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Lesson Plans


Tense times

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
S. Henneborn (heneborn)
Sat, 01 May 1999 21:35:09 -0600


Dear whimscal,
Subject: Tense times

I am so glad you posted your letter. It raised some issues I have been
thinking about. If you don't mind I would like to use your school and how the
Colorado issue was handled as a contrast to how the school where I teach
handled the situation. Several teachers have posted about how their schools
approached the crisis from nothing to large assemblies etc.

Our school district has a procedure set up and phone chains etc. The
counselors in every building K-12 were on hand to meet with teachers
immediately to help teachers cope and schedules were set up for the counselors
to meet with each class in small groups to discuss their feelings. We have
done this before when there is something emotional to deal with that involves
the whole school population or even a grade level such as death in the school
family or a family member or a national crisis. Part of our curriculum
covers lessons and role playing a situation such as a friend or family member
dealing with a loss. We would rather do this when there is no loss and then
be prepared when there is a crisis. We look at it as the same as a fire drill.

Last spring a 5th grade boy was in class and he came up to me and buried his
head in my arm and started to sob. The boys gathered around and he explained
that his grandmother had died the day before. All the boys knew the
appropriate things to say to support him except for a new boy who started to
laugh when the crying started. One particularly tough kid went over to the
kid still giggling and said, "When you don't know what to say you usually
laugh. That isn't appropriate to do when someone has died so I'll tell you
some appropriate things to say so next time you won't be rude and laugh." The
boys gathered around and gave him a whole list of appropriate things to say.
The boy who was crying said, "That's OK. He didn't learn how to behave like
we did." I was so proud of them I started to cry!

(Back to the Co aftermath) After the counselor saw each group the students
decided what they would like to do to help. In my K-5 school some wrote
letters, some wrote stories and drew pictures. We all talked and talked and
talked! Of course this went on for days with the counselors having follow up
sessions when needed. Things are starting to settle down because CAT testing
has replaced Co as the thing upper most in their minds. Notices went home to
parents outlining what had been done in the classrooms and suggested some
follow-up ideas for the parents. Our Counselors have spent a lot of time
working on these strategies in order to be ready. They are very careful to
make suggestions that respect the parents and do not talk down to them. I
must commend them on the good job they have done.

Our administrators were anticipating and planning for copy cat bomb scares but
nothing has happened. Not even a ripple! I am a great believer in discussing
issues with children and treating them in a manner that demonstrates to them
that they are capable of understanding and responding on a mature level. The
less this is done by parents the more we must take it on. Mere example is not
enough but it should be done through a sequential curriculum. I also
understand their need to talk and talk until they are feeling comfortable.

Our kids are used to having their voices heard. They write position papers,
protest letters, and petitions and send them up the chain of command to the
place where they will do the most good. Many times their letters are more
powerful than the voices of the teachers.

My point to all this is that in a school system where your video would be
welcomed and recognized as the cathartic instrument it is, probably would not
be having the the volumes of hate letters and other cries for help. I am
certain that your video students are not sending hate letters. Your video
project was an excellent choice and I hope your district comes to appreciate
it's value for your students. Too bad that all the students in you school did
not have such a good vehicle for resolution.

I hope I have not oversimplified this. My school district draws from a mid to
low income population. many recent immigrants, one parent families, We have a
relatively high number of classified students and high percentage subsidized
school lunches I tell you this so you don't assume that the lack of hate
letters is because we are an advantaged community. Not so!! Our kids have
plenty to be angry about but we try to provide them with the confidence that
their voice will be heard and considered when decisions concerning them are
being made and involve them in the process. How else are they going to learn
how to live in this society? They will be making the decisions in this
community when I am old. I want them to know how to resolve issues without
guns and bombs.
When there is a fight in my room I am always saying, "So where are the WORDS!"
and they must start the process to resolve the conflict.

Sharon Henneborn
On my soap box again
in NJ

< Our
administration did not address the shootings at all except for a moment of
silence the day after. My students in video class decided to do a special
report on the shootings and school safety. They did an excellent job and
gathered interviews from a variety of sources however we may not show the
episode .... . there has been a snow ball of threats, letters of hate and bomb
threats.