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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.