Lifelong Learning Programme

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Teachers Experiences

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TITLE OF THE EXPERIENCE
Student from a fragmented family
NAME AND SURNAME OF THE TEACHER
Educator in an internal reschooling service
SUBJECTS TAUGHT
Educator in an internal reschooling service
COUNTRY
Belgium
THEMATIC AREA
Identification of students’ at risk
DESCRIPTION OF THE EXPERIENCE
Period and place in which the experience took place
School, reschooling unit. School year 2008-2013.

Main actors involved (special focus on the profile of the student)
• A 12 year old girl who starts secondary school. Her family background is terrible and she is not interested in school. As a child, she saw her father spray her mother with petrol and set fire to her. Her family split. The father is in jail. The mother was severely burnt and is still heavily handicapped. The girl lives with her mother and is in permanent conflict with her. The mother eventually renounced.
• The educator of the reschooling unit.

Description of the factual events
• As soon as she started school, the student showed disinterest for it. She is often absent and regularly expelled from the class because she insults the teachers and students.
• The educator takes her in charge. She is a real “rabid dog” according to him (who will support her for several years).
• Each time she meets the educator her speech is the same: “I want to do electricity now!”

Actions carried out to identify the causes of the students difficulties
The work conducted for several years by the educator with students with a chaotic background led to the implementation of an internal reschooling unit since the school year 2013-2014.
This educator, who used to be a street worker, is an asset, a joker for many of those kids. 90% of these have a single-parent background. They lack father authority.
They cannot take responsibility for themselves, are in conflict with their parents, they “screw up” … They have a bad self-esteem. At school, they are just numbers …

This is when support starts:
• Listening, sharing, reclaiming a positive self-image.
• Re-establishing values
• Welcoming the student in the beginning of the day (saying them “hello” when they arrive). The school promotes respect, not fear.
• Teaching the kids to “pull themselves together” (which first sounds alien to them) …

Actions carried out to solve the situation and problems encountered
• Since the student repeatedly says she wants to “do electricity right now”, the educator decides to confront her to her responsibilities. He shows her an electrical circuit to build up. Since she has no skill, she is unable to carry out the job and realises it is time to change the record.
• From that moment the support work begins. The student did not want to do electricity. She wanted to move, to go to a workshop. Eventually, she will choose the option “social services”.
• This student needed someone to care about her, who did not dislike her from the beginning (like the teachers). She needed respect, a framework, a structuring person.
• The educator will follow her for one year. When she is 13, she commits mistakes and she is placed in a juvenile institution (called IPPJ for “Institution Publique de Protection de la Jeunesse” in Belgium) for several months. We received no information about that period.
• When she goes back to school, the follow-up resumes. The educator will follow her for three years.
• This student used to be a “rabid dog”, a tomboy who played football as goalkeeper. As years went by, she became a more peaceful young girl who needed to be guided in her attitude, other people’s opinion, the mirror effect …
• In the fourth vocational year, she wanted to change option and since she was succeeding, the school obtained derogation so that she could go to the fourth technical year.
• She left school in 2013 and is now the first of her class (except in languages). She is still in touch with the educator and phones him every time she receives her report. She told him that after school she would like to be an educator.

Results achieved
• This student who was thought to be lost succeeded. She could even change section and school
• She has a project for the future.
• This rebel student has become more peaceful.
• She received from the educator the structure she needed.

Support received by fellow students, colleagues, school management and parents
• No support from the teachers. No-one in that school would have bet one euro on her. The teachers wanted to expel her. The educator opposed them.
• The management supported the educator’s initiative.
• The girl has no family support. The father is absent (and probably disowned by his daughter), the mother renounced and the girls has no brother or sister.
• We have no information on possible support to the family from the social services.

Strengths and weaknesses of the experience
This experience prompts a reflection on the mission of school today.

Strengths:
• The educator’s tenacity to support the student against the teachers must be praised. He fought to keep her at school, because for him students are not numbers.
• The educator acts as a structuring person that many students do not have in their circle (the joker they needed).
• The management supports the initiative and turned it in an internal reschooling unit.

Weaknesses:
• The educator’s vision (listening, sharing, restoring self-esteem, then teaching) is not well received by the teachers.
According to him, to keep someone at school, one must not think only about the school. It is too rigid a mould and it is not adapted to young people today. Education must make children evolve instead of focussing only on subject teaching and learning.
• For the educator, values need to be restored as soon as primary school, the concept of “spoilt child” produces kids who are unable to take responsibility, it must be got rid of.

Comments on this Teachers Experience

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Date: 2014.06.01

Posted by Domingos Santos (Portugal)

Message: This testimony alerts to the importance of a school professional that is not a teacher and that whose main focus is not centered in curriculum development, and does not give up of getting student's involvement in school.
Studentes coming from multiproblematic backgrounds constitute a major challenge for our educational systems and there is a clear need for building up new answers that are adjusted to their emotional, relational and cognitive needs.

Date: 2014.05.30

Posted by Fotini Stavropoulou (Greece)

Message: Early assessment of the particular needs of each child and the tailored and specialized intervention through educational materials and methods is the most appropriate solution to support children with learning difficulties.
In this work it is important to support and cooperation of both parents and teachers of the child to achieve the best therapeutic effect.
Equally important is where deemed necessary and psychological child support to enhance confidence and to address any difficulties coexist.
For this case, I think there should be more support from an expert psychologist.

Date: 2014.05.28

Posted by SORIN AIONESEI, "Alexandru cel Bun" High School, Botosani, sorin.aionesei@yahoo.com (Romania)

Message: The first thing which comes to my mind when reading this story is the self-fulfilling prophecy effect. Teenagers follow the expectations the others have. Nurture a pupil with love, respect, guidance and this will soon pay dividends. Choose to feed his inner demons with sarcasm, discontent and the animosity between you and him will soon reach an unbearable level.
I appreciate the patience shown by the educator in guiding the rebel girl. Sometimes you have to lower the bar for persons who obviously don’t fit in the classroom, who do not get along with their peers, with the other teachers. You cannot expect a rebel little girl, who gets expelled on a daily basis, to become the best student. The step by step change, as implemented by the teacher, is on the essence. One thing at a time, baby steps until the youngster starts to get a grip of what future holds for him.
I liked the way the educator sees the school, as a vector for respect, not fear. Punishing students is ineffective, because when you punish somebody, you show him how not to do something, but you don’t teach him how to achieve his goals. This is were respect, and other positive reinforcements, occur.

Date: 2014.04.30

Posted by BARBARA DEGL’INNOCENTI (HEAD TEACHER) (FLORENCE -ITALY)

Message: This is the story of a suffering student; the young girl lived a terrible domestic violence and she “lose” her parents (her father is in jail and her mother was severely burnt and is still heavily handicapped). She has suffered violence and she is aggressive: into the classroom she looks a “rabid dog” . Teachers don’t understand her and school laws are too much rigid and not friendly. Lucky somebody had confidence in her: working hard every day, a specialized street educator had changed her nature, her behavior and her life.
This shows that school is more often “closed” and that teachers don’t know other educational strategies except explaining their subject. The school team needs specialized educators to help student with special need. But the school team must be “open” and willing to try new educational strategy (more friendship, more time together, ….)
NAME OF THE TEACHER: BARBARA DEGL’INNOCENTI (HEAD TEACHER)


TYPE OF SCHOOL: VOCATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL (SOCIAL STUDIES, BUSINESS AND TOURISM)

COUNTRY: FLORENCE -ITALY

E-MAIL ADDRESS: dirigente@sassettiperuzzi.it

DATE: 29/04/2014

20 December 2014

Final Partners’ meeting

The fourth partners’ meeting took place in Florence (IT) on 15 December 2014. The meeting had the objective to check the activities carried out since the third meeting of the project and share and assess the in progress results. A special focus has been dedicated to the presentation of the strategies to solve the case scenarios.