Even if your school doesn’t share a zip code with Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, your school community may be dealing with its own difficulties related to the tragedy there. Fear, empathic grief, a desire to do something, a self-assessment – these are just a few of the feelings that can surface, even when the tragedy is far away. After spending time in schools this morning, while the news is still fresh, I’ve been thinking about the few things that No-Nonsense Nurturers can do to serve their school community with the support it needs. Here are a list of ways to respond to tragedy.
How to Respond to Tragedy in Schools
Check-in With Your School Community
Don’t make the assumption that if the tragedy is far away, its impact on your school community will be limited. Check in with faculty (as they enter the building, etc.) and parents (in the carpool line, etc.) to see how they’re feeling, if they (or anyone else) need any support, or if they have family or friends impacted by the tragedy. This will help deepen relationships and build closer connections within the school community, not to mention allow you to support where needed most.
Address the School Family
Communicate personal grief about the tragedy and discuss its relationship to your school community. Reiterate lockdown procedures, remind members of the school community to report aggressive behavior, share the commitment to safety and let school community members (parents and families included) know what they can do to keep our students safe. Where possible, invite first responders to share additional tips. This will help deepen relationships (and foster a sense of safety and proactivity) throughout the school community.
Revisit Your Safety Procedures
These are to be submitted annually and yours are likely up-to-date, however it is worthwhile to revisit these in the face of a tragedy, both to assess readiness and to let your school community know that you’re constantly committed to everyone’s safety. This underscores the no-nonsense nature of how we deal with safety and security.
Make Grief Counselors Available
Teachers outside of the locale of the tragedy may also need grief counselors on hand for support, if only to be able to process aloud what they’re feeling. Ask your school counselor (or a district-level representative in a similar role) to make himself/herself available if folks would like to sign up to talk. This helps establish a strong nurturer profile for the school and its school community.
“Put on your oxygen mask first.”
We hear this as part of the safety tips before a plane takes off, and it is true in other places, too. If you are struggling to deal with a tragedy somewhere else, tell someone that you’re impacted and ask for some time to talk to a counselor or gather yourself before being in front of your students. Your students may need more of you today; make sure that you have it to give. This helps you nurture yourself, so that you can nurture your students later.
Check in with Your Students
We have no way of knowing what students do or don’t know about a tragedy somewhere else, or how they’re feeling. So, check in with them as they enter the classroom to see if anyone needs support or wants to talk. If a majority of your students are struggling, have an age-appropriate whole-class conversation to surface how we should support each other today. There is no need to discuss the tragedy itself; the focus can be entirely on actions that we can take together to help us all feel better. This will help deepen relationships between your students and in your classrooms.
Share With Families
Let students’ families know that there are resources at the school for students (or them) to access. If you have a whole-class discussion about support, share that with families so that they know your plan. Invite families to share with you any insights they might have about what students could need. Use all the communication tools you have – text messages, Classroom Central, Class Dojo, anything. These steps establish your classroom as an extension of the family space and you as a teacher concerned about student success and a relationship with students’ families.
Be honest with yourself
Are you worried about your own safety? Is fear leading you to consider another line of work? Carefully examine your feelings, so that you can be honest about what you are feeling and any potential implications. Unaddressed fear can get in the way of serving students, and we owe it to ourselves and to them to bring our best selves into the classroom each day. You chose this line of work to create opportunities for students now and in the future; you can only do that in the absence of fear.
Naturally, these are just a few of the countless steps we can take as No-Nonsense Nurturers in the aftermath of a tragedy, even one that happens somewhere else. Use this as a starting point, and continue to help your students know how committed we are to their safety and their success.
By Nataki Gregory, CT3 Associate/Partnership Manager