Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education

How would you deal with the death of a student in your class
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Author:  Jessica Mundy [ Tue Sep 16, 2008 7:39 pm ]
Post subject:  How would you deal with the death of a student in your class

With the recent events that have happened in my life, I find myself wondering what it would have been like if all this had happened with Justin while we were still in school. I like to think that teachers would be really understanding and would be available for the students to talk to about this tragic loss. I would imagine that counselors would also be available to talk with.
As a future educator I found myself wondering how I would handle this situation in my classroom. More importantly, Justin had a little brother who is in the 5th grade, so I began wondering how I would handle a student who had lost a sibling. How would I know what to say or what to do? I would definitely attend the services so the student would know that I was there for them if they needed me. I would also pay a little closer attention to this particular student especially in the few weeks to months that followed the death of the sibling. I would definitely want the student to know that my door is always open and I will be there to listen to them as well as cry with them if that is what they need.

Author:  Mandi McGaha [ Tue Sep 16, 2008 9:14 pm ]
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This is honestly something that has never crossed my mind as a future teacher, but I remember being a student and losing classmates and even a teacher. When we lost classmates at our school we were allowed to visit the guidance office as often as we wanted, talk to our teachers, and even express our emotions with sidewalk chalk in the school parking lot. Both times in high school that we lost a classmate, that student's desk was left open for the remainder of the year. That always made it feel more normal to me. When my high school lost a very young teacher during my sophomore year similar things were done to remember her and all the ways that she touched all of our lives. I really don't know that there is a perfect answer to the question of how to deal with a loss within a classroom. Everyone always reacts to death so differently. I think one key thing to do would be to let the students know that they aren't going through the loss alone, that you are going through it with them.

Author:  Heather Holland Crow [ Tue Sep 16, 2008 10:04 pm ]
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I believe that when dealing with a death in your class, you should be honest. As teachers, students trust what we say, and we should not feed them "sugar coated" information. This will only make the situation worse. Students should be able to know that it is okay to cry, feel sad, and even feel angry. However, we should be able to help them deal with these feelings so they do not get out of hand. For example, a counselor could be available to talk to students when they feel that things are getting out of control. I believe that it was a great idea that the class left a seat open for a deceased student at Mandi's school. You should want that individual to be remembered in a positive way. You also have to become very alert of what is going on around you and with your students inside and outside the classroom. Many issues of depression can arise and it is important to be on the lookout for that. I would also let my students be able to express their feelings through writing, art, music, etc. If this happened in my classroom, I know I would be very upset about the loss as well. Therefore, it would be important for me to keep check of myself. It would important that I have another adult I could talk to about how I am feeling. In order to help my students, I would need to be able to stay strong.

Author:  Clay Moore [ Wed Sep 17, 2008 7:49 am ]
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I would have to say that how the situation is exactly handled would be how the student's reactions are to the death of a classmate or sibling. People react in different ways about everything. Death is a big issue and feelings could be shown on both ends of the spectrum. The only thing I could think of would be to face the situation head on from the start. Let the student(s) know that you are there for them if they have any questions or concerns. Let them know they can come to you for anything even if its just to vent. Be sure the counselor is aware of the situation and monitor the student's behavior day to day. I would think the worst could come several days or even weeks after the incident because emotions could have been bottled up from the start because of the initial shock. What I'm trying to say is that I don't think there is a set way to handle these situations. They're terrible and I hope none of us have to deal with them but I feel they should be faced and not ignored.

Author:  Lloyd Walker [ Wed Sep 17, 2008 10:55 am ]
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I agree Clay you have to deal with death head on. I also think it depends on the student dealing with death and your relationship with them. There may not be anything you can do for them or more importantly anything they want you to do. People, especially children deal with differently. I think the most important thing is be aware. One thing to remember is that many students do not live in a traditional family. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, bothers, sisters, close friends, and sometimes people with no familial relationship are the primary care givers for students. What might seem to us as the death of someone the student knows may actually be the person who is responsible for the students health and well being.

Author:  Tracy Gardo [ Wed Sep 17, 2008 11:57 am ]
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First off I want to say sorry for you loss Jessica. As a teacher I don’t believe that we can ignore the issue if a student were to die. Some students may want to go own with their lives as normal to help them relieve some of the emotions from the death, however, others may need someone to talk to about what has happened. Death is a scary thing for many students to deal with and their teachers or classmates may be the only ones they have to talk to about it. Something important to remember is that everyone deals with grief a different way and just because a student seems happy doesn’t mean that they don’t still need someone there to listen to them. Just let your students know who and where they can go to talk to someone about what they are going through and that you are there for them. We can only hope we never have to go through this as a teacher.

Author:  Heather Rulifson [ Wed Sep 17, 2008 4:33 pm ]
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Death is a hard situation to deal with. As a teacher, you are their role model, and may be one of few adult figures that a student can confide in or come to. Some children don't have a family that cares or will listen. It's important to confront the situation, even if you, personally, are only able to touch on it briefly and need to refer the students to a guidance counselor or another adult figure. It's even ok to say "This is really hard for me to talk about without getting emotional. I'm sure Mrs. _____ or one of the guidance counselors would like to help and listen."

The way you deal with the death, depents on the particular group, individuals, and situation. You can model coping in a good manner, even show that's it's ok to cry or feel sad. Mostly offer time to talk and share memories. Remember the good times not the bad.

When David, a student from my highschool, died in a car accident his Junior year, I think my teachers handled the situation in an inspiring and adult manner. My math teacher announced his death at the beginning of class and we all had a chance to say kind words about him. She also left his seat open for the rest of the year in his memory, and no one was to sit in it. She was willing to talk and understood if there was chatter or the rest of the class was a little rough, but she also continued with that day's lesson to keep our minds off him. The whole school took part in commemorating him as well. We signed a banner for his family, and our art teacher drew a portrait of David and raised money to have it matted and framed nicely for his family.

I can't even imagine what I would have done if my teachers never said anything about David's death...if all I heard were rumors floating around the school from students for the rest of the year. (Granted, I lived next to an ER doctor, so I knew the inside story) I'd never have peace about the whole situation, and whenever I'd go to a class, and he wasn't there my thoughts would be on him, not the lecture or class activity.

Author:  CaseyDavis [ Wed Sep 17, 2008 7:44 pm ]
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It certainly would be a horrible situation to have to go through and deal with as a teacher. My senior year of high school, a sophomore girl was killed in a car accident. I knew the girl, but we weren't very close. The whole school kind of shut down for about a week after the tragic event. You could tell that my teachers were very disturbed by this event as well. They still carried on teaching but it's just like somehow they knew that all the students were not going to be giving or would not be able to give 100% of their attention. I believe that if something this horrible ever takes place while I am teaching then I will try to deal with it to the best of my ability to help my students get passed this rough time. Perhaps if there were to be a major test coming up then I would push it back to help my students be able to take the time they needed to be able to perform to the greatest of their abilities. I only pray that this doesn't happen, but the odds are against it.

Author:  Jennifer Redmond [ Fri Sep 19, 2008 10:39 pm ]
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I honestly do not know how I would deal with an incident in which a student in my class died. I think the worse thing a teacher can do is ignore the incident, and act like nothing happened. Durring my senior year, two of my classmates died in a car accident. Only one teacher acknowledged this fact, and let us know that it wasn't something we had to deal with by ourselves. Even though it was just one teacher who spoke to us about this tragedy, it was enough to help our class get through it. I think that's one of the best things a teacher can do, and I hope when I'm a teacher I will be able to figure out the best route to help my students deal with the loss of a classmate.

Author:  Jessica Mundy [ Tue Sep 30, 2008 10:38 pm ]
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I agree that as teachers we have to keep a check on ourselves and we do have to hit on the subject of death. It is not something that we can just overlook and go on as if nothing happened.

Author:  Aaron Jones [ Fri Dec 12, 2008 10:22 pm ]
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The death of a student is something that every teacher dreads. Not only do you have to handle your own emotions but you also have to handle the emotions of your students. I was very fortuanate when I was in school. My graduation class was the first one in nearly a decade that did not have someone die before graduation day. Most lives were claimed in auto accidents. We did have two friends of mine to be critically injured our senior year, but they both survived. As far as handling death in a classroom goes, I believe you should discuss it if the student who died was in your class. You should also talk about it at the beginning of the first period of the day. After that, you should try to move on with your lesson. If you have planned a very complicated activity, you may want to simplify it because the students will be destracted. It would be best if you tried to handle the destraction, rather than fight it. But sooner or later, you'll just have to move on.

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