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So what are the odds? I have 3 kids in 3 classrooms, and all 3 teachers have chosen Thursday at 5 p.m. for their class meeting with the parents.

I’m used to having to make a choice. The twins are always in separate classrooms, even though no one could ever mistake them for each other. Usually I go to Elliot’s meeting and then I alternate between the twins, each year going to the other. The plan is always that Donn will attend one, but something always comes up. Last year he spent 50 minutes trying to get our car out of the shop. I forget what it was the year before that.

This year, the twins are in CM1 and Elliot is CM2. But the school is doing something new this year—they are offering a fifth CM class, a mix of 1 and 2. Ilsa’s in that one. I suppose not many parents are in my situation, but really, a bit of variety would have been nice.

Class meetings are always a blur of rapid French and I always leave with a headache. Although you really need to know French to function here, I use it surprisingly little, given that I’m an English teacher and everyone I know wants to practice English with me. Even my French friends (moms of the kids’ friends) take classes at Oasis. So evenings like this are good for me, but a little discouraging as well. I usually start slow, hit my stride after about 5 minutes, hang in with the teacher for about 30-40 minutes, then start to slow down again. This year I’m going to Abel’s meeting and his teacher strikes me as one that will be brisk, to the point, and not go overtime. Last year Ilsa’s teacher went on for nearly 2 hours! But this year I also have a nasty rotten cold, which makes my head thick and my accent even more unintelligible than usual! Should be interesting.

All 3 started Arabic this year. The boys especially love it and are always practicing their writing. Hope they keep it up. I’ll be thrilled if they get reasonably fluent. The funny thing is that they were dreading Arabic. This year, the school added 2 extra hours of language a week, and gave a choice of English or Arabic. The kids were all excited at the thought of an extra 2 hours of English! They love being the best students in class and having better accents than their teachers. So they tried to persuade me to let them take English! “But Mo-om,” they said, “You want us to go to university in America!” As if they’d get university-level English at a French primary school, where they learn colours and numbers and not a whole lot more! They still get an hour of English a week (c’est obligatoire), but I’m glad they’re getting the Arabic as well.

I myself have learned the Arabic alphabet several times now. It just doesn’t seem to stick, although every time I learn it a few more letters stay in there. If I know the word (coca-cola, for example), I can figure it out, following the swoops and curls of the writing. My advice for all who wish to learn Arabic is to start young, before you have children, before the prattle of little voices and the patter of little feet have combined to give you Teflon brain, where everything put in just slides easily back out. Non-stick, that’s me.

September 2006

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