I know there has to be a lot of fear in the teacher when someone close to a student dies, or a student dies. What can they say or do?
Back in high school, a student died in the middle of the day. He had severe health problems that very few – even friends – knew about. One day, during lunch, he collapsed. He was rushed to the hospital. We found out the next morning by announcement what had happened. I had him in my first period English class. The teacher didn’t even pause for a moment. She took attendance and proceeded as if she hadn’t heard a single thing. Several students became outraged and stormed out of the classroom. A student – a friend – someone wasn’t even being acknowledged.
I sat there. I was still in shock over learning the news, and maybe the teacher was too, but she never mentioned the boy once. Perhaps she assumed that we were in high school, and we could deal with something like this. I don’t think that’s true. The teacher had a chance to really bring the class together, but we ended up apart.
I haven’t forgotten that day or that student. He wasn’t someone close, but I had talked to him in passing, joked around. He was part of the classroom in way, and in another way, he was not. I think it’s absolutely vital – even before a tragedy occurs, to create a community within the classroom, to have the teacher know the students so that we can grow from terrible moments as a group, not alone.