Saturday, October 06, 2007

A letter from the President

I know I've mentioned that Nicolas Sarkozy must spend a lot of time signing authorisations for teachers to go and work somewhere, but I never expected to get a letter from him! Actually, his Lettre aux Éducateurs has gone out to all teachers, and here's a copy kicking around our staff room; some wag has defaced the front already so it looks like it's been written by Nicoladolf Sarkozitler, which surely deserves 500 lines and a detention if the culprit is caught. The head hasn't yet threatened to keep all of us back until someone owns up...

In true French style, he takes around 25 pages to get to the point. The preamble is mostly general platitudes that no sane person would disagree with: Education is important, children should know right from wrong and learn tolerance and respect (including standing when a teacher enters the room), teaching is a tough job and so on. He goes on to say there's too much theory and abstraction in today's education and children should spend less time in class and more time in museums, libraries etc. The school I work at already does that kind of thing; there was even a trip to Churchill's War Rooms in London once. He does't say anything about who will be responsible if an accident happens on one of these trips, which is the main reason, in my experience, why some teachers are reluctant to organise them.

Towards the end it gets more interesting - "you will be better paid, more highly respected ... you will earn more and progress more quickly (so far, so good) if you choose to work more and make more effort (gulp!)". How that'll work in practice isn't clear, except that overtime earnings won't be taxed, but one reason I prefer teaching in France to the UK is that over here I can have a life outside work, even of that means earning less. The Education Minister has also talked of having fewer, better paid teachers, and they're already planning to not replace half of those who retire.

He also says that schools should be freer to choose how they teach. But at the same time he's decreed that Guy Môquet's final letter must be read out to all French schoolchildren, which hasn't gone down well with teachers. So I'll reserve judgement on this one until he's decided whether or not he wants to micromanage or let go.

Anyway, it was nice to get a letter from my new boss. Even if the academie can't get their act together, if the President has written to me, I must be a real fonctionnaire!

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