“The impact of the attack is really big. We are completely in shock. I still taught on Saturday afternoon, but then I didn’t talk about it with my students. I wasn’t ready yet. I had to before and after class. We all feel like it could have happened to us. “
Speaking is 39-year-old history teacher Sophie (real name known to the editors). She works at a secondary school in the outskirts of Paris, as does teacher Samuel Paty, who was beheaded in the street on Friday. The 18-year-old Chechen perpetrator is said to have killed him for showing Mohammed cartoons. “This is not a suburb with a lot of social problems, that’s important to mention,” says Sophie of her field of work.
‘Do not be afraid’
For children aged twelve and thirteen, freedom of expression is included in the curriculum. The teacher can decide for himself how to fill in the lesson.
“Some people say it’s his own fault, but he just took the curriculum,” says Sophie. “It was his own decision to show the caricature of Mohammed. I never did that myself, I’m not very interested in those cartoons. But he did it in a subtle way.” Students were given the opportunity to leave the classroom for a while.
“If you want to discuss freedom of speech with students aged twelve or thirteen, you can talk about the French Revolution, but that is not in line with their perception. With illustrations you can arouse their interest. He just tried to draw the attention of his students to hold on.”
“We shouldn’t be afraid,” she continues. “We have to keep doing what we always did. We live in a country with certain values. Religion doesn’t belong in school. They need to hear something different here than what they belong. And they want that, they want to talk about it.”
After the holidays, I’m going to use the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. I will not do that without fear, but we must not close our eyes to what is happening.
After last Friday’s attack, history teacher Jerôme Jost made a decision. “After the autumn break I will adjust my lesson. Then I will use the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. I will not do that without fear, but we must not close our eyes to what is happening. The students are therefore not allowed to leave the classroom. But if they don’t want to watch, I won’t force them. “
Jost teaches at a secondary school east of Paris, “not far from Disneyland”. “Parents are increasingly involved in school,” he says. “They criticize the curriculum and have no respect for the teacher’s freedom. I have heard from colleagues that students stay away when it comes to evolution, or sex education. Young girls are not allowed to go to swimming lessons. When it comes to history. about the emergence of Christianity or Judaism, then students of some parents should stay away. “
‘Enter into a discussion’
Yveline Prouvost has been teaching history for nearly thirty years at the Baudelaire Lyceum in Roubaix, Northern France; an old industrial city with many immigrants. Like the other teachers that the NOS spoke to today, she has never had to deal with violence. “There are fundamentalist students here, but I’ve never felt threatened. You cover sensitive topics, and you can have little arguments, but not like that. I can argue with my students.”
She calls the Islamist attack on Paty “of unimaginable cruelty, barbaric”. She looks forward to teaching again after the autumn break. “Yes of course. I hope my students won’t be too shocked.”
She shared a photo on social media of a sign that a student attached to the fence at her school: “Show solidarity with our teachers”.
“It’s not hard every day,” says Prouvost. “Only with certain topics, such as the Holocaust or the Armenian Genocide. We have to be prepared for that, it is very difficult. But in the classroom the historical truth has to be told.”
French President Macron now wants more security in the schools. But armed guard is not necessary for her. “I don’t want to be in front of the classroom with a bulletproof vest. That wouldn’t have helped in this case, because Samuel Paty was murdered in the street outside.”
What Sophie, who teaches in the banlieuThe lack of support from the school management is particularly troubling. “The real problem is that the schools don’t support us. We have to keep quiet and say nothing, that’s the real problem. Parents complain more and more often. They get too much space from the schools. I think we don’t have too much. to listen to them. “
“Samuel Paty was threatened, he had notified the school management, he went to the police, but no one did anything. He was not given protection. The government is also responsible for his death.”
“We have to be listened to, they have to give us confidence”, says Sophie. “It’s getting harder to be a teacher. We shouldn’t be afraid to teach.”