Magazine article AMLE Magazine

In Every Issue: MENTOR ME

Magazine article AMLE Magazine

In Every Issue: MENTOR ME

Article excerpt

QUESTION

"How can teachers provide support for their students who are grieving the loss of a friend or family member?"

The profession of teaching places us on the frontlines of the emotional battles of our students. We often don't understand the reason for our students' blank looks, sarcastic behavior, or inappropriate responses until we realize they are suffering on a level unrelated to our academic agenda.

When we learn they've suffered a loss, it's easy to feel unequipped to respond because we don't have the credentials of a counselor. Ironically, the credentials most useful in helping our grieving students are some that define us as adult human beings: acknowledgment, compassion, acceptance, and wisdom.

1. acknowledge the awkwardness and discomfort of grief. Most adolescents are unfamiliar with grief and simply don't know how to act upon it. When a teacher acknowledges the pain, discomfort, and disillusionment of grief and models or shares personal responses to loss (shedding tears, expressing the anger it invokes, divulging our own loss for words), grieving students feel validated and less isolated. By being present and available to our grieving students, we not only give them the language of grief but also model appropriate behaviors.

2. Normalize and accept the different reactions to grief. Be compassionate and firm. Everyone will experience grief in his or her life so normalizing it publicly in your classroom is beneficial to every student. Get educated on what grief looks like and teach it to your students. Feelings of loss, emotional disorganization, physical disorganization, falling apart, shock, numbness, denial, pain, and physical ailments are all symptoms of grief. …

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