Today marks the conclusion of one of the most significant aspects of the sabbatical, Ella’s experience in a French school. This was the thing that *worried* me the most about our year away. Ella was the one least excited about being gone for a year. At 13, she would not only be away from all of her friends, she would be fully immersed in a huge school where she would not know anyone nor would she know the language. Her first day of school in September was one of the most stressful days of her life. She handled it, and all the challenges that came with this school year, with her usual charm. In short, we are very, very proud of her.
So, yes, today is a very significant day. For us, the photo captures several important things. The adult with Ella is her main teacher, Madame LaLaude. Madame LaLaude has been wonderful for Ella. Not only is she is thoughtful and empathetic, she speaks English. In Madame LaLaude’s hand is a chocolate chip cookie. Last night, with Melinda’s help, Ella made dozens of chocolate chip cookies, enough to give several to each of her teachers and enough for each student in her class to have two. Ella also wrote notes of appreciation (in English and with Christine’s translation help, also in French) to each of her teachers.
Of greatest significance to Ella and us is the T-shirt she is wearing. Her classmates surprised her late in the day with it, each having signed or written a message to her on it. Many told her to come back soon and that they would miss her. We are all quite touched by the gesture and the comments, choked up, in fact. Ella described it as being like the “soul food” activity we do back at PSCS on the last day of school each year, where students write heart-felt notes to each other on paper plates that get passed around. That she got something like this from her French school is a tribute to the school, to Madame LaLaude and to her friends.
It is also a fitting tribute to Ella. As it should be.