Swiss Saturday: Parent Teacher Conferences

Just because I’ve done two Swiss Saturdays in a row don’t take that as a promise that I’ll continue. This week I met with my son (grade 3) and his teachers for a parent-teacher-student conference. As a side note, I hate bringing my kids to these meetings (the international school does it this way as well) because I want to be able to hear about any real struggles he might be having rather than trying to remain positive about everything. Also, I want the chance to tell the teacher off if need be, but I won’t do that in front of my kid. This isn’t a unique Swiss thing, but I’m just throwing that out.

Anyway, a Swiss school parent-teacher conference is pretty much identical to an American parent-teacher conference except for the sheer amount of time spent focused on how he puts his folders in the desk.

Lots of demonstrations on how they should be stacked “this” way and not “that” way and certainly not some “this” way and some “that” way. Also lots of discussion about his handwriting, which he, unfortunately, inherited from me. (Sorry, kid.) And how his presentation on Ants was excellent, except that the corners of his papers weren’t completely flat on his poster board.

If you’ve ever wondered why Switzerland is so sparkly clean it’s because their teachers really push it. It’s part of the curriculum, and they consider it absolutely critical to their schooling. They don’t wear outside shoes inside. They clean up every day. Their folders need to all be put away properly. And, heaven forbid, your paper edges should curl on your poster.

I’m not opposed to any of this, by the way. I probably could benefit from a 3rd-grade teacher following me around all day saying, “aren’t you going to put that back?” Maybe I can hire one.

In reference to last week’s Swiss Saturday about handshakes, I will note that as we were going in another family was going out. The kid (who shall remain nameless so that this revelation doesn’t prevent him/her from getting a job in the future) tried to take off without shaking hands. His parents steered him right back to shake hands. No way, no how do you walk out without shaking the teachers’ hands.

On another educational front, I started another German class on Friday. I have a B2 certificate which means I’m an “independent communicator.” I shared with our teacher that I was a bit disheartened because a young Swiss woman asked me to edit her English paper on a James Joyce short story and her English was very good. She had, of course, some weird vocabulary choices (which comes from looking things up in a dictionary), and a few grammar errors, but overall, an excellent job. My teacher tried to console me by explaining that she used to teach high school English and French and that she had the same students in both classes and they all picked up English quickly and struggled with French. This was to show me that English is an easy language and she conceded that she’s glad she doesn’t have to learn German because it’s a very hard language.

I’m glad that I don’t have to write papers on James Joyce stories in my non-native language. Heck, I’m glad I don’t have to do that in my native language.


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6 thoughts on “Swiss Saturday: Parent Teacher Conferences

  1. Seconding Chris K., the posts are really interesting, I find cultural differences a fascinating topic.

    And yes, as a person who studied English, French, German and Spanish, I have to say that English is by far the easiest to learn. And German is the toughest, so congrats on the B2!

  2. I used to be functionally fluent in German, by which I mean I could conduct daily life entirely in German. Honestly, it’s as if I was born to speak the language. I had three years of high-school German and then lived one summer with a family in Krefeld, Germany, and I absorbed it like a sponge.

    Two things are enormously hard: talking on the phone and writing something serious, like a business plan or an essay. I never got good at either of them.

    But even 27 years since I last had a serious conversation with someone in German, when I watch Tagesschau (the 8:00 TV news) on my Roku, I still understand about 90% of it.

  3. I’ll second it (or is it “third it”?) that these Swiss posts are great.

    Even though I’ve spent a lot of time outside the US and in different cultures it is still very interesting (and always new to me!) to learn about some of the things done so differently (or even the same) than our own culture.

    As for the neatness thing, I’d be willing to bet that it goes back way. Suzanne (and others), have you ever been to an Amish farm in the US (or, I imagine it is the same in Canada)? Their farms are the “standard of neatness.”

    Really, despite being a farm with all sorts of muck around, their barns, silos, yards, etc. are always in tip-top shape and as clean, no make than cleaner, than one would expect a farm to be.

    Oh, and the Amish are originally immigrants from, where else, Switzerland!

  4. Interesting post about CH. I spent the summer in a village called Gelterkinden in BL when I was a teenager. I had studied French and wanted to do an exchange program but the only open billet I could find that was even close to a French area was in the German speaking part of Switzerland. During this summer, I learned how to give a strong handshake (As a female, I found this pretty novel) to adults. It was also remarkable now clean CH is. It is refreshing to read about their tenacious grasp on their traditions and national identity. Thanks so much for posting – this brought back fun memories.

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