Your Role as the Teacher: Leading a Class Discussion
Some Points to Consider
Because you are a role model and you influence your students, you have the privilege and the burden of helping them through a very difficult time. When a student dies, the needs of affected students can be overwhelming. The following are suggestions on how to initially help students through the first day of loss.
All staff will be expected to do a minimum of the classroom Announcement script. The classroom announcement may be as short as 5 minutes or last longer if there are very vocal students. The important fact is that you are there trying to help. That makes you human and diffuses the possibility of student anger and acting out that can occur when staff does not sit down with them face to face.
Acknowledge your feelings about loss so that you can be emotionally available to help your students. You may have difficulty keeping from showing tears--that's okay. Your emotions validate theirs.
Be open and honest with feelings. Create an atmosphere of open acceptance that invites questions and fosters students' confidence that the classroom is a safe and supportive place where they can work through their feelings. Avoid euphemisms and speak directly, using the words "dead," "dying," and "death."
We can't take students' grief away. Talking will help them move through and normalize their feelings. You don't need to have a response that will "make it all better." Listening is more important than guiding or advising. In fact, reflective responses work well in discussions regarding death. Think of yourself as a mirror that's reflecting back what you hear the students say.
We have a diverse group of students from many different schools. You may have a few students that seem deeply affected by a student's death while for others the death has little or no impact. In those cases, it may be best to have the hurting students go to the Counseling Center to be part of the intervention group.
For more specific information, open the documents on the right-side.