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The family wards had followed paths that were less controversial than the full clan members.  Ruey had taught PT for a few years in England before emigrating to New Zealand to help Roddy on his newly established sheep farm. She had married a New Zealander two years ago and they had settled into ranching, in partnership with her brother. Erica had trained as a kindergarten teacher, but had not wanted to return to the Chalet School. She was currently in a suburb of London, having decided to finally live in her nearly unknown home country. She still maintained her close connection with Claire, and the younger girl had made an extended visit to London the previous summer.

The boys were similarly dispersed around the world.  Roger, still single, was a civil engineer currently doing consulting work in Germany. Steve had also pursued engineering and was working on-site on a hydroelectric dam in Africa. He had married another engineer, a young Canadian woman, although they had no children yet and showed no particular desire to combine a family with their hectic work life. Charles was pursuing an academic career and was finishing a PhD in biology at Oxford, studying the conservation of endangered species. Mike was an Ensign in the Navy and was currently stationed in the Caribbean, while Felix was studying mathematics at Cambridge with the eventual goal of teaching.

Mike and Cecilia had always had a special bond as the misfits and singletons of the long Maynard clan.  Mike had had been sandwiched between Steve and Charles, three and four years older than him and inseperable, and Felix and Felicity, three years younger and twins. His active, energetic personality and native mischief, very different from his more sedate older brothers, had confounded his parents and had made quiet lessons at home from the mother's help a difficult chore. Unlike the similarly impulsive and active Margot he hadn't had triplets to keep him in line and cover for his misbehaviour.  Cecilia and Mike also shared the burden of having been angelically cute children whose appearances in no way matched their personalities.

Mike had escaped to the Navy as quickly as possible and loved the life. The consistent, predictable discipline of military school, combined with the physical rigour of the training and his love of the sea, had resulted in a transition to adulthood that was much calmer than his worried parents had expected.  He visited Freudesheim when he could, which wasn't often now that he was on active duty, but he and Cecilia corresponded regularly.

******

After the girls had left the mistresses perused the document.  It was surprisingly well written for a group of schoolgirls and outlined a number of suggestions in different areas.  There was a proposal for a revival of the Guiding movement, with a concentration on camping and outdoor activities.  There were suggestions for more access to materials pertaining to current events, including magazine and newspaper subscriptions and a discussion group.  Another section dealt with music, art and handicrafts, and called for a wider variety of topics, including woodwork and pottery.  There was a plea for broader access to modern and popular literature in addition to the classics and school stories provided in the school library, and a request for outings to more modern activities, including movies.  There was a suggestion to update the common rooms, with record players and records, student input on decorations, more modern magazines, and a more relaxed, social atmosphere.  There was also a section devoted to socialising with members of the opposite sex, with a blunt and pragmatic line of reasoning that produced raised eyebrows in several of the mistresses.

Most surprising was the section which summarised the views of the old girls who had been contacted by the prefects and other Sixths.  While most of them remembered their school days fondly, many of them had had difficulties transitioning into the adult world.

I arrived at uni to find the other students speaking another language.  I hadn't read the books they had read, or seen the movies, or listened the music, and the topics and interests they had were foreign to me. wrote one long time Chalet girl, now in her second year at Edinburgh University.

I had absolutely no idea how to talk to men or what to do when they talked to me. wrote another.

I was a leader at school. wrote a former headgirl. Everyone respected me and looked up to me and asked my opinion, and the mistresses spoke to me like an equal and it was wonderful. When I went to university no one cared about that.  My classmates thought I was bossy and much too nosy and prudish, and the professors thought I was domineering and impudent and much too forward, and no one wanted to follow where I led.

I though that if a man showed an interest in me, it meant that he wanted to marry me, and I couldn't understand why they kept leaving me. wrote one of the continental girls.

It was very lonely. wrote the daughter on an old girl, with strong family ties to the school. I didn't know anyone, and nobody knew who I was or who my family was.  There wasn't anyone to show me around and introduce me to people, and none of my professors knew my name. I cried myself to sleep for weeks.

I had no idea how to manage my time on my own. said another girl. Without someone telling me what to do and when to do it and getting me up in the morning and setting times for me to study I was overwhelmed, and my marks dropped.   

I was shocked by the other girls.  It took me a long time to realise that they weren't all wanton hussies with no proper morals or standard of behaviour.  Unfortunately, by then they had already labelled me a prig and were leaving me strictly alone with my standards.

Many of the stories sounded like the normal difficulties found when moving from a comfortable school environment into the more impersonal one of university or a job, but several themes persisted.  Girls were ill at ease and baffled by dating and friendship with the opposite sex, and tended to misread male/female interactions.  Many of them felt isolated from the popular culture of their respective homelands and had trouble following casual conversation.  Others had been so sheltered by their parents and school that they were totally thrown by what was, in a larger context, fairly normal behaviour by their peers. Some had been so steeped in the ethos of the Chalet School that they were unable to accept other ways of life as acceptable.  Others fared poorly outside of a regimented, controlled environment.  Most of the girls had either adapted eventually or gone back home, but some had suffered from more serious consequences.

At the end of the master copy of the report was a list of signatures of the girls who had contibuted ideas and support. A quick look showed that most of the two Sixths and at least two thirds of the three Fifths were represented.

*******

The the initial responses from the faculty were mixed.  Some of the younger mistresses looked intruigued and rather sympathetic, particularly the Financial Officer, Fraulein Harms, Fraulein Hurrell, and Miss Landon.  A few of the faculty looked affronted. Miss Ferrars eventually brought the group to order.

"This brings up some interesting issues," she started. "I was as surprised as you all were when Miss Annersley decided to retire last year, but she had been slowing down, and she felt that it was time to step down.  She and I spent a good deal of time in discussion with the board of directors over the summer, and she told us that she thought that the school needed new direction.  She felt that we had begun to stagnate, too focused on how things had always been done and our traditions, and not looking towards the future and how to best serve our girls in the modern world.  She also said that she herself was too caught up in the school history to be the one to lead the process."

"When I agreed to take on the headship I did so on the condition that the school hire a formal deputy head to share the administrative load, and that the hire be someone previously unrelated to the school, to provide a fresh perspective on the situation. Miss Smitts has a number of years experience as a mistress and department head in both boarding and day schools, including a two year teaching exchange at a boarding school in France, and has served on several educational committees."

Angela Smitts smiled at the others.  She was of average height, with features that were pleasantly comfortable rather than pretty.  Her keen blue eyes sparkled from behind thick glasses, and her cropped brown hair was starting to turn grey.  The position of deputy head was relatively new, although the school had followed the practice while in England, and many of the mistresses had been surprised when the position had been offered to a stranger to the school, particularly those who remembered the tenure of the infamous Miss Bubb.

Miss Ferrars continued.  "The board has received some concern from parents that the school is becoming too removed from general society. Many of our parents regard this as a advantage, however, as it keeps our girls well protected, but we have also had informal reports that a number of our graduates have had difficulty adapting to university and work life, particulary some of our long term students.  We have been asked to explore options for widening the school curriculum and reorganising some of our policies.  I was planning to take a term or two to settled in as head first, but it looks like this," as she gestured with her handful of petition, "may have accelerated things."

*******

Later that evening Nancy, Kathie and Vida Armitage sat in the Head's comfortable sitting room, enjoying tea and cakes.

"Well, I must say, better you than me, my dear." said Nancy, with a lazy grin. "Although it is time to make some changes.  When I read that startling missive from the prefects I realised that many of the proposed changes go back to the way things were done in the good old Tyrol days."

"In what way?" asked Vida, curiously.  She had joined the school in Switzerland, as had Miss Ferrars.

"Oh, letting the seniors go into town on their own, for example, or the Guide camps.  In the early Tyrol days students wandered into town with little supervision regularly.  They had to go in a group, and they had to get permission of course.  The school was a lot smaller then, and the mistresses knew all the girls personally. The girls really did have much more individual freedom in many ways.  A number of the girls lived in nearby villages, so there were visiting opportunities at friends' homes, while here most of the people with parents in the area have them undergoing treatment at the San.  We also only take day girls under exceptional circumstances now, while then it was more common."

"What do you think the reaction from the parents will be?" asked Vida.

"Mixed," replied Kathie.  "As I said in the meeting, some parents have expressed concern that our program is becoming dated.  The languages and academics are still first rate, but we haven't changed the extracurricular or social activities since moving to Switzerland.  On the other hand, a number of parents have selected the school specifically for its isolation and strictness."  She laughed.

"Actually, I was looking over the school intake records, particularly the notes about new students, and we seem to primarily attract three types of girls.  We have relatives and connections of old girls, many of whom are entered at the school at a fairly young age, and who spend their whole school career here.  We have San and Platz connections: girls whose parents are here for chronic diseases and recuperation, and the children of doctors, nurses and other San staff.  They join the school at all ages, and may only stay for a year or two, although some stay longer."  The San had moved away from TB with the advent of antibiotics, and was now served as a long term care facility for people with chronic diseases and as a convalescent home and therapy centre, as well as handling local medical emergencies.

"The third category is the problem girls.  We have a reputation for providing a stable, disciplined environment, which, combined with our isolation from disruptive influences, results in a number of girls who have had trouble adapting to schools elsewhere being sent to us to fix."

"Tell me about it," said Nancy, rolling her eyes.  "I've got two in Upper IV math this year; Luanne Jacobson, who seems determined not to do any work whatsoever, and Marya Jessek, whose main concern is coming up with as much mischief as possible."

"We do well with those girls, and have a good, well, reformation track record.  It helps that we have traditionally avoided taking girls whose problems are likely to be a bad influence on the other girls - we take the badly socialised girls, or the stubborn ones, or the misunderstood ones, or the high spirited ones, but avoid girls who have had problems with boys or drinking and drugs or the law.

"The concern is that the other girls are having difficulty adapting to the larger world.  They can handle the course work when they move on, but some of them are unable to cope with the freedom and temptations of university.  I think the problem is a lack of coping skills and knowledge in many cases.  We're sending our girls out academically well trained and physically healthy, with a good sense of conscience and morals, but dangerously naive and sheltered.  The world is very different from when we were in University."

"The real question," said Nancy, with a glint in her blue eyes, "is what Joey will think of the changes."

Kathie shivered slightly.  "I hate to think.  She still regards me as a new and inexperienced young thing who needs guidance in the proper Chalet school ethos, and I've been teaching here for fifteen years.  But ultimately, it doesn't matter what she thinks. Lady Russell has signed off on it, as a member of the board of directors, but Joey isn't on the board.  I suspect we'll hear about it soon enough."

 




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