It was cold that day. I could stop by a café and sip something hot but I decided to head to my doctor’s office instead.
When I walked in, I saw a very familiar face. The man had wrinkles and grey hair, but his eyes and smile were the same. After a few minutes of intense scrutiny, I couldn’t resist asking him if he were Mister G. the headmaster of my primary school and… there he was.
Mister G. was a true believer of public education. He spent 3 decades fighting for the ethics of public school and did a lot for youngsters, families of immigrants and workers. It was only when I left the Marais for the suburbs, that I realised how privileged we were. With his team, he gave us a real access to the French public education. He implemented adaptation classes for bigger kids who had just arrived in France but also adaptive courses for the quick learners and those who were getting bored. You could feel that you belonged to a place, that you were accepted.
My most memorable moment was the morning he decided to reject the offer of a children publishing house and tell us first why. There were piles of albums sent by a big company that were waiting in the corridors to be distributed. He was sitting in our class, very solemn, and we all knew that he had something important to say: “Kids, you are going to be disappointed but I am going to send all these albums back. And I am going to tell you why. I know that some of your parents don’t read French and don’t know what these things are. I don’t want to fool your families. I don’t want to make them believe that buying images and stickers to fill these albums is a compulsory expense. Simply because they were given by the school and school has this power.” – And this was for me, a life changing speech. Not only, he talked to us like reasonable and reasoning human beings, but he gave us also, a great demonstration of this quote by Plato: “The measure of a man is what he does with power”.
I was one hour early for my appointment that day, and life gave me this incredible opportunity to tell him how much he inspired me and how he shaped my education and my bond to education. I would probably not be the person I am today, if I hadn’t had him leading all these educators, at a very early stage of my life. That was something I wanted to tell him while he was still alive. – So, THANK YOU, Sir.