When my kids were young and went to school in France, they would regularly submit for inspection a little book called ‘cahier de correspondance’ or ‘carnet de liaison’.

This method is a pillar of the French educational system. From the time they learn to write, this ‘cahier’ or notebook is the official mode of communication between teacher and parents (although it may now be going digital).

The child is the official channel through which all communication passes. In the earliest years, the children might even be made to copy down the teacher’s instructions for the parents as part of their school work; later, the cahier becomes a record of assignments, grades and other, often important information, sometimes even disciplinary notes from teacher to parent, hand-written, glued in or free-floating paper. It is up to the student to show the book to their parents, or other responsible individual, and sometimes obtain a signature on either end to prove that the information has been seen or ‘vu’.

“Vu,” I would duly write on my children’s cahiers, to prove that I was aware that class would end early on such-and-such a date, or that an event would take place to which parents were invited (a rarity in French schools). Or that my son had been caught playing a video game in class (GTA, hardly an appropriate theme, noted the prof) and would I be so kind as to ensure the offending Gameboy was not brought to school in future?

Naughty Maxence stuck his tube of glue up his neighbour’s nose.

Oddly enough, our budding delinquent grew up to become a teacher himself. May he inflict similar irony on the parents of his own students.

One might think this mode of communication would be highly subject to error, accidental loss or pages mysteriously vanishing. Oddly, it’s not. French kids only have to suffer the wrath of teachers and parents who have not been shown vital information once or twice to learn the lesson. And parents are quickly trained to ask their children if there’s anything to be ‘seen’ in the cahier early on the weekend, rather than to discover only late on Sunday that a special assignment must be completed for Monday morning.

I ‘saw’ many funny things during those years. Somewhere in a memory box, I have kept these precious records of my children’s school careers. And one day, I promise myself, I will dig them out and have a laugh, and probably a cry, as I remember some of the ‘perles’ (pearls) from those days.

‘Vu’ is also the name of a popular brand of wipes for cleaning eyeglasses. This TV commercial and the oft-heard phrase, ‘Vu, ah, j’avais pas vu!” was part of our family lexicon for years.

I still keep some on hand. You never know when your glasses will fog up.

What have you ‘seen’ lately?


  1. pedmar10 · June 10, 2021

    Very good and useful post, we love the book and got to know real well the teachers and principals. Cheers

    • MELewis · June 11, 2021

      Glad you enjoyed the post! Those books are precious.

  2. Taste of France · June 10, 2021

    Yes, this stuff is online these days. ProNote, it’s called. There’s still a cahier, but it’s only for little tabs to fill in to explain absences, and the school tears them out and does something with them….
    Keep those little funny bits. My mom was quite the packrat, and between moaning about why she kept a lot of junk we had many laughs about these little notes as we found them. I was a straight-A student except for sports–my only C. The teacher diplomatically commented “She is very polite.” I imagine the teacher tearing her hair out, trying to think of something to write, other than “completely uncoordinated.”

    • MELewis · June 11, 2021

      Ha, ha. Interesting how those high school personas follow us through life. I was a smart ass who got some good grades when motivated but was also a ‘disruptive element’ much of the time!

      • MELewis · June 11, 2021

        Oh, and thanks for sharing about ProNote. Interesting how they’ve transitioned to digital so quickly.

  3. Garfield Hug · June 10, 2021

    Nice share of a French tradition for memories of schooling. Thank you.

    • MELewis · June 11, 2021

      Merci, my friend. Hugs to Garfield!

      • Garfield Hug · June 11, 2021

        Aww thank you…merci beaucoup🤗

  4. Dale · June 10, 2021

    I understand all things digital are supposedly better but there is something special about these handwritten exchanges… My babysitter used to have a “Cahier Canada” for each child she babysat in which she would write what they ate, how much they drank (when babies), how much they slept… I still have them (somewhere in a box). Just feels more personal, n’est-ce pas?

  5. margaret21 · June 10, 2021

    These books seem to be common in English schools too – certainly at Primary level. Not a bad way of regularly communicatIng!

    • MELewis · June 11, 2021

      That’s funny — I can’t remember if we ever had such a thing in Canada but I think not. Just a dreaded ‘report card’ with comments on behaviour (which in my case were not often complimentary). 😌

      • margaret21 · June 11, 2021

        Ah no, not when we were younger. But my son, my eldest, now aged 44 must have started bringing these home aged about 10.

  6. davidprosser · June 11, 2021

    Ah, Margaret’s explanation above tells me why I haven’t seen this good plan in action. I think I left school when we were still writing on slates. My daughter is about the same age as her son but I have no recollection of a book. Either my wife saw and dealt with it or we didn’t adopt it in Wales at that time. There were however continual notes from School warning of trips, items needed for school plays and things needed for cookery lessons with no response required. Maybe my grandchildren who live over the border are providing my daughter with the material for future laugh.
    Massive Hugs

    • MELewis · June 12, 2021

      Ah, David, so glad to see you here with your sense of humour intact! Hope the grandkids are well and keeping your daughter on her toes. Presumably you are fully vaccinated and able to visit now — even hug? 😊

  7. Ally Bean · June 11, 2021

    I love that the “budding delinquent grew up to become a teacher.” Seems like he tested the boundaries as a child so he knew exactly what to look for as a teacher. I hadn’t thought about Game Boys in years. Suddenly I feel a bit nostalgic.

    • MELewis · June 12, 2021

      Oh, my yes…those boundaries were certainly tested and retested. Glad to have called up a memory with the Game Boy. The sound of the music from those games still echoes in my memory!

  8. Vanessa in France · June 12, 2021

    I had never come across the cahier before, but then not having children, I have had very little to do with the French education system in our time here. When I was at school in England many years ago, the teachers didn’t trust us enough to pass on information to our parents like that!

    • MELewis · June 13, 2021

      Your school experience sounds more like like what I would’ve expected. I must say that having kids in school in France is an education in itself! 😉

  9. eyelean · June 13, 2021

    Omg Maxence! His poor voisin! I laughed out loud…
    FYI in maternelle this is very much still a physical notebook with glued bits. And the kids at the beginning of the year paint a cover for it (at least at our school).
    Also FYI Pronote is the company that has basically a monopoly on the public schools’ online system here. Private schools use a different one. But it’s not quite the same as the cahier de liaison since it includes grades, homework etc. Legally this stuff (the “cahier des textes”) has had to be online for about ten years now.

    • MELewis · June 13, 2021

      Interesting stuff! Amazed it’s been online so long already. France is slow in many respects but surprisingly efficient when they roll out a new system. Glad the post made you smile! 😎

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