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The view from here: teaching in Paris after the terrorist attacks

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It is now just over a week since the terrorist attacks occurred in Paris. I live just 50m away from where some of the terrorists chose to strike. It has taken me a week to begin to process what happened. Imagine how difficult it has been for my students, who are just 4 years old?

I teach in Champigny, just outside Paris. The impact of the attacks was enormous. Many of the parents and staff have a friend or an acquaintance who was in the Bataclan concert hall, but we were all affected. We all watched the television throughout the weekend. We all locked our doors and kept loved ones close.

And then on Sunday night, I had to think not for myself but for my students. I had to try to work out what I was going to say to them and what they wanted me to say to them.  

The government told us to talk about the men, women and children who died, without distinction of colour, religion or political ideas. But as teachers we have to decide what is best for our students and, as my class are so young, I decided to talk about the events only if one of my students mentioned them.

On Monday morning, the children were brought in by their parents to the class. The parents were clearly upset, many on the verge of crying. They were scared.

I started the class as usual. We moved through the usual activities. None of my students spoke about what happened. So I didn’t mention it. I chose to preserve the school environment for them. School is the only place where people – children or adults – get to think only about learning. It is a safe space. It’s another world where we forget our problems.

But at noon, I took moment to ask my class to be quiet and calm. I asked them to close their eyes. I didn’t say why. We stayed quiet for 30 seconds in honour of the victims.

In the end, Monday was a very normal day. The children managed to make me forget the atrocities. But as soon as the school bell rung, the thoughts returned.

A week on, we are trying to live without fear. It’s difficult. I must act and smile normally, act like I’m well, even though I’m not. But this is the best thing for the children. Ultimately, it will be the best thing for me, too.

The writer wishes to remain anonymous. To read previous View From Here blogs, click the links below

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