Action Title: Girls and Boys' equality in Education
Location of the installation: On the gates surrounding the High School of Communication in Metz, Lorraine, France) The choice to display the Action on the gates that surround the establishment was carefully chosen because the buildings are set away from roads and sidewalks and hidden by trees.
Date and time: The installation successfully took place on Monday, May 2, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m, with students and their teachers during regular class hours.
This day marked the start of a week that was devoted to actions around the theme of equality between girls and boys.
These various actions carried out by teachers of all class subjects such as History, Geography, French, English, and Applied Arts are described on the high school website.
The community that it represents: All members of the school community (students, parents, teachers, administration, staff, and educational assistants).
The theme and personal statement of the Action:
This action was registered throughout the entire school It aims to fight against the sexist prejudices that sometimes limit the ambitions of young people in the pursuit of their studies (for example the predominant presence of boys in science, the stereotype of boys in art professions, or that the school of midwifery is reserved for girls). The theme is therefore equality between girls and boys in education. From May 2 to May 6 2022, many actions were carried out within the school, such as discussions, conferences, readings etc.) on this theme. The idea of this project is to make this theme of equality shine beyond the school by arranging portraits on the railings outside the school. Some of these fences overlook the TRAM track and others overlook a busy road, so the impact therefore greatly exceeds the limits of the school. Students specializing in fine arts explained the project to the other members of the school (students, teachers, agents, AED, parents), and were in charge of directing the photoshoot and installation. The framework for the portraits was to pose with an object that symbolizes one's upbringing (family and/or school).
Contact details for the Group Leader: Corinne Bourdenet Vicaire, fine arts teacher cbourdenet@ac-nancy- metz.fr.
So that the portraits would be fully visible, it seemed more appropriate to display them on the grids with tape on the back.
Presentation of the project
The idea for the project was presented in a team meeting with Ms. Beckel, Principal Education Advisor, coordinator of the Girls-Boys equality week at the high school, and Mrs. Raulet, deputy headmaster. Each teacher described the project they planned with their students, such as presentations in history and geography, audio recordings produced and analyzed in English, scenography bringing together all the productions in applied arts, and more.
The project was then presented to the Inside Out team and they explained the process: collect at least 50 portraits of all the people representative of the community holding an object symbolizing their education. The project was immediately launched into action as it seemed very daring and very ambitious!
The plan was laid out and logistics were scheduled -- the start of the photo shoot, sending our portraits to the Project for the reception in April. Even though it was during the holidays, the posters were printed and shipped very quickly with a very reassuring package tracking number (!) in order to start the installation with the plastic arts students carrying out the project on the 2nd of May. The portraits were only to remain displayed during equality week from May 2 to 6, but due to many requests, they stayed until May 10.
To launch the project, a portrait of the dimensions of those of the action, i.e. 90 x 135 cm, was displayed in the hall of the school, visible to all, with an explanation. This was also sent by email to students, parents, teachers, and other staff.
Soon after, the first students began to volunteer to be models and photographers. The instructions were simple and white backgrounds were attached to the walls with different heights for each volunteer to stand in front. The frame of the white background sheet (50 x 65 cm, vertical format) served as a guide for framing the portrait.
The visual arts students naturally imposed themselves as project leaders because they knew the work of JR, which they studied in class, and moreover chose as the work to be studied at the baccalaureate! See here a document with the reference to the work Le secret de la Grande Pyramide. They were familiar with and very motivated by this type of project, which required a real commitment, and also because they had already mastered the issues of shooting, framing, recording, and sending digital images.
Little by little other students joined the project as well as staff members.
Only the parents missed this wonderful adventure: they were present by email with their encouragement and compliments. This will be the challenge of our next Action!
The drawbacks of this action, besides this lack of parental participation, were the hesitation or refusal of some students (and personnel) when they understood that the portraits would be exhibited in the public space.
A misunderstanding did occur because the high school hall is nicknamed; “the street”. From the beginning, my explanations specified that the portraits would be displayed and visible from the street (in my mind, the street is understood as the public space of circulation that surrounds the school; however in the mind of the participants, the “street” was the school hallway).
In this protective cocoon, it would have been no problem for students to see their portraits displayed.
But when the model of the installation was revealed to students with the miniature portraits displayed on the school fences, a certain number of students whose physical appearance could reveal a strong identity (being homosexual or trans for example) retracted and expressed fears about the gazes of others, the gazes of strangers they nevertheless meet in public transport or on the sidewalks. "Our portraits are going to be torn off", "will be tagged", "it won't last two days", "you are too optimistic, madam, you will see"... they said.
Yet in the Action, no portraits were taken or damaged. But, this unexpected fear proved to be an element we would have to work upstream for the project. Through dialogue and discussion groups on self-image, the weight of others' views was better taken into account.
Several participants, adults only, expressed difficulty regarding the choice of the object that would symbolize their education. Here, oral explanations and dialogue would no doubt have been useful as well.
Nevertheless, the return of students, parents and other staff to the end of this action was more than positive, with an immense impact: when the human values of tolerance and respect are at the heart of a project, anything is possible.
The image of the high school, often perceived as a very open school (in the eyes of the students), has been reinforced.
In this school, everyone has their own identity, personality, and education, and everyone is respected for what they are or want to be. It is the existence of all our differences that makes each one of our experiences so rich.
Possible educational extensions: This Action has been conducted in a school context and can be prolonged by anchoring it as a tool within our curriculum.
The educational extensions in fine arts are obvious: work on photographic plastic skills, but also on the relationship between artist and society, with engaged art, on the art in the public space, on the importance of the place of exhibition, on the reception of the public, the relationship between works and spectators, on the scope and durability of the work, on its dissemination and mediation.
In philosophy or HLP (humanities, letters, and philosophy), themes such as self-image and research, education, transmission, communication; emancipation, and human relationships (respect, tolerance, independence, commitment, …) can be focused upon.
In history-geography, geopolitics, and political science, vandalism and heritage protection are on the agenda. This fear of vandalism has been very often mentioned by the participants.
In LLCE (foreign languages, literature, and cultures), themes such as the relationship between the individual and the group, confrontation, and difference or again the expression of emotions and the staging of oneself, but also the art and the debate of ideas are areas of study that come into resonance with this action.
The positive impact of this action on the school climate, the image of the establishment, and the well-being of everyone aroused a desire among several colleagues to carry out this type of action in their school context. The difficulty of displaying these portraits of monumental dimensions (difficulty mentioned by a few colleagues) must be able to be resolved through dialogue and the commitment of each one to each other.
I encourage everyone to find out how to take action with Inside Out. The whole Inside Out team is there to guide you, advise you, and help you bring your project to fruition.
Furthermore, a new Action was born this fall for the 2022-2023 school year, this time with the involvement of several schools in France, Lithuania, and Morocco!
So the adventure continues …