NBA player Kobe Bryant his daughter and several other people passed away in a helicopter crash. Coronavirus infecting more people in China each day. Screenings at up to 20 airports. Violence rising in cities. Teens missing. Elderly grandmother drove off and has not been located. Now, imagine seeing all of this in one weekend on television and social media and then standing in front of a class of students in just as much shock as you. Forget the lesson, they want answers and comfort. Welcome to teaching today. But here is the good news–have courage, there is hope.
This particular blog post is geared more towards 6th grade and up however, no matter the grade there can be bits and pieces you can certainly take with you. Be advised, younger children are sensitive to news and most things disturbing. Always consult with your campus counselors or leadership if needed on how to communicate if you need to communicate anything at all no matter what grade. Here are 3 quick tips to help you consistently navigate your students through tough societal situations.
1. It is okay to talk about it.
When the news of Kobe Bryant broke on this past Sunday, it was absolutely shocking. To add more grief, we all found out his precious daughter perished in the crash with him along with several other amazing people. Our hearts ached for his wife as we could not imagine the pain she and their family are going though at this time. Monday came. It was a bit somber to be honest.When I walked into the auditorium at school on Monday morning the day after he passed, the counselors set up a brief but heartfelt presentation about him. It was a video of Kobe talking and encouraging youth in a video. The counselors then acknowledged he was no longer with us and was honest but focused on his lasting words and legacy to others as a NBA legend.
When we got to advisory back in our classroom, my homeroom and I spent a bit more time discussing him and his daughter and the other great people on the helicopter. I moderated the discussion to keep it appropriate and focused (we all have that precious student who goes WAY off on class discussons–no boo, come off the tangent and rejoin us haha). My students knew just as much as I did. They simply wanted to talk about it. Mind you, I teach middle school. In one of my classes later that day, one of my students speaks an encouraging word for the class (I’ll share about my class structure in another post:) each day. She decided to share a fact or lasting quote about Bryant each day for the remainder of the week. The class really enjoyed it. It is also helping them grow in empathy. I am proud to see them step up as leaders and see hope in tragedy. There are many positive ways to express feelings but I have found that just talking and being together is one of the most soothing remedies for challenging times.
2. Provide a Sense of Normalcy.
Students need a normal environment especially in difficult situations. Do not spend days on end discussing the tragedy. Some students have already been traumatized through personal situations and though they want to briefly talk about it or hear their classmates discuss it, they need as much “normal” structure as possible. As a teacher, stay upbeat, encouraging, and continue with the lessons as planned. As odd as it sounds, there can be healing in routine. Many times, you are all the encouragement a student may ever have due to their home life. They look to YOU for courage and cues on how to react. So act accordingly and provide a sense of normalcy–it can even help you too.
3. Provide a positive, uplifting environment.
This is not always perfection. With state assessments, curriculum requirements, parent contacts, and more, some teachers say “that’s cute, but I need to finish the data wall.” Honey, I COMPLETELY GET IT. Not to mention you may have a class that is not having a good day because they got in big trouble earlier in the day in another class (and rightfully so) and by the time they get to you, they’re almost done. True story. The joys of education.
But, you CAN create a positive, uplifting environment–especially if you want them to receive learning in the clearest, most receptive way. You can do this by once or twice a week showing student-friendly motivational videos and have them write about it in their journals (aha writing!) and share with a partner or group. You can also have them watch student-appropriate TED talks. In The Educator’s Light bookstore, you will find a free, downloadable, TED talk/motivational talk/video handout to help you out.
Also, you can have them write what they are grateful for each week, write an encouraging note to the person next to them, clap for each other and the list goes on.
**Last, make sure YOU stay uplifted on a consistent basis. YOU can’t pour from an empty vessel.**
Courage is not the absence of fear but moving forward in spite of it. New teacher, you got this. I cannot tell you whether or not society will get better anytime soon. What I can tell you is in spite of it all, when the waves are colliding all around, you stay focused on what is important–these youth who are growing in courage themselves and who will someday help others. Keep the faith and keep pressing forward.
Teach in the Light,
© 2020 The Educator’s Light
What are other ways you are creating an uplifting classroom? Share in the comments!