“Me, school teacher, on November 2, I will have only one idea in mind: to continue”

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Event in tribute to Samuel Paty, in Marseille, this Sunday.

Event in tribute to Samuel Paty, in Marseille, this Sunday.

Teachers authors of “Living Territories of the Republic”, an essay on school beyond prejudice, recall the meaning of their mission despite the assassination of Samuel Paty.

Tribune. I, a teacher, on November 2, will be back to school. I will open the door to my classroom. I will call the names of my students one by one. I will search their eyes for the link interrupted by two weeks of vacation, and with each of them I will reconnect. Then it will be the moment to recount together what happened on Friday. Before even speaking, I will give them the floor, I will listen to what they have to say to me, and together we will go through the stories, the silences, the questions. I will not have the answer to everything.

Me, a school teacher, on November 2, I will have only one idea in mind: to continue. As before and forever. And as before, we will meet in the morning. As before, we will read the books that condemn prejudice. As before, we will question the world around us. As before, we will go to the museum and open our eyes to other paintings. As before, we will sharpen our critical thinking and discuss the life of all those men and women who sometimes go crazy. As before, we will brandish everyone’s right to be what they are, their right to believe or not to believe and, as before, our only limit to the program will be intolerance and hatred.

Me, a history teacher, on November 2, I will be with teenagers. come to learn, to find each other, to find each other. They will be much more afraid than me. They know the looks hanging over them and speak for them. Who charge them with what they haven’t done. I’ll try not to lock them in a heinous murder. We will work. At the turn of a text, we will find a place to discuss. Some will say big nonsense. At school, it’s called learning. These teens are our people and build our culture. They will bring life to the country which is already seeing me grow old.

Me, teacher in the first degree, for them, for him, I will try not to let myself be impressed, not to revise downwards what makes the heart of our work. I will continue more than ever to offer spaces for dialogue between us, teachers, so that we can talk to each other, tell each other, question ourselves also, professionally and humanely. We will continue to build plurals with our students, to draw our strength from them, and will try to remove the amalgamations.

I, a history teacher, on November 2, in these decried territories, I will look at the children, telling myself that henceforth weighs on their shoulders, even more than before, the weight of looks and judgments. I fear for them, who are not always aware of it, that the link with their Republic is weakened. Let us keep them close to us because they are the breath of our school.

Me, head of school, on November 2, I will come earlier. My deputy colleagues will also be there, and from 7.15 am, we will open the two access doors wide. Welcoming colleagues and students, exchanging first glances, receiving the first words, embodying the institution, supporting and creating links. I’m already preparing for it. I don’t know what form it will take, but we will have to collectively find a way to absorb this wave: emotion, sadness, indignation, anger. Allow fear to say its name. Make a first analysis, with the tools of the school, the words of reason, with precaution, with humility, with accuracy, as much as possible, to put at a distance from oneself, not to get lost, not to be overcome.

Me, history teacher, on November 2, I will continue to read with my final year students the Open letter to the Muslim world, written by Abdennour Bidar in January 2015 the day after the attacks against Charlie. As always, I will ask them what, in this text, echoes their deep convictions. As always, too, what in this text shocks them. Because they have the right to be shocked.

Me, a music teacher, on November 2, I will go back to class and welcome my 457 priority education students. Without rushing them or forcing them, I will speak with those who wish about what happened on Friday. I will let them express their fear, their doubt, their questions, their revolt. Then, as we always have, we will sing together one gospel, then two. We will sing a Work Song. We will sing the Song of the Partisans. Together we will sing the Song of the Marshes. Together, we will pick up the thread of our course.

Me, a history teacher, on November 2, I will not have lessons, but I will still come to high school. Not to make big speeches: I have no words. Not to make sewn-in ‘never again’ and ‘we won’t forget’ promises. On November 2, I will bring this drawing of Zep that I have already projected on the first day of school to tell the students my faith in school, my happiness in teaching, my self-confidence. I will read them texts by Voltaire, Zola, Eluard or Camus. I will listen to them. And on November 3, we will be working. It’s what we do best together. This is how reason and meaning return.

We work on a daily basis against all forms of obscurantism and hatred, against violence and amalgamation. Our immense sadness and our anger after the assassination of Samuel Paty does not dampen our determination. We, on November 2, will be in front of and with our students. Not him.

Signatories: Fabien Pontagnier, Amaury Pierre, Laaldja Mahamdi, Elsa Bouteville, Anne Angles, Caroline Latournerie (Paris region), Cécile Berterreix (Pyrénées-Atlantiques), Florent Kieffer (Grand Est), Jean-Jacques Fito (Franche-Comté), author S of Living territories of the Republic, The Discovery, 2018.

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