Diary of an NQT: Miss, I’m scared…

Written by: Diary of an NQT | Published:
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After the recent terrorist attacks, our NQT diarist faces some incredibly difficult questions from her form group…

As I stepped through the doorway of my form room on Monday morning, the first thing I heard was: “Miss, I’m scared.”

The tiniest member of my form was looking expectantly at me for answers: “Are they going to come to our school?” she continued.

Most people could go into work and discuss the awful terrorist attack with adults. Teachers had to go into work and somehow explain the inexplicable to thousands of scared children.

I replied with genuine confidence that they wouldn’t come to our school, but that didn’t seem to comfort her.

We spent some time during registration discussing what had happened in the London Bridge attack and talking more positively about the One Love concert that had taken place in Manchester. Most of the students had watched it and said they felt better about things knowing there was so much solidarity in the community after the recent terrorist attacks.

However, one student flung their hand up and said: “It’s stupid telling everyone not to be scared, saying we should love not hate. There have been three attacks, of course we are scared. If someone attacks you, you’re going to be scared!”

The whole class went quiet and I didn’t know what to say.

In the wake of such horrific events, I suppose it is easier for us all to say that we will never be scared and that we are united as one against the attackers.
I suddenly felt very under-qualified to be having this conversation with 11-year-olds.

With adults I can be angry, sad, and even cynical about the events, but with children, if the “one love”, “we’re all in this together” and the “we’ll never be scared” slogans don’t convince them, what am I supposed to say?

Thirty young students were looking to me for an answer and I couldn’t give them one, at least not a satisfactory one.

I could only reiterate the message they’d heard a thousand times: that these terrorists do not represent Muslims and that we all need to stand together. It felt meaningless even saying it.

I know there are plenty of people in this country who do need these lessons drumming into their heads, but the students in my school don’t need to be told that their own religion, or the religion of their best friend isn’t to blame for such atrocities – they already know this.

One of the main reasons I got into teaching was because I wanted to teach future generations about what is going on in the world. I thought it was incredibly important for them to be aware of conflicts, genocides, invasions and power politics.

The unit I am currently teaching is about international conflicts – this week’s lessons are on 9/11 and the rise of ISIS. I still think it is important for them to know about these things, but it is becoming very difficult to teach these things in the current climate.

I always knew that wars would continue and there would always be a new conflict to teach about. But I didn’t contemplate having to teach about a terrorist group as it was claiming responsibility for attacks on my own country.

I suppose this isn’t new. In the 70s and 80s children were taught about nuclear attacks when there was a real possibility of a cold war escalation, and equally they were taught about the IRA at the same time as IRA bombings.

I just hope that one day citizenship lessons will only need to about teach about historical acts of terrorism and war.

  • SecEd’s NQT diarist this year is a teacher of citizenship, RE and humanities at a school in England.


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