When you train to be a teacher, you learn the skills of delivering your subject, you learn how to manage a class, how to assess, how to reflect, You do not learn how to talk to a class of eleven year olds, or five year olds, or eighteen year olds for that matter about terrorism. But as we woke up to a new week in the wake of such a weekend, it was clear that no amount of training was going to help with some of today’s conversations. Instead instinct, experience and resolve were needed.
People need different amounts of time, talking and space to process events such as those in Paris this weekend. There are no right answers to questions about how you should react, feel or behave. Acknowledging this, I realised, was the first step, as was acknowledging that I didn’t have all the answers and that too I shared in the shock, sadness and fear that many people felt. Children value honestly, and they need that more than ever in a world where they see adults doing such horrific things.
Working with children is wonderful because they often have strong instincts about what is and what isn’t fair. Younger children in particular don’t see colour or race or religion, they see people being hurt and they know that it is not fair. Their interest or otherwise in the differences between people comes from honest curiosity. As educators, we strive to nurture this curiosity about human difference so that it grows into mutual respect and appreciation.
Today, more than ever, there was a need to nurture, to work through misunderstandings and to iron out fear and confusion as much as possible.
Talking today about the events in Paris also helped me to process my own understanding. My sadness and shock at the events was tinged with shame that I haven’t acknowledged similar events around the world to the same level. If I want to be a world citizen, this has to change, somehow.
You go into teaching because you have faith in the future and because you hope that the understandings you provoke can help young people to be the best they can be. Sitting here now, reflecting on today, I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a teacher in France today. Or what it must be like to be or have been a teacher in Syria or Iraq or Lebanon or Palestine or Israel, or the tens, perhaps hundreds of other places, where daily life is shadowed by horrors such as those experienced in Paris at the weekend.
As voices fell silent over Europe at noon today, my thoughts jumped around the world, in hope and love to all places without peace. As I go to bed tonight, my thoughts are with teachers around the world who try and make sense of war every day with their students. I hope we can keeping working towards the same goals, in whatever state of peace or war we find ourselves. I hope that we can work as one for a world of Children who one day make the future better than we are making the present.
There is no teacher manual for a day like today and yet today is the kind of day when you learn the most about yourself, those around you and the world.