Coronavirus: the point of view of two teachers in France


The point of view of a primary school teacher in France

In our region, classes resumed on March 9 after two weeks of vacation, but honestly, we were already worried. We have heard more and more about the coronavirus. We are seeing what is happening in Italy, especially with the containment measures which have just been announced the same day.

In France, four departments had already closed all schools in response to the Covid-19 epidemic, but we had to resume our work. It was as usual almost.

Children have been recommended to wash their hands several times a day. Our Minister of Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, has guaranteed that the closings will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, but that there is no question of closing all schools in France, we were told.

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On the other hand, we have heard every day in the media that the number of people infected is increasing sharply. The concern was mounting. In the afternoon of Thursday, March 12, our minister made it clear on the radio that the schools would not close. We were only in the “second stage” of the epidemic.

The same evening, the president, Emmanuel Macron, gave a speech on television. We expected him to tell us that we were going to move on to step three and the next steps. But that didn’t happen. Indeed, in a serious tone, he told us that the epidemic had suddenly accelerated, even using the word “war”.

The tone was set. This was followed by the announcement of the closure of kindergartens, schools, colleges and high schools and universities until further notice the next evening, contradicting the Minister of Education’s remarks a few hours earlier. Everyone was amazed.

At around 10 p.m. our Minister of Education finally appeared on television with a pale face for an impromptu press conference, apparently overwhelmed by events. We learned that “educational continuity” should and would be ensured by teachers, via a platform made available by CNED (our national center for distance education). Courses would be available for each level; teachers could even create virtual classes with their students.

We, the elementary teachers, were really surprised because we knew nothing about this work tool of which our Minister spoke. That night we called each other and stayed on the phone until late at night to find out how we were going to get organized, everything being so sudden.

Honestly, when the minister insisted that there was nothing to worry about, that things would go normally for students, only through home learning, our reaction in elementary schools was, “qu is home learning? We were angry because he suggested that students could just go home, like many adults can with their work. It’s just not true.

Indeed, we knew nothing: we had no precise information. In addition, with 12 million students in France, we were convinced that the Internet network for distance education would be greatly disrupted due to the volume of connections. which turned out to be exactly the case, within a few days.

What worried us most was that we knew that not all of our students could access the Internet and work remotely. In primary schools, we hardly work that way with students, unlike colleges and high schools.

We decided in our school to prepare photocopied worksheets for the next five weeks, mainly in math and French, so that everyone can continue to work. We also shared our professional email addresses with each parent, to stay in touch and help our students.

In the days that followed, we tried the ministry’s “My Classroom At Home” virtual tool, but it proved to be quite difficult without training for us and our students. We have abandoned this option for now.

Many parents already work at home, so students often find themselves alone, looking at a computer or tablet without any help. There is also no guarantee that all of our students will be present upon request.

Each teacher finds a way of working that suits them. Some send work emails every day, others every week. But it is particularly difficult to help by e-mail when the pupils have difficulties. I have considered creating profiles on Skype and Messenger so that I can make video calls with my students and their parents. For one girl in particular, it really helped.

In primary schools in France, teachers are not trained remotely – tit’s a form of revolution for most of us. Our bosses of local authorities are quite absent at the moment. We feel a little abandoned, it must be said.

Our days are very busy because we have to respond to each parent’s emails, prepare the rest of the work, send the corrections. We regularly call with colleagues to exchange ideas and find solutions to improve our work. We are starting to see how to create a virtual class in case the lockdown continues. But it is not easy because our teaching is so disrupted and we are doing day by day.

It is still very difficult to meet the needs of each child, as some children work very quickly and finish their work quickly, while others take several days. While every student is on an equal footing while in school, we are now seeing a widening gap between our students. Parents find themselves teaching their children when they are not trained for it. Some do it well, but for others it creates distressing situations for parents and their children. We must not forget that at this age, children still lack a lot of independence, and then there are those who do not have French as their first language, and those who have a disability.

Now, all these children are in a very heterogeneous situation, and it is a real challenge on a daily basis. We can even really speak of a revolution in the way elementary school is done – But not everyone will do as well.

Everything is far from perfect because you can never do things as well as in class. We learn to master the digital tools for the young children we work with every day, but this can never replace everyday school interaction under normal circumstances.

However, the teachers really do everything possible to find solutions for each student. with the aim that these unprecedented times do not leave permanent scars in their minds.

The writer is a primary school teacher in Auvergne Rhône Alpes France

The point of view of a secondary school teacher in France

Our management anticipated the foreclosure better than some. Teachers were warned that it was essential to prepare. So I started distributing enough materials to the students to last until the Easter break.

When the lockout was announced, there was only one day left to organize. How were we going to communicate everything? Most teachers have chosen an official digital workspace for teachers, called ENT (Digital Workspace).

I found that this solution was seriously lacking in interactivity and I thought the site would be quickly submerged, which is exactly what happened. I offered to use Skype but most of the students didn’t have an account, so they suggested Snapchat because they already had a class group. I agreed to create an account and the students created a group specifically for my subject.

I insisted that the use of the group be for educational purposes only. I had no desire to know anything about their private business and the trouble that could ensue if I did! They are mature, capable, final year students of good standard. – butThe Snapchat approach would not work at all levels.

I teach science. We made appointments during regular school hours to discuss the various assignments, and the students used photos and audio recordings to show me their progress. These ways of working are well known to students, so it is reassuring for them in this constant climate of anxiety about the impact of the coronavirus. And the students were used to being assessed online already, so there was nothing new there.

Of course, nothing can replace face-to-face teaching, especially for students facing some sort of difficulty or who lack independence. Overall, however, I think the whole experience will be rewarding for them, especially as they head into higher education next year.

The writer is a scientific high school teacher in Auvergne Rhône Alpes


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