As much as we hope that parents will take a lead role in comforting fragile French kids in the aftermath of the Paris tragedy, you can bet much will be left to their school teachers.
Nothing prepares you for the kind of discussions these teachers will be asked to moderate and it’s an unenviable position they have in restoring calmness and clarity to fearful children:
On Jan. 7, 2015, there was suffocating alarm, horror and fear in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shooting. The next day, wounds still fresh, it was necessary to keep going. It was a difficult day for schoolteachers in France, faced with students and their questions, and at times their anger.
On Monday, Nov. 16, there will be a similar challenge.
HuffPost France asked teachers and school principals about their expectations for the first school week after Friday’s Paris attacks and the messages they hoped to send to the students.
“This Monday, I’ll start my day with a 12th-grade literature class. It’s a class that I’m close to, especially since I already lived through the attacks of last January with them,” said Marie-Sandrine, a high school teacher. “I end my morning with a 10th-grade class that lasts till 12:20 p.m.”
On Sunday, the teacher noticed that discussions were already underway in online teachers’ forums, on social networks and over the phone. “The atmosphere is very different from the day after the attack on Charlie Hebdo,” she said. “In her address, the minister of education thanked us for our professionalism. She has given us resources to tackle the topic in class. From now on, it will be important to talk about a ‘minute of contemplation’ rather than a ‘minute of silence.'”
Marie-Sandrine said that she’s received emails and messages from students and former students, asking if she is safe and well. “They needed to be comforted,” she said.
“On Monday, I’m going to try to welcome their thoughts with an open mind. ‘Do you want to talk about it?’ That’s how I’ll start. I’m not afraid of their hostile reactions because unlike January, I know that nobody can say, ‘They were asking for it.’ I’m more afraid of the state of panic, of fear, or an absence of lightness. Some students who got in contact with me have told me, ‘Miss, I’m scared.'”
“Teenagers aren’t conscious of the fact that they could die. They don’t think about it like adults do. I’ll tell them that death is part of life,” she said. “I’d also like to teach them how to tell the difference between news and rumors. Finally, I’d like to encourage them to think about how we can take care of each other. If all of that is too heavy, we’ll stop, and I’ll have them listen to the song ‘My France’ by Jean Ferrat, and then we’ll go on with class.”
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