Monday, January 18, 2016

The Neuchâtel Life

The view from the school. That's our patio in the foreground.

Close up on the Alps
As we approach the mid-point of the school year, I thought some information on our day-to-day life at Neuchâtel Junior College was in order. We are a school community with fourteen staff and sixty-nine students at the moment. We occupy three buildings which are situated across from the railroad station in Neuchâtel; our property looks over the town below us, and then further on, to Lake Neuchâtel and in the far distance beyond the water, the Swiss Alps.
Our first staff meeting in September
A test in English
Chemistry class
Our school combines the mundane with the extraordinary. As in every other educational institution, our students attend classes regularly, work on assignments and write tests and exams. But a large part of their learning occurs away from the classroom. Whether they fly as far as Poland to walk through the grounds of Auschwitz or Birkenau, or travel for thirty minutes to Lignières to watch the Désalpes, our students are getting an education. Recently, in December, we went on a day trip to Geneva to see two of its special sites: the United Nations building and the Red Cross Museum.
Emma, Lucia and Harris getting an education in French on the Neuchâtel scavenger hunt.
Lauren and Amy in Geneva at the United Nations.

Several of the boys outside the Red Cross Museum in Geneva
Besides teaching my three classes, I also meet weekly with my advisee group, the NJC version of "home room". These ten students get to spend quality time with me outside of class too. Once a semester, we dine together. Our first such excursion occurred in early November when we traveled by tram to nearby Colombier to Bockeridjer Bar, where delicious hamburgers and Ikea bowls of fries and onion rings are the specialty.
Here I am with 9 of my 10 advisees. The 10th, Erin, was sick, and could not come.
When we find an extra few minutes in our advisee period, I have been quizzing my group with trivia questions, the better to prepare them to compete against the other advisee groups in the spring.
First place in Trivia in October when Bob was in town. Patti is the star, but all of us contribute.
Trivia is one of my passions, and, fortunately, I get to feed it every other Tuesday evening at Le Café du Cerf, a local Irish pub. Who would have imagined that such a place would exist in Neuchâtel? We teachers always field a team, with Terry, Patti and I the regulars. The evenings have been very enjoyable this year since Patti is a trivia superstar, and, thanks to her, we are usually in the money.
Students at Pub Trivia. This team lost to us by a mere two points.
Sometimes the students will field teams too, in the faint hope of defeating their teachers. One group came close last week, when Patti fell sick, but our meagre team of three teachers squeaked out a (moral) victory over them. Thank God.
Terry and the Foyer Council
Building comraderie and spirit are always goals at our small school. To that end, Terry works with five elected students known as the Foyer Council, advising them on ways to make our community come together. It is not difficult to get teenagers to buy into special days, for instance, like pyjama day and twin day, and of course, many had a great time dressing up for Hallowe'en.
"Twins" Maggie and Kieran

Pyjama Day
I loved the Rosie the Riveter costume that Ellis wore at Hallowe'en.
Sometimes, too, the Foyer Council plans fundraising events, as they did during Movember, and at Christmas with candygrams.
We assemble for our first staff dinner
Friday night potluck at Terry's
While the students naturally form small groups of friends based on many factors, we teachers cannot be so choosy. With so few of us around, we make a point of building positive relationships with each other and doing things together. Our socializing began in September with a fondue dinner. By mutual consent, we have continued dining out regularly when we are in town on a Friday night. We also celebrate birthdays together and, on occasion, we have a party.

Christmas gathering on Bill's patio. This glorious day was in December.
The students looking good for Thanksgiving dinner.
All cleaned up for Christmas dinner
The students party too, in the local clubs in town, but I have no photos of their shenanigans. We do celebrate special occasions together, however. At Thanksgiving, a local hotel served us turkey dinner, while in December, we gathered at the beautiful Hotel du Peyrou for our annual Christmas celebration. These events are fun because we get to dress up.
The staff dressed up from Christmas too.

I enjoy a special lunch with some parents.
The dining room at the Hotel du Peyrou is the setting for our delicious lunch on Parents' weekend too, but this time, it is adults only. There, staff and parents meet informally, over delicious food, and then later the same day in the school's salon for an apéro (wine and cheese).
Parents and staff at the apéro. 
Yoga in the salon.
The salon, a formal room in the foyer building, is a very versatile space. Here, on Mondays after school, there is a yoga class, while later in the year, it will transform into a stage for drama performances.
My husband, Bob, helped Adam coach the volleyball team.
Boys volleyball team in competition.
Beyond yoga, students enjoy taking part in school sports. In spite of our small population, we often field teams in competitions against other Swiss International Schools. So far, we have participated in girls and boys volleyball, rugby sevens, cross country, and badminton.
Terry and the rugby seven boys.

Andie and M.J. - pool bosses.
In late November, we hosted five other schools in a swim meet. That was a very successful event, with our team members earning several medals, including two gold. It was also a lot of fun for all of us, as all hands were on deck, literally–the pool deck. Teachers and students all had jobs to do.
Our boys' team: Will, Nick, Rafa and superstar, Brandon.: silver medalists in relay.
Our girls: Rachel F,. Grace, Ellis and Rachel J.: silver medalists in relay.

I could go on and on about the many things that are part of my Neuchâtel life. It is often very hectic, or, as has been the case since we all returned from Christmas vacation, hard work, as the students write their exams and we teachers grade them. It is certainly never dull, with infinite variety. The first half of the year has flown by as a result.

Students at work, one of many photos by Carmela.
Studying in the library
Finally, I want to acknowledge our social media intern, Carmela, in this blog post, since I have used several of her photographs here. She does a terrific job capturing our school in pictures.

Carmela and I on the bus in Vimy.

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