I am a news junkie, I love keeping up to date with what's happening in the world around us. Given the events of recent weeks; most notably, the terrible events in Paris on Friday 13th, I have been in news overdrive - following the events and the subsequent arguments over what to do.
My interest in the news is not purely for myself, I am aware of the importance of being up to date on the issues of the day for the sake of my students. In the days and weeks that have since followed Paris (and the terror attacks across the globe) I have been bombarded by questions and opinions from many of the students I teach. It is completely natural, given the magnitude of the events. However, with such questions come hesitancy, risk, fear? Many teachers I have spoken to, and interacted with, openly admit to shutting down conversations about ISIS and terrorism in the classroom, mostly for fear of offending someone/saying the wrong thing.
I feel this is setting a dangerous precedent - our students rely on us to help them sort and understand the world around them. For some of our students, we may be the only source of conversation about the news, the only source of critical thought and analysis of the days/weeks/months events. This is a huge responsibility, and one that can be fraught with issues, but if I were a headteacher, I would back my staff to talk to their students about these issues. We mustn't hide away from them - events such as those in Paris create a breeding ground for intolerance and misinformation, if this can't be challenged and confronted in schools, where can it be?
It is a reckless assumption that all teachers are perfect for this task, there is an argument to be made that maybe it isn't our responsibility, maybe we should leave it to someone else.
(An example of the potential problems: http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/nov/24/teachers-reaction-paris-attacks-opinions-headteacher-islamophobia)
However, in spite of stories such as that linked above, I stand firm in the belief that teachers/teaching assistants (and just about anyone working in schools) must be brave enough to talk through the issues of the day with our students. (Of course, we have a responsibility to ensure we are well read and literate on these issues ourselves before we face those conversations.) Perhaps it is my Humanities background (always thought of as more of a 'talking' subject, in my experience) that drives these beliefs, but I suspect not. If you don't feel comfortable/able to talk about these issues, build some time into a department meeting/school meeting/break time to get your facts straight and confront mistruths. At the end of the day, terrorism seeks to create a culture of fear and misinformation, we have a unique role as educators to stop the spread of such culture.