Fellow teacher died last week.

Discussion in 'General Education' started by MrTempest, Feb 10, 2020.

  1. MrTempest

    MrTempest Companion

    Mar 18, 2014
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    Feb 10, 2020

    Last week a teacher in my department committed suicide. To say it was unexpected would be an understatement. Things have been far from normal and I suppose that it will be sometime before the weirdness of things dissipates.

    Since there is no game plan for this I was wondering if any of you had and input on this matter on how best to move forward with regards to students, teachers and the school in general. There is a feeling of being lost prevalent in the building as we all are trying to keep our bearings and keep moving forward.
  3. cupcakequeen

    cupcakequeen Comrade

    Sep 10, 2014
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    Feb 10, 2020

    I'm so sorry to hear about your coworker. Though not quite the same situation, my school did have a much-loved coworker pass away from a heart attack right before Christmas. Our principal created a message for us to share with students regarding loss in general and reiterating that there were a wide range of emotions it was normal to be feeling and that they should feel free to reach out to a teacher, school counselor, or any other adult in the building if they wanted to talk about the situation.

    As a staff, we had had a morning meeting before the school day started as kind of a "mini memorial," where we could come and share memories of our coworker if we wanted to. We had an "in memoriam" table set up in our lobby with photos of the coworker and tributes/pictures/letters from students. We also had a hat day in their honor and donated the proceeds to his family to help with expenses.
  4. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

    Aug 8, 2005
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    Feb 10, 2020

    We had a teacher die by suicide many years ago. The students were told was that she died suddenly and unexpectedly. Our school board has a crisis team that was deployed to our school and were available for any staff or students to talk with if they wanted to. We were encouraged to let the kids take the lead as far as talking or not talking about their feelings. Many just wanted to keep things business-as-usual. The teacher's parents had requested memorial donations be made to the school; we used the funds to commission a mural for the wall in the library (the teacher was a Literacy lead teacher).
  5. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

    Jun 14, 2013
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    Feb 10, 2020

    I’m so sorry for your loss. We had a teacher pass away a few years ago as well. It was especially hard on his students. I believe the school had a memorial for students and their parents in which balloons or lanterns were released and kind words were spoken. I was not there as it was during the school day. However, it gave students a sense of closure. I had the same group the next year and they got sad but also fondly spoke of him whenever his name was mentioned.
  6. viola_x_wittrockiana

    viola_x_wittrockiana Comrade

    Oct 25, 2016
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    Feb 12, 2020

    My sister's fourth grade teacher was killed in a car accident a few months into the year. Another driver failed to yield, combined with no seatbelt, and that was it. They got a long-term sub as quickly as possible, and had one of the TAs from another class stick around for a few weeks to help transition. The sub was wonderful and stayed on for another year. Though not as appropriate for this situation, his students were invited to the wake. I remember going. The school planted a butterfly garden with benches for reading in his honor. It also served as a teaching moment about wearing your seatbelt. There was a memorial page in the yearbook as well.

    Then, in college, a professor had a heart attack during lecture and died at the hospital. There were memorial articles in the school paper, a scholarship in his name, and counseling for the students who were understandably quite distressed.
  7. vickilyn

    vickilyn Multitudinous

    Jul 19, 2014
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    Feb 13, 2020

    In the case of suicide people tend to be very protective of the deceased and the memory of that individual. That is understandable, but confusing to students who can't understand how this can happen. If the kids have questions that seem to come out of the blue, I tend to go with science. The brain is an amazing organ, and we have seen evidence of this our whole life long. But kind of like the computers we use daily, they can have glitches that may not be visible in the whole. The son of a teacher friend committed suicide his second year in college. Pretty much everyone found out, and the parents were devastated. My son went to the funeral, and he was shaken. How could this young man with so much to live for allow himself to end his own life in the middle of the night? My explanation then, as it has always been, is that the mind, especially in the middle of the night, when our worries seem to gang up on us, is when we need to realize that worries that seem insurmountable in the wee dark morning hours often are minimized by the light of day. I used to work in a hospital, and there is, indeed, a witching hour, the darkest hour before dawn, and deaths frequently spike during that time. The brain is remarkable but fragile. No one will ever know with 100% certainty what went through the deceased's mind in that last instant, but we should never negate the good life that the friend or teacher was known for by one poor decision. Should we blame the person dying of a heart attack because they chose poor nutrition and a lack of exercise? How about the driver who always was just a hair too heavy footed when there is a fatal car crash? Suicide implies death by choice, but many times they absolutely can't imagine how tomorrow will get here, or where they belong in it, so, without understanding these last thoughts and doubts, I will never be the one to paint the victim as weak or selfish.

    Most schools will not honor, in any way, the life of a teacher who commits suicide, afraid it sends the wrong message. The message, however, is that life is complex, and we never completely know what is going on in another's mind. If there are clues beforehand, we should heed all warning signs and try to get the individual to help. But we should be careful about second guessing the rationale or one bad decision and letting us color that person's entire life by their last decision. Just my take on the subject. Be honest if kids ask. Assure them that there is always help, if you need to reach out, and the strongest case against suicide is all around them - the vacuum that is left when one person exits this realm without considering how their loss will affect all the people who were left behind. Had that individual been thinking of others in that last instant, they may have found a better way of dealing with their pain - but pain of many kinds can keep you from seeing alternative choices. Assure students that there will always be someone to listen if they are sad or missing this teacher. Most importantly, they are not alone in their feelings of grief.
  8. Tired Teacher

    Tired Teacher Habitué

    Jul 31, 2019
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    Feb 14, 2020

    Wow! I am really sorry! The unexpected suicide of a coworker would be very unsettling. It must be really hard on the class of kids too. Do they know how she died? I think it is really important to acknowledge her death as a group.
    Doing something to honor her memory as a group too would be nice. Like planting a tree in her memory or whatever you all decide. The kids definitely need to have some type of grief class....maybe as a group. Then individually if needed.
    I think 1 of the hardest parts of death is when people quit or don't talk about the deceased. We had a staff member die last yr, but no announcement was even made. We had a short 15 minute staff meeting the day after he died unexpectedly. Our school is dysfunctional. The kids found out from hearing it from their parents or other kids. It was sad.

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