A teacher’s words: Respecting students’ choices

As a teacher, you learn constantly from a lot of people about how to do your job but amongst the biggest inspirations regarding the Dos and Donts are your own teachers when you were younger. One thing I learnt from a PE teacher I had throughout my lycée years, so 16-18 years old, was to respect pupils/students’ choices when it comes to major decisions, even, and especially, when you would disagree with them.

I was 17 and that was the final year before university, the one that can only be cleared if you pass the Baccalauréat, which is terribly difficult and daunting in France. That was the first day of PE (or sports) for the senoir years – Terminales – and all of us were to be sorted in three groups so the on-going examination could start. You never sit a PE exam, what you do throughout the year will be your final grade.

So we were offered three options:
1. Swimming/Basketball/Athletics.
2. Gymnastics/Volley ball / Badminton.
3.Volley ball / Basketball / Swimming.

As I said, how you are going to fare during the three trimesters at each sport is going to determine your final mark and the extent to which the door to university is open. Having a terribly weak spot in Maths, I was not going to risk it so I put myself in Group 2 because I used to be a gymnast, I love volley ball and have a killing serve, and am unbeatable at badminton.

However, Group 2 found itself overflowing. The teachers needed an evenly spread number of students in each group, about 30, and we were 45 in Group 2. I guess the choices of sport were poor and, frankly, as teenagers, we pretty much all wanted to avoid the pool at all costs for it meant tiny speedos et al… So there we went for 20 minutes of three teachers standing in front of their seating groups, with Group 1 particularly empty, trying to convince almost a third of Group 2 to join the others.

Some are convinced, stand and go sit on the opposite corners. I don’t really pay attention that we are coming close to 30 in my group until my name echoes in the building and the PE teacher I had the past two years singles me out so I would switch. She knows I am obedient, quiet and would rather die than make a fuss but I refuse. She then proceeds to tell I am “too fat for gymnastics”…In front the whole year and I am “good at basketball”.

I am fuming. I have been struggling with my weight for over 7 years, secondary school was five years of endless bullying that drove close to suicide countless times and during my lycée years, I was stubbornly refusing to eat anything during the day and would only eat in the evening.

But I keep it down and refuse, again. She insists, piling up on the insults and spreading my whole performance sheet of the last two years for everyone to hear and which turns out to be highly erroneous. This goes for a couple of minutes until I stand up in front of the whole assembly, boiling, my hands shaking, clenched into fists so it doesn’t show and I tell her she is wrong.

I am 1m76 tall, I say, which doesn’t not bode well for basketball, a sport I absolutely loathe and being forced to play it every single year since primary school has not helped. I find the ball too big, too hard, the rules are inexplicably complicated and I have never managed to actually net a single ball in my life. As far athletics, I walk faster than I run. I need 20 minutes to walk my 3.2 km to school every day morning then evening but still require almost 50 minutes for the same distance when running.

She retaliates with javelin and discus in which I am indeed quite good but she can’t commit to them being as important as all the running we will have to do. As for swimming, I tell her she should know I can’t do it after teaching me for the past two years. Indeed, the chemical in the pool and the endless diving we have to do trigger debilitating ear infections and cause all the tiny blood vessels in eyes to burst. There is no discomfort in terms of vision but I do look like I am coming from the Village of the Damned. My eyes are entirely red with blood except for the iris and it takes weeks to recede. On other hand, she does know I was a gymnast and I have always been top of the class in volley ball and badminton.

She doesn’t give up so I go on the attack and tell her this is my exams, my future, my decision to take, not hers. She actually made those two first points very clear before presenting the groups. I know why I am being singled out, because she assumed I would bow and do as said but this is the most important exam of my life. Would she to overrule me, I will go the school authorities, if not enough the Rectorat de Versailles, which rules over every academic questions in the west of Paris, to get my way. It’s about me, not about the school’s poor decisions in setting up the options and limiting the numbers.

It’s been 16 years, half of my life ago, and I remember every word I said, the stunt silence in the room in the face of someone who has never caused any trouble and is now standing up to a his teacher. The silence felt endless.

We stare at each other. Like with my dogs, I will not let go until she lets go. She eventually does, looks at her two colleagues and signals for me to sit down in a resigned manner. Group 2 remained with 34. Come to think of it, there seemed to be a general feeling that I was talking sense and some would follow my lead so the case needed to be closed asap.

As a teacher today, I am still using that day to know how to behave when my students are facing my life-altering choices: GCSEs, A-Levels, university pick…even adults when deciding whether to sit an exam or not. Why? Because I am the one who makes the final call for I sign the papers or am the link between the hierarchy / exam boards and the student so I try to be everything that PE teacher wasn’t that day.

What I wanted from this teacher was for her to realise that my choice was not whimsical. I didn’t sit on the part of room assigned to Group 2 because I followed my friend or I wanted to avoid something. I chose because I listened to the options and I went for what I knew would benefit me the most. I chose excellence before anything else but she disputed that in the worst possible way. I would have accepted her trying to understand my motives behind my decision but she didn’t. Maybe because of my age or because she didn’t care about me, which is worst as a teacher, she just flatly countered me, called me fat in front of a room full of teenagers and relentlessly picked on me until I had to threaten her.

I also wanted her to realise there was a much bigger question behind getting an even number of students in each group: our future. At the end of the year, every single of the 14 or 15 subjects I had to sit for my Baccalauréat mattered towards the end grade and, as we were told constantly, this was our responsibility to ensure we succeeded. We were not children anymore, school was not compulsory anymore at our age so teachers were there simply to teach us and we were there to ensure to get and make the best out of it. All of that was irrelevant to her: she needed numbers to match her administrative expectations.  At the time, I felt she could have made the case for a bigger group because of badly chosen options and learn from it. Today, I am sure of it because I experienced it.

Nowadays, if there is a numerus closus or an obligation for me to ensure the best results and therefore the best candidates for any kind of selection process, and if I am in disagreement or have my doubts regarding the choice of X or Y: I ask questions about choices but never question them as such. I interview the ones I think would struggle considering the present data so I can give them the information I have, the conclusions I drew from them so I can assess their motivation for I know someone motivated and willing can achieve greater than someone who might be better to begin with but takes their talent for granted. And I do that privately, one to one or with parents and selected teachers because they lead in the subjects in questions, not name and shame in public.

At the end, I was vindicated with a reasonable 10/20 in gymnastics, a 16/20 in volley ball and a 18/20 in badminton. That’s a overall of 14.5/20 in PE.

Casual racism: Anne-Marie Morris

The N bomb was dropped once again, this by a Conservative MP in the UK, Anne-Marie Morris and there are two things I want to address.

First, she apologised for the “offence caused.” The problem is not the offence caused, it’s the casual racism. Apologising for the offence puts the spotlight on the offended as if what they took out of it her using the N-word was not how it was intended in the first place. She is a politician, and not a novice, she was taking part in a debate about Brexit so she knows about the power of words and that word is not ‘offensive’, it is plainly and simply racist.

Second, she said it was said “unintentionally” and to me that speaks volume. The N-word is so deeply embedded in her everyday vocabulary that it pops up like an expletive when you hurt yourself. Of course, you can have these moments when for whatever reasons, you say something really bad but then you react at once: apologise, try to make it right, show shame…It happens.

However, Anne-Maria Morris didn’t even realise she said it. She used the N-word and only after people pointed it out, did she acknowledge it. That’s how deeply normal that use of the N-word is to her – or how ill-conceived her pride is in refusing to be human and grovel on the spot. This is casual racism at its worst – or best, depending whence you look. It’s normal, it’s something that you do so often, you don’t even pay attention to it anymore. Like men calling every woman who disagree with them “Slut!” only to appear contrite if told so.

Now there are calls for her to step down, for the Tories to take actions. As an individual, I want people like that to eventually be educated out of such language so yes, I want her remove but politicians are here to represent their constituents so that’s for them to decide whether her casual racism is akin to theirs or if she has betrayed what they believe in.

Be careful for what you wish for, Your Grace.

Handsome Harry has a problem: he hates belonging to the most privileged people in the world and says no Windsors currently wants to be king so now let’s have a quick look at the terrible fate that awaits him and his kin.

Being the monarch is a tough job, but someone has to do it, even if reluctantly. In a magazine interview, Prince Harry has suggested that none of the royal family actually wants the throne.

‘Tough job.” There are a lot of tough jobs out there: teaching, working in A&E, driving a bus, collecting bins, cleaning the streets and being a King apparently. Although, I highly doubt those jobs pay over £3 million every month like being a King does. I can’t speak for other professions, but as a teacher, I can expect a good £1.400/month if I take on some responsibilities in addition to my teaching. And that’s a good salary!

Yes the “tough job” Harry is describing currently pays about £40 million/year and, unlike the rest of the good working people of England in their tough job, the Windsors are in line for a raise of £2.8 million/year which adds to a 57% pay rise since 2012. So let’s admit the £40M stand, that’s £3.3 million/month. For the rest of the tough jobs, it’s bleak I am afraid but let’s try to empathise with the fate of the royal family.

Let’s not forget that the Windors’ tough job comes with free accommodation in the centre of London and a myriad of palaces paid off and maintained by the taxpayers. Weddings needn’t be paid for, nor need your birthdays or any other major life events for that matter. You are provided with hundreds of personal servant as well as bodyguards who parade at great expense everyday, a plethora of carriages – some in pure gold and a fleet of cars so large that even your crown has its own.

The question then begs: why? Why do they get to be given so much? What does the tough job involve to come with such perks, money and yet be such a drag?

“We are involved in modernising the British monarchy. We are not doing this for ourselves but for the greater good of the people,” he said.

My, that modernisation must be a heck of a job, whatever that means in actual fact. Marrying “commoners”, perhaps? That’s modern, ain’t it? No, that’s just because all your parents and grand-parents are cousins and you desperately need to avoid the fate of the Habsburgs or yet another inbreeding-related endemic like hemophilia and mental health issues that came after Queen Victoria and King Christian IX decided they wanted the whole of Europe’s rulers to be their grand-children.

So is it having a beard and playing football with kids in Africa – between two safaris, a hunting trip and some strip snooker in Las Vegas? Charity doesn’t pay (ask Doctors Without Borders), hunting is archaic, and the playing naked and drunk in Vegas is only seen as ‘modern’ by penniless chavs on their quite unenjoyable stag night.

Maybe I am being mistaken on what he means by modernising the monarchy but I don’t see why it justifies a rent-free life at Kensington or Buckingham Palace in addition to the 3.3 millions pounds you get every single month.

“Is there any one of the royal family who wants to be king or queen? I don’t think so, but we will carry out our duties at the right time.”

First, his father begs to differ.

Second, “we will carry our duties”, yes you will! That’s we pay you for so if we say “Dance monkey!”, you dance and you don’t get upset because comes to think about it, you have no other purpose whatsoever. Your tough job is not a job, it’s birth right that some people in a far past and who are as much related to you as to me gave themselves after they actually served a purpose. Their life was Games of Throne without the dragons. Whereas yours is a apology of privilege-born blasé laziness. Your academic degrees were given to you, your record in the army is anything but grand and the only reason why you can afford to do so much charity work is because your nan is the Queen so she gets paid £3.3 million/month.

Now, if you really do resent the “tough job” to the extent of going public with it, then remove yourself from the line of succession, give up your privileges, give the money back and live a normal life. But do not publicly go to tell the rest of us who struggle to meet ends and must go by in the shittiest jobs that you don’t want to be something you will be if and when your father, brother, nephew and niece were to die.

Be careful for what you wish for, Your Grace: do not lead your people to actually ponder a world where you don’t exist and where you have no use, for you will be surprised of how extremely livable life is without tending and pandering to the most outrageously over-privileged people the Earth has ever accommodated.

Your tough job…I’ll do it! Let’s swap. Not for a day but forever. I’ll give the 10-, 12-, 15-hour working days, the screaming kids, the insulting parents, the down-looking management and the pay squeeze and you give me the free money, the palaces, the never-ending holidays, the cooks, the fitness trainers, the countless servants and I will do the “tough job”. For that money, for that comfort in life, I will sit on that throne and smile until my teeth come off and the best dentist that ever that was gives me new ones…for free.

As an atheist, I will even graciously bow and blow smoke up the Archbishop of Canterbury’s arse if asked. I’ll do anything so my future can look as worry-free, secured and bright as yours looks everyday. I will do your tough job, Your Highness. Anything, so the only three things I can worry about is: my hair falling, the colour of my ties and who I am dating that doesn’t draw too much of my nan’s wrath.

And, my Lord, I think you’ll find millions of people would do your tough job if they could considering the life it comes with. I am not saying we would forever like it but for £3.3 million/month, I’ll do it for a couple of years then, once I am rich beyond my dreams, I’ll pass it on to the next volunteer and so on and so forth.

Maybe that’s it, maybe that’s modern monarchy.

 

Just sayin’ – You pervs!

A young teenage girl, let’s say she’s 12 or 13, is walking past you during a hot day wearing short shorts. You then hurry to tell the people with whom you are how inappropriate it is for her to wear something “so revealing” when she is “that young”. You can “almost see her arse.”

Now, let me be clear, man or woman: akin to people who think women who breastfeed should hide, the problem is not with her but with you and only you. For you sadly belong to those people who cannot help but see sex everywhere. In the bare breast of a mother as well as in the thighs of a 12 year-old girl.

Solution? Spent less time shaming young girls because you see them as nothing but sexual lumps of flesh who should cover themselves more in the name of decency. “I wouldn’t let my daughter wear this!” All the while shaming Muslim women for wearing too much. And work on yourself. What you will find is not going to be appealing but deal with it!

Ce n’est pas “kif-kif”, non…

Il est grand temps qu’on arrête de prendre aussi facilement à l’hameçon des politiciens véreux qui se plaisent à pointer du doigt les autres en nous disant qu’ils sont comme eux. Je parle des Marine Le Pen et de Fillion qui, n’arrivant pas à cacher les tâches d’encre noire sur un linceul qu’ils présentent comme vierge, bombardent sans discernement, et en toutes connaissance de conséquences, tous leurs adversaires d’accusations non-fondées, voire complètement réfutées et facilement réfutables.

L’intention est de créer de la fausse équivalence : quand on n’a pas le choix que de faire face à ses actions, on se tourne vers son adversaire et on dit aux autres « Lui, il est comme moi. Même pire, si vous saviez… » Sans aller plus loin, bien sûr. On ne veut pas non plus aller se faire attaquer en diffamation…

Néanmoins, le mal est fait car nombreux sont les gens qui mordent à l’hameçon et il ne s’agit pas que des classes sociales les moins éduquées et des gens les plus pauvres. J’en ai déjà parlé et il s’agit simplement des fainéants, des gens qui ne regardent jamais plus loin que ce qu’on leur dit, des gens qui refusent d’assumer la responsabilité de leur première et plus importante liberté d’expression : le droit de vote.

Alors on finit avec le discours qui dit volontiers : « Macron/Le Pen, kif-kif, même combat ». On vote blanc ou on s’abstient en oubliant de distinguer une seule essentielle entre les deux. Une chose complètement noyée dans la fausse équivalence : leur vision de la société française et l’Etat de droit. On nous dit : « Ni Patrie, Ni Patron » et qu’on ne veut donc pas voter mais on oublie volontiers de dire que dans l’une de ces deux conceptions accusent l’Etat de droit et les libertés qu’il entraine de tous les maux actuels et prônent leur abrogation pur et simple.

Je ne suis pas un supporter de Macron pour des raisons que j’ai mentionnées auparavant mais au fur et à mesure des deux semaines entre les deux tours et en regardant Trump détruire toutes les avancées des huit ans d’Obama à coups de décrets présidentiels, je me suis rappelé 2002 et ce que signifie ce vote. En effet, si Macron me fait me poser des questions sur certaines orientations économiques, il a quelque chose qu’on ne peut pas renier : le respect inhérent et incontesté de la démocratie et de l’Etat de droit.

Quand je pense à lui, je me pose des questions sur le montant de la retraite de ma mère, certes, mais je ne m’en pose aucune sur son droit, en tant que femme, à travailler, à être chef d’entreprise, à être divorcée, à acheter une maison en son nom sans l’autorisation d’un homme ou de s’être faite avorter pour des raisons qui ne concernent qu’elle. La vision du monde par Macron respecte les femmes en tant que citoyennes à part entière, leurs droits à disposer d’elles-mêmes et ce sans condition. Et je ne pourrai jamais en dire autant de Marine Le Pen, de ses alliés et de ses soutiens.

Quand je vois Macron, je n’ai aucune peur pour mes libertés en tant qu’homosexuel. J’ai des questions sur la précarité de mes emplois mais je ne me suis jamais demandé comment j’allais faire pour survivre s’il devenait président parce que je devrais cacher mes préférences amoureuses et comment le faire maintenant que j’ai accepté qui je suis. Je sais que ma sexualité ne sera pas une arme que l’Etat va utiliser contre moi parce que Macron est un démocrate qui comprend que ce n’est pas un choix que j’ai fait un jour mais quelque chose que je suis. Je sais qu’il va respecter mes droits et n’a jamais eu la moindre intention de les abroger. Et je ne pourrai jamais en dire autant de Marine Le Pen, de ses alliés et de ses soutiens.

Il en va de même pour tous les gens qui n’ont pas choisi leur lieu de naissance, celui de leurs parents, ou de leurs grands-parents, ceux qui n’ont pas choisi leur couleur de peau, les écoles dans lesquelles ils sont allés et les quartiers dans lesquels ils ont grandi. Même si sa vision économique est en léger décalage avec la mienne,  je sais que Macron continuera à travailler pour que ceux qui le désirent, tous ceux qui y travaillent soient considérés comme des citoyens à part entière sans bannière ou badge qui indique bien qu’ils passent après. Et je ne pourrai jamais en dire autant de Marine Le Pen, de ses alliés et de ses soutiens.

Il en va de même pour les choix de chacun comme la religion ou la mouvance politique. Avec Macron, je sais que j’ai le droit d’être athée et de gauche, que mes amis peuvent être ouvertement juifs, musulmans ou catholiques, socialistes, communistes, conservateurs, nationalistes, patriotes et anarchistes, voire même fascistes parce que Macron prône une société plurielle où tout le monde cohabite, où le désaccord est une bonne chose. Et je ne pourrai jamais en dire autant de Marine Le Pen, de ses alliés et de ses soutiens.

Il y a aussi le choix de l’immigration, les millions de gens qui ont choisi de venir, non pas pour « voler le brave Français » mais pour apporter une pierre à l’édifice, comme je l’ai fait en Angleterre, je le fais en Espagne et je le ferai bientôt en Suède. Je sais que ces gens auront la protection du chef de l’exécutif et de l’Etat si quelques tentent de les attaquer d’une manière ou d’une autre. Et je ne pourrai jamais en dire autant de Marine Le Pen, de ses alliés et de ses soutiens.

Si Macron me donne quelques angoisses sur quelques chiffres liés à l’économique, je n’ai que des certitudes apaisées sur le respect de droits de chacun à être qui il est et qui il veut être. Et je ne pourrai jamais en dire autant de Marine Le Pen, de ses alliés et de ses soutiens qui m’évoquent de suite les termes de « citoyens de seconde classe », « remise en cause du droit de… », « abrogation du droit de… », exclusion, ségrégation, priorité ethnique qui renient les bases de la République.

Je peux comprends que pour la majorité, ces aspects sociaux de droit des personnes sont secondaires quand les angoisses économiques sont partout. C’est d’abord parce qu’on nous répète constamment qu’il n’y a que l’économie qui compte, c’est aussi parce que ces angoisses sont réelles et doivent trouver des réponses mais c’est aussi parce que ce sont aussi des gens qui n’ont jamais eu à se poser des questions d’identité, d’appartenance, qui n’ont pas jamais eu à réfléchir à leur place dans la société autrement qu’en termes de travail. Je comprends que les droits de l’autre ne soit pas leur priorité et qu’ils s’imaginent que leurs libertés civiles et civiques ne répresentent rien face à leurs droits économiques. Je ne l’accepte pas mais je le comprends.

Néanmoins, il n’empêche que comparer Macron et Le Pen, c’est joué volontiers le jeu de démagogues qui veulent que vous oubliez qu’il y a plus en jeu que des montants d’impôts et de retraite : il y a toute la société, la France,  la République, nous en tant qu’humains et pas ressources humaines. C’est comparer la démocratie et le néo-fascisme en disant : « Mêmes différences ! ». Pas exactement, non…

Choisir Le Pen est le choix d’un Etat qui renie l’article premier de la constitution disant que la République est une et indivisible, que nous sommes tous Français, nés libres et égaux devant le droit. C’est un vote pour une division officielle de la société en groupe de citoyens en fonction de leur nom, leur couleur de peau, leurs origines, leur sexe, leur sexualité, leur religion, leurs idées politiques. Une société divisée où chaque groupe a des droits et des devoirs différents, et mais surtout dans laquelle un groupe privilégié existe, non parce que certains lois sont mal faites mais parce que le leader suprême en a décidé ainsi. Voter Le Pen est voter pour l’apartheid qui se lit fièrement dans toutes ses promesses.

Voter Macron, c’était voter pour la République telle que nous n’avons cessé de la construire depuis 1789. Ce n’est pas sans mal et elle n’est pas parfaite mais voter Macron c’était accepter ses principes fondamentaux de liberté et de marche vers l’égalité pour tous. Une marche que le Front National n’a aucune intention de poursuivre. Bien au contraire.

Aujourd’hui, ceux qui ne parviennent pas à voir ces différences entre les deux candidats qui sont vitales pour l’avenir de notre société ont de sérieuses questions à se poser sur ce qu’ils attendent de la démocratie, des questions sur leur conception même de la démocratie. Des questions qui vont bien plus loin que des promesses électorales.