“Headmaster” indicates the sign on the door. No surname to designate this “interchangeable” post of head of establishment. A charge that is often overlooked by the media. The principal receives teachers, parents and high school students in his office, he manages all kinds of daily problems, in short, he runs the shop. A manager, yes, but a “funny manager” who has very little power and autonomy.
So how did this headmaster, appointed in 2014 to Lycée Turgot, in Paris, in the 3rd arrondissement, manage, in a few years, to make this “problematic” establishment, therefore rejected, one of the most requested of the capital ? Among its strengths, a positive pedagogy, small classes, a hip-hop dance section and a successful social mix.
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To try to understand the springs of a man who has never ceased to fight against the heaviness of the administration, we must go back the course of an atypical course. Son of a soldier, Christophe Barrand grew up in the 1960s at the top of a tower in the Porte de la Chapelle district of Paris. Academic excellence was for his older brother. In college, the youngest knows boredom, anguish, humiliation. From this experience, the “former bad pupil” will keep a good reserve of empathy for the pupils in difficulty. Falling into student activism, the young man rubbed shoulders with the future heads of the Socialist Party at university.
Move the lines
His first job as a heating engineer did not predestine him to attempt the National Education exam, which he succeeded “by chance”. A substitute teacher in the Paris region, principal education advisor in a vocational school and then principal, Christophe Barrant hopes to “move the lines” in an area where it is recommended to be docile.
In Turgot, the headmaster saw some thirty steps above his office, in official accommodation. Available, open, benevolent, he strives to mobilize energies, to arouse enthusiasm, to find the necessary means … Says yes to projects, such as “supervised studies”, “school outside the walls”, ” ambition dance class ”. Also says no, when necessary, to a student (“You cannot insult”), to a teacher or to a parent (“You do not have all the rights”).
A contract of trust
By inviting each student to look at his share of excellence in himself, by telling him that the grades are only the foam of his true value, the principal establishes a contract of trust. The principal encourages them to be atypical, different, to “get out of the box”. A rule that he first applied to himself, to free himself from the constraints of the institution.
→ CHRONICLE. Back to school: “I try to follow orders and contrasts while avoiding disorder”
At the time of retirement, Christophe Barrant, 63, cannot restrain a certain bitterness that darkens the end of this invigorating work. Vis-à-vis the academy which sought to bring him into line. And parents, too, especially those who practice the culture of excuse (defending their child, whatever his behavior) and the piston machine. But the ultimate break came when his high school was blocked, during the 2019 strikes, in contempt, according to him, of the students who most needed to study and take their exams.