The first time I ever had to deal with the death of a student was during my first year of teaching. A student transfered into my math class from another school on Monday. He was quiet, didn't turn in any assignments, and didn't cause any trouble. The following Monday we got a note from the counseling office that we should send down any assignments or writing we had from that student. None of us had assignments but we had all sorts of excuses: it had only been 1 week, that's not uncommon for new students, etc. Dad wanted to hold something, anything, in his hand, and we had nothing. We didn't have any schoolwork to show a man who no longer had a son.
In 10 years of teaching, I've been fortunate not to have to deal with the deaths of students I knew. I didn't really know that boy after only one week, and I haven't known other students who've died. I've dealt with the deaths of two teachers, one of which took place on campus, but not of children. Until today.
Early this morning we got an email from one of our school counselors that a student had died over the weekend. He'd transfered to another school at the semester but was still in our district. I had his sister a year or two ago; I had him last semester. It took place at the house of a student at our school.
Later in the morning word had spread, and in what I can only assume was an effort to keep the rumor mill to a minimum, an announcement directed all of us to read our emails--where the principal had written a very brief message that could be read to students. Most students who were severely affected hadn't come to school today, so we were able to get through the day without too much distraction.
At least one teacher complained about the announcement and said there had to be a better way to notify us. I wonder why, given that this is the third death in as many years that we've had to deal with at our school, we don't have some sort of procedure in place to notify us instead of making it up on the fly each time it happens. How is it handled at your school, fellow teachers?
On the way home, I stopped at a card store and found two simple sympathy cards. One I sent to the family, and one I sent to his sister. I lost a brother four years ago this past week; I understand what she's going through. My condolences are sincere, but, given what the family's suffering, seem so insignificant as to border on meaningless. What can I offer them, given their loss?