Sally Rushmore edits the New Teacher Advocate. She formerly taught secondary science and computer applications at a community college.
If you are a teacher today, you probably remember vividly where you were when you heard that the twin towers in New York City had been struck by airplanes on 9/11 in 2001. You may have been one of millions glued to the television over the next several days. If you were teaching then, you had a big job of helping your students feel secure at a time you may not have felt secure yourself. Whether you were a teacher or a student, you may have sat with your family and grappled with shock and grief.
I was on my way to my classroom of adult community college students. We watched the events unfold together and comforted one another. The entire day was a loss for teaching from my plan, but allowed for talking about life and family and doing a lot of hugging and crying. And then I went home to my own children who were distraught.
Too often in the past few years teachers have had to deal with tragedies. Some have been of epic proportions like 9/11 or the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting or the tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. Others are traumatic for your school like a student who is shot or dies in a car wreck or as a result of suicide. And many are traumatic only to one or a few students like the loss of a pet or grandparent. Some losses are invisible to most people like an immigrant student whose move means the loss of everything and everyone he knows and loves.
Do you know what to do and what to say? Do you know what not to do or say? Would you like to be able to help your grieving students? Should you let them see you show emotion? Do you feel helpless?
Dr. David Schonfeld, Director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement (NCSCB) and Pediatrician-in-Chief at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, chose to give the webinar Crisis! Supporting the Grieving Student for Kappa Delta Pi members and friends on 9/11 for a reason. He was there. He consulted to the NYC Department of Education to provide training for approximately 1,000 district and school-level crisis teams. In 2005, Dr. Schonfeld was awarded funding by the September 11th Children’s Fund and the National Philanthropic Trust to establish a National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, which now receives funding from the New York Life Foundation. The goal of the NCSCB is to promote an appreciation of the role schools can serve to support students, staff, and families at times of crisis and loss; to collaborate with organizations and agencies to further this goal; and to serve as a resource for information, training materials, consultation, and technical assistance.
Anderson Cooper interviewed Dr. Schonfeld after the Newtown shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Watch this interview to get an idea of the depth of Dr. Schonfeld’s understanding and care. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwTitfjXu4w You can skip to 1:30 to hear Dr. David Schonfeld. As you may have guessed, Dr. Schonfeld was called to help after the flooding in New Orleans, the earthquake and school collapses in China as well as after the tornado in Joplin, MO.
Whether loss is personal or one that impacts the entire school/community, bereavement can have a profound and long-term impact on children’s psychological adjustment, academic achievement, and personal development. This session will offer practical guidance on how educators can play a unique and critical role in supporting grieving students.
Participants in Crisis! Supporting the Grieving Student will:
• become more comfortable in initiating conversations with grieving students,
• understand the role of guilt in impacting adjustment to a loss,
• recognize the importance of long-term follow-up after a significant loss, and
• be able to provide practical advice to families on issues such as funeral attendance of children.
Hear his gripping stories and down-to-earth advice!