Failure in school is not a failure in life.” – M-H Montès

Generally speaking, the number of school failures has tended to increase recently. They can be the consequence of untreated learning disabilities, but there are also a number of cultural and socio-economic factors. Marie-Hélène, a coach and teacher trained in Neurolinguistic Programming, is used to working with people from disadvantaged backgrounds and children in difficulty. Her objective is to help these teenagers reintegrate into an adapted socio-professional environment. This is primarily a social goal, but it is also a challenge that allows us to give a new chance and a better life to young people who have been left behind by society.

          Who are they?

There are an infinite number of different profiles, each with its own character, wounds and diverse personalities. However, these young people often share a relatively similar background, having dropped out of school or being left out by their teachers during adolescence. Thus, they generally have a complicated past, whether socially (difficult backgrounds, homes, etc.) or educationally, even if some of them had a completely peaceful childhood. Frequently, they are students who do not follow group rules, do not do their homework, have a relatively poor vocabulary, are convinced that they are bad and dream of earning a lot of money without making any effort.

However, here the past is not taken into account. Only the present, and what happens in the classroom, is important to establish a profile of the student and to teach him/her how to learn, and to socialize.

          Objectives and methods

Thus, the starting point is that all these teenagers have strong points and that they can find pleasure in work that corresponds to them. There will therefore be a lot of observation work, both of the functioning of the group, which allows us to deduce the place occupied by each person, but also of the functioning of the person within this group, revealing a certain number of character traits, such as aggressiveness, shyness, asociability, etc. The objective here will be to establish a profile of the student that is as accurate as possible.

(1) To create a bond of trust necessary to advance in a life project.

The first phase will therefore consist of observing and understanding how the individual functions within the group constituted by the class, but also how he or she will fit in. Once the profile is established, the strengths and weaknesses of the individual can be used to create a bond within the class, which will become a place of trust. In this way, the team in charge of them will be able to teach them the codes of learning in a much more relaxed and calm environment.

(2) Structure the class and create group cohesion.

In order to allow everyone to express themselves freely, and thus to be able to learn and develop their creativity, it will be necessary to reorganize the group according to the different characters. It is thus a voluntary destructuring of a pre-established group in order to establish new rules, which will lead to a better group cohesion, which is essential to create a good work dynamic but also to reveal the capacities of each student. Here, it is important to adopt a constant vigilance, because it is a fragile balance.

(3) Identify the student’s skills and tastes.

Once trust is established and the class is properly structured, the focus is on the student as an individual, with the goal of drawing a more personalized profile, through games (card, role-playing, team, intellectual or physical), academic exercises, role-playing (including internships), or through drama or gardening for example. In this way, the student will be able to identify his or her abilities and likes, in order to regain a certain confidence, to situate himself or herself in a group and to improve the quality of his or her social relations. Finally, the student will be able to project himself more serenely into a professional future.

(4) Build a professional project.

Once the character and social behavior of each student is established, they will be helped to begin to change their view of themselves through small successes and challenges that teach them to exist outside the group and to project themselves into a professional future. The students, all of whom have potential that is waiting to be unlocked, will then be able to move towards something they are willing to invest in.

          How do you choose that future career?

This is the big question that dominates the care of adolescents who are failing at school. How can we help them to choose the future profession towards which they are heading?

While it is of course necessary to understand what motivates them and to guide them towards paths that they did not know or did not feel capable of taking, a delicate point in the care is the choice of the right professional, the one who will take over and follow them throughout the training period. Indeed, a key point of the success of this project lies in the synergy between the student and the employer. It may be interesting to remember that this type of intervention is above all based on the human aspect.

          Illustration / Testimony:

“I’ll call him Paul. Cap screwed on a shaved head, hands shoved in the pockets of a pair of jeans with holes in them, sneakers with decorative laces and the air of being mad at the whole world, here is Paul who finally decides to go through the door of the class… In a few minutes, he is elected leader by the group, and he is gifted to lead the others where he wants, preferably against the order and the adults! For several days he refuses to communicate with us, to express himself in any other way than aggressiveness.

However, we guessed that he had manual talents, meticulousness and patience. But he is silent, stubborn and defiant. The teaching group thinks that he has no place in the class, especially since he disturbs the other students. I propose a new strategy because if he doesn’t change, he will be excluded from this group. The idea is to give him the responsibility of the hive that we have in the school. It is a job that requires reflection and the application of strict rules. Work that he will carry out with a perfect mastery and a rare maturity. The dialogue is finally established and he announces to us that he wishes to follow a training of baker. Strange, because he does not have the profile nor the motivation to work with bread… He will nevertheless do an internship, which will turn out to be a total failure… But he persists.

However, in class, the qualities that we had detected during the first weeks were confirmed. Luck was on our side, and as he did not get an internship in a bakery, we suggested that he go and see a small garage that reworked old cars and prepared engines for amateur rallies… The garage owner was looking for a young man who was talented with his ten fingers, patient and meticulous, and the rest was his business!

At first, Paul refuses to meet him, he says that fiddling with bolts is not his thing, in short, a real nutcase. Finally, he was told that this garage owner had several hives, and that he could take care of them. And that’s how Paul met his future! He discovers mechanics, how to prepare a rally engine, how to give a new lease on life to an old 4L… and he forgets the humiliations of school, he discovers sleeping talents and unveils capacities that were ignored until then and that enchant the garage owner.

Life is about encounters. And sometimes, a helping hand is needed… That’s what we are. The helping hand!”

To conclude, there are a certain number of facilities that allow this care, such as the Don Bosco Institute, or private schools and specialized in a field of training such as School 42 in Paris, but also the sections of general and vocational education adapted (SEGPA) in high schools or regional establishments of adapted education (EREA), where different social workers will be able to take care of these students in difficulty.