A school of experience

A School of Experience

The manifesto

Teaching in primary, middle and high school should aim to help children and teenagers grow and become responsible people fitted with a common language, and a culture allowing them to express themselves and be creative, showing critical minds and willing to take part in projects in order for them to become men and women able to act in today’s world.

But more and more students appear to be indifferent to school-transmitted knowledge. They have lost their motivation and some of them are kept out of all possibility of access to serious training. They can’t find a place in the school, and more particularly, in the cities and regions where social precariousness is getting worse.

We have noticed that a lot of young people find themselves in a situation of cultural rejection tightly linked to linguistic insecurity. Language and speech are the very culture without which, strictly speaking, there is no thought, no possibility to symbolize. With culture and thought, language constitutes a woven thread organizing the world we perceive. Children don’t know how to speak anymore, they don’t know how to put their imagination and images into words. They cannot tell the real they are confronted with and fail to represent themselves with words in front of others (schoolmates and teachers) : hence the insult, the violence, the acting out. This phenomenon is the main excluding factor. Therefore, working on language, on the Symbolic and the Imaginary has to be our principal matter of concern.

School subjects are taught in some sort of dry technical methodology, as if they were devoid of the cultures lying at the heart of all form of knowledge, for they truly give meaning to their learning. A lot of methods, whether modern or ancient, are a source of boredom and demotivation. They do nothing but create isolation, and take out the meaning at the core of the knowledge we have to transmit.

Confronted with this situation, with the difficulty or impossibility to teach, teachers sometimes lose heart. The inmutable organization of education as it is now favours sclerosis. Despite their belief in school values and their wish to transmit knowledge, they can go from denying the real to resignation or complacency.

Faced with this situation, the Ministry of National Education proposes standardized education, centers on what they call fundamentals, arranges a few grammar rules, sprinkles one or two tutoring hours on top of the regular classes. The State seems to fathom education on an accounting term.

We know that no such things as predefinite ways, reassuring recipes, or miracle tools exist. But for years, our research and experience have led us to use available ressources, multiplying projects and practices. We cannot resign ourselves to lamentaion and complacency. It is necessary to think over the paradox of a school which, losing its own demands, ends up excluding pupils.

From our experiences in different schools, we have defined three main lines of research which appear to be decisive.

1 – Experience and Invention

Our teaching experiences through projects in scientific and literary classes, and the research we are making on languages, writing and poetry, urge us to reinvent our relationship to knowledge. Working on the body notably through dance, drama and the cinema, they show us that culture and knowledge exist in every one of the children insofar as they can make them their own and thus, re-create them. This would imply other forms of school-time organization, flexible schedules, teaching methods focusing on cultural experiences and demanding artistic practices (thanks to artists and creators met outside of school), and a project dynamic allowing all pupils to awaken to knowledge and otherness.

2 – Presence and Movement

Because of the pupils’s different cultures and the precariousness of certain situations, projects and teaching methods constantly have to be reconsidered, invented and reinvented, for what we conceive for a given class today can turn out to be inadequate for another class or in a different context a few years later. This constant questioning is not meant to respond to the blind demands of modernity and profitability. For all those reasons, teaching or directing a school is not conceivable without showing cultural and disciplinary presence and openness : thinking, creating, deciphering the uniqueness and qualitites of each child better, giving meaning to the experience of men through the cultures we share in our teaching, are things which can never be taken for granted and which require from teachers and education actors a culture, an openness to the world, to History, to the civilizations and a constant questioning of their practices.

3 – Transmission and the Ethics of Speech

Thanks to the ethics of speech, the bond created by the teacher makes it possible to work on transmitting. The quality of the relationship goes before the understanding or is, at least, a determining factor. The basis of the work of transmission lies in the attention given to the impact of the words exchanged with the pupils and the adults. Knowing how to talk to pupils with the requirements necessary, having the ability to hear them, respecting the need for detachment proper to adolescence, is to be in search of authentic authority and to help them feel that they are showed consideration. It is impossible to work as a teacher without ever thinking about the words said in class, in the staffroom or in staff meetings. Yet, this issue of the ethics of speech and of the relationship has never been part of the teachers’ training. Places dedicated to meetings and exchanges have to be created within the schools and centered on the questions of speech, relationships, and adolescence-related difficuties in order to put into motion all the education workers. This is what happens with the laboratories of research of the Child Research Centre (CIEN) working in Europe and South America, or with the Association des Groupes de Soutien au Soutien (AGSAS). Their particularity is that they are creating this movement leading the teachers to think over their position in class, giving them the knowledge necessary to create bonds. This manifesto stands as the fruits of experiences and encounters in different places. Its goal is to revitalize the school with all those (teachers, directors, artists, physicians, psychoanalysts...) willing to share their practices, their inventions and thier dead ends.