This post is about a little something called the “passe éducation“, which is a card that allows all teachers in France to enter many museums and national monuments, free of charge.
This pass has been a thorn in my side ever since I arrived. At orientation, they recommended this card to us. My other assistant friends got the card without any problems. But in France, nothing seems to work the same way for everyone. Yes, we all need the same paperwork. But somehow, everyone ends up with a different set of problems in getting the paperwork done.
I have had to fight a great deal to get this card…the story begins in October. All of the below conversations are in French, by the way.
First, I asked the conseillère pédagogique at my school, the contact lady who arranged my schedule and so forth. She said that the school doesn’t have the means to make the card; they used to, but not anymore. The inspector of the school (kind of like a director?) was also there, and he agreed. He said that he could just write me an attestation to show that I teach there, but I told them that the reason I wanted the card was so I could experience French culture by going to museums more often, and the card could get me in for free. They both said that a simple attestation wouldn’t work, that I needed the card, but then the conseillère pédagogique said that since I was under 25, I could go to museums for free anyway. I was surprised that she didn’t know that this rule only applies to European citizens, which I am obviously not. When I insisted, she recommended that I ask at the inspection, which I guess is the equivalent to the county school board or office.
This took longer than it should have because, I admit it, I procrastinated. I thought, why is this so difficult? This is something the school should do for me quite easily and quickly. Peter’s school had a bunch of these cards, and just stuck his picture under the flap of the plastic on the card, stamped it, sealed the plastic, and he was good to go. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. But noooo. Not my school.
So after a while, around about the end of November, I asked the teachers at my school where they got their cards. They said they got them from the school principal, le directeur. When I asked him, he said, “I am not sure you have the right to have one of these cards.” What? “But all of the other assistants I know have one,” I told him. He immediately applied the French method of dealing with problems and said, “Well, it’s not my problem. Besides, I can’t help you because we don’t even have the materials here for the card. Go ask the conseillère pédagogique.” I had already asked her.
So I tried asking the directrice at my other school. She said, “I am not sure you have the right to have one of those cards.” What? Again?? Same reaction??? So frustrating!!! Then the holidays came, I procrastinated more, and now it’s January. Last Friday, I finally wrote an email to my sole contact at the inspection and asked her about the passe. She did absolutely nothing.
So finally, on the Friday after I sent my mail, I called her phone number. She answered, I introduced myself and my question, and she acknowledged having received my email. She said, “Honestly, I have no idea what passe you’re talking about. You said we mentioned it at orientation, but it wasn’t me. That must have been Mme So-and-so. I can transfer you to her.” So I thanked her and waited, listening to the phone ring and ring for about a minute. No answer. Then, silence on the line.
The transfer didn’t work. Starting to get even more frustrated, I waited a minute and tried to figure out what to do. I called back, saying, “Sorry to bother you again, but the transfer didn’t work.” She said, “Oh, you wanted me to transfer you?” (Um, yeaaaaah, isn’t that what you asked me?) “I didn’t know that’s what you wanted me to do.” I said, “Well, if you could give me her direct number, that might be better.”
So she did. I called that number for Mme So-and-so. She said, “Yes, I’m with someone, can you call back in about 5 minutes?” Sure. Hang up. Wait. 5 minutes later, I call back and there is no answer and no voice mail. Fabulous. 10 minutes after that, I call back, finally get an answer, and explain my situation: I’m an assistant, I’m looking for a card. Guess what she said?
That’s right: “I’m not sure you have the right to have one of those cards.” At this point, I am so sick of that reaction. I retorted, “But I know a lot of other assistants, and they all have this card. Even so, if I don’t have the right, could you at least make an exception for me? Especially since all the other assistants have one…”
She replied, “I will find out and call you back.” She took down my number and I prepared myself for the wait. Luckily, she called back within the hour. She then made it sound like she was doing me a big favor, saying that she “fought” for me and insisted that I was a good teacher and they’re happy with my work, and she convinced the higher-ups to give me a card. She said they will send it directly to my school, and I could get it from them. I thanked her, and she said, “But don’t tell any other assistants about this! Otherwise, they’ll all bother me with this.” While saying the words, “Thank you, I promise I won’t tell, thank you, blah blah” I was really thinking, “Yeah, right, it doesn’t even matter because all of the assistants have this card anyway, and it wouldn’t even make a difference.”
But anyway, that’s at least some progress toward getting my card, right? Hopefully they will send it to the school as soon as possible, and I’ll be able to get it this next week. That would be so lovely. It would also be great if the secretary could do it for me so I don’t have to deal with talking to the principal, which is always kind of stressful. My hopes aren’t set too high yet, though. Not until I have the card in my hand – with my pretty picture inside and stamped with the school’s seal.
T. suggested that when I get my card, the first thing I should do is to go into the closest museum, go straight to the museum café, and treat myself to a glass of champagne. I think he’s onto something…. It really will be something to celebrate. For now, I’ll continue to wait. I hope I get it, though. I think I will like living in France a whole lot more if I can just go take advantage of all it has to offer.