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2020, in the mind and in the life of a teacher

In this column, Marc-André Girard looks back on how he experienced the fall of 2020 in his school.

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ATTENTION! The English translation is automated - Errors (sometimes hilarious!) can creep in! ;)

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To reread the part 1: a spring like no other

Part 2: get to Christmas on your knees

In short, the summer has passed and new health measures have been announced, which were a prelude to the multiple adjustments of these same measures during the school year. The wave of ministerial announcements followed and it will have swept through the fall: information in large quantities overwhelmed us from head to toe.

Faced with the vertiginous increase in autumn cases, the measures have multiplied and they have become more restrictive. What was allowed yesterday is no longer allowed today and for tomorrow, we will see. What you have to understand is that in teaching, you know what tomorrow will look like: today and yesterday. Our young people need a routine it seems. Uncertainty is therefore difficult for adults, but even more so for students and their parents, who are looking for consistency. Poor them! Poor us: we are constantly looking for the exception that breaks the rule and confirms our singularity, when we must instead learn to let go. In times of crisis, it is not too much time to look for benchmarks and to preserve our ego.

So this fall, it will have been a juggling job: catching up with last year's schooling, tackling this year's new learning, supporting vulnerable students, feeding those who need to go faster and further. , manage the classroom in times of COVID, etc. Yes, manage the classroom in times of COVID ... disinfect the offices, see to the endless washing of hands, control going back and forth to the toilets, ensuring the completeness of the bubble at all times in the corridors, in the park and on the courtyard. 'school. In short, I am a teacher-janitor-police officer-orthopedagogue and sometimes also a social worker, nurse and prison guard.

You read that correctly: our young people are in prison at school. They are confined… together. They are confined to their bubble and cannot escape it no matter where they are. They cannot "mix" like they did before. In some cases, their need to move, to free themselves from all this control and to be free weighs seriously on their mood and more often than usual, some "go wild" and have violent outbursts. Probably they need to break this confinement and get out of this hyper-controlled environment?

The question remains: will we make it through the fall? The government claims (finally) that schools will be among the last services to be closed. I am happy to hear this and it makes me reconcile with the situation. Are we essential workers? It would seem that yes if we trust the lists published by our government. The vast majority of students are loyal to the post. This double recognition is in itself a balm on my daily frustrations directed towards this cursed pandemic. This joy does not eclipse my sense of realism: I have to train myself and develop my technocompetence.

When you think about it, for years we have seen this need, but we relegate it to the background. There is always something in the daily urgency that pushes back these new professional apprenticeships on techno tools. This is understandable; what matters is the human and not the machine. But suddenly, the machine brings humans together and allows humanism to transcend the machine! Humanism has always transcended machines, but I have probably just realized it in a concrete application, that of organizing learning activities at home for my students.

ICT allows me to be everywhere while remaining in my slippers at home. They allow me to better differentiate between distance teaching approaches while providing the necessary feedback for the development of my students' skills. To say that before, I found only limits to technos. Now, they have a saving effect! Another time, other customs.

When I think about it, the pandemic situation will have been a source of professional development for me. Under the sword of Damocles, I had no choice but to take the plunge to face the potential closure of my class. Around me at other schools, colleagues got caught, as their class had an outbreak and everyone was placed in isolation for 14 days. I did not want to be caught in my turn and, as a result, I took the bull by the horns. I am proud of myself. I have surpassed myself and am now able to do my job while confined, me who had never used Google Classroom before last September. From now on, it is a must.

With my students, we did videoconference simulations both at school and at home and I planned online lessons for them to do in class. I indicate my homework there. In two months, I managed to innovate in my teaching practices and that reassured me, on the one hand, but also, it reassured my students and their parents. Now, if my class or school were to close, I can switch to virtual mode the next day. I never thought it was possible last summer! The last four days before the holidays will have been home teaching. It was easy and I am pleasantly surprised to see the participation rate of my students in the activities that I organized, as well as in the planned visios.

In just four days, all the work accomplished this fall is paying off and my investment has paid off in two ways: I conduct my distance education activities and I have gained a lot of self-confidence and technocompetence. Even the few students who did not have a computer or an internet connection were able to manage at least part of these four days. I am impressed by my techno ease, that of my students and the fact that parents mostly embark on this pursuit of educational activities at home, despite these four days leading up to the holiday season!

It is as if the chaos had preceded this plenitude of seeing that everything works almost perfectly, in a new setting. Well I know it wasn't perfect, but since I was expecting the worst, what is just "good" looks like "perfect"! And, basically, I have the right to appreciate my perfection in all the imperfection of the situation. The students, their parents and the administration are forgiving, so why shouldn't I be?

All this to say that we went to Christmas. Although we did the last few meters on our knees, we nevertheless made it to the finish line. I knew how to take advantage of the situation to redefine myself professionally and I was able to ensure the schooling of my students at a distance, but I candidly admit, I am physically and mentally tired. This hellish fall rhythm is taxing. Especially since we have little support in terms of human resources. As if the management of a pandemic were insufficient, it will also require a staff shortage which is added to the lot!

Continue to the part 3: get back to normal? Truly?

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About the Author

Marc-André Girard
Marc-André Girard
Marc-André Girard holds a bachelor's degree in humanities education (1999), a master's degree in history teaching (2003) and a master's degree in educational management (2013). He is currently a doctoral student in school administration. He specializes in change management in schools as well as in educational leadership. He is also interested in 21st century skills to be developed in education. He holds a managerial position in a public primary school and gives lectures on educational leadership, pedagogical approaches, change in the school environment as well as on the professionalization of teaching. He took part in educational expeditions to France, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Morocco. In September 2014, he published the book “Le change en milieu scolaire québécois” with Éditions Reynald Goulet and, in 2019, he published a trilogy on the school of the 21st century with the same publisher. He frequently collaborates with L'École branchée on educational issues. He is very involved in everything that surrounds the professional development of teachers and school administrators as well as the integration of ICT in education. In March 2016, he received a CHAPO award from AQUOPS for his overall involvement.

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