by Aidan Chivers
Written on my year abroad in France, where I am working as an English assistant in the small town of Romorantin.
It was 10.30am on an average Thursday morning. I was in class with a group of 12-year-olds, fielding questions about the texture and consistency of Yorkshire puddings. The kids were bright, alert and keen to learn about various aspects of British life.
Then, with no warning, the electronic shutters came down over the windows. The teacher received a text; she dashed across the room to lock the door and turn off the lights. The children, in a well-practised motion, took cover under their desks.
And there we all sat – silently, in the darkness. Listening to screams echoing from below.
Quarter of an hour later, the head teacher came round the classrooms to tell us the drill was over. As it turns out, these exercises take place with the regularity of fire drills.
This being France, the teacher was then required to fill in some paperwork, confirming that the class had responded appropriately. She sat quietly in the corner of the room and satisfied the bureaucrats. I went back to discussing the delights of English roast dinners.
The children returned to the lesson with an almost unnerving lack of regard for what we’d just been required to do. A quick break for the biannual simulation of mass murder, and then back to class.
I couldn’t help but wonder: what better coup could there be for terrorists than for the institutions of France to collaborate in telling generations of children that they are never safe, not even in their own schools?