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8th grade English teacher - Athens, Alabama

Death of a Student

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My cheer squad suffered a loss in 2007 when a member died suddenly of Bacterial Meningitis. Being a member of my son's class too, I was especially close with Jessica, her family and the other girls. She was a strong cheerleader, drama student, and a friend to everyone. Our school was devastated. The girls and I joined her family's wish to begin a scholarship in her name. Selling t-shirts, wrist bands, hosting fun-walks, pageants, ugly walks - you name it; we did it to raise money for the scholarship and The National Meningitis Association. We began to heal. Doing for Jessica's family and her memory helped us through the grief.

My daughter who teaches

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My daughter who teaches preschool lost one of her students during this school year in a horrific car accident.
She turned to me first as to how to handle the information with her class. Young children do not understand what is going on, but they are listening and observing how people around them handle death. I had purchased some books for her dealing with death of loved ones so she was able to use those with her children. One of them talked about keeping the loved ones in your heart. She had the kids cut out hearts with "Olivia" written on it. They colored the hearts while they talked about memories of Olivia. Our area education agency sent grief counselors who were wonderful.

First grade teacher from Indianapolis, Indiana

Jason, I think you've really

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Jason, I think you've really highlighted the need for grievance counselors in school districts. I'm glad your school has hired someone. Take care and God bless. Frances

Student Death

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Reading your blog really brought up some emotions for me. I teach high school science at a charter school in a low-income area of a large city, and have had to deal with this topic at least once every year. I have had students die from illness, car accidents, murder and suicide, and they all cause pain and a sense of loss. I have tried to attend every funeral and be there for the families and students every time a tragedy occurs. However, disturbing as this may sound, I feel the students in this community are so immune to the pain that they don't properly express themselves and see death as a normal part of their life. It seems like all too often the students make jokes to laugh off the pain instead of confronting it and dealing with it. From this, I see students drop out or fail classes because they didn't properly deal with the pain of losing a friend or fellow student. Thankfully our school has just hired a grievance counselor to help with these situations. I hope that with this new outlet we might see higher levels of performance and more emotional stability from our students.

First grade teacher from Indianapolis, Indiana

Ann, Jodi, Debbie and

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Ann, Jodi, Debbie and Steve,

Thanks to each of you for lending your unique voices to this discussion. The stories you relate are so vivid. We never forget our students, do we?

Frances

HIgh School History Teacher

Ms. Peacock, Your article

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Ms. Peacock, Your article brought me back to my students who have passed on. I know throughout my 30 years as a high school teacher the pain never really goes away. I lost two students in one year, both to car accidents. One young man was driving his new car in the rain and lost control I found out he was dead when listening to the 6PM news that evening. Two months later a young woman in the same class period was walking her dog when a car sped around the corner, she pushed her friend and dog out of the way and took the full brunt of the hit from the car, she died two days later. It has been years since these children died but I still mourn their loss. Their potential for doing great things, their love of life and their families is all lost. It is such a tragedy when we lose them so young. I understand the loss that will always be a part of you as a teacher.

First grade teacher from Indianapolis, Indiana

Hello Steve. Yes, feel free

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Hello Steve. Yes, feel free to share the article. Frances

Great post - Can I please share with Australian teachers

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Hi Frances
I love your post and it really highlights a challenging time for many teachers. I provide articles designed to boost morale in schools and reduce teacher stress. I'd love to share your post through an article (appropriately attributed to you) and am seeking your approval.

Special Ed English teacher, Anchorage, Alaska

Passages

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I have had three times when I lost students or former students, and a few times when there were near-deaths. All were accidental. One of them was a double tragedy; two kids were fooling around with a gun, and one accidentally shot the other one. I went to a funeral and the jail in the same week. What we did in class was talk and cry and write. I let the kids take the lead, and we processed as we needed to. The shooting was especially difficult because there were kids who were understandably angry and full of blame and accusation. I have also lost two colleagues: one to suicide, and one in an avalanche. These were more difficult than the student deaths, I think. Everyone was absolutely stricken. What all of these experiences taught me is that I want to be the kind of teacher who is kind. I want to be the one who realizes when it is more important to grieve than to review for a test. Routines can provide the structure to assist in the healing, but all of us need to process and take the time to heal. I think we all get a sense of when to fall back into the routines and the lessons. And my students are very good about letting me know if they need some time with individual talks.

English teacher

In my five years of teaching

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In my five years of teaching I have had to help students through the suicides of 3 of their classmates. While I only had 1 of the young men in class, it still changed me as a teacher to work with the friends left behind with so many unanswered questions. Honestly, this last suicide was the hardest because I had been down this sad road of recovery with students twice before and I didn't know if I had it in me to do again. It is not easy to look in the eyes of a teenager who feels like their entire world is crashing in on them. The pain, hurt, sadness, and fear inside those eyes will change you. It drains a person physically, mentally, and emotionally to watch children suffer with such grief. The last young man, I had in class the year before. I can't begin to imagine what kind of turmoil could have been bad enough for him to want to take his own life. His friends couldn't either and that is the hardest thing for them to accept. They all feel lonely, depressed, oppressed, scared, and ugly but this friend took things to a whole new level. I have cried with, prayed for, and talked with my fair share of hurting students.
I do believe that these deaths have made me a better teacher. I cannot simply look at my students as numbers or standardized test takers. They are individuals each with their own set of problems at school, home, and work. I listen to them when they talk to me and I try very hard to never treat them like they don't matter.

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