“With our young people, the desire to act is natural”

The Cross the Weekly : What makes you get up in the morning?

Sandrine Wijdemann: The desire to help our young people grow, in every sense of the word. Here, of course, we transfer knowledge, but also life skills, involving human, social and spiritual values. I think about justice, solidarity, commitment, joy… It’s a big challenge: when I was offered my job, I wondered if I could run such an institution. †

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I don’t have the answer to this question, but I certainly enjoy working there because I am convinced that the school is and should remain a strong institution. My work environment is also not to be neglected: Notre-Dame de Mongré has a prestigious history and an imposing heritage that we want to preserve. For example, I find that these large spaces and this huge park are soothing to those who spend their day there, children and adults alike.

My job is naturally time-consuming, so I use the route between Lyon, where I live, and Villefranche-sur-Saône, where I work, as a decompression or preparation lock. In the morning I take the time to get all the energy and enthusiasm I need. I never know what the day has in store for me and I think I love it!

From your establishment, how are things with the French?

SW: Frankly, I have the impression that the French are doing a little better than they were some time ago. Here, for example, smiles have returned to the faces of teachers and students since they rediscovered the joy and interest of sharing the classroom. But I have to say that the two years of the pandemic have changed some people. The crisis has sometimes led to professional and personal problems within families, which have directly affected the lives and work of children or adolescents.

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And then I think especially of the teachers: some have developed fear, and we need to reassure them, even now. In general, I also notice that a certain amount of anxiety has developed among high school students, especially since the baccalaureate reform. There is the difficulty of projecting yourself in secondary studies, the fear of failing, and above all the weight of continuous monitoring… From the outside we can see a lot of benefits in it, but when we are interested in it felt by young people , we understand that they feel like they are constantly playing their future.

What is your assessment of the past five years?

SW: I feel like everything is moving faster and faster, and I think it has to do with the important place digital technology has taken in our lives. Young people were born in a connected era and give the impression of having a perfect command of these objects, these formats, these languages. But around them, families and teachers are quickly overwhelmed. Here we have put a lot of effort into adapting, with many pros and cons. As for communication with parents, if it’s gotten faster, I find it sometimes intrusive…

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But what touches me most is the impact of social networking on the lives of middle and high school students. This changes the management of their image, the nature of their relationships… Even though we carry out awareness actions to prevent flooding, we have chosen for some time to redirect them towards two priorities: that teenagers use social networks to wise and that they have a perfect knowledge of the problems behind it all.

Has a scene marked you recently?

SW: The outpouring of solidarity that was organized here right after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. Students and parents flocked to bring products and clothes quickly, and even volunteer to volunteer to welcome singles or families. It is in these moments that we realize how natural the desire to act is in our young people.

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This reminds me of a group of students who recently conceived and organized an “Earth Week” to emphasize the ecological approach. This energy and this creativity is very exciting. And when you’re in charge of an establishment, you’re excited to see, or at least think, the transmission of our values ​​is paying off.

What would you most like not to lose?

SW: To trust. It took some time to build, but it is what keeps Notre-Dame de Mongré running smoothly today. This is illustrated on a daily basis by a permanent dialogue within and between the teams, but sometimes we receive more explicit signals, such as during the pandemic. As we struggled to preserve the teachings and keep the school open, we were inundated with messages of thanks and encouragement from our students’ families. At the end of the year we made a small montage of the emails in question and projected it for the teachers. It is important to know that one’s work is valued, appreciated and therefore it can be done peacefully.

What first step would you like Emmanuel Macron to take?

SW: I couldn’t say by what means exactly, but something that would allow better recognition of the teaching profession. Of course there is the salary increase, but not only. I think we need to significantly reduce the workload of teachers: we ask them to do more and more with few resources. Then, and this is a slightly more delicate position, I think we have to somehow distinguish the teachers who are particularly invested in their establishment.

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When we are told that the profession has a real shortage of vocations, it does not surprise me: by comparing the required level of education with the working conditions and the average salary, we quickly see that there is a problem… We have to make sure it profession attractive. Here the teachers talk to me about it regularly, but apart from my gratitude and organizing some cozy moments, I don’t have the power to change things.

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