Like Woody, I used to teach in a district with a very high rate of teen
suicide/accidental death. The suicides would come in waves that lasted
several months--meaning, lots of copycat suicides. We received lots of
good information for dealing with it. Among other things, it was
recommended to continue business as usual as much as possible, as the
students needed the stability and safety of the school routine.
Students who needed counseling were sent to the professionals. We were
to be alert for signs of morbid preoccupation with death--drawings,
poems, "last will and testament" writings, shrines in the deceased's
locker or hang-out place. We often had students planning their own
funerals and actually discussing it with their friends.
In your case, your students will have had a bit of time to deal with
this tragedy before you see them again. Some may not feel like working,
but I would continue what you have already begun. If you notice someone
who is distraught or acting out of character, or producing morbid work,
I would ask them privately if they would like to see a counselor. Many
schools arrange for crisis teams that will help the counseling office
for a few days.
Good luck. It's a difficult thing to deal with, but your students will
look to you for assurances that they are safe.
Carol K. wrote:
> Hi everyone.
> I just received devastating news that one of my 4th grade students
> took his life (possibly by accident). I'm so stunned. It just
> breaks my heart and I can't imagine how his classmates will take the
> news. I teach at several schools and when I come to this school on
> Tuesday the students will already know.
> My question is this - I do not have a background in art therapy but I
> am wondering if I should postpone the project we have been working on
> so that we could do something that might be a little more therapeutic
> for them (without necessarily telling them that that's why we are
> postponing it). Perhaps some free drawing or clay meditation.... Or
> maybe just sticking to the planned project would be good for their
> sense of stability.