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Back to school: how to give meaning to the teaching profession?

Get up in the morning, find the classroom behind closed doors, adapt to the needs of increasingly different students, claim attention, claim it again and again, police, thwart tensions with parents, apply reform after reform and, as much as possible, transmit knowledge, skills… All that for what?

More and more teachers are asking themselves this question. One clue among others: in 2020-2021, national education granted a conventional break to 814 school teachers, against 136 the previous year. Above all, this question seems to deter potential candidates: this year, some 4,000 positions remained vacant after the first and second degree competitions.

Often the thinking is about financial considerations. Because teachers’ salaries have dropped. According to Nicolas Wallet, co-secretary general of the primary union SNUipp, “school teachers have lost, since 2010, the equivalent of one month’s salary per year”. Aware of this issue, Minister Pap Ndiaye has taken over an unhonored promise from Jean-Michel Blanquer: no longer a single holder starting at less than 2000 euros net. A measure announced for 2023.

“Not being compensated at a level that is considered fair generates frustration that can eliminate the pleasure we take in helping students grow”comments Laurence Vanhée, founder of Happyformance, a consulting firm specializing in happiness at work ». But the example of Germany, which is struggling to fill thousands of positions despite salaries that are often twice as high, shows that money is not everything. “It brings recognition but is not enough to give meaning. »

“Giving meaning is giving perspectives”

Meaning at work, one of the big questions at the start of the 21st centurye century, particularly since the pandemic, leads many employees to question their desires, their priorities. A meaning that is no longer self-evident, squeezed by the rise of individualism and the changes in an economic fabric that leaves little room for linear careers.

So what can be done to put meaning back at the heart of the teaching profession? “Meaning, of course, cannot be decreed vertically”continues Laurence Vanhée. “Especially since each teacher approaches the subject differently: some are happy when they manage to complete a program that they have mastered for years; others dream of autonomy or new responsibilities. »

“To give meaning is to give career prospects, to allow teachers who so wish to take on, at some point, new missions, such as the coordination of tutoring, the management of IT in their establishment or relationship with parents, considers Luc Ria, director of the French Institute of Education.

Individual development depends on the collective

All this presupposes human resources management based on the skills and desires of teachers rather than their seniority, insists Laurence Vanhée. An exercise in which national education – one of the very first employers in the world, with more than 1 million agents – is not broken. Not to mention the positioning of the unions, attached to equal, and therefore uniform, treatment of staff. For this former HRD, the inspectors should intervene differently, in a role of accompaniment, of advice. “They could be the bearers of good educational news, participate in the spin-off of initiatives that work. »

Laurence Vanhé like Luc Ria are convinced that individual fulfillment goes through the construction of the collective. And that part of the answer lies in the implementation of a real school project. Will the major consultation announced for the fall, as close as possible to the field, contribute to this?

“For that, it would have to help us rediscover the meaning of public service”believes, doubtful, Elisabeth Allain-Moreno, national secretary of the SE-Unsa union. “At the heart of our professional identity, this notion has been undermined by an entrepreneurial vision of education, with the dream of a Sarkozy or a Macron to see each school managed like an SME. »

“I agreed to divide my salary by three to work with people”

To hold on, many cling to small daily victories. “We no longer say to ourselves that we are going to save the world, we are just happy, at the end of the day, to have helped to make this or that student in difficulty progress”, slides Nadia, school teacher, twenty years of seniority, in the Pyrénées-Orientales. The meaning is often those who join the teaching profession as a second career who perceive it best. This is the case of Frédéric, 46, a former computer scientist in the insurance industry, who is entering his second school year as a primary school teacher. “I no longer found meaning in my old job. And I agreed to divide my salary by three to work with people, experience emotions with children, transmit “unfolds there, without the shadow of a regret.

Frédéric observes around him colleagues in the grip of unease, convinced that society refuses them any consideration. “Surveys actually show that the teaching profession is rather popular with public opinion”relativizes the pedagogue Philippe Meirieu (1). “In any case, the teachers are not the only ones to suffer from a suspicion with regard to the institutions. Hospital, justice and police personnel face the same challenge. »

Create vocations

“A real political work is necessary to make parents and teachers understand that they have to lead a fight together for children and to bring about a real co-education which also includes associations”, pleads this researcher. But, according to him, “Political leaders, on the right and on the left, have too often played families against teachers”.

Other emergency: “Rather than multiplying the pipe reforms, we must give the school a breath of fresh air, a course, by highlighting the values ​​of solidarity, cooperation, thinking for oneself inherited from the Enlightenment…” Otherwise, he warns, young people who would have opted for education yesterday will continue to turn to environmental activism or social work to quench their thirst for commitment.

The Church can also contribute to inflecting the way in which teaching is viewed, wants to believe Jean-Marie Ballenghien, assistant to the Provincial Visiting Brother within the Lasallian network. “It would benefit from promoting the professions of education as possible vocational paths. When we talk about vocation at a gathering of scouts or young Christians, we bring in a contemplative nun, a dynamic young priest, fulfilling parents… Why never let teachers speak? » he asks.


The recruitment crisis in education

A low rate of return in competitions. This year, 4,000 positions could not be filled. Long spared, the first degree is also concerned. In the second, 9 disciplines are in deficit. In math, in particular, 1 out of 2 positions remained vacant.

Resignations on the rise. If it may seem marginal (between 1,000 and 2,000 in recent years, for 870,000 professors), the number of resignations has tripled in a decade.

Use of contractors. These temporary workers represent just over 1% of primary school teachers, and between 8 and 9% of secondary school teachers. National Education has just recruited 3,000 more. An exceptional tenure competition will be offered to those in the first degree next spring.


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