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Y6 teacher - advice on dealing with the death of a student?

Discussion in 'Primary' started by nottsteacher, Dec 30, 2011.

  1. Hello, I'm in my fifth year of teaching, moved abroad to teach in Asia this year. Tragically, one of my students died last week, during the Christmas holiday, after an allergic reaction to an anaesthetic during a minor operation. We go back to school on Tuesday and I am here to ask if anyone has dealt with anything like this at schools in the past?
    He was a delightful boy, full of enthusiasm and humour. This news is likely to have spread among some families, as he was popular, despite only having transfered into the class in October.
    I have never had to directly deal with this situation, so I am not sure how to approach it when school begins. I assume the news will be announced to the school in the first assembly of the year. Where do I go from there - do I create lessons about grieving and bereavement? Or will students be uncomfortable dealing with the emotions in a group setting? Out of my depth here. Thanks in advance for any advice.
     
  2. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    Hopefully there will be someone trained in breavement counselling at the school to help you.
    When it's happened to me, I've had a quick very low key 'chat' with my class, told them I'm available to talk if they so wish (specified times - so not in the middle of class for example)and left it at that.
    Some children will be seemingly completely 'unaffected' (externally at least) and others will be much more emotional (little understanding here) and need to deal with it on their own terms and in their own ways.
    After a suitable time lapse, we've usually had some sort of commemmorative event -garden area created with plaque where children can go when sad, commemmmorative assembly to celebrate what that person represented and how we can learn from them and take their legacy forward/ album of memories, an annual event to collect money for research into whatever killed the child (It's happened more than a few times during my career). Ask the childre, after a suitable time lapse what they might like to do.
    Life as 'normal' with lots of (behind the scenes) understanding is what's called for.
     
  3. inky

    inky Lead commenter

    I'm not sure that a whole-school announcement in an assembly is the best way to go about things. In fact, I'm pretty sure it isn't.
    So sorry to hear your sad news.
     
  4. That's interesting; it seemed to me like it would be the normal thing to do in a primary school where so many kids know each other. The school has a very strong community ethos, and it would seem very odd to me if his passing was not at least mentioned, to eliminate rumours and gossip. Perhaps I'm wrong, I'll find out on Tuesday how they handle it. I feel I'm in no position - in terms of experience - to advise the SLT how to handle it.
     
  5. Thank you very much for your detailed reply.
    When you say you had a 'lowe key chat', and 'left it that' - does that mean you then went on to teach in the same way you would've done previously? I do a lot of games and fun activities; I'm not so sure I should be planning anything fun for a few days. Or is that what is needed, to allow the rest of the class to focus on school rather than the incident?
    I very much doubt that the school has any trained in bereavement counselling. I have done various Inset around coping with loss, but nothing that really helps in a whole class setting, more one-to-one.
    I will certainly be giving them time to record their feelings, through art or writing, and I've read that having the kids write to the family (screened before being passed on) is sometimes beneficial (http://rems.ed.gov/docs/CopingW_Death_StudentOrStaff.pdf)
    I'm prepared for a mixture of reactions, and I'm sure some will astound me with their maturity in dealing with it. I'm just nervous about how to pitch the first day, first week, of lessons.
     
  6. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    Yes, as' normal as possible under the circumstances', so lessons as normal and if a suitable related opportunity occurred e g in Circle time saying something 'good about someone else' let children choose the deceased child if they wish and treat it as 'normal'.Choldren need to understand it's OK to have fun and enjoy life even if sad (in fact some children need that because of their home circumstances), but possibly tone down anything you think insensitive.
    Great idea! This could benefit children who often can't verbalise their feelings.
    Something I've also used is the class toy to hug (talk to if necessary) when feeling sad and also a 'worry box'.
     
  7. GrahamLawler

    GrahamLawler New commenter

    see Grief, Illness and other issues by Jane Bourke, 9781842851814, should be able to get it from amazon. Lots of copiable stuff i.e activities etc for youngsters to do
     
  8. minnieminx

    minnieminx New commenter

    If this child is in your class, then you definitely need to tell your class before going to assembly. It will be worse for your class than for the rest of the school and they need to find out in private first. Just an announcement in assembly is not good enough. If you can't tell them yourself, and many teachers don't want to, then ask someone else to do it, possibly their teacher from last year or a member of SLT. But they definitely need to know and have time to process the initial reaction before assembly.

    Also tell your class at a time when they can talk and chat and ask and remember for a while afterwards. Don't tell them just before a break or home time, however tempting that seems.

    With year 6 children I definitely wouldn't do the 'quick chat and get on with lessons' approach. When I had year 7 we took a morning to write letters/draw pictures/chat/ etc. Those who didn't want to do these activities could choose another quiet activity. It is important not to force children to grieve in ways they don't want to. We put the letters and pictures into a book which went in the book corner. Also be prepared for lots of odd questions while this sort of activity is going on. After that it was sort of lessons as usual, but quite a few just didn't happen as children were upset or wanted to talk. And sometimes lessons went ahead, but several children 'opted out'.

    I now have year 2 and we were prepared for the bad news, so a short chat and some choosing time was all that was needed. They ask weird questions whenever, but they are only 6. Your class are much older and understand death and sadness on a deeper level.

    This is a good pack to use and has lots of sensible advice.

    http://www.seesaw.org.uk/files/schoolInfoPack.pdf
     

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