Almost Arrested; An expat's trails with a public school
A friend of mine posted an article on FB about the German police cracking down on truancy. Last weekend they were at airports checking parents papers who had extended the long weekend.
Floods of memories came over me. A newbie in Switzerland I wrote to the teacher of my 3rd grader, "Mrs. N., Carli will not be at school this Friday as it is her Grandfathers 70th birthday and we will be traveling to Germany for the festivities."
The answer was prompt, "Mrs. Ochs, you will not be able to take your daughter to this party as you need to ask the director more than a week in advance. We will see your daughter in school on Friday."
It was as if a bulldozer hit me!
I, silly American me, thought I would go to the school and argue with the teacher. To no avail! "Protocol is protocol Mrs. Ochs; you will need to see the director and I know he will say no."
Still very determined I marched right on over to his office. His secretary confirmed the protocol and told me he wouldn't see me. I took a deep breath and said, "Fine then, I am informing you that my daughter will be sick on Friday. I will give you a call. If you want me to lie to take a girl to her Grandfathers party then lie I will!"
The secretary, somewhat defiant stood up, "I can send the police mam, it is illegal." I smiled with a vengeance, "Please do send them. I will have a great time with the press and this story. I can't wait to see the police on my doorstep when I arrive back home."
Just at that moment, the director walked out of his office. His door had been ajar. He looked up, a smile spreading on his face, "Mrs. Ochs, you will receive my answer in an hour. You may go home."
My phone rang as I was walking in the house. The secretary somewhat defeated announced, "You may leave Mrs. Ochs. Your permission letter will be in your mailbox by tomorrow morning. I just posted it."
They hated me at that school, and I didn't understand why; maybe I was just too young to get it.
In my first years in Switzerland, I fought a bit too hard, embarrassed my daughter and got over culture shock. I don't think that director will ever forget me. I know that I will never forget my many dramas at the local school in Blonay.
At the time I wished I could have sent some of those teachers and secretaries abroad with no training and dumped them with their children into another culture for a few weeks; especially a culture full of tradition.
I am a fighter and was determined to learn the ways; we all did. I hope I bump into that director a local festival. I will certainly invite him to drink a glass of wine with me and hear what has happened since then. Neither of us were amused at the time but looking back I see both sides and how much we both grew through this experience.
–Allison Ochs, Social Worker M.S.W., Expat, Mother of three, Wife