These teachers slamming the door of education…

They’re leaving. They dare to leave. They are leaving the national education system. Maylis Turlay, a teacher at the Paris Academy for eight years after being a dancer in her first professional life. Amélie Suet, a teacher for nine years, three of which in Germany. Margot Lopez, teacher since 6 in the academy of Versailles, for whom teaching is a vocation and a real passion, I can’t see myself doing anything else since I was eight years old. When their former and former colleagues return to school in September, Maylis will be responsible for editing and content. Margot will teach at a bilingual school in Berkeley, California. And Amélie will train to become a coordinator of humanitarian projects. All three give the reasons for their departure. They accuse a disastrous evolution of their profession.

There are teachers who slam the door of national education or who demand availability – rarely accepted – to embark on a new professional project. There are few rooms of the masters and mistresses where one does not hear about reconversion. Few, however, dare to take the plunge. Since 2019, school teachers – like all civil servants – can enjoy a conventional break, a possibility introduced by the Public Service Transformation Act. This is a step forward, it means the agent can leave with allowances and get unemployment. But all this remains very theoretical because the academies have few resources to finance these departures. So often the answer is no.

Teachers therefore have few options to leave. Ask for availability, to maintain the competitive advantage and be able to return to national education or resign. They are rarely accepted unless they are right. This is a direct result of the cruel lack of teachers, their low fees regarding the necessary diplomas, the lack of recognition, but also the new way of running the school in the way of a private company called New Public Management.

Availability of Rights, Conventional Termination and Dismissal

Maylis Turlay was able to take advantage of an availability of rights because she was the mother of twin girls who are less than twelve years old. “I am very fortunate to have had the right to take care of my children and I have requested an additional activity that is compatible with that as it allows me to work from home,” explains the teacher. “If I resigned, I could ask for a contractual termination and receive a severance package, but these are rarely accepted. With the simple dismissal there is no bonus and we do not get unemployment. The only thing we can claim after ten years of service is training leave.”

For Amélie Suet it’s banco! She’s one of the lucky few to have benefited from a mutually agreed-upon breakup. “I did not ask for availability or resign because I would have been left without resources. Certainly of my choice for professional reorientation, I prefer to accept a request for mutual agreement. I am leaving with some allowances to finance part of my education. I am entitled to unemployment benefits if necessary. The interview went well and I quickly received a positive response. I think I was lucky, but the fact that my allowances, with little seniority, are not very high probably played in my favour”.

As for Margot, she had to opt for the most radical solution: resigning. “At the beginning I asked for a secondment, which we can ask from T2 (note: sophomore homeroom teacher), to teach for three years at a bilingual school in California. The secondment was refused due to service requirements, as well as the request for availability for personal reasons. They explained to me that the current state in my academy did not allow the teachers to leave, and when they appealed my file I was told that the secondment would be automatically refused if I did not have twelve years of seniority in the academy from Versailles. With only four years under my belt, I couldn’t see myself waiting another eight years. So I thought about it and asked the director of the bilingual school if he wanted to hire me after all, since I had resigned. He confirmed that yes. I thought again. But after a particularly complicated year, I had no trouble deciding. I thought about my salary here, which is very low – barely 1800 euros net, the number of hours I work per week, the working conditions. I told myself that nothing would change and that I would be stuck in this academy for a very long time anyway.

So I stopped to try and fulfill my dream of teaching in the United States. I submitted my resignation request and it was accepted within a week. I did not ask for a contractual termination and it would not have been useful in my case anyway because I will start a new contract immediately at the end of August. I haven’t hesitated to quit my job without asking for something in return because I’ve had the guarantee of another job, but I know it’s more complicated to get benefits or unemployment for colleagues who want net security before going elsewhere find a job,” says Margot.

National education: a machine to crush teachers?

The three teachers have in common the love of the teaching profession, but the way of managing the national education has exhausted them. “I’ve been thinking about changing careers for a year or two, but it wasn’t a mature project, I knew I was going to leave, but I hadn’t really thought about the why or how,” Maylis explains. “And then a professional opportunity presented itself to me and suddenly I didn’t hesitate, I grabbed it right away. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to return to the body if this new experience does not please me. However, I don’t think I’ll be going back. I am relieved to leave national education. I feel that today there is no project or vision for schools in France. School teachers are abandoned, they face many problems that are not their responsibility due to the lack of specialized teachers, social workers, school doctors… Staff and students are left behind. The re-election of Emmanuel Macron marked the fact that nothing would change for the next five years, so yes, it pushed me to the exit.”

For Amélie, who was lucky enough to take advantage of the conventional break: “I had a professional project again. To deepen it and be sure of my approach, I did a skills assessment that confirmed my project. I knew when I got into the business that I wouldn’t spend my entire career there, would like to explore different professional backgrounds and vary my missions. Whatever the government says, there are very few opportunities for advancement in National Education. Impossible for me with so little seniority to start, say, a CAPPEI degree… If the working and development conditions had been better, I probably would have waited a few more years before transferring. But the liberalization of public education that is being implemented made me not want to continue at all, on the contrary” explains Amélie “I am happy with my decision, but it is true that it is a bit dizzying. Telling myself I’ll probably never stand in front of students again makes me feel weird, I’ll miss them! Since I signed my contractual termination agreement, I often dream that I forgot to place my order, that I did not order the correct notebooks or that my diary is not ready! Proof that it is a profession that we experience intensely, in which we invest well outside the classroom,” she explains.

Good luck to colleagues to keep the desire to teach

Margot sits in the middle of her boxes. And even if she leaves to fulfill her dream, to teach in the United States, this departure, she fears it. “I’m disgusted at losing the competitive edge, especially because I was very proud of my results and it guaranteed me a job. So I say to myself: when I finally come back to France, what am I going to do? But for my part, everything is prepared. I am collecting all my things, my principal is waiting for me in the United States, my new school too. I am lucky that there is a project behind it”.

And when asked about a possible return, “I don’t think so, given the speed at which working conditions are deteriorating, unless a miracle happens,” Maylis replies. Amelie is more nuanced. ‘It’s not my wish, but who knows? Finding students one day wouldn’t displease me. It will, of course, also depend on the evolution of national education and Macron’s policies unfortunately do not bode well. Good luck to colleagues for maintaining the desire and joy of teaching while continuing to fight for a quality, egalitarian education that allows everyone to thrive! †

As for Margot, she doesn’t think so. “If I have to go back to France, I think of different options. Use my experience abroad to apply for private education in France, or try the competition again and start all over again, but in a different academy, maybe in the south of France, but in any case not Versailles or Paris or Créteil, because we are really stuck here, and our salary is the same whether we teach in the countryside or in the big city, while the rents go from basic to triple! But I have high hopes for a stay abroad. Fingers crossed! †

Lilia Ben Hamouda

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