Responding to a Crisis
MELISSA ALLEN HEATH, DAWN SHEEN, NEIL ANNANDALE,
and BART LYMAN
The following story was shared by a school counselor.
“It was a Monday morning in an elementary school. Teachers were coming to work at 7:30, preparing for another week of school, but this week would be different. The principal had died unexpectedly late Sunday evening. Although a few people from the district office had been notified, most teachers entered the school unaware.
“The assistant principal was on the phone making arrangements with the district office crisis team. The school counselor and a few teachers were ushering early arrivals into the teachers' lounge. The talk was direct and quiet. The crisis team would arrive in a few minutes to assist teachers with their classrooms. The teachers and staff, even the stoic custodian, held back tears as they stood in silence. Some were thinking of their students and searching for strategies to explain the death of Ms. Hutchings. Others were numb, thinking random thoughts and finding it difficult to concentrate. It was going to be a long and intense day.
“The school's roster listed 646 students. School started at 8:00. Students on the early bus would arrive in just a few minutes. Who would be in charge? Ms. Hutchings always greeted everyone on the intercom. She was always there. Every morning for the past 8 years she greeted students as they entered the building. To the students, she
Neil Annandale, MA, Graduate Student in Counseling Psychology, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.