Head of The French School, Conrad Wildsmith, spent a portion of early April in France. Here, he shares a brief reflection of his time away –
“To position all children for success in local and global economies through holistic, intellectually-inspiring language immersion programs.”
We started the French School with about 75 students, a handful of teachers, and this weighty Mission Statement. From that first year, TFS staff, families and students worked tirelessly with the strong belief that all students can be successful contributors, not only to our community, but to the world. Nearly seven years later, We are the ONLY urban, tuition-free, International Baccalaureate, French Immersion School in the U.S., and being the “only” anything can be a daunting test of character and resolve.
I am asked all the time about the qualities of a successful product from our unique school. I have an answer and a concrete example: Last year we sent 12 students from our school to Charmont Sous Barbuise, France to spend a week with local students and families. Our 5th grade students stayed in the houses of French families, attended the neighborhood French school, and immersed themselves in the historically rich culture of that sparkling region of France. Is there a better assessment of our work?
This year, our fifth graders are again taking the journey to test themselves against this International and French standard. They thrive here at school and I am absolutely certain they will also thrive thousands of miles from home, submerged in all that is France. Our students take many things with them – a second language, a sense of risk-taking and the mindset that they are “citizens of the world.”
Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the school our students will be visiting in Paris. I met the Head of Ecole Jeannin Manuel, and together we laid the plans for a longstanding relationship between our two schools. This is a very exciting opportunity for our school in particular because our families will have the opportunity to connect with French families in earlier grades, and there is a potential for future teacher exchange. Every student who attends our school will benefit from this relationship.
I also took a day to visit with the teachers and students at Jeanin Manuel. The 24 students who are coming to stay in St. Louis were very excited to learn more about our school and our city. They are particularly interested in the early French settlements in the area, Native American life, and Baseball!! Both of the teachers who will be receiving our students are energetically preparing for us and enthusiastically looking forward to their stay.
This is what we have all been working towards; bringing a world-class, intellectually inspiring experience to our children. Thank you all for the individual ways you support our school.