Monique & Bernard, Seebach, France
“I went to the protestant school in Seebach. In winter, three pupils were responsible for heating the classroom with wood,” said Bernard.
Monique, “I went to the mixed (protestant/catholic) school in Wingen. The teacher was responsible for the heating. We only had wood burners, no electric heating or oil heating.”
We went to school in the 1960s and 1970s. Bernard, “I went to the kindergarten in Hunspach for two years and then for one year in Seebach. Then I went to the elementary school in Seebach, when I was six.” Monique, “I started school in 1966, we did not have a kindergarten in Wingen. The elementary school was in a separate building.”
We had lessons from 8 am to 11 am and then 1 pm to 4 pm. We did not have school on Wednesdays but instead, on Saturday mornings. “Because there were too few children, we had two classes in the same classroom”, said Monique.
Bernard, “Our lessons were not by the hour, they were by the half-day. So, Monday mornings perhaps, we had maths. Later in the collège in Wissembourg we had 60-minute lessons, always in different subjects.”
In Seebach, we had about 15 to 16 pupils per class. Always the same group. In the “collège” we were 25 – 30 pupils. The classrooms were full. Boys and girls were together. The days were long, especially when we to the collège and the Lycée. We left home by 7 am and got back home at 6 pm. We had lunch in the school canteen. In Winter, it was dark when we went from home to school and back.
We had Maths, French, History, Geography, Religion, Sports, Science, German (first foreign language), Latin, a little English. It was enough! The day was full.
“I liked Geography, History and Sports,” said Bernard.
Monique, “I liked French, German and Science”.
Life at elementary school was strict. If we made some mischief, the teacher hit us on the fingers with a ruler. Later, in collège, it depended on the teacher. “Our maths teacher was very, very strict. But we respected him. He was very authoritarian. But then, other teachers were less strict. The sports teacher was more relaxed than the French or Mathematics teacher. We respected them because our parents were also very strict. They did not want to have problems with our teachers.”
In the elementary school, we had pictures on the wall for us to learn the words. The teacher turned the pictures so that we trained our memories. We also had to learn the multiplication tables off by heart. This was the first. Every morning, we had mathematics drill.
In Geography, we had a map of the world. The teacher had a long wooden pointer, he pointed the country on the map. He asked us what country or French region it was, and which city was the capital or principal city. Then we learned the rivers, how long they are, where they flowed to. We had to repeat the answers. Then we had to write a test.
We had books with a lot of pictures, perhaps more than today. In elementary school, we used ink and wrote with a feather. Later, we were allowed to use a fountain pen. We had exercise books for French dictation, and for all subjects. Each exercise book had a different colour for each subject. The textbooks were owned by the school. They were given to us at the beginning of the school year and we had to return them at the end of the year. It was our responsibility to keep them in good condition for the next student. The best memory for both was, “we used a blackboard and chalk.”
We learned to respect in Elementary school. In Collège and in the Lycée we learned the subject and the preparation for the future and the Bac. But after the Lycée, the learning really started. The Bac was the ticket to the next level. If you did not have the Bac, you went to professional training schools and then you could get a job. In our time, it was very easy to get a job.
Bernard, “When you were 14 (after the elementary school) you had the choice to go to collège or do an apprenticeship in a company.”
“But the system had changed when I finished Elementary school,” said Monique.
The teachers were very humane. They were good, you could talk with them, but we didn’t really do that. You could trust the teacher. (If you behaved).
We did not really have any favourite teachers.
Bernard, “The best teacher for me was in elementary school in Seebach. Mr Schwarz. He was professional, he did not differentiate between the children, all children were equal. You learned things from him. This was the basis.”
Bernard, “In elementary class, one month before Christmas we learned and sang the text of a Christmas carol every day. Every year it was a German carol (not a French carol) special for the Christmas event in our church. In our time, Mass was in German. It was very boring because we heard the same carol for one month.”
Monique, “We learned the spelling and the words with pictures on the wall. Every day, the teacher flipped them, and we gave the answers. For all correct answers, we received one point. For ten points, we received a picture of animals. It was a big challenge for pupils.
Our teaching methods were more basic, the material was simple. We discovered the world only via books and maps. Today, methods are more advanced and different. Schools use computers and the Internet.
“I suppose it hasn’t changed much. We liked going to school, sometimes we didn’t. When we had difficult times, it wasn’t so much fun.” said Monique.
We would like to go to school today only for a short time to discover the current methods and new technologies.
We stopped learning with 18. We started to work.