LEARN’s Self-Paced Blended Learning – Year 1

This post is part 1 of a two-part series.

Have you ever put your life’s work all in one place and tried to make it coherent and meaningful and beautiful? Me neither… until this year!

At LEARN, we offer fully synchronous online courses to Quebec’s English high school students, and have been doing so for a long time… 19 years to be exact. This year, we also offered some of the same courses in a different format, which we called “Self-Paced Blended Learning”, or SPBL for short. We did this to accommodate the students who wanted to take our courses but who couldn’t fit them into a Monday-to-Friday schedule given their school’s cyclical timetable.

To achieve this, we had to find a way to make our courses available in a format that would allow for self-pacing, while at the same time address the fact that students at that age need guidance. To balance independence with support, we blended the asynchronous with the synchronous. We decided that in addition to the asynchronous delivery of digital resources, teachers would meet each student individually on a weekly basis. Also, we’d create opportunities for students to interact with other students who were also following the course, both those in the SPBL format and those in the live (Real-Time) classes.

We’re now coming to the end of Year 1, so it’s time to record – and reflect on – what actually happened. Here goes!

The journey begins…

The first task for us was creating the online space for the course. This was started a few months before we launched the courses in September 2017, when we didn’t even know who, if anyone, would be taking them.  Each teacher filled in a template (provided by our project lead) for each unit in our course, which included everything the students would see – lessons, activities, quizzes – everything, as well as the context for each step. For example, a link to an assignment needed to be preceded by:

Please print this assignment, and complete it by Friday. Be sure to show all of your work! You may hand it in via fax or your dropbox.

The writing of the context proved to be time-consuming, and also extremely important, because it was the human part. More about that later.

The contents of the template were then uploaded to our Learning Management System (Sakai), made to look cohesive and orderly, then vetted by fresh eyes. The plan was that all of this would be done well before any student would see it – a good month at least, which we managed to meet, for the most part, despite simultaneously having a regular teaching load.  

How it all ended up looking:

All of the materials were organized by unit, week, and lesson. Here’s a snapshot of the landing page for one unit:

Upon clicking on a week, students would see an overview of the week’s lessons, plus a link to the checklist:


A lesson in this context was actually a single web page, which displayed a self-contained series of activities centered on a single topic. It generally included some kind of recorded delivery of content, (usually a VoiceThread, which is an interactive format of content delivery), some practice work from the text, the answer key, and a check for understanding. It may also have included other types of interactive elements, such as a Desmos activity, GeoGebra, PhET lab,  ExploreLearning Gizmo, or even a prompt to participate in a forum discussion. Here’s an example of a lesson page (rearranged slightly to fit here):

Check for Understanding:

The check for understanding may have been a self-correcting multiple choice question as in this case, or a link to a Google quiz, GoFormative, ExploreLearning gizmo, Seesaw reflection, etc. Again, this served both the teacher and the student. Both had regular reassurance that progress was happening.

Each lesson page ended with a reminder to go update the weekly checklist.


The weekly checklist was a means for keeping student and teacher connected in between the weekly meetings. Not only did it help the teacher to track student pacing, but it was a way for a student to let the teacher know of any issues – specifically those related to the content, such as if they needed help on one particular question or activity. They of course had other ways to contact us for more immediate issues, such as technical ones, but this was mainly for their reactions to the content.

Here’s a partial screen capture of a checklist (created using Google Forms):

The checklist listed everything that was contained in a whole week. We used the checkbox format, and included “Other” in case students wanted to tell us anything over and above the checkbox options.


Students wrote on good old-fashioned paper for some assignments and for all of their tests. Since all of our students attended a regular brick-and-mortar school, supervision was handled locally, and all paper & pencil work was transmitted to us via the school contact person. The SPBL students wrote the same assessments as our Real-Time students.

Weekly Meetings with Students:

Ideally, every student should have the opportunity to get 100% of their teacher’s attention and focus on a regular basis. What our SPBL students missed out on in the synchronous experience, such as social learning and the feeling of belonging to a group, they were compensated for in personalized learning.

Each meeting included a close look at all of the student’s own work, including and especially assessments. This was a golden opportunity to correct and redo any missed items right away, which is something that is essential for all students but which takes much longer in the real time class. Meetings were also used to look ahead at the next week. In addition, we might include any of those spontaneous things that may have happened during the live class, such as an interesting daily warm-up or an announcement about one of our all-school Twitter chats (that’s another blog post!).

Weekly Meetings with Project Team:

Every week, we had a meeting involving the whole project team. These meetings were to our mental health what water is to a plant. We were extremely fortunate to have at the helm a leader whose enthusiasm and insightful feedback kept us all moving ahead with our eyes on the prize. As a team, we evaluated our progress, compared notes, shared tips, reflected, and generally forged our year-long path together.  

This describes the common experience from the teachers’ point of view. Of course, there was some variation in the tools we each used, but the main components of the course structure, design, development and delivery… were the same. The next blog post will be our individual reflections on the actual boots-on-the-ground experience.


Reconciliation: Beginning the journey in schools

Collaboration spéciale de Sylvie Altarac, French teacher at Rosemere High School (RHS), SWLSB

This is a brief description of a long thought out endeavour on my part at bringing pedagogy and “Reconciliation 2017” to the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board.

Throughout the 2017-2018 school year, Sec 5 FSL at RHS students have worked on the MEES’s Broad Area of Learning “Vivre-ensemble et citoyenneté” and I arranged for them to receive a guest speaker: Michel Seguin, a Québec Métis.  Meanwhile, I was invited to Kanehsatà:ke by Scott Traylen, the principal at Ratihen:te, Kanehsatà:ke high school, and Angela Gabriel, the administrative assistant at Rotiwennakehte School to participate in a CBC radio talk show recording of Espace Autochtones where I expressed my views on “rapprochement“.


Because of the information contained in the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and because of the First Nation student population within Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board and RHS in particular, it is important for our society to try to open the channels of communication by the meeting and sharing of cultures.

Consequently, I created an opportunity for students to learn about each other and break down walls of silence and discrimination between the neighbour communities of Rosemere and Kanehsatà:ke.  Monica Walczak, a teacher at Ratihen:te, (the Kanehsatà:ke high school), and Angela Gabriel, responded to my request to participate in a “rapprochement” activity and consequently invited the RHS students to their school.

On March 23rd, 2018, RHS students participated in their first of its kind intercultural event where the Ratihen:te high school and its students greeted us. They shared  historical facts,  traditional singing and dancing as well as explained and made leather pouches.

This authentic intercultural exchange was a rich learning experience for the students. These are extraordinary times of truth and reconciliation between Canadians of different cultures. We are currently meeting to elaborate a cross curricular project for next year. I truly enjoy collaborating with my colleagues from the Kanehsatà:ke community.

A sampling of student testimonials:

“I very much enjoyed my experience at the high school we visited in Kanesatake. The field trip allowed me to meet many new people who I never otherwise would have met! I learned about their Native ancestors and how they now balance their traditions and culture with their school life, which was a beautiful thing to see. After talking one on one with many of these students, I realized that their community was extremely rich in love and acceptance, probably because they are always together. I am very grateful to have gotten the opportunity to visit this school- even now, I am still in contact with 2 people I met there who I now consider to be my friends! I hope that they get the chance to visit our school sometime soon.”  Chloé

“Visiting the school in Kanesatake was an amazing experience that we should repeat every year. Both schools had the chance to interact and learn from each other. We learned about their culture and their history [by] talking to them than reading from textbooks that were written by whites. We had a blast, and I wish more schools would do this activity.” Laura

“Having experienced going to Kanesatake to meet the First Nations and actually understand what it’s like to live in that community was such an honor. I enjoyed learning the culture and beliefs that make up who they are, which is such kind people. Their instruments, dances and crafts aren’t necessarily the same as the ones I’d ordinarily do at home although seeing this in person made me see that they shouldn’t be living in a different community than everyone else. There is no difference between us, we are all people and should live in harmony. It’s a shame. I hope to see them again soon and I hope all students from our school participate in the years to come in this fun outing.” Kelly

supports Education for Reconciliation by working with schools, communities, and organisations to put useful resources in the hands of educators. Our goal is to be more inclusive of Indigenous histories and to foster bonds between communities throughout Quebec.


Teaching Ed4Rec?  Browse ways to include or expand Education for Reconciliation in the classroom, and beyond.  Find classroom activities, curriculum connections, and other resources for educators.

Learning about Ed4Rec? Learn more about the history and current state of affairs of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis populations in Quebec and Canada: resources for educators, families, and community.

Helping to create a culture of Ed4Rec?  Be part of a developing culture of Education for Reconciliation in schools and beyond: success stories, projects, tools, partnership opportunities, and more.


Cell Phones in the Classroom: Music education in the BYOD era

Guest post by musician Louise CampbellArtist in Schools

I have a bias towards living life unplugged, especially when it comes to being in a classroom with a room full of students. Despite this preference, tech is a huge part of most of our lives today, and especially of our students’ lives. The goal of this post is to give you some tips on how to use cellphones in the classroom in a way that keeps student learning and creativity at the center of the experience.

Sound technology in their pockets

What’s one of today’s most accessible pieces of sound technology? Definitely cell phones. They record. They play back. They’re mobile. And most importantly, lots of your students have them. Our challenge is to make use of cell phone capabilities for artistic and educational purposes (N.B. As we all know, cell phone distraction is a real thing. And it has history! Alexander Graham Bell refused to have a telephone in his study because he considered it an intrusion on his work. I ask students to put their cells on airplane mode so we can use them purely for their sound capabilities and minimize distraction.)

First, let’s get your students thinking artistically about what effects they can create with multiple mobile sound sources. Here is one example to get started: I first used cell phones as a sound source when I was working on a dance piece. I wanted to create the illusion of a forest filled with birds using birdsongs and calls coming from many places and moving as they would in real life. That’s a bit of a challenge if you are only one clarinet player. On a whim I asked the dancers to play a pre-recorded track of birdcalls from their phones that they kept on them while they danced. The effect was magical. The space came alive with sound with a dimensionality I usually only experience when camping. To recreate this piece with your students, cue up the following track on 6-8 cellphones, launching each cell phone at different times over the course of 1 minute:

Songbird, performed and composed by Louise Campbell for clarinet and loop station, cell phone version performed during Banff Centre Creative Gesture Lab 2017

Engaging students in composing

Now for a creative music process using cell phones with your students. Brainstorm ideas with your students of the overall effect you want to create. Is it a rainstorm? A bustling crowd? A volcano erupting? A calm meditative hum? What sounds best evoke this effect? How best can these sounds be made: using instruments, found objects or voices? As you move through the following process you and your students will start to understand what is effective and make choices about what and how to record that will best serve your artistic idea.

The process:

  1. Set all cell phones to airplane mode to eliminate unwanted interruptions during recording and play-back.
  2. Using the cell phone’s built in microphone and recording app, ask students to record 3-5 sustained sounds separated by long silences. Play a crescendo and decrescendo on each sustained sound. If playing pitched instruments, you can leave the pitch choices open for the moment or establish pitches to choose from (see this blog post for details). Mic sensitivity varies greatly from one cell phone to another, so give students time to do several recordings with the cell phone placed 1 foot, 2 feet and 3 feet away from the sound source to determine what sounds best.

Example: Cell phone cue from sound design by Louise Campbell for Waxworks by Trina Davies, directed by Glenda Stirling (CUE production, 2017)


  1. Set the track to repeat and/or turn off the advance to next track function. If neither of these options is possible, record a ten second silence after the last sustained sound to give the student an opportunity to stop the sound file before it advances to the next song on their playlist.
  2. When all of the tracks are recorded, ask students to play the recordings starting at different times.

Example: Four cell phones playing the previous example track. I was going for an eerie, wailing sound to accompany a fairly disturbing scene from the play Waxworks. Creepy! And quite different than Songbird.

  1. Repeat #4, asking students to spread out around the room in different configurations. How does it sound when students are bunched together compared to spread far apart? How does it sound when only 6 cell phones are playing compared to 26? How does it sound when the recordings are started close to the same time, compared to started at different times over the course of 1-2 minutes? What can you alter, change, do differently to best invoke your artistic idea?

If you and your students are interested in creating something more like a ‘song’ either by one person or a small group of people, the process we just used is a hop, skip and a jump away from doing just that. Again, cell phones are an accessible way to go about it. Check out free and low-cost looping apps. The app Loopy is quite flexible, has good on-line tutorial videos, and is available for both iPhone and Android. From there, understanding how a looper works is the easiest thing in the world, because what a looper does best is repeat itself. Over. And over. And over. Ask one student to make a sound into the looper and I guarantee everyone will understand how it works. This element of looping is very helpful; it allows people to instantly hear what they played. Most people are quite refined listeners regardless of their experience in making music; they know right away if they like what they hear or not!

Student process : Nikola’s story

This was certainly the case with Nikola, a violinist in his first year of playing and the first student to use my looper after the demonstration I gave in class. We had the advantage of having completed two workshops on improvising in the Game genre, in addition to the excellent musical training he receives from his music teacher Karine Lalonde at École secondaire Pointe-aux-Trembles. Beyond that, I can take no credit for the following sound samples: I explained how looping works and Nikola took it from there. After a few trials, here is the first loop he made:

Rhythmic loop by Nikola, delay setting equivalent to mm=120

During the recording of this loop, Nikola wasn’t satisfied with a high, sustained sound and wanted something a little less piercing. Karine, a very fine violinist, showed him how to play a touch-fourth harmonic, which created exactly the kind of sound he was looking for.

Since Nikola’s first loop was rhythmic and droney, I suggested he do something contrasting using glissandi. Here is his second loop:

Glissandi loop by Nikola, delay setting equivalent to mm=120

After class, I wanted to show Nikola one example of what could be done with two contrasting loops. Here’s the result:

Loops by Nikola, arrangement and mix by Louise Campbell

What I would really like to hear is what Nikola would have done with his two loops. Again: free and low-cost apps can give students the tools to record, create and mix their own loops with a minimum of gear. Ask your students what they already know and do: chances are a few already make their own mixes. Use their favourite app, and you’ll have an expert who’s excited to share what they know with their newly plugged-in counterparts. Harness the excitement around tech, and the teaching and learning can go in countless directions!


Louise Campbell is a Montreal-based musician who specializes in participatory music making for amateurs of all ages and abilities. Her most notable work includes music improvisation and composition with elementary and secondary school students as an Artist in Schools (Playing the music game: Unplugged, Répertoire de ressources culture-éducation, Culture in Schools) and for disadvantaged youth (Les bonnes notes, Culture pour tous). For more music games and activities such as this, visit Louise’s blog at louisecampbell.ca

The Power of Our Words! Dismantling the Fixed Mindset Redux

I previously wrote about the Power of Words here. This is a follow up to that discussion, with even more concrete suggestions for changing the language we use in classrooms.

“It’s unbelievable how much you don’t know about the game you’ve been playing all your life.” Mickey Mantle

Why would a baseball legend, arguably the best all-time switch hitter in the game not consider himself an expert in baseball??? What does being an expert mean? Is perfection ever possible? Can one ever know all there is to know on any given subject? Does getting 100% on a test mean I’m done learning?

As educators, we know that our words have an impression on our students. We often hear our words coming out of their mouths, for better or for worse. What we might not always be aware of is how our words can topple dreams, change the course of history or even influence a student’s future career path. Dramatic? Consider that the student-teacher interaction is “the primary determinant of student success” according to Darling-Hammond (2000).  In fact, this interaction – in particular the words teachers use when addressing students – “is seen as the most important variable affecting student achievement, even more so than demographic factors” (Darling-Hammond 2000).

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” -John Keating

Which brings me to the crux of it all: Our words matter! The words we use can limit or set our students free; it is really that simple. Carol Dweck has labeled the fixed mindset often seen in schools as the “CEO disease,” i.e. striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs. The typical language that accompanies such a mindset goes some like, “I can’t…” “I’m no good…” “I’m not creative at…” “I failed…” Dweck’s extensive research into brain psychology suggests that developing a growth mindset in our educational system “requires not just maintaining a positive attitude, especially in the face of adversity, but developing the determination and self-confidence to try and keep trying.” Transforming our perceived limitations into ” I’m not there YET but I will get there eventually.” An open mindset and the words we use can “create a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval”. What educator doesn’t want that?

“The purpose of adopting a growth mindset is to encourage the children to reflect on their learning and progress.” – Carol Dweck

From the hallways at Pierre Elliot Trudeau Elementary school (EMSB) 

As an educator, opening your mindset can be as simple as using the word YET more amongst your peers and students. Put up a poster in the hallways of your school or classroom, and keep coming back to it with your colleagues and your students, and watch how it starts making curious, innovative, and creative learners.


Denton, P., EdD. (2015). The power of our words: Teacher language that helps children learn (2nd ed.). Turners Falls, MA: Center for Responsive Schools

Darling-Hammond, Linda. (2000). “Teacher Quality and Student Achievement:” Education Policy Analysis8(1). Accessed on 7 May 2018; http://epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/view/392/515>

Dweck, Carol. (2006). “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.” New York: Ballantine.

Écrire à la manière d’un auteur! Une approche pour la production écrite en FLS

Le 26 avril dernier a eu lieu le tout premier colloque L’école de demain s’affiche! des finissants des baccalauréats en éducation de l’Université de Montréal. Ce colloque, présenté sous forme d’affiches, marquait la fin de la formation initiale de quelque 450 futurs enseignants, ainsi que leur transition vers l’insertion professionnelle et la formation continue. Cette activité invitait les étudiants à prendre connaissance des projets de leurs collègues de tous les programmes pour retenir ce qui, dans le travail des autres équipes, pourra contribuer à leur propre développement professionnel.

Ce colloque se veut l’aboutissement de la démarche d’intégration des apprentissages qui est au cœur de programmes rénovés en 2014 de l’Université de Montréal. Cette démarche a pour visée d’amener les étudiants à faire des liens entre leurs cours de différentes disciplines, de même qu’entre leurs cours et leurs stages, notamment à partir de tâches intégratrices signifiantes. Comme dernière tâche intégratrice, les étudiants de 4e année ont eu à réaliser, en équipes, un projet qui leur tenait à cœur; c’est ce projet qu’ils présentent au colloque sous forme d’affiche.

À l’intérieur de ce cadre général, chaque programme a personnalisé la démarche pour répondre à ses objectifs propres. Au baccalauréat en enseignement du français, langue seconde (BEFLS), les étudiants ont réalisé une recherche pédagogique : après une recension d’écrits scientifiques et professionnels sur une question de leur choix, les étudiants ont développé une intervention ou un outil, qu’ils ont ensuite expérimenté en milieu scolaire. Ils ont, pendant l’élaboration de leur projet, bénéficié de la rétroaction d’experts du thème abordé.

Lors de cette journée, j’ai pu visiter l’exposition et discuter des projets avec les étudiants afin de choisir une affiche et de remettre un prix à l’équipe du programme de baccalauréat en enseignement du français, langue seconde.

J’ai choisi l’affiche Comment motiver les élèves à écrire en immersion au primaire? En écrivant à la manière d’un auteur! réalisée par Fannie Monette et Alex Lévesque, finissantes au baccalauréat en enseignement du français, langue seconde (BEFLS). Cette recherche pédagogique portait sur un enjeu du milieu scolaire qui leur tenait à cœur : la motivation des élèves à écrire en classe de FLS au primaire.

Leur recherche s’intéresse à l’apport du dispositif Écrire à la manière d’un auteur sur la motivation des élèves à écrire en immersion en sixième année du primaire et sur la qualité de leurs textes. La première phase consistait en l’écriture d’un texte non significatif par les élèves alors que la deuxième phase consistait en l’écriture d’un texte à la manière d’un auteur. À la suite de l’écriture des deux textes, les élèves devaient répondre à un questionnaire les amenant à réfléchir sur leur processus d’écriture des deux textes. Enfin, les données recueillies ont été analysées afin de voir la différence entre la qualité des premiers et deuxièmes textes, et entre la motivation à écrire entre la première et la deuxième phase de la recherche.

Voici donc leur affiche qui expose le contexte de la recherche, l’hypothèse, l’objectif, la méthodologie, l’analyse de résultats et la conclusion ainsi que le matériel utilisé.

Bonne découverte!

Cliquez sur l’affiche pour voir plus grand.















A blast from the past or back to the future?

Some time ago, my past caught up with me and it was both a pleasure and a shock.

In 1968, at the ripe young age of 22, I was a chemistry teacher to a group of Secondary IV students. Teaching was how I paid my university fees.

It turned out to be a very special group, mainly because these young people were interesting, curious, and antsy yet mature for their age. There was also a very special dynamic in the class that year because the students were assigned to groups which meant they shared all the same classes. This helped create cohesion and a wonderful sense of community that we don’t see as much in today’s teaching environment.

They had, among other things, decided that they needed representation and so, proceeded to elect a very competent president and vice-president. They then took the initiative to publish a class newsletter called “D’un bureau à l’autre” which I printed for them on a good old copy machine. I think that only baby boomers remember this machine which always left your fingers blue with ink and smelling of alcohol!

This part of the story is particularly important because what was printed in one of these newsletters with that machine came back to haunt me after all these years.

Recently, one of my students decided to plan a 50th anniversary reunion in September 2018. He was intelligent, resourceful and hyperactive fifty years ago; he hasn’t lost anything with age. Together with a few of his friends, he managed to retrace all their classmates: thirty, young, 65 year-olds!


But there is more. He had kept a copy of ALL their class newsletters, including the very last issue published after a long weekend spent at a camp in Mont-Rolland, an outing which these very resourceful students had organized for themselves and by themselves. At the time, they needed an adult presence, and so, as their home room teacher, I accompanied them. I admit that I don’t really remember much about it, but I do remember that I was more a willing participant than a chaperone. You can imagine the pleasure I had when I re-read that newsletter and rediscovered all that we had done together! But I had forgotten that I had contributed a text, an op-ed of sorts, to that issue, and it’s what I wrote 50 years ago which surprised me the most.

At age 22, I was an inexperienced teacher but I was already feeling a discomfort with teaching as I saw it then practiced. This is what I wrote:


Trying to describe and report on the experience that some of you have been fortunate enough to live would reduce to its simplest expression a complex set of facts, relationships, and friendships. Such a simplification could never account for the richness of this extraordinary weekend. So I prefer to let each one enjoy his or her personal experience. What I can only try to do here is put on paper some of the thoughts which it inspired.

For me, the most unforgettable result of this weekend is the collapse of two images reflecting a very specific type of relationship, that of “the pupil” and that of the “teacher”.

D'un bureau à l'autre
D’un bureau à l’autre

The free, cheerful yet serious relationship that developed during this long weekend contrasts strangely with the distance that characterized our school year. One may ask “Why the change?” Why had the questions that you asked about life, its meaning, and its purpose, not been discussed before? Why did your organizational skills and your varied interests not manifest themselves in the classroom as they were manifest this weekend?
(ED. Today I would nuance this by saying “manifest themselves as much”)

Will you tell me that in class “it’s different”, that it’s about “school subjects”, that there are exams, and that you have to “pass your year”? On this point, I couldn’t contradict you but, on the other hand, I have to ask whether “school subjects” and exams have meaning in and of themselves? What is a “school subject”? Should not all science and philosophy that we study be, above all things, the science and philosophy of life without which they are just sets of meaningless concepts?

I have bitterly felt that we all put our lives on hold while we are in school not because learning, knowing and understanding are of no interest to us but, to the contrary, because this interest, this curiosity is starved by what awaits us at the end of the semester or the year: the exam that must be passed.

The teacher then becomes the purveyor of what is required to pass the exam and not the one who, through his experience and knowledge, satisfies your desire to know and understand the world in which you live. All that remains is the “stereotyped” teacher standing before a mass of students no less anonymous, without singular personalities, whose only purpose is to pass the exams. This may seem exaggerated to one who has not lived what has been for me a genuine relationship between equal and autonomous individuals. But if that person should take the time to think about it, he will certainly be able to see, as I do, that all else is, by force of circumstance, fake and artificial.

-Christiane Dufour at age 22

So, I leave you with this question: is our teaching still driven by exams or have things fundamentally changed since then?

P.S. In contradiction to my statements above, their Latin teacher (yes, in 1968 they were taught Latin) was an exception to this rather dark vision. He did not so much teach them Latin, as discuss with them, through the great classics, important issues of our humanity. They remember it and him still.

Christiane Dufour at age 72

Vestige du passé ou retour vers le futur?

Il y a quelque temps, mon passé m’a rattrapé et ce fut à la fois un plaisir et un choc.

En 1968, j’enseignais la chimie du haut de mes 22 ans à un groupe d’élèves de Secondaire IV. C’est ainsi que je payais mes études universitaires.

C’était un groupe hors du commun, principalement parce que c’étaient des jeunes allumés, intéressants, curieux, à la fois grouillants et matures malgré leur jeune âge. Cette année-là, les groupes étaient stables, affectés à un local de classe avec des enseignants qui se déplaçaient de classe en classe. C’est une des choses qui a contribué à créer une cohésion et une complicité que l’on ne retrouve plus si souvent dans l’environnement actuel. Ils avaient, entre autres, décidé qu’ils avaient besoin de porte-paroles et procédé à l’élection d’une présidente et d’un vice-président très compétents.

Ils ont ensuite pris l’initiative de publier un journal de classe, « D’un bureau à l’autre » que j’imprimais pour eux sur une bonne vielle machine à copier Gestetner. Je pense que seuls les baby-boomers se souviennent encore de cette machine qui laissait toujours des traces d’encre et des odeurs d’alcool sur les doigts ! Cette partie de l’histoire est importante car c’est ce qui a été imprimé dans une de ces éditions avec cette machine qui est venu me hanter toutes ces années plus tard.

Un de mes élèves de l’époque a décidé de planifier une réunion du 50e anniversaire en septembre 2018. Il était intelligent, débrouillard et hyperactif il y a cinquante ans; il n’a rien perdu avec l’âge. Avec quelques-uns de ses amis, il a réussi à retrouver tous leurs camarades, une trentaine de jeunes de 65 ans! Mais il y a plus. Il avait gardé une copie de TOUS les journaux qu’ils avaient publiés, y compris le numéro publié après un long week-end passé dans un camp à Mont-Rolland, une sortie que ces étudiants très débrouillards avaient organisée pour eux-mêmes et par eux-mêmes.


Comme ils avaient besoin d’une présence adulte, en tant que leur titulaire, je les ai accompagnés. J’avoue que je ne m’en souviens pas vraiment mais je me souviens quand même que j’étais plus participante qu’accompagnatrice. Vous pouvez imaginer le plaisir que j’ai eu à lire cette édition du journal et à redécouvrir tout ce que nous avions fait ensemble. Mais j’avais oublié que j’ai contribué un texte à ce numéro, et c’est ce que j’ai écrit il y a cinquante ans qui m’a le plus surpris.

À l’âge de 22 ans, j’étais une enseignante inexpérimentée, mais je ressentais déjà un malaise avec l’enseignement tel que j’observais qu’il était pratiqué. Voici ce que j’ai écrit:


Tenter de décrire et d’inventorier l’expérience que quelques-uns ont eu la chance de vivre serait réduire à sa plus simple expression un ensemble complexe de faits, de relations et d’amitiés. Une telle simplification ne pourrait rendre compte de toute la richesse de cette fin de semaine inoubliable. Je préfère laisser à chacun le soin de vivre à sa façon cette expérience. Tout ce que je peux tenter de faire ici est de lancer sur papier quelques réflexions auxquelles je suis arrivée.

Il me semble que le résultat le plus inoubliable de cette fin de semaine a été l’écroulement de deux images, reflet d’un type de relation particulière, celle de « l’élève » et celle du « professeur ».

La relation libre, gaie mais très sérieuse qui s’est établie durant cette fin de semaine contraste étrangement avec les distances qui ont caractérisé l’année scolaire. On peut se poser la question du pourquoi de ce changement. Pourquoi les questions que l’on s’est posées sur la vie, son sens, son but, n’avaient-elles pas été posées avant? Pourquoi vos aptitudes à l’organisation et vos intérêts ne se sont-ils pas manifestés en classe comme ils se sont manifesté cette fin de semaine?
(NDLR : aujourd’hui je nuancerais en disant « autant manifestés »)

D'un bureau à l'autre
D’un bureau à l’autre

Me répondrez-vous qu’en classe « c’est différent », c’est de la « matière scolaire », il y a des examens, il faut passer son année? Sur ce point je ne puis vous contredire mais, en revanche, je vous demande si la « matière scolaire » et les examens ont un sens en soi ? Qu’est-ce qu’une « matière scolaire » ? Est-ce que toute science ou toute philosophie que l’on étudie ne doit-elle pas être avant tout science et philosophie de la vie sans quoi ce sont des ensembles de concepts vides de sens ?

J’ai ressenti avec âpreté que nous mettons chacun notre vie en suspens durant le temps passé à l’école, non pas parce qu’apprendre, savoir et comprendre ne présentent aucun intérêt pour nous mais bien au contraire parce que cet intérêt, cette curiosité est brimée par ce qui nous attend au bout du semestre ou de l’année : l’examen qu’il faut passer.

Le professeur devient alors celui qui dispense la connaissance qui permettra de passer l’examen et non celui qui, par son expérience et ses connaissances, satisfait un désir de connaître et de comprendre le monde dans lequel on vit. Tout ce qui reste, c’est le professeur « stéréotypé » devant une masse d’élèves non moins anonymes, sans personnalités propre et dont le seul but est qu’ils passent leurs examens. Tout ceci pourra sembler exagéré à celui qui n’a pas vécu ce qui a été pour moi une relation authentique entre individus égaux et autonomes. Mais si cette personne se donne la peine d’y réfléchir un peu, elle pourra certes constater avec moi que tout le reste n’est, par la force des choses semble-t-il, que faux et artificiel.

Christiane Dufour à 22 ans

Je vous laisse donc avec cette question : les examens dictent-ils encore notre enseignement ou est-ce que cette réflexion n’est plus pertinente aujourd’hui?

PS. En contradiction avec mes affirmations ci-dessus, leur professeur de latin (oui, en 1968 on leur enseignait encore le latin) était une exception à cette vision plutôt noire. Il ne leur a pas tant enseigné le latin que discuté avec eux, à travers les grands classiques, des grands enjeux de notre humanité. Ils s’en souviennent encore et se souviennent aussi de lui.

Christiane Dufour à 72 ans