Actors from French-speaking schools in Canada explain how their work experience has changed since the start of the pandemic. The observation: sharing, collaboration and benevolence make a difference, both inside school and at home.
Benoit Douillette, educational advisor at the Conseil scolaire public du Grand Nord de l'Ontario (CSPGNO), Michel Gariépy, director of the Francophone Center for Distance Education in Alberta, Amélie Bédard, professional in inclusive education at the CSS des Premieres-Seigneuries and Dominique Côté, remedial teacher at CSS du Chemin-du-Roy, participated in a virtual round table moderated by Nadia Rousseau, professor at the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières, as part of the event “A distance, but present in secondary education”.
While the majority of schools were destabilized at the start of the pandemic, the majority also managed to reorganize themselves afterwards. Since the start of the September 2020 school year, a new routine has taken hold, winning practices have been identified. New gains have also been made and none of the four panelists wants a step back.
(…) None of the four panelists wants a step back.
Specialist Dominique Côté acknowledges that she sometimes had to show imagination to keep in touch with certain students in the spring of 2020. Even today, “flexibility and benevolence are the watchwords, both towards the students and their students. parents, ”she says.
However, she is delighted with the implementation of new practices that help her in her work. Previously, she did not always have access to the work of the students she accompanied. She now has access to their Google Classroom spaces and can more easily follow their progress by subject. “What was developed for distance learning remains available and useful for the future, even if we are back to school,” notes Ms. Côté.
The fact of adopting common technologies in the school service centers will have made it possible to standardize practices and allow more collaboration and exchanges between teachers, members of school teams and even parents. This point was mentioned by the four panelists.
Thus, at the Conseil scolaire public du Grand Nord de l'Ontario (CSPGNO), for example, the teams have relied heavily on the sharing of resources. Benoit Douillette explains that a lot of educational material has been created and made available to teachers across the province, creating a solidarity movement that is still growing today.
Student well-being: starting from small, simple things
Beyond the technological aspect, if the pandemic has enabled one thing, it is to put the student back at the center of all school concerns: maintaining a strong teacher-student relationship, adopting a reassuring posture for the students, create arrival and departure rituals, focus on meaningful feedback, offer a stable schedule with clear expectations, etc.
“It may sound simplistic as a statement, but that's what is happening. Teachers tell me: I knew it was important to have a good relationship with my students, but I didn't realize how important it was to them, ”said Ms. Bédard.
Moreover, the need to maintain human contact despite the distance was mentioned on a few occasions during the discussion. In Ontario, virtual lounges have been created for teachers who work remotely in order to recreate “the teachers' room”. In Alberta, a “student lounge”, open every Thursday afternoon, allows students attending the virtual school full-time to socialize and discuss among peers. Since the start of the September 2020 school year, with its some 600 students, the virtual school of the Francophone school boards of Alberta is also the largest school in this province.
For the virtual school to be a success, the presence of parents is identified as decisive by Michel Gariépy, director of the Francophone Distance Education Center of the Federation of Francophone School Boards of Alberta. “This project could never survive if we did not have the collaboration of the parents. We need them to make the distance school project a success. "
In closing, the four panelists were optimistic about the future. After the upheavals of 2020, communities are falling back on their feet and implementing new ways of doing things that are proving to be winning.