Editor’s note: In 2014, Jérémie Fontanieu published a column in which he presented an educational project that had just been launched. Several years and promotions later, he was joined by David Benoit, a mathematics colleague with whom the project is carried out in pairs, and both take stock of these first ten years at Drancy of a project which took the lead. name of Reconciliations.
TEACHING —We started out as teachers like any other: full of hope and ambition for the students, but frustrated with their insufficient effort and poor results. High school students have little or no educational facilities in Drancy where we teach, and their reasons for not taking their education seriously are countless: they have never really done so, they often lack self-confidence and self-confidence. ‘feel incapable of becoming good students, they are afraid of being seen as “beans” in the eyes of others, they cannot always be helped at home with homework, they have little or no role-models ”Who have succeeded thanks to their studies and with whom they could relate…
On the surface, the students are doomed to failure: their success seems impossible, and for many of them it is frustration and resentment towards the educational institution that predominates.
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At school, this frustration affects everyone involved: not only the students, but also teachers and families. We teachers try to do our job as best we can and sometimes we have the impression of fighting in a vacuum, powerless in the face of social reproduction: France is one of the countries in the world where social origin of students has the most impact on their results, far removed from official rhetoric and the lost ideal of equal opportunities.
For teachers, this failure is all the more painful as it is often experienced in a guilty way: it is the perverse effect of the romantic figure of the heroic and lonely teacher, of the teacher of the Circle of poets. Disappeared (1989) to the Substitute (2021), who through his charisma and / or his genius manages to break fatality and give a taste to knowledge, academic effort and work.
Families, too, are suffering: often having the feeling of being kept out of their children’s education, all the more so from high school, they are much less “resigning” than put aside. In their eyes, school is often a “black box”, inaccessible and whose clumsy communication involves considerable symbolic violence: parents are given identifiers at the start of the year to connect to online monitoring software. , as if this would allow them to appropriate a world most of which do not master the codes, especially in working-class neighborhoods where many did not go to high school when they were the age of their children.
The school does not invite them, it “summons” them; and if the rare times the institution comes into contact with them by telephone is when there is an incident involving one of their own, how can families not feel that the school is theirs? is hostile? As the sociologist Pierre Périer has shown, the invisibility of working-class parents results much less from their ill will than from a misunderstanding for which the public school is unwittingly responsible.
Reconciliations between teachers and families
So, for almost 10 years now, we have decided to go in the opposite direction of this individualism which distances the various actors of education from each other. This is the heart of the project that we have created, Reconciliations, and whose results are extraordinary.
Reconciliations between teachers and families: convinced that we are not capable, by ourselves, of making the pupils make the considerable efforts necessary for their success, we extend a hand to the parents of pupils at the end of August. At the start of the year meeting, which takes place before the children start school, an alliance between adults is therefore sealed and thanks to which the teachers enjoy a new authority – after all, there is only one high school that the students sometimes make the idiots: at home, they are wise as images … Throughout the year, the confidence between adults is built and maintained thanks to the very many exchanges (report by SMS, phone calls , see you at each start of the school year) which also help us to better support children: minor health problems, bad extracurricular news or empty periods specific to adolescence are not visible to the naked eye, this kind of information transmitted by the families allowing us to be flexible and to make the pupils feel, by a small gesture or a discreet word at the end of the course, that we are severe, but fundamentally benevolent towards them.
Reconciliations between teachers: for students, taking advantage of the lack of communication between teachers is a colorful pastime. How many students, after being silly in one X class, behaved flawlessly in the next class? In order to tighten the mesh of the net, we constantly exchange views with colleagues: remarks on the behavior and work of high school students, dates of the next evaluations, grades … Today in France, almost all high school teachers are unable to say what their students study in other subjects, which is a catastrophic consequence of the educational division of labor, but also of the classic vision of the profession: we were trained in the perspective of solitary pedagogical practices, as if all were enough The objective of achieving a course during which all the students work, the door closed. According to tradition, only “beginner” teachers are visited in class by colleagues: conversely, we systematically do our mathematics and SES lessons together, these educational exchanges like all those with the students. other colleagues enriching our vision of students and our own profession. When the class council arrives, there are no surprises since we talk to each other continuously: the difficulties have been resolved upstream, and we can then celebrate the success of the students which is also ours, the expression ”teaching team ”Finally finding all its meaning.
Reconciliations between students: we do not quite realize the violence of relationships between adolescents, who are beings in the making and whose intimate construction of identity is difficult and chaotic. For many high school students, harsh judgments towards others are only the reflection of tensions towards them, the contempt of others often referring to contempt of oneself. For us teachers, the alliance with families allows us to be uncompromising on the respect that students owe each other, the firmness that characterizes our relationship with high school students allowing us to protect them from the moral violence of which they are unfortunately too often capable between them. Above all, when the clashes have ceased and the peaceful working environment is gradually internalized by the children, a miracle occurs: not only do they stop being suspicious or malicious towards each other, but emerge. kindness, solidarity and a form of fraternity which can also be explained by the feeling of living a common experience – participation in this “experimental class”. The most beautiful then appears: the students help each other, pull each other upwards, and 100% success no longer simply means that each child will get there, but that no one will be left behind in the group. They discover the power of collective intelligence, intellectual emulation and group cohesion, living the famous adage according to which we go faster alone, but much further together.
Rediscover a taste at school
The most beautiful of the reconciliations is that of the pupils towards themselves: scalded by our firmness and the alliance with the families, they are forced to put to work and see all their results progress.
In each of them is reborn the conviction that they are capable of doing it, they who had ended up internalizing the idea that studies were not made for them: little by little they take a liking to work, to success. , at school, rediscover the desire to learn, the curiosity of childhood, the joy of applying and doing things rigorously.
Students realize that they can, that their destiny belongs to them and that it is in this intimate conviction that their freedom, their dignity resides. Children are reborn, and this spectacle is incredibly beautiful.
Since 2017, not one of our students has repeated: we have achieved 100% success in the bac in 2017/2018, 2018/2019 then 2019/2020. In 2020/2021, not a single student in our Seconde class dropped out; not a single one has a 10/20 lower overall GPA. Over the last three promotions, more than a quarter of former baccalauréat holders have joined the best preparatory classes for the grandes écoles in Île-de-France: in Noisy-le-Sec, Savigny-sur-Orge, Vincennes, Paris, Saint- Cloud or Neuilly-sur-Seine.
These statistics are perfectly extraordinary: when the project started, the average success rate in ES was 70% in our high school and today it oscillates between 80 and 90%; high school graduates from Lycée Delacroix who go to preparatory classes are very rare (one or two students per class, approximately 5%); not a single Terminale or Seconde class escapes the dropout of one, two or three of their own, without even mentioning all those who undergo their schooling and their orientation.
That said, the power of the Reconciliations project goes beyond these extraordinary quantitative results: it lies in the shocked gaze of the students, who experience an ontological revolution and become the actors of their studies and their lives. She appears in the tears of joy of families and teachers, gathered at the beginning of the month of July to celebrate the collective victory at the end of the year party. It is contained in this promise, above all: the hope of success and happiness, on condition of effort and courage, on condition of breaking the habits which lead us to treat each other as strangers. What the Reconciliations project embodies is that when we join forces, the school can finally play its role of social elevator.
See also on Then24: “What makes a good high school is not the success rate in the bac, it is the well-being of the student”