Student death in the family. My role?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Jerseygirlteach, Oct 6, 2010.

  1. Jerseygirlteach

    Jerseygirlteach Groupie

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    Oct 6, 2010

    How do you react when you learn that a student has suffered a personal tragedy? Do you take the student aside and offer your condolences or do you not bring it up at all unless the student approaches you for support?

    I just learned that the father of one of my students is terminally ill from cancer and very near death. When it happens, how do you react as a teacher? I doubt my student knows I'm aware of the situation.

    I feel cold-hearted not saying anything if I hear her father died but she might not want to talk about it (or even want me to be aware of it). What do you do? By the way, this is an 8th grade girl.
     
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  3. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Oct 6, 2010

    It depends on my relationship with the student. If it is a student that I have in class and feel I could approach her, I would pull her aside and just let her know that if she needed to talk I'm here and if she needs something to let me know. The need might be an extra day for homework or time to study for a test, a bathroom break, etc.

    However, if I didn't really have a relationship with the student I would wait for them to bring it up and just know that they might need support during this time.
     
  4. Jerseygirlteach

    Jerseygirlteach Groupie

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    Thank you. Just to clarify, it's early in the school year (only 1 month in) and since it's middle school, I only see them about 40 minutes a day. So, I don't really feel that close to any of my students yet. It's not to say that I haven't formed a relationship with them but it's early and no, I don't feel that she would think of me as someone close to her. Maybe in a few months but not yet.
     
  5. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Oct 6, 2010

    Are you the homeroom teacher? If you feel that this is a student you will form that kind of relationship, you could just let her know that you are here if she needs.

    If it is a student that you get the leave me alone vibe, then I would. Maybe ask your team if there is someone who feels a different vibe. They could be the contact.
     
  6. bros

    bros Phenom

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    Oct 6, 2010

    Tell her that you know about her situation, and that if she needs extra time to hand in homework or something like that, you'll understand.
     
  7. ku_alum

    ku_alum Aficionado

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    Oct 6, 2010

    I write a note and send it to the home if I don't know the student well. If I know the student well, I hand the note to the student.

    The note says something along the lines:
    I have heard what you are going through
    Know that you have my support and the support of your classmates
    Let's talk if you think your school work will be affected
     
  8. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    The note is a great idea if you haven't built the rapport yet!
     
  9. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Oct 6, 2010

    I would offer, at the very least, a heartfelt "I'm so sorry to hear about your dad" after the fact.

    I always try to attend the wake of a parent of any student I'm currently teaching as well.
     
  10. Mrs. R.

    Mrs. R. Connoisseur

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    Oct 6, 2010

    At our school, the seventh grade team would send a card that we had all signed to the family. Like Alice, I would also attend the wake if it is a student I have in my class. I might also make a small donation to a charity if it's a family where I've had several of the children and know them well.
     
  11. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Virtuoso

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    Oct 6, 2010

    Usually we will send a card from the staff and another from the students. We usually try to make sure that there are teachers at the visitation and/or the funeral.
     
  12. tracykaliski

    tracykaliski Connoisseur

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    Oct 6, 2010

    There's a place here in town that provides grief support for kids and a school outreach program.

    http://www.fernside.org/resources/pros/

    This link has lots of good information on how to deal with death with children in a school setting. It may take some time to read, but I highly recommend it.
     
  13. Zelda~*

    Zelda~* Devotee

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    My mom's dad died when she was 12. Only _one_ teacher said anything to her, and she to this day remembers that man and is grateful to him. It was a simple "I'm sorry to hear about your dad,"
     
  14. Jerseygirlteach

    Jerseygirlteach Groupie

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    Thanks for the feedback. It certainly wouldn't be for lack of concern that I wouldn't say anything to her. I haven't been able to think of much else since I found out today. But her mom says she's in total denial and truly believes that he will get better. She also has major anxiety issues. I just worry that I'll be making things worse for her by bringing it up at school even if it is to tell her how very sorry I am for her loss.

    But I guess, despite all this, it makes sense to let her know how sorry I am when it happens.
     
  15. tgim

    tgim Habitué

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    Oct 6, 2010

    I would just let her know (privately) that you are sorry to hear that her father is ill, and that you are there if she needs to talk. Keep it simple, short, and heartfelt - don't ask questions or put her on the spot...and make sure it is done w/out any other students around.
     
  16. Kate Change

    Kate Change Companion

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    Oct 7, 2010

    My best friends' mom died when my friend was in high school and the whole community knew about it. It turned out that it made her feel incredibly uncomfortable. She was getting grief counseling and her family was rallying around them, but what she wanted was for school to be a place where she didn't have to talk or think about the fact that her mom had died. None of the teachers were pushy about talking to her, but all of them said something.

    She skipped a lot of school because she didn't want to talk about it or hear about it or have people look at her oddly. She didn't ever talk about it with her teachers and the one class she attended regularly was with a teacher who didn't get involved or treat her differently.

    I think the best idea is to send a note to the surviving parent, not the student, leaving the choice up the parent. My friend's dad would have been able to tell the school that she didn't want attention and I think that would have been much better for her. Perhaps the parent of the other student (that Zelda knew) would have been able to tell that child's teachers that she would like support. I think this is a decision to leave up to the parents, however.
     
  17. Momma C

    Momma C Comrade

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    Oct 8, 2010

    Last year I had the same situation, but a male student with a terminally ill mom. Like you, it was early in the year so I didn't know the kid very well. However, I noticed that he was tired and sad much of the time. I greet my kids at the door, so one day I just asked if he was okay. He told me "yea, just tired." Then I told him I had heard his mom was sick, to which he replied that she had cancer. He was tired because he was the only one in the home that could lift her - during the night, etc. We started building a relationship the moment I asked him if he was okay at the door. He started coming to me and talking about his mom's cancer at various times during the week, especially if there had been a bad night. We worked together to make sure he finished all of his assignments - many he did at home. Anyway, long story short, address your student in a casual way -- they will usually take it from there, if they want to talk.
     
  18. treysmom

    treysmom Comrade

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    Oct 9, 2010

    I would like to weigh in as a teacher and the parent of a child who lost his dad suddenly when he was in the 10th grade. First, let me say that there were very concerned and caring teachers, counselor, etc. for which we will forever be grateful. 16 is a tough age to start with and my child did struggle with school. Add the tragic death of his beloved dad, well, you can imagine. I later had a conference with one of his teachers who actually shrugged her shoulders and said, "Well, he started out okay in my class, but after his father died, I just couldn't keep his attention." As a teacher I was mortified that someone in education could actually utter those words to me. As a parent I was enraged.
     
  19. scmom

    scmom Enthusiast

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    Oct 9, 2010

    The counseling team at our school talk to the family and then tell the teachers how to approach the situation. Sometimes they tell the teachers to approach the child openly and sometimes they say not to because the child wants it to be a separate environment. Nurture the child without singling them out, be understanding, etc. We always send a big teacher contingent to the funeral.
     

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