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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: École : la rentrée des précaires

by Flora Beillouin

Novice Teachers Back to School

No training for more work: trainees like Romuald, a young agrégé of Geograpy, will be the first victims of the Chatel education system reform.

Translated Friday 10 September 2010, by Michel Favard and reviewed by Bill Scoble

“You can’t leave new teachers starting to teach that way without any training”, Luc Chatel said yesterday on the radio, as he explained that they had benefited from a couple of briefing/lecturing days and also that they would be trained all school-year long by their tutor.

Yet, on the day before school starts, new teachers in their schools do not believe these affirmations, which lack credibility. They are really panicked. ”Some of our staff are so much at a loss that they have already planned to leave office,” says Romuald who looks stunned. This teacher who has just turned 24 is about to have his first classes in an environment in which his legitimate fear of teaching for the first time gives way to anxiety in a difficult social context.

Romuald was notified that he was appointed at Vitry-sur-Seine (Val-de-Marne), in the south Paris suburbs ten days earlier, and friends put him up, since he is looking for lodgings. This is a seriously difficult situation in which to prepare his 15 hours of classes a week. But in a way he’s very lucky because he realizes that the normal teaching load for certified teachers is 18 hours a week. “Being a trainee is just a word," the young man declares.

Aware of being among the lucky ones, he discovered the five classes he will have to teach and his timetable only last Friday. “That may seem preposterous, but this is almost a privilege — many of us will not be able to prepare their classes since they’re unable to find out what they’ll have to do.”

On the contrary, there is no tutor certified by the Minister of Education to support Romuald. In the Académie of Créteil, experienced teachers have obviously responded to the call of unions as they refuse to volunteer to train younger colleagues. And the 200€ bonus for tutors will not make any difference. “We don’t bear them any grudge, but unfortunately it’s our last resort to defeat this insane tutoring practice,” Philippe Martinais, a Sud union steward at Lycée de Bondy, said. In his high school, no beginner teacher has found any proper tutor yet. But for the History and Geography teacher, his civil servant’s tenure will not be questioned: “Tutors are supposed to validate their training, but faced with such a shameful desertion, the government will have to make exceptions this school year to hundreds of appeals to the administrative court.”

Romuald understands perfectly this refusal to comply. “Although teachers welcome us warmly and take the time to talk with us, despite everything, we are aware that we represent the reform that the majority of the faculty totally rejects.” The young trainee teacher is sickened by the emotional blackmailing of the government. “Obviously they send us, untrained, to schools to make protesting teacher have pity on us.” But this time, they are firmly determined not to give up resistance. At the Rectorat of Créteil, tension is visible, but they try not to let this calamitous situation get worse.

“In his pre back-to-school speech, the rector did not say a single word about these difficulties, passing directly to talking about the curriculum. Yet Créteil is one of the most demanding academies, and also the one in which there is the greatest number of beginning teachers,” Romuals says. And he is wondering who might be empowered enough to talk about it. “The administration does not deliver any information, and even the few numbers given are totally false.” Philippe Martinais confirms this, and considers it highly unlikely that there is only a 10% deficit of tutors in History and Geography. On the contrary, even inspectors are on the verge of collapse, and that shows that the school system is starting to be overwhelmed.

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