Jérôme Maufras

Becoming What We Are - A Good Start to Educate Complete Human Beings


During his 15-minute talk, Professor Maufras discusses and explains the following:

  • His vision of education and the role of school;
  • Examples of effective teaching to middle-school students;
  • Ambition, versatility, flexibility and the natural rhythm of learning;
  • Making concepts alive and embodying them;
  • Abstract, mechanical and kinaesthetic learning.

Jérôme's Definition of a "Prepared Adult": A prepared adult is a free adult. Not free because he would have to answer for nothing and would be irresponsible. But free in all its dimensions. By that I mean free in his ability to consider himself as complete, thanks to his knowledge which opens up infinite horizons of creativity to him but also free because he is unknown to social networks, free because he is able to distinguish the quality of quantity, to distinguish the content of the flow, to distinguish sound from noise, free because capable of living independently in the event of an economic or health crisis. I believe that the capacity for scarcity and slowness will be at the heart of the complete and prepared man of tomorrow. Rarity because what is available and free is useless, because the only price will be the ability to heal oneself, to anticipate, to feel the danger, to decipher people’s intentions behind the discourses. Fixing a water leak will soon be more important than knowing how to write a press release for investors. Give back the price to slowness: watch the seasons change, do not talk too much, understand, observe, spend time playing, reading, educating children, cooking. This is what will matter in the future.


Jérôme Maufras is Director of strategy games in schools development for the Créteil Academy, the Regional Education Authority of Eastern Paris. He is also a teacher, author and translator, and formerly was the school chess coordinator of the French Chess Federation until 2013. Maufras has been a teacher in the priority education zone for nearly 20 years. He became project manager for the Rectorate of Créteil in 2008 for the "Mind games" mission, in parallel with his volunteer commitments for the French Chess Federation (member of the Bureau from 2011 to 2013). Since 2014, Maufras has been collaborating with the Innovation mission of the Rectorate of Créteil (CARDIE) under which he has coordinated for France the Erasmus + "8x8" project on the development of strategy games at school.


My name is Jérôme Maufras. I've been teaching history and geography for about 20 years now in different areas around Paris. I am a teacher trainer too, and also a chess teacher. This presentation is an experience based reflection of the school of the 21st Century in the context of the global pandemic. It would take me hours to explain my point of view, so I'll try to shorten it in 15 minutes. And that's why I'm going to just highlight a few points and I won't explain all the points that are on the presentation, but if you have questions, you can raise them. Of course, during the Q&A session. That will have after, I guess. To me as a teacher, I could say we are animals, and even though we are extremely civilized, we still are animals. But when it comes to education, we are very special animals because we are the only animals that are not born educated. As long as I can say, Wolf, are predators and bond predators, and you will never see bees making a revolution against Darwin. But we are born incomplete and I think education is here to make us complete human. And when I think about schools, people say, yes, children go to school to have diplomas. And it's true. But it's not the role of school to deliver only certificates. Control is much wider and much broader. And this is why I believe education is just not an admission of knowledge and abilities. You could list them, but it would be useless.

And I think that education is a development story and it's a natural story. And this is why I think that it should be based and it might be based on the connection and observation of nature and human systems. So the first point, we have seven points I would like to go through. The first point is about imitation because as a teacher, I think that I have a big influence on the pupils. But the truth is that imitation is a very strong way of development, and it is the first thing you do when you're a young child. You imitate your observer and imitate the people around you. I think that Professor Lacan would say much more interesting things about imitation and role model for a teacher. But what I would say now is that we teach what we are and. We have to embody the values we believe in. This is why I put a little photograph of a very strange object you might know. It's Archimedes screw for the specialist. And I often use this in my classroom because I find it really interesting to ask students what it might be, what it is, and trying to. To to ask the question about what could be, how it could be used. And as you might know, it's a device to help water to go up because rivers are all fields are above rivers. So you have to bring water to irrigate and. It reminds me of a moment when a colleague of mine was mad at students saying they are not interested in Archimedes.

But if you want people to be interested in Archimedes, you have to be. You have to make it more concrete. And this is concrete. I would like to talk to you about what observation can give us when we try to to help students to make progress. If I dream of an education for the future, I would like it not to be limited. I mean, ambitious and complete. I have to explain. Ambitious and complete. A few weeks ago, I was invited by an inspector to make a presentation of. Of chess to a classroom of seven years old children. And. It went very well during 45 minutes, which is huge, huge moment of concentration for seven years old. And the inspector came to me at the end and told me, well, chess is difficult. I think they got lost. And I just say, no, you got lost because children followed it till the end and they were happy with this. And we should be careful about limiting beliefs and the limitation we have in the development of a child saying we shouldn't know this at this age or I shouldn't ask that too soon. There is a saying in France. We say If you are old enough to ask the question, you are old enough to hear the answer. And I think this is a very reliable principle in education. What I mean by complete is that I'm a teacher in history and geography, but I feel that I am a teacher in a secondary school and I can teach French, I can teach a bit of English, I can teach Latin, I can teach philosophy, I could teach anything.

And what I think is that you shouldn't. Stop you at your own field and be versatile because knowledge is something complete for the same reason, for the same reason. And Gregoire set it off saying that brain development lasted until 22 years old. I think that we shouldn't specialized. Pupil, Sassoon. Some say I'm not good at mathematics. It's not true because if your brain is not finished until 22, you still have time to make progress. Oh. Dictators. As a teacher of history and geography, I love dictators. An inspector told me once, just show them one document. Because if you show five, they'll get confused. And I. I do. I totally disagree with this point of view. I think that our brain is absolutely able to to understand several documents, even during just one horror of of of of a lesson. So I try with the first two, Hitler and Stalin. And I asked my students, what do you see? I was expecting them to talk to talk about dictators. And they said, Oh, well, what we see is that dictators have mustache. And because it's the common point between Hitler and Stalin. So all the dictators must have mustache. Okay, but if I put a third one, Mussolini, and they say, oh, dictators are white.

Okay, so let's go for Pol Pot and Bokassa. Oh, okay. Reality is more complex. Everything is complex. If you just show one or two pictures, one or two documents, students won't be able to produce a complete, complex knowledge, and they will stay on the surface. So fake. Sorry, I won't insist on this point, but I think that education based on connection with nature and human systems. Implies that we are we know where we are and when we are. But maybe it's because I'm a teacher in history and geography, but I'm really interested in scales, as you can see. So I start off and from my secondary school, then we go back and we see that we are just one dot on the dot in the universe. And that's the way it's a very interesting way to. Ta ta ta. To be able to reach the concept of infinity. And if you my dream would be to be with my students under a starry sky and see how small we are. Because I think it really helps to understand what knowledge is, especially if you consider time to our short lives compared to the world history of humanity. What I mean by deep, I mean that at some point. Maybe education should be more intuition based. It's weird for a teacher to say that, but to me, intuition is not just intuition. It's the ability to decipher the signs sent by your environment. So it means that you have to observe a lot and you have to understand the situations, feeling the situations.

I always ask my the students I work with, can't you feel a situation? Can't you? Don't you understand what's going on? When I get when anger is building up in me because they are not, I just ask them, don't you feel the situation is going wrong? And I like them to understand that in a way they have to work on on that on this intuition, because it's very important. And the pandemic context has shown it in a very brutal way. I think for all the people who had to make very decision in a very in a very short time concerning time and rhythm. I would like school to go back to a more natural rhythm. So let me dream one minute. I would like cool to start around nine for the younger the youngest students the pupils around nine but you could arrive from 830 to 9 and leave school at 430 or leave school at five. Because I think that if you see a young a young pupil of four or five, six years old, having fun or reading or drawing, it's always sad to end it. And I think we should be a little bit more flexible on this point. What I do. On the slide, you can see the cover of French book, which was successful, the photo essay. And I want to find. I want to slow down. I think that our students live with cell phones, social networks, video games.

They have many, many notifications, invitations, even appointments given us time to fix, time to to earn points and things like that. And I want I would like to slow down the rhythm and school should slow down the rhythm. And what I do, it's a reward. At the end of a lesson we read I read Greek mythology to my students. It's a five minute of pure calm and they are really quiet and they love it. And the worst punishment I could find would be to deprive them of this reading. And they really love it. And I think this is really important to. Slow down the rhythm. Slow down. Yes. We all carry very good values. Everyone is for cooperation, for inclusive school, etc., etc.. And many teachers say to their students, you should cooperate, but you just can't talk about values. You have to leave values. You can leave that through stories. But I love to use moral dilemmas as an initiation to philosophy. For example, as you can see on the picture, this is the famous invisibility ring. What would you do if you had an invisibility ring? It raises many questions among the students, especially teenagers. And some would like to spy. Some like to to steal. But then comes. Then comes the reflection. But what is good or not? And I love to do something with my students. I give them an ancient coin, an ancient Roman coin. I pass it through the classroom. I let the students pass it through the classroom.

And I turn my back. And I say. Any of you can keep it. But you will lose my you will lose my trust. I won't trust you anymore if you keep it. So do what you want. I don't care. It's just a coin. You can keep it. But I would like to. To get it back. And I remember one time there was a big argument because one wanted to keep it. And the other one. The other ones was just. Well, just saying. Hey, we can't lose is trust. You can't. Please, Mr. Morales. Trust. So you have to give it back. And it was a nice way to put values in action because values I think we do all agree on values, but maybe not on the way to teach them. What is very difficult, I think, especially when you're a teenager, is that knowledge in a way becomes more abstract. And they all regret the good, the good old time of visible knowledge when they have learned to swim, to count, to read without really visible knowledge. And we go from concrete to abstract, which is logical, because when you grow up, when you're a teenager, you need to to master those abstract. But if systemic thinking is abstraction, I think that we can still have mechanical solving, for example, in chess. Chess is really promoted today. For example, in chess you have a real abstraction on the concrete wooden board. What is important to me, too, is the end in mind work what we could we call kinesthetic intelligence.

And I think it's very interesting. I've done that. We've built the model of Notre Dame. And during this moment I was reading the story, I was explaining why they are buildings and how they are built it. And this is a way to get more independence, to be able to use hand and mind, because I think that any knowledge in a way should be dismantled and assembled again, like a motor, because everything many of my students think that knowledge comes from the sky and it doesn't. It's just more most of the time it's just mechanical. If grammar, mathematics, chess, building of dame it's. It's all. Dismantle and assemble again. This is Augusta Infant School in the south of France. It's not Montessori, it's French. But Fanny was a great teacher to in the thirties, to the sixties, and he was part of this movement of progressive education. And I wish that my school in the future would be like that, a kind of immersion school in which there would be animals, vegetable gardens, workshops with flexible hours, talented teachers showing their heart and playing on natural mimicry, a school encouraging the will to learn rather than the desire to know. I think it's important and. A school where what you learn is ultimately less important that hour than how you learn it. Well, I dream of a complete education because I dream that our successors can become who they are and thus be complete humans. Thank you for your attention.

Made possible by the Prepared Adult Initiative.