DESCRIPTION OF THE EXPERIENCE
Experience sent by an associated partner in Saint-Denis (Reunion, France)
“Around ten boys and girl, participate in the activities of this group created on the initiative of two teachers. The aim is to re-establish effort, work on motivation, self-esteem, trust of teachers. There, Leïla, Roxane and Estelle recovered a taste for school.
With an average of 7/20 in the first quarter, Leïla could have lost heart and stop altogether. When she started at lycée Bellepierre (Saint-Denis, Reunion), she had nothing to reply to her parents who reproach her with not working and botching the lessons. Parents’ reproaches kept her at school… but without conviction.
In the same class, Estelle stands out with her absences: <"More than 20 half-days in the first quarter", the young girl recalls. She acknowledges too the importance of her mother’s reprimands: "My mother shouted at me, it worked, she called me to order".
As for Roxane, 17, arrived in the same class after a year at lycée Bel Air (Sainte-Suzanne), she confesses she repeated for two reasons. "Because I didn’t integrate in Bel Air, and also because I didn’t know what I’d do in the next year. And now, I want to study management sciences and technologies".
What changed those teenagers between August 2013 and May 2014? "The group Décollage scolaire" three girls answer. A group made up of around ten boys and girls enrolled in seconde (first year of lycée, students of around 15 year old) and who are obviously dropping out… but united by the teachers’ will: Didier Onfray, economy and management teacher, and Benoît Clay, philosophy teacher.
"Those students need support, methodological advice, general knowledge" Mr. Onfray explains. Asking them to work more is not enough? "No, because each person remembers differently" the teacher states. Those students are thus allowed to miss some classes… to participate in the activities of the group "Décollage scolaire".
"I have understood that counselling is not punishment"
Those activities began in the beginning of the year with a hike to the Brûlé (name of a town). "The idea was to re-establish effort" Mr. Onfray explains. "we work on motivation, relation with the teacher. Without trust relation, one cannot be motivated". Roxane adds: "With "Décollage scolaire", we have learnt to know each other, not to fear to speak our mind". Estelle and Leïla particularly enjoyed the work on "memory sheets", or "mind maps", a method to memorise.
The "counselling" workshop helped them a lot. "Since I am the class representative, and as I want to go to the literary section, now I work" Leïla admits. But why did she need a specific workshop to understand it? "I’ve understood that counselling is not a punishment". Estelle adds: "when teachers talk about counselling, they’re almost aggressive. They repeat so often we’ll end up with a job we don’t want, that they scare us.
This fear, Estelle overcame it when she met a police chief, a fireman and a sport teacher: "I’ve understood that for those jobs you need a lot of general knowledge, about law, philosophy…" Didier Onfray comments: "the key word is self-esteem, regained confidence. The idea is to have those students back at school".
It seems to be a success, since Leïla’s average has gone up to 9/20 in the second quarter, and the others have also improved. But the initiative creates some jealousy in other students who would also like to skip some classes! "They are not absent, they think and they work" Mr. Onfray correct. He considers this system must be judged on its results, including the decrease of truancy.
Against all odds "Décollage scolaire" attract a majority of girls. "The boys are more reserved, they find it difficult to open" Mr. Onfray analyses. Soon boys and girls will go to the multimedia library to meet a harpist: general knowledge is important to prepare the baccalauréat.
- To create a significant relationship between students at risk of early school leaving and their supervisor through structured and frequent supervision to foster school commitment and tenacity;
- To observe and preventively act, if disengagement indicators are deteriorating;
- To set up individualised and rigorous objectives and strategies in relation to school, personal, family or social difficulties that are specific to the student;
- To assess the student’s path and adapt the programme based on this path.
At lycée Bellepierre in Saint-Denis, the students who participate in the programme will be identified after the class councils of the first quarter in all the classes of “seconde” according to the following criteria:
- The number of justified late arrivals (10 % of the periods in one month);
- The number of unjustified late arrivals (5 % of the periods in one month);
- The number of justified absences (15 % of the periods in one month) ;
- The number of unjustified absences (5 % of the periods in one month) ;
- The number of expulsions (three episodes in one month);
- School results (marks under 60 % of the class average in one subject).
Main personal difficulties spotted:
SCHOOL DISENGAGEMENT SIGNS
-High level of truancy
-Frequent late arrivals
-Does not feel involved, participates little in school life
-Often dating back to primary school Repeated failures
-Exteriorised problems (opposition, aggressiveness, infractions)
-Interiorised problems (depression, anxiety)
-Frequent disciplinary measures (suspensions, detention)
-Tendency to frequent peers with school and social adaptation difficulties
-Difficulties to establish significant relations with the adults of the school
NEGATIVE PERCEPTION OF SCHOOL
-Considers the class environment as problematic
-Establishes conflict relationships with teachers
-Little perception of teachers’ support
What the teacher can do…
IN CASE OF SCHOOL DISENGAGEMENT
- Assess and be attentive to the student’s school disengagement indicators (absences, late arrivals, suspensions, detentions, failures);
- Regularly promote among students the importance of school;
- Discuss the middle and long term consequences of early school leaving;
- Provide extra and individual encouragement when the student loses heart;
IF THE STUDENT HAS A NEGATIVE PERCEPTION OF SCHOOL
- Pay particular attention to the relation with that specific student;
- Stress their strengths during interactions and not only raise their mistakes;
- Help them change inappropriate behaviours;
- Foster privileged moments with the student to develop a significant relation.
DS practical modalities
Integrated in the educational offer of the school, the DS programme concerns only the “seconde” and will propose an average of two appointments per month:
- Workshops based on active listening between participants (adults and students) to focus on the difficulties and the strategies to solve them.
- Events, within and outside the school, to discover strategies to meet those difficulties:
o Methodological tools (mind maps, stress management …)
o Cultural outing, to the multimedia library of La Source
o Meeting alumni and reference adults …
The meetings take place out of school times (Wednesday, Saturday morning or after 5:30), on the one hand so that students can make the difference between DS time and school time, and on the other hand so that students spend as little time as possible alone.
DS pedagogical aims
Complementary to school teaching, DS will have three additional axes:
-Re-establishing contacts with adults
-Proposing work methods
DS events and workshops:
Dates - Titles - Objectives
November - Meeting with students - Programme presentation, first contact
1st week of December - Meeting with parents, students and the DS team - First contact, explaining to all the participants the meaning of the approach and the content of the workshops. Requesting the parents collaboration in the process and keeping them informed of their children’s success
Week before holidays - Establishing a relation - Knowing the student: interests, strengths, aspirations, passions, etc. understanding their school, personal, family or social difficulties.
Raising student’s interest and commitment in the supervision approach and becoming, for the student, a significant adult at school
Week after holidays - Hike - Informal contact. Effort awareness.
Mid-February - Philosophical workshop - “In search of happiness: being the least unhappy as possible...”
Last week of March - Counselling - Thinking of school possibilities for the next years.
Knowing study possibilities after the baccalauréat.
Mid-April - Learning how to learn - Understanding the importance of knowing one’s learning techniques. Expressing one’s point of view in a small-group debate
Last week of April - Stress management - Learning to control certain emotions in stress situations
Early May - Meeting professionals - Allowing a personification of counselling possibilities with adults of various jobs (firemen, nurses, company manager …)
Late May - Picnic - Informal outings with the parents.
First week of June - Cultural outing - Discovering a cultural form they are not used to: meeting a classical music artist.
Private concert and reading texts written by students.
Several assessment indicators or criteria can be proposed:
- The same as those used to spot those students in great difficulty ((un)justified late arrivals and absences, expulsions and results);
- Counselling: number of repeated years, going to the next year or change of section.
The work can be assessed only after the class councils are over.
It must also be noted that the results of this yearly supervision cannot be measured only in the short term.
The effects may also be felt after several months or years. DS will probably be one of many stones in the construction of self-esteem.