At the start of each school year, I tell my students that one of my goals is to push them out of their comfort zones. This, I say - in conflict with others, ideas, traditions, themselves - this is where they truly learn. In our classes, Mary Claire, Mike and I challenge our students to wrestle with new ideas and question old ones through discussion, reading, writing, interviewing, you name it.
At the high school where we teach, we ask our students to look at new perspectives, particularly those of people who are oppressed, displaced, silenced or otherwise ignored. We teach them to step out of their comfort zones because so many in our world live outside their comfort zones.
So we're going to France.
As Mike, Mary Claire and I started planning this project last fall, we had three goals: produce authentic writing models and experiences for our students, continue the work of our colleagues and put our high school/college French to use (finally). Two years ago, our colleagues used this same Fund For Teachers grant to travel to Israel and Palestine with the aim of studying and writing about displacement through interviews and in-person experiences. Mike, MC and I wanted to build on that work while adapting it to the French context. We talked about traveling to the southern regions of France, where immigrants often land in that country, and to the suburbs of Paris, where many French Muslims live. As we tossed around ideas for our grant application, our excitement grew.
Fast forward to May. Last week, we learned of the crash of EgyptAir Flight 804, which carried travelers from Paris to Cairo, in the Mediterranean Sea. As I mourned the loss of life, my thoughts turned to our trip. We leave two weeks from today, and at a time when I should be preparing last minute details and thrilled to be traveling to one of my favorite places in the world, I am scared.
When I sat down to write this post last week, I wanted to air my anxiety. I wanted to talk about the November terror attacks in Paris and the March terror attacks in Brussels. I wanted to talk about my fear. I wanted to talk about the concerns of my loved ones. It's been a long time since I was nervous for a trip; my nerves are all I find myself thinking about. I wanted to write all about them.
But that's the point of terrorism, isn't it? It makes us so focused on the fear that we don't see the good. We have this incredible chance to visit a beautiful country and get to know people we would normally never come into contact with. Rather than assuming we will be the next targets, we should go forward with our trip, taking advantage of this opportunity to get to know the world better. After all, the French (and many others in our world) live with the daily reality of terrorism. Life goes on.
So we're going to France.
Despite the November attacks in Paris. Despite the subsequent attacks and plane crashes. Despite the travel warnings, the raised eyebrows of coworkers, the worries of our families and our (at least my) own anxiety.
Despite the terror, we're leaving our comfort zone.