How to teach about 22 July when you are directly affected?

For many, the terrorist attacks 22 July 2011 is just a dark day in history. Those of us who were directly affected, live with the experience and consequences every day. How do teachers who are directly affected deal with this in the classroom?

Together with our partners Utøya and the Support Group after 22 July, EWC organized a training course for teachers who are directly affected. Some of the participants survived the attack at Utøya 22 July 2011 and now work as teachers. Others were family or friends of victims 

The aim of the training course was to create room for exchange of experience and give teachers concrete tools for teaching about 22 July and democratic citizenship. 

Sandra is one of the teachers who took part. 

“The course gave me the opportunity to process my own grief, and at the same time concrete tools to be able to talk about 22 July. This will come in handy both in spontaneous, unstructured conversations with students and in planned teaching on the topic”, she said. 

The group of teachers and trainers

During the course, participants discussed questions such as: How do we balance our professional role as a teacher and our role as someone who personally experienced the terrorist attack? What responsibility do we want to take in teaching about 22 July in our school and what should be expected of us? What do we need from colleagues and management? 

It was emphasized by the participants that being affected can be a strength in teaching about the topic, because it gives credibility, and it personalizes the terrorist attacks. This creates a unique learning opportunity for students. At the same time, it is important that the environment does not have unrealistic expectations of affected teachers, and that they themselves can set boundaries for what, how and when they want to share.  

“From the exchange of experience during the course, came concrete recommendations that are important contributions to how we teach about, and relate to those affected by, the terrorist attacks. We will take this with us in the further development of the Democracy Workshop at Utøya and learning resources on 22 July. It is also relevant in general for how schools respond to and teach about terrorist attacks in other countries”, Ingrid Aspelund, Head of the EWC Youth Section, said.