Monday, May 25, 2009

Anyone care to weigh in on this one?

There's been a sad turn of events this weekend. A boy at the school where I teach was killed in a car accident. Beautiful day, right after school, no ice, no drugs or alcohol, just a teenage boy's need for speed, subsequent loss of control of car, crash into tree, killing the passenger. The driver was unharmed physically, but now faces the burden of living each day knowing that he caused his friend to die. Most of the kids in my 4th block class are affected by this in some way- all of as are affected because the brother of the victim is in that class. Many of the kids are friends of the driver and the victim. We are having an "emergency" faculty meeting right away tomorrow- I'm not quite sure I know what we'll do in class. My Spanish 1's probably won't be as directly affected and I can most likely have a "regular" class. But, for my last class? Do I hold class as normal? Do we talk about it? Do we talk a bit, and then do some work? Do we do no work? They don't teach you this stuff in college. Anyone else out there gone through this? Some advice, please.


Blogger cupcake said...

First, my condolences.

As for what to do tomorrow, be prepared for anything, but let the kids dictate what you do. You'll know within the first five, ten minutes what will help them most. Maybe it's doing classwork, maybe it's talking. I'd open it up by acknowledging the student with a personal remembrance or, if you don't want to do that, a general acknowledgement of people's pain and confusion. Then see if they have anything to say. If they don't, then you'll know.

I think part of them will want to know that they would be remembered if it was them. They may not be able to articulate that sentiment, but I think it will be there. And knowing that you'll be there will matter a lot to them.

5/25/2009 3:06 PM  
Blogger HappyChyck said...

I'm sorry to hear about this tragedy at your school. Perhaps that's that will be discussed in the meeting...

When we have had students die, we're usually advised to go with the flow. Talk if the students would like to talk, or move on if it seems like they'd rather be distracted from it instead.

Because there has a been a long weekend, the pain may not be as fresh as if the accident had been just yesterday.

5/25/2009 6:40 PM  
Blogger Mister Teacher said...

Thankfully, I am among those who have never gone through a tragedy like this. But I would tend to agree with Cupcake in that you acknowledge what happened at the beginning of class -- even your first class -- recognize it as a horrible accident, and ask if anyone wants to talk about it. The absolute worst result is that you lose a day of instruction, but more than likely you help some kids cope and get closer to closure.

5/25/2009 7:24 PM  
Blogger spain dad said...

I'm sorry.

When I was a senior in high school, a childhood friend of mine died followed by the parents of three of my classmates. I attended five funerals in one school year.

The lesson I remember from that experience is that each person grieves in their own way and at their own time. I would suppose that some kids, possibly even close friends of the student who died, may simply want to carry on with class as usual. Other students who might have only known the student from a distance may be deeply affected and not be able to deal with sitting through class.

As cupcake mentioned, I think it helps to let the students dictate how they want to spend the class period. I think it also helps to keep in mind that you may not be able to "guess" which kids will need help and which won't.

I remember wanting to carry on with class as usual, but it was helpful to know that the staff and the administration had made it very clear that if we wanted someone to talk to at any point, we could just ask and be excused from class. We actually had a few psychologists on campus for that week that followed, and I think they were busy most of the time.

5/25/2009 9:50 PM  
Blogger spain dad said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/25/2009 9:50 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Chili said...

I'm afraid I can't add much that hasn't already been said. Let the kids dictate what you do in class. Let them know that this is hard for you, too; knowing that adults feel pain and sorrow too sometimes helps kids deal with their own. They'll be looking to you for an example of how to behave.

5/26/2009 6:32 AM  
Blogger JRH said...

Hi, I'm new here, but Chili sent me... I'm really sorry, what a rough thing to go through. I lost a student earlier this year, so I have an idea of what you're going through. My associate principal repeatedly said "There's no manual for how to go through this, and if there was, I'd probably have burnt it by now," so my only advice is to remember that. Play it by ear and feel free to let the kids know that's what you're doing. We found that the kids needed a fair amount of leeway immediately afterwards, but in the next few days appreciated more structure but with individual latitude given as requested. Hang in there, it's gonna be a long haul. :(

5/26/2009 5:04 PM  
Blogger Magical Mystical Teacher said...

You got some good advice here. How did it go? How is it going?

5/27/2009 7:07 PM  

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