A few weeks ago one of my fourth graders lost her father.
Needless to say, the two weeks before break were difficult. Not only did the school, families, and community gather around the family, but so did my students. It is never easy having someone close to your students pass away.
The parent we lost was a very involved father and was loved by so many. He was in a car accident and succumbed to his injuries over the weekend.
The Monday students returned, I had a plan day (luckily on campus) so I was able to tell the class in the morning. Some students already knew, but I wanted to tell them myself and talk about how to be appropriate with our fellow classmate when she returned and their feelings. It is not easy telling a group of nine and ten year-olds about losing a parent. It hits a little to close to home.
That day, students also created sympathy cards in class. The students did a wonderful job. We collected them and put them into a large envelope to have her take them home and read them with her mother and sister.
My student returned the next day because her mom wanted her to have some normalcy. I instructed the class to be kind and caring to her. I also asked them to not ask her questions about her father, but if she talked about it, that was okay. I also warned the students that she might act normal and seem like she is doing alright, but that this is a life-changing event and sometimes people are shock. As I expected, my student seemed to be handling everything.
Thursday morning was the most touching moment for my class. My student brought in a note to the class thanking us for all the sympathy cards. She asked me to read it during our morning meeting. It was the first time all of us were together and addressing what happened after the news.
After I read the note, the entire class was silent and I was able to model to them by saying how sorry we were for her and her family and how we were here for her. It was amazing the togetherness the class showed that day.
This is one of the primary reasons that I do morning meetings everyday, so my students can become connected to each other like a family. I know many people think teachers are working hard to teach the curriculum. But the reality is we have so much more to teach. Students social and emotional needs are just as important.
Hopefully, you will not have to deal with a grieving classroom, but if you do, remember it is an opportunity for you class heal together and learn life skills dealing with death.
Thanks for stopping by,