A teacher’s story: from school teacher to family teacher

by Cleya Tyrex.

Version française ici.

“I have been a teacher recently: I left the hospital after 17 years of hassles (looking for equipment, filling in the gaps, …) and I turned to the teaching staff because I needed a profession giving me time to see my children on weekends, and in the service of the public (important value for me).

Teacher assigned to 75 km from home: that’s life, when you start, you are positioned in areas “in need” and not near home.

Teacher for once, on a single school, with a double level: CP/CE1, which means that the pupils who have just left kindergarten and must “start studying” (reading) for the CP, and consolidate their reading and arithmetic skills for the CE1. Get used to the habits of the school system: how to behave in class, during recess, give up doing something just to say that you’ve done it, put some more effort into heading towards symbolization.

It’s great, to delve into their attitudes and behaviour, and help them to learn all of these skills. It’s very rewarding, to observe and offer, to accompany and see growing, and to give them the keys to clearly decipher what they are putting into play so that they can reproduce the learning patterns, appropriately.

I am very involved in pedagogy projects: a lot, to the maximum of what the texts and my hierarchy allows me.

I make links, for them, I force them to visualize these links between knowledge, I show them the progress they have made, I value efforts more than progress, I put my trust in them, I show them their strengths …

it comes to me from the scouts, where I am still a leader for the little ones …

Always see the good, always push ahead to where it feels good, to find the strength to go beyond yourself, remaining demanding on the principles of society, serious when necessary.

And it works pretty well, I even managed to loosen up … a total school phobic, who had spent the next three months crying, a moderate autistic, who ended up grabbing my hand and speaking to me, and all these “naysayers” and pessimists which came with pleasure (finally!) after a chaotic year last year (the teacher frightened them, the teacher shouted, and the rest that I will never know).

In short.

History …

Overnight…

Friday noon: cases of covid, we will have to abandon swimming lessons in the pool …

Friday 4 p.m.: we are leaving school with doubts about the consequences …

Friday 19h: TV / internet networks tell us that we will not be able to open the school on Monday morning.

First trauma: announcement

Announcement from a distance, announcement without any real explanation of the consequences envisaged, and above all: contradictory announcements between different policies (our president, his spokesperson, the Minister of Education: three different speeches). Not a word from the district inspectors.

Monday evening: we learn that we will no longer be able to circulate: my students do not have any of their school belongings, since they left on Friday thinking of returning on Monday.

And I know that some of the parents, if I have to organize distance courses, will not be able to print … Students of this age are too young to spend hours in front of the screen, or to copy from a screen to paper.

So there you go, I spend my night preparing / modifying my lessons so that a distance approach is possible, I drive an hour to reach my school, and from 4h to 8h I photocopy, I sort the sheets, I organize packages per student, I warn the parents that before noon, the legal time for road closures, they will have to collect the documents / notebooks / felt kits, I add library books, drawing sheets, I try to think also to these little things that will do good if the situation were to last.

The nightmare is getting organized: our administrators send us emails with some leads (sports videos, DIY tutorials, institutional file sharing platforms). Obviously, I test everything, because for such young students, learning sounds is listening, but I can’t find anything that really corresponds to what I know about their difficulties.

So I use my little video editing software, I record myself in phonology and calculation exercises, but the servers are so saturated that it takes 2 to 4 hours to load 3 minutes of audio tape to official sharing sites .

I ended up using GAFA, efficient but data-consuming.

Trauma 2: “no one cares, getting sick of it”

Listening to my minister’s declarations with an ear, explaining that the teachers are prepared, trained, attentive, and the rest of it …

My only tech training (computer tools and techniques) dates back to my year of university three years ago: the teacher showed us in two hours, how to use kahot, padlet and how to distort a video with our voice. Two poor hours on the curriculum.

I am forty years old. I don’t really like computers or screens. I use them in spite of myself, mainly for scouts, to stay in touch with relatives who have become distant.

So I grope around in the dark, I test, the parents follow …

I manage to give the instructions for the class, listen to the parents’ difficulties, painfully collect the work of some of the students …

My husband also finds himself stranded with us: he then takes care of our four toddlers, who themselves do not receive any advice: simply worksheets, with cute drawings. Not one of their teachers gives their opinion on their work. Very quickly, my own children no longer see the point of working at all: the teachers don’t seem to care at all…

After two weeks of questioning the work sent, I note:

-that half of the class gives no news,

-that on those who answer, some are completely overwhelmed: a feeling of anxiety embraces families, often struggling with the disease for a grandpa or a grandma, because in the 68, and in my area, many are affected,

that the waiters painfully take my consignments but that the parents, who are not trained either, do not manage …

I go by phone: in two days, I manage to contact all the parents except two (26 students), and I set up a video class system two to four times a week per student (in groups of 2 to 5 students) or about 8 hours of video.

I get tired of seeing them all, my colleague who is supposed to have class on Monday / Tuesday sends me her documents which I have to process, does nothing more, she says that she cannot and does not want to do anything.

I understand, but that is not how we will keep these children afloat.

I know that I must absolutely help overwhelmed parents. I know I have to motivate the students.

The videos online allow this: the children see me, are reassured to see me, are happy to show me their progress and “play” with computers, like adults.

I use these videos in short but repeated times, to test them in reading and adapt my programs, and especially to leave them, between two groups, the virtual rooms open: they finally exchange with each other, without the parents, and after two or three sessions finally seem a little relaxed.

I think that these recreational exchanges “saved” part of the learning: proud of their productions in front of friends (lego, drawing, DIY) they get back to work.

At the same time, I create a padlet, to put the lessons, the work to be done, the explanatory videotapes, my recordings, help materials … And their photos! For parents who send them.

Here too, emulation plays its driving role: some hang up the wagons …

The spring “holidays” arrive: families are exhausted from stress (who is going to work? How? How to reconcile distance work and education?), Some have discovered that teachers are not daycare …

Trauma three: deplorable and costly conditions for families

In the end, 17 families out of 26 need help with printing: all are at the end of their cartridges, of paper, many were printing via work (and the work is closed); department stores are out of stock or raising prices, ordering on the internet is risky because the post office no longer works.

The state offers to set up a postal service: I go through hubmail, I save my documents, the post office is responsible for printing / sending and parents can respond via this system.

From the Tuesday following the Easter holidays, I send a letter of explanation for these 17 families, and 10 days before the start of the school year on April 27 I send the documents …

The families received the first shipment yesterday … I am abandoning this system.

The school photocopier is (still !!) broken.

It is a friend who allows me to photocopy for my whole class the documents for the coming period (1500 photocopies), since the town hall on which my school depends does not want to do it. I’m fuming. I put my friend’s company stamp on the cover page of the documents provided: it’s low, it’s mean, but I need it.

I spend a whole Saturday breaking the law: I go over the km, I go to the students’ villages, deposit the sheets, their class binders, more books, sheets for DIY, with nice colours and textures nice.

The families are delighted, the children surprised and happy, everyone now understands that it will last.

This tenuous link, these coffees on the doorstep, without direct contact, have motivated everyone, and from Monday evening I receive the work of almost all …

Still three families out of circulation, despite my visit: too bad.

I took the opportunity to get a feel for going back: only three families plan to send their children to school if we resume.

And the work: by level, half find that it is too much, the other that it is not enough, all that my colleague should answer more, and that I work too much, that makes me laugh.

I don’t like working halfway.

By remaining demanding and present: by personalized emails to children (I hardly address parents anymore), by video, by photos on the padlet (when I request a written or artistic production, I get there glue too), I notice that the essential link of transfer to the teacher works.

It took 4 to 6 weeks for the parents to be comfortable with the padlet / emails, this parent training took me a long time in email exchanges, but it was necessary.

Trauma 4: no support for “family teachers”

I’m fine; but who thought to warn the teachers that they were becoming family teachers? Fortunately, scouting allows us to put this into play …

No one has thought of talking about this: teaching at a distance with very young children is first of all training parents in digital tools (while we, teachers, are not necessarily comfortable there), then find the effective tools for the students, then train the students in these tools, while keeping the link-transfer (the students learn to please us, not for them!), then finally find the right explanations on the work plans (because it is the parents, our interfaces with young people).

Then, the work of decryption: teaching parents to recognize and differentiate: real fatigue, fed up, a real academic or learning difficulty, and which, so that they can adapt the proposed work … Essential … Very long … Almost impossible in some families …

In the “real” classroom, the teacher constantly adapts: in speech, length, and quality of exercise. There, we must adapt the same, but without perceiving the flaws, the points of support, the fatigue, the social elements which usually make us feel that we will rather do a little sport or rather follow up on a new notion.

Trauma 5: in need for psychological skills

if you are not a little psychologist, you lose your class … And there it’s the same: no advice from superiors, no tools …

The teacher ensures the physical and emotional security of the pupils in his charge: condition number 1 of education.

So I spend a lot of time “dedramatizing” parents: no matter if it’s right or wrong, the main thing is to keep working habits and see this situation through to the end, and above all, not to get upset with children.

At the end of 7 weeks, finally, they have understood: if the child does not work, they take a photo, I analyze, and I am the one who takes charge of discussing the work with the child (via telephone or video) – exploring what he or she understood / wanted to do or not to do.

I let you imagine the time it takes, but I am proud of the fact that: all, except three, put themselves in a situation to learn / test / seek / try and we were able to continue learning … This means that at the start of the school year, as there was no dropout, they will be armed and ready for CE2 / CE1.

Little assessment.

I am in an extremely torn mood.

On the one hand, a dark anger towards “the authorities” who gave us advice, contradictory opinions, incomprehensible messages, which gave the families false information and contrary to the instructions that we received from our superiors, completely absent in the content that it should have been put in place.

I decided, in my soul and conscience, not to simply maintain the basics: at the CP, there is no basis: I continued the substantive work. Too bad for the three dropouts. So much the better for the others.

An equally dark anger towards the government: when I prepare a scout outing, I make sure I have beds for everyone, adequate equipment … There, neither for hospitals, nor for education: we operate with our personal equipment, moreover I had to buy myself a PC and a printer in the middle of this crisis to be able to work … Does a seller bring his label maker back to work? Does a cashier bring back her calculator?

A sense of personal victory over digital, a sense of pride in the progress of students to the progress of the students who follow me.

I am extremely happy to see that if we really support, we can obtain a certain quality of teaching at a distance.

I am angry with the teachers of my children:

the big one, in high school, receives just a little to see them through, except in German where it is demanding and constant, all the other teachers just provide a handful of exercises and that’s it;

the big one, in 5th grade, has real contact with only two of her teachers, the rest send ridiculous homework,

the two youngest, no feedback from the teachers either on the work done. For my youngest, not a quarter of what I have accomplished for my students.

I have to print twenty printouts a day for the two youngest: do they realize the price of this? Some families in the village no longer follow. Nobody cares. In my village, no communication from the mayor, the school director: fortunately I have information from my school, and that I can send to friends here …

A feeling of general mismanagement. The solutions are at the local level: since we have to reopen to ensure a “guard”, then it is not the teachers who must be sent in front of the students: it is the “atsem,” the extracurricular, the young people who have BAFA, so that the care responds to the real needs of the parents, to spread the number of children on all the rooms available in the villages, and to keep the teachers at a distance – for those who work.

Even then, I will have to teach in the presence of half-groups (and entrust the rest to another teacher? But which teacher? There will never be enough to split all those who are in place !!), and especially to go from one department to exercise in another, and really spread the germs.

In 2 months, my classroom has still not been cleaned.

There is still no soap inside, near the sink, and ever since September it has been my tea towels that have been used as a towel.

Supposedly disinfected covid …

I know that I have to prepare for September with a distance program: no idea of ​​the real circumstances of recovery, and my vague knowledge, after 7 years as a nursing assistant in medical resuscitation, leads me to think:

-that if it’s like the flu, we will have to maintain specific distances and appropriate behaviour in class

– that if we keep on having to manage contradicting orders, I will have to come up with a plan B and especially, those of the students, by adapting digital tools

– that I must now think of teaching as training for parents and pupils … “

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