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Passing of a student

Discussion in 'Secondary' started by F73, Feb 14, 2012.

  1. F73


    This is the first time I've used this forum so please bear with me if I make any mistakes to forum etiquette.
    Basically, on Friday night one of my year 13s passed away suddenly of a heart attack, linked to his diabetes. It came as a shock to everyone and I've been absolutely devastated since hearing the news.
    I only just finished my NQT year last year so I've not had to experience anything like this before and I'm really not sure what to expect when we get back. All of the teaching staff will have heard, but having taught him for a year and a half I know him better than most.
    I intend to go to the funeral and will send a card of condolences to his family, but I'm more worried about what I do with the class that he was a part of. I will be teaching them on that first Monday back. I genuinely don't know what to do. Do I carry on as normal? Give them a free lesson? Share memories of the student?
    What makes it worse is I'm a Psychology teacher and we're due to start teaching a module on depression. I really don't want to do this the first lesson back.
    What I'm thinking of doing is offering them a choice of things to do, from some revision activities, to having a free lesson or maybe just watching a video on another topic. But I really don't know.
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated
  2. Morninglover

    Morninglover Lead commenter

    Yes, that sounds appropriate
    I would do the latter, then perhaps have a 5 minute break to allow students to compose themselves/go to the toilet etc ( I might leave the room for that time) and then go back in and get on with work (in a fairly structured, perhaps teacher directed) way

    But there are no set answers to this...so perhaps talk to a more experienced colleague first

    Good luck
  3. F73


    Thanks for the advice. I'm going to speak to my HoD as she knows him just as well as I do and teaches the same class. She may have experienced something similar to this before.
    It's a really small class (around 10-12) so his absence is going to really stand out
  4. 576

    576 Established commenter

    You need to bear in mind that some students won't have been close to him (even though your class is small)
    You have to plan a normal lesson & be ready to deal with the students who fall apart.
    My last school lost 6 students in the last 3 years I was there! (arson, rta, stabbing, & two related to existing medical conclusion)
    Sharing your memories (which at 18months after 6.5 years in the school does not mean you knew him better than most - sorry if that's harsh but someone in that school was probably his tutor for 5 years. His GCSE teachers would have taught him for at least 2)
    Business as usual with a contingency plan is best
  5. F73


    Our school has around 100 staff, so I daresay I did know him better than most, although that's besides the point and it's not a competition.
    I wanted to do a normal lesson after maybe a quick chat at the start, but just think the content of the new module (depression) will be too heavy for the first day back.
    I think I'll find some revision work for them to do instead.
    Thanks for the advice so far, it's much appreciated
  6. sleepyhead

    sleepyhead New commenter

    Many years ago, one of my students was killed in a car accident the same weekend as another student died from his long term illness.
    Like you, mine was the first lesson back. I planned a lesson as normal, and we got on as best we could. There was much weeping and wailing in school, largely by people who knew the students in the sense of seeing them around but who weren't friends of theirs. Afterwards, many of their friends told us that they'd been relieved to have some normality in amongst it all. That might sound harsh, but I felt that I needed to give them that routine.
    Oddly, there were other times when I needed to deviate from the routine more - the day after the funeral was a very hard day; the day when we sorted out their coursework and someone came across her folder; results day.
    I don't think you should give them a free lesson, or deviate too much from the topic set. Life goes on and, as awful as it sounds, we have to help them by giving them normality as well as being there for them if and when they need us.
    Incidentally, I hadn't planned to go to the funeral but her parents contacted me and asked me to go - I'd never really known how much she'd enjoyed my lessons until then. After the funeral, the HT wanted all the students to go back to school, but myself and her HoY ended up taking a small group of her dearest friends to a cafe for hot sweet tea and sticky buns because they were clearly in no state to go anywhere.
    It will likely be a very difficult time in school. My thoughts are with you.
  7. F73


    thanks sleepyhead

    I spoke to the Deputy today via email and he has said they will be hoping to organise it so those staff who would like to attend the funeral can go. I've said I'd like to do this.
    He also said we're more than welcome to send an individual card and let me know where to find the address. I'll do this on Monday.
    He also said they'll be giving his teachers some advice re next week's lessons before Monday.
    I'm leaning towards having a brief chat at the start of the lesson, saying how it's OK to be upset and if anybody needs to talk or time out of the lesson then they're more than likely to go at any time. I'll explain that I plan on carrying on with the regular lesson on depression, unless they don't feel comfortable doing this, in which case I'll have something else prepared for them.
    Such a sad state of affairs, his friends really shouldn't be having to deal with losing a friend at their age.

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