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Old 12.08.2011, 02:44
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parent/teacher associations

Greetings,

We are moving to CH, probably the canton of Vaud, in June 2012. My husband is Swiss and grew up in Geneva. We have 3 girls, 5,3,1.

I plan to put them in the Vaud public schools, but I have some questions about how much parent involvement is permitted in schools.

For background...

I am a teacher, and I work in a school where a parent can email me at any time. They could call me, they could write me a note. I teach in a middle school so parents don't come in the class very often, but the PTA is a big presence.

For example, parents come in once a week and serve pizza on pizza days, therefore seeing their kids. Parents also help out on field trips, they also run the yearly carnival and school play. In addition, parents sell t-shirts with the name of the school. Some parents go into elementary classes and give lessons on things they love or know (dentistry, beekeeping, oragami).

It's easy to get in touch with teachers and there are many opportunities for parents to be in the school whether it's helping out a librarian, setting up for back to school night, helping with literary magazines, or after school clubs.

SO...

What about Switzerland...am I going to come there and basically not be able to get into the school? How much access to parents have, and how big a role is the PTA if any?

I could use some good info from people especially in the Vaud/Geneva area.

I am not interested in international schools. I am not trying to copy what is here, I just want to be well informed about what is realistic before I go there and wonder why I can't spend time in my child's school.

Any advice or info would be great.

Much appreicated.

sameyeam
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Old 12.08.2011, 07:16
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Re: parent/teacher associations

I have searched but no threads came with relevant requests, maybe somebody who remembers any thread detours, that would deal with parental involvement will show up soon.

To your questions. Growing up in a similar set up of public school system like here, and teaching in it myself, I might be able to have a little insight.

Parents are not let to take control over issues in on a school ground, usually. That said, some reasonable concerns get dealt with, depending on openness of the teacher, and how parents go about it, and of course, depending on the concerns. You cannot wonder in, without previous arrangements. It is for safety issues, and also, for not having work of the institution interrupted, practical reasons.

It seems to me that you already have been informed about this, somewhat. I do not know parents who would help in cafeterias, in fact loads of schools do not have eating premises, it is starting to get established here now, slowly. TAs are rare, too, usually stagiers, or apprenties, but those have relevant training and are also given independence to run a class on their own. Help with afterschool activities, a lot of them are not organized by school, but cantonal offices, gym, sport clubs, libraries for kids, scouts, or those that are organized through schools, either involve their own staff, or kids themselves, if they are older.

Some classes and teachers do welcome help, though, accompanying classes of small kids for trips, help out with some events, sport, etc. It really depends on individual teachers, how much that professional is comfortable with his her own authority, what the general attitude to parental involvement is, and how much it is viewed as crossing over boundaries that are set for kids to gain their own independence and responsibility for their own learning.

I think you might be in for a shock, if you expect learning to be a public affair as it is elsewhere. If you need info on what your child is doing in the class, you can contact the teacher, they are usually open to communication, not to be criticized or compared, though, and only if they are not busy. Parental contact is really not a big priority in their work description, though.

Go through the threads here on schooling, you will get the idea, should you have some concerns that make you want to be a part of your kids' school experiences. International schools are a lot more like what is normal elsewhere (help with clubs, open school doors, etc.) and are set up also to provide familiar environment for expats who do not want to change their attitude to education when they move. But I really support your decision to immerse your kids into the public system, it provides a lot more than academic opportunities, it's the social aspect kids benefit hugely, if they are successful there.

I can see foreign parents wanting to be involved, either in the learning process itself, or the activities, help out. In fact I really support this, it's a neat idea. How else does one get quickly familiar with the environment, than doing this somewhat "internship" way...Good teacher wants to have parents positively involved. I would personally welcome it. But also see the reason to keep parents out of the institution, or I can understand some of the reasoning some schools have here, since foreign parents often come with ideas that interfere with what the priorities in schooling are in this cultural context and what teachers feel is needed for kids in order to succeed in here and know the traditional reasons for this, have little time to educate expats on this. Foreign parents do not often know but want to interfere a lot. Learning is often not really viewed as a group effort: kids/school/family. But more dually, an art of teacher to work well and willingness of kids to do the work teacher presents. I think it is a cultural thing.

People will chip in, just give them time to wake up
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Last edited by MusicChick; 12.08.2011 at 07:29.
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Old 12.08.2011, 09:27
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Re: parent/teacher associations

I'm afraid you are going to find it very different to US style PTAs. I have a close friend involved in the APE (parent association) in Nyon and it is basically a mother's coffee drinking gathering (all outside of the school). For many things, the association is powerless and they are generally not involved in day-to-day school events. For example, know some mothers who offered to help on school excursion, were denied due to liability reasons. What they may do is bring some issues to the attention of people, but there is a clear divide of the school administration and the association.

To read more about the APE's, and their activities in the greater Nyon area, see this website, all in French of course. http://www.ape-vaud.ch/ Not sure where you will be in Vaud, but in some of the smaller schools and communities of Vaud, there may not even be an APE.

Just to add, the culture here is quite different, and so called 'activism' or parent involvment in schools is quite a foreign concept, mostly met with resistance.
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Old 12.08.2011, 16:28
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Re: parent/teacher associations

musicchick and runningdear...I would like to thank you, but being that I signed up last night, I am not sure what button to push. I appreciate your candid advice and experience with the schools. I know my husband is looking in the Nyon/Prangins area, and I did hear about the so called PTA there. Now, that you have both described parents social roles in the schools, I am much better informed. Best, Sameyeam.
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Old 12.08.2011, 16:31
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Re: parent/teacher associations

Pragnins is lovely, we go for picnics there..Don't worry about buttons, when you make ten posts, your ability to thank/groan/edit will pop up.

It's always good to get informed, I respect people who search before they even make the decision to move over, always good to get a head start.
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