The teachers are getting ready to find their students. After the unprecedented situation caused by the coronavirus epidemic, they will have to face disparate levels and classes to re-motivate.

From her pretty handwriting like a CP teacher, Nathalie Ribierre’s back-to-school program has already been written. “9 am: welcoming the pupils; 10 am: they will have to recognize their first name. It will allow to see where they are in reading level“, reads the teacher in her” notebook-diary. “Her schoolbag? “Of course he’s ready!” These are about the only things that someone who teaches in a school in Gironde is sure not to change. Two weeks before the start of the school year, the health protocol, specified Thursday, August 20 by the Minister of National Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, remains subject to changes.

Another major challenge: welcoming children who have deserted school benches for many months. Jean-Michel Blanquer repeats that all students without exception must return to class on Tuesday September 1 after several months of distance learning or skipping school. For teachers, this return to school is a big leap into the unknown. From the start of the school year, they will be able to assess the results of the “educational continuity” somehow established during confinement. Hard to know what to expect.

Concerned about the need to remobilize the troops for a return that wants “almost normal”, the National Education had everything planned with several devices supposed to support the recovery of students. The “Learning Holidays” program was set up to offer one million children free and educational summer camps. The ministry also communicated a lot about the “success stages”, refresher sessions held by volunteers during the first and last weeks of summer holidays.

However, this remains insufficient to compensate for all the delays experienced by the students during confinement, according to many teachers. “We asked to set up ‘success internships’ in our school at the beginning of July and at the end of August. The academic authorities refused, considering that we were not given priority on this device reserved primarily for sensitive areas.“, scolds Yannick Doux-Gayat, director of a nursery school in Tarn-et-Garonne. Once deployed, these courses have not necessarily convinced the teachers. “The ten or so students present were not the most in difficulty. Those who had dropped out during the confinement period did not come”, regrets Nathalie Ribierre, who led a session in early July.

The start of the school year promises to be brutal, for teachers and students alike. The great unknown concerns the achievements, after this period of distance learning. The return to class tastes like a passing exam: the children will be assessed on what they have managed to remember … and the teachers on their digital pedagogy established in the emergency in a more or less artisanal way. In a high school in Saint-Denis, biotechnology teacher Alice Aubey * and her colleagues worked together at the end of June to find out what concepts had been discussed and which students had dropped out. “But we have not been able to assess them or carry out a type examination. It is not because a notion has been mentioned that it has been acquired”, worries the teacher. Alone in front of their computers, the young people had to tackle heavy programs, suddenly very abstract.

A teacher and her students in a school in Strasbourg (Bas-Rhin), June 22, 2020 (FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP)

In anticipation of the delays accumulated by the pupils, it intends, as recommended by the National Education, to devote the first quarter to revisions of knowledge of the previous year. “We’re going to be rather ‘soft‘ Firstly. But very quickly, it will be necessary to accelerate“, precise Alice Aubey. At one year of the baccalaureate, terminal students must try to make up for lost time. “When the new program for the technology sector, in which I teach, was published last year, we said to ourselves that it would be complicated to finish it. With confinement, it’s mission impossible”, says the professor. The program has not been alleviated despite the epidemic. Interviewed on France Inter at the end of July, the Minister of National Education even stressed that his objective was to “raise the general level”, and not of “lower the requirements”.

The bet is ambitious, especially against a background of inequalities that have become even more glaring during confinement. At the end of June, Yannick Doux-Gayat saw students return to his school with worrying differences in level. “Some well-supervised children were pushed all the way and got even brighter, others weren’t followed at all and totally dropped out. The gaps have widened “, he explains. The difficulty of accessing a satisfactory internet connection in his village had an impact: “The children who could not open the explanatory videos published by their teachers could not understand certain concepts on their own and presented real weaknesses on the points addressed during confinement.” In his large section class, many of the students did not have the phonological skills and the vocabulary necessary to be able to learn to read and calmly approach CP. “A kindergarten child cannot, alone in front of a card, learn the sounds and letters of the alphabet if there is not a trained adult present to explain it to him”, points out Yannick Doux-Gayat.

This return to school will be very violent for the children!Nathalie Ribierre, teacher in Girondeto franceinfo

“The start of the school year is a very important day, very stressful for everyone. We will not have to set ourselves too big goals at first, so as not to distress parents and students. The regularization will be done on the spot. ‘year”, believes Guislaine David, general secretary of Unitary national union of teachers, school teachers and PEGC.

While browsing the list of her CP class, Nathalie Ribierre, in Gironde, is worried. “Normally, kindergartens come to visit the elementary school, to see the courtyard with the CM2, the ‘self’ from the canteen … However, most of my students left school in February. They will have forgotten the barrier gestures, the demands of community life, notes their future mistress. They’re going to be thrown into school hell, with the pressure of having to learn to read! “

Teachers also wonder about the ability of students to get back to work. It’s been six months that their habits have changed: leaving an ear hanging around at the start of videoconferencing classes during confinement, Alice Aubey thus discovered that some were now subscribed to sleepless nights. “It was 8 o’clock, a student was bragging about going to bed at 5 o’clock, her friend replied that she hadn’t slept yet. They no longer have a rhythm or work habits.”, regrets the teacher.

Some students have not set an alarm clock for six months!Alice Aubey, professor of biotechnology at Saint-Denisto franceinfo

The confinement also had personal consequences for the students. “These months were very trying. They were alone, locked in their homes without seeing their friends, facing their family context, with a very anxiety-provoking external context, continues Alice Aubey. Now, we will have to find how to refocus them. Because in high school, they must suddenly grow up, become responsible and think about their post-baccalaureate projects! “

“The gaps between the students have widened”: after confinement, teachers face the great …
Two students from a high school in Nice (Alpes-Maritimes), June 8, 2020 (ARIE BOTBOL / HANS LUCAS / AFP)

After several months of solitude in front of a computer, the students will need what has caught the eye the most in recent months: personalized support, in the flesh. Many teachers plan to set up level groups (a method already applied before confinement), for lack of being able to ensure real individual monitoring. “During confinement, there were not two similar family situations in my class. A good student had totally disappeared from the radar, a weaker one was hanging on, another had not returned any homework but was working on his own … “, sighs Catherine Lafont, who teaches history and geography at a college in Hérault.

We would have to make revisions on a case-by-case basis, but how can we divide into 27?Catherine Lafont, professor of history and geography in a collegeto franceinfo

The promise of National Education to provide 1.5 million additional hours to strengthen support for students in difficulty needs to be clarified. “We do not know what it will correspond to, who will animate them. The replacements, as they have announced? There is not enough staff to ensure all the replacements!”, sighs Guislaine David. “There have been a lot of announcements, but it’s not going to be enough to catch up with everything that needs to be. It’s too few students.”

It is therefore up to teachers to redouble their efforts to recover the students. Each one does with the means at hand. In Meaux (Seine-et-Marne), Myriam Défontaine, who teaches economics in a high school, has planned a first week “half-leisure, half-educational” to gradually get classes back to work and be able to target difficulties. “We are going to do workshops at the museum, I will be able to see what their needs are and create a suitable remediation program”, predicts the teacher. Alice Aubey, for her part, is counting on oral expression to empower students. “A transition so that they regain self-confidence and be dynamic”, explains the professor. Catherine Lafont will reserve the first week for digital training, to “limit case” in the event of re-containment. On the agenda: sending emails, converting a file to PDF, browsing the internet … The fact remains that, whatever happens, “it will be necessary to improvise”.

* First and last name have been changed.

“The gaps between the students have widened”: after confinement, teachers face the great …

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