby in August. She told me that in January she’s going back to school, teaching two or so hours a day. I bet there are a lot of American Moms who wish they could work that kind of part time with a new baby!

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13 thoughts on “It’s Swiss Sunday! Permission Slips

  1. There is no way I would let a kid go on a group trip to a pool without a lifeguard. I would also require extra adults to supervise.

    1. I used to be a lifeguard. It was impossible to watch all the kids all the time. Decades later, I am still so, so grateful no kid ever drowned on my shift, because it so easily could have happened.

    2. A friend was on the board of a nonprofit daycare. The daycare had a field trip to the pool. One of the kids – three years old – drowned, even though they were following the law about the children/adult ratio.

    1. In the 7 years I’ve lived in Europe, the only time I’ve seen a life guard at a pool is with a super scary slide. Like one of those straight drop ones, or a toilet bowl type slide.

      Otherwise, there’s one person (usually male) who wears a t-shirt that says “Bad Meister” on it, who runs the pool. He doesn’t life guard, but he does yell at obnoxious teenage boys.

      There are lots of Americans who do not like the level responsibility people have for themselves here. Or the level of trust given children.

  2. I think any place you live all the moms know the unwritten rules. That’s a mom job! You’ve been there less than 50 years so you’re new.

    1. That is the truth! Especially in Switzerland where people don’t move. You live in the same town you were born in, which is also the town your parents were born in!

      I have Swiss friend who did move–she lives an hour away from her parents. When she goes to visit them, she spends the night because it’s so far. When I explained to her that my husband and I each used to commute an hour each way, she was so boggled.

      1. Haha, that cracks me up when friends from Europe visit. They have no sense of how huge the US is. I have to drive for three hours to visit my mum. One way!

        I’m jealous; I wish like hell I could live abroad. I wanted to go to the UK since I have family there and everywhere else is accessible from it, but then they hosed themselves with Brexit and getting a visa would be even harder now. 🙁

  3. I am a Swiss living in Italy, in Rome.
    Here, the tendency is also to avoid any litigation, and have a lot of rules. You know, the mafia style, etc… requires many written rules that only the experts can find the ways to go around.
    My daughter goes to Kindergarten 200m away from a massive park. There is one street to cross to reach the park from the building where she spends her days. To go to the park they need the written permission from all parents, and since the school opened, they never managed to go to the park. Never.
    For me, this is incredible. Not only because the outside space of the school is very limited and the weather in Rome allows to go for a walk every day; but also because I grew up going to the park or the forest with my classmates every week. When they are so little, kid’s place is in the nature. I dare say, even if it rains, as human invented the K-way! Maybe I am too much of a mountain girl for this big city full of legal threats and restrictions. To link it with HR, I would say that finding the right balance when setting rules is never easy. Too little and people will lack guidances and take risks, too much and individuality is killed as micromanagement makes it way into every tasks and possibilities.

    1. That is so sad! There is a park across the street from my son’s school as well. I had to pick him up last week because he threw up in class (Poor kid), and the entire kindergarten was at the park. The kids were running and screaming and the teacher was sitting in the shade. Smart teacher.

      They are very big on forests here and I love it. The forest is maybe a 2 minute walk from the school, so they go there all the time. Every kid brings a pocket knife.

      1. When I was a kid in the 70’s, nearly all the boys carried a pocket knife; it was just the thing to do. Not many girls carried one, unless they were a “tomboy” or a Girl Scout. 🙂

  4. That sounds outstanding! I wish more US schools gave kids the kind of unstructured play and outside time it sounds like the Swiss children get.

  5. I’ve gone the other way- Swiss mom in the USA- and it boggles the mind how much parents hoover over their kids here. I am so glad we found a liberal arts charter school for our girls, where they get two 30 minute recesses of outside, unstructured play in the field across from the school, and from an early age are responsible for their own homework and such.

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