Transcript – Principal Susana Lamela – The students
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Transcript – Principal Susana Lamela – The students

First of all, when I listened to you talking about the challenge of compulsory school and the challenge of schooling in sectors living in vulnerability, the first matter that came to my head and that I think is essential to us in the way we look at those adolescents is the political matter.

And to me this is indicative of— It’s a conviction about students. These adolescents deserve to be at school. They have to be at school, learning. And there are aspects of traditional school that very often, without meaning to or as a result of a school mandate, instead of engaging adolescents in the learning process matters, focus on strengthening their identity. On the contrary, sometimes they are disruptive and have the opposite effect. So, there was a constant interpellation to what happened in schools and to the characteristics of the incoming students. All along my experience—both in my role as teacher when I started and later when I became principal—, we have always tried to read the characteristics of the different adolescences of today. Because, clearly, that idea we used to have of what it was to be young, is not the unique, universal idea that being young is a determining factor, [or that it] responds to certain parameters.

That’s not what happened among our student population. Our students had jobs, our students had dependent siblings. Our students were living in extreme vulnerability. Our students were using drugs. Our students stayed up late. They came to school to the afternoon shift without having had lunch.

Sometimes this wasn’t related to financial issues but to the family’s organization. So the challenge was trying to understand these characteristics of our students and to question the teaching proposal that we were implementing and to challenge our proposal, our ways, our demands, as these drove them away instead of closer.

So the first point I always highlight when I want to convey the experience of our school is a clear political conviction. In fact, at some point I had written down a few items I wanted to highlight and yes, one of the things I wanted to highlight was this, just on a personal note.

This political stance related to understanding that educating is a political act is something I understood in my workplace—I didn’t understand it in my training years, even though it was present in some of the texts we read. I understood it by living it in my workplace, faced with situations of inequality. To me this is essential, because it gives direction to your work, it gives direction to the way you look at adolescents. It drives the projects you want to implement, it drives the work you do with your workmates, teachers, colleagues… I can also understand that, because of the training we’ve had, they don’t necessarily have to have this political view, and the fact that they don’t have it does not discredit them, but rather it means that the management has to generate the conditions for them to read the texts and challenge their training and their look at things.

So to me this is absolutely essential, if you will, in what will become the pedagogical management, but also in the recognition of the characteristics of the adolescents that will attend our schools, the schools of the Greater Buenos Aires, where situations of inequality are very severe.