In Solidarity with Manchester

23 May
Discussing traumatic events such as terrorist attacks is always very difficult. As it’s the day after the tragic events in Manchester, EFA teachers went to class prepared for this and this is one example of how it was addressed in the classroom. This example is from one of our Entry 2/3 classes in Battersea:

As part of our class routine, we spend the first 10-15 minutes checking in with each other, which is also an opportunity for us to practise narrative tenses. I made sure that, as the teacher, I did not bring up the news from Manchester and allowed it to come up naturally in discussion, which it did. As soon as one participant started talking about it, others joined in using language to describe how the events have made them feel. Some participants hadn’t heard the news, so those who had were encouraged to fill us all in. We did this in a structured manner, trying to include contributions from as many participants as possible, while writing key words on the board such as ‘bomb’, ‘pop singer’ and ‘injuries’ (which were recycled later). Following this, I asked if participants had heard about how the community responded to the attacks, ‘people opening their doors to those affected’ and ’emergency services helping’ were some of the responses.
It was evident that we wanted to elaborate further and we agreed to do this while acknowledging the difficulties and sensitivity of the topic. We also believed that it’s important that, as members of the community, we find ways to talk about this. We used the Problem Tree tool to do this. We agreed to name the problem ‘terrorism’. The tree, drawn on flipchart paper, was divided as follows to help us dissect the problem:
The branches of the tree: effects of terrorism (how this makes us feel, how we respond as a community, what the material effects are)
The roots: the root causes of the problem
The fruit: action and how we can tackle the problem
We then placed sticky notes on the different parts as we discussed the issues.
Most of the discussion revolved around emotions: ‘sad’, ‘angry’, ‘worried’ were examples. This also included concern for children where one participant talked about the ’emotional effect on children’. There was also acknowledgment of the hard work of emergency services. Some participants shared very personal experiences from living in different countries where they’ve experienced terrorism first-hand.
Emergent vocabulary included ‘unity’, ‘precautions’ and ‘witnesses’.
This was the most difficult part of the discussion, however, we decided to try our best to discuss as many possible causes as possible. These ranged from ‘we don’t know’ to ‘unemployment’, from ‘wars’ to ‘radicalisation’. It was also an opportunity to discuss the likely backlash against certain communities.
The discussion revolved around the roles of parenting, educators, security, and availability of community services for young people. Many of us felt that the lack of spaces for young people to socialise and engage in activities in the local community needs to be addressed, so does unemployment. Improving narratives in the media, tackling violence in cartoons and spending more time with people and less time on technology were also suggestions. Crucially, as a classroom predominantly made up of mothers of young children, the focus was on the role parents can play to tackle the problem and a lot of speaking resulted from this.
We concluded on a note of solidarity with those affected by the attacks, where we collectively decided to postpone our class picnic that we were due to have as a show of solidarity.
Amira Elwakil

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