Monthly Archives: March 2014

Life, Leading, & Grieving: Where Do Kids Fit In?

Living and dying…it’s what we do each day.  Not to be negative…but it is true. My son told me just the other day that we are dying each minute we are living…or “at least it is true for grown-ups” stated my truly honest son. (But aren’t they all honest?  Most certainly…most of the time! 🙂 )  This fact is sad but true…so we need to make the most out of our days.

How do we make the most of our days? It is up to each of us. How we live each day is what makes us who we are and how we will be remembered.  Everyone lives and dies differently. With the process of living and dying, grief may be different for those who are left behind.  When I was an undergraduate student, my symposium course was called, Death, Dying, and World Religions. It was an amazing course that opened my eyes to living and dying because as an eighteen year old, I was of course invincible.  I did learn about the common stages of grief according to the Kübler-Ross model. The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Does everyone grieve the same? No, each of us is unique.  We may go back and forth throughout the stages, but we do experience them. This is also true for children, who are often forgotten or overlooked in the grieving process. This is where classroom teachers enter the picture. Children of all ages need to feel safe in their classrooms and be able to talk about and through their grief as needed.

Children should be embraced during the process of recovering from a loved one’s death so they too can heal emotionally.  They need to be able to say good-bye. According to Pennells and Smith, “When a bereavement occurs, children go through the same range of emotions as adults, from feelings of shock, numbness, and despair to those of anger and guilt” (1995, p.9).

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network in The Typical Grieving Process,

There is no right or wrong way to grieve, no “appropriate” length of time to experience grief following the death of an important person. The grieving process varies from child to child and changes as the child grows older. Children’s reactions to death depend upon the child’s age, developmental level, previous life experiences, emotional health before the death, and family and social environment. Common expected responses include:

  • Emotional reactions such as sadness, anger, guilt, insecurity
  • Changes in behavior such as aggression, loss of appetite, sleep problems
  • Interpersonal difficulties such as social isolation, clinging, irritability
  • Changes in thinking, including constant thoughts about the person,
    preoccupation with death
  • Altered perceptions including believing the deceased is still present,
    dreaming about the person.

As an educator, what can we do to help children with grief?

  1. Encourage open communication. Be the ear to listen first and then the mouth to speak words of wisdom. Provide a safe environment for children to feel comfortable and open to experiencing and sharing their feelings.
  2. Be compassionate. Sometimes a hug or extra time is all they need.  No matter what level of support children need, it is important for them to know that it is not their fault.
  3. Share resources.  You don’t have to know it all, but you have to help find answers. Reach out to support services for help.

It is important to know that grief can last a long time, and children who may seem like they are no longer grieving may still be; they have just learned how to hide it or how to survive. Be the ongoing support that children need. ~Sonya

Until next time…

Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.




Perry, B.D., & Rubenstein, J. (n.d.). The child’s loss: Death, grief, and mourning.  Retrieved

National Child Traumatic Stress Network. (2014). The typical grieving process. Retrieved
from: process

Pennells, M., & Smith, S. (1995).  The forgotten mourners: Guidelines for working with
bereaved children.
London: Jessica Kingsley.





Be A Light!

I write today in honor of Sue…my friend, my teaching colleague, my spiritual mom. My heart is heavy because she has gone home to heaven, and I will miss her.  My heart is happy because of the positive impact she has left behind.

Sue’s children and grandchildren honored her with a beautiful visitation and service. The visitation ended with a time of sharing memories. Many people shared times of happiness, love, and giving that Sue had role-modeled for all of us. Friends and family shared funny stories, sad stories, stories of Sue’s unwavering faith. And they shared stories of Sue’s smile and positive, always positive, attitude!

I wanted to stand and share. I give presentations all the time; sometimes to over one-hundred people at a time. Do you think I could stand and share at Sue’s visitation?  No!

I was too afraid. Too scared I’d break down and cry in front of all those people who were there. I wanted to share the same memory I shared on the Hartquist Funeral webpage…

Sue was the Godliest woman I knew. I had so many chats with her since her classroom was right next to mine. She was always there for me when I needed to visit about anything in life. One of my favorite memories of Sue at Brown Elementary School was when we had the same prep time together. While I would be eating something in the teacher’s lounge, Sue would come in there to rest. She would put a spoon in her hand; lay her head back on the lovely orange couch and close her eyes. When that spoon dropped out of her hand, it would hit the floor with a ‘CLANG’ which was like an alarm clock going off and it would wake Sue from her power nap. She would be rejuvenated and off she would go with a bounce in her step. This put a smile on the faces of all who taught with Sue.

Sue’s service was heartwarming. The whole service was lovingly led by her grandchildren. They shared memories, sang songs, played the guitar, and read scriptures all to honor their Grandma! Sue’s positive influence on those grandkids was evident.

Sue’s oldest son shared the eulogy. He said that he thinks of four “L’s” when he remembers his mom: she was a leader, a learner, a listener, and a lover.

  1. Leader: Sue was a positive leader for the many students who had her in fourth grade. Furthermore, Sue led many people to Christ.
  2. Learner: Sue was willing to learn. She was almost 79 and was on Facebook and she loved using the iPad.
  3. Listener: Sue was a listener. She stopped what she was doing and she actively listened to what others had to say. After she intently listened, her four favorite words to whoever she was listening to would be “Let’s pray about it.”
  4. Lover: Sue was a lover. She loved people more than anything. She emulated that love by her actions…opening her home for others, hosting bible studies, making time to have coffee, being involved in ATLAS, Aglow, Sagio, PEO, and many other organizations.

I wanted to raise my hand and tell her son that he forgot one important “L.”

  1. Light: Sue was a light. Her contagious smile and positive outlook on life would light up every place she went! Sue was a light for her students, for her friends, and for her family!

Sue’s celebration of life has caused me to sit back and reflect. Reflect on my own life. What will I be remembered for? What have I done to positively impact others? Do I generously share a smile with others? Do I openly share my faith? Do I truly listen when spoken to? If I were given a time of remembrance, what would others share in my memory? Would they share anything at all?

I have a picture hanging on the wall in my office that reads:

 “One hundred years from now, it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much I had in my bank account, or what kind of clothes I wore.  But the world may be a better place because I was important in the life of a child.” ~Forest Witcraft

The words on this picture have new meaning for me now!  Thinking of Sue and the person I hope I have been and will continue to be, I have changed the last two words:

“But the world may be a better place because I was important in the life of people.”

I hope to be remembered for my effervescent personality. My positive attitude. My enthusiasm for learning and life. My passion and love for people. I hope to clothe myself in the 5 “L’s” like Sue did because I honestly believe those five “L’s” are some of the most important gifts we can give to each other!

Thank you, Sue, for touching my life in such a positive way. You will be missed!

How about you? How do YOU want to be remembered after you leave this Earth?

More to come on living and grieving with focus on children so stop back for Part II…

Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V. 

Snow Daze!

Snow Days.

Love. Hate. Love. Hate. Love. Hate.

This is the relationship between educators and the infamous snow days in Minnesota.  As a student, snow days caused us bouts of extreme happiness filled with pajama dancing in the kitchen; this was especially true when school was already delayed the night before!  As an educator, snow days wreak havoc on lesson plans and headaches with schedules.  Secretly, educators long for snow days for a break in the mental daze and daily stress of teaching, learning, and leading! However, educators are very aware that the school calendar may be extended because of these snow days!

Love. Hate. Love. Hate. Love. Hate.

This is a double-edged sword knowing the implications of such a day and what it means to future plans.  We believe one of the major keys to teacher sanity during Minnesota winters is… FLEXIBILITY. According to, flexibility is defined as “susceptible of modification or adaptation; adaptable; willing or disposed to yield; pliable.”

The following suggestions are three simple survival techniques to help educators stay pliable during the snow daze of winter:

1.   Be overly, abundantly, excessively prepared.

Create thorough lesson plans with extras built in and have a plan A, B, C, …Z! With this skill, you can sit back and enjoy the snow day without having to worry about what to get ready for the next day.

Don’t worry about things you have no control over.  Change those things you do have control over. Worry is worthless. Action is priceless.

If you are prepared and have plan A, B, C…Z in place, you can concentrate on those things you would like to do on your Snow Day. Just remember to complete your schoolwork first. After the necessary schoolwork is taken care of, think reasons for caffeine and wine.  🙂  In the morning, begin your snow day with a lovely, aromatic, cup of coffee while sitting in your favorite chair and watching the snow dance outside your window. In the evening, cook that favorite meal for dinner that you usually do not have time to prepare during the week. Serve a glass of flavorful, fine wine with it. Indulge! (Notice we did not say overindulge). 🙂

Remember the kid in you and the adult in you must play nice. Or…just play!

Use the snow day for a little R & R. Relax. Read a book. Research that concept you have been meaning to implement in your classroom for the last two years. Go sledding; build a snow fort; drink hot chocolate; be a ‘snow baby’ for the afternoon.

When the snow day is over and you are back to work, you’ll be a bit more rejuvenated because you are prepared, not worrying about issues you have no control over, and are keeping in balance the kid and adult in you.
Don’t worry, be happy!  🙂

Question: How about you? What ‘snow day’ survival tips have helped you endure the snow daze of winter?

Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.