You Didn’t Teach Me This in College


Back in 1990, when I was teaching third graders, the most heartbreaking thing happened…I lost one of my students to a farming accident. One of the most difficult weeks of my teaching career. Paul was driving a tractor pulling a trailer behind it. Yes, 8 year olds know how to drive tractors. That is not unusual around here.

When they found him, his head was pinned under one of the wheels on the trailer. No one is sure if he got off to check something or what happened. He had a serious brain injury and died 4 days later. All third graders attended the funeral and sat together. There was nothing in my teacher prep program that had prepared me for that.

Now I am a professor of education and I teach how to be a teacher. We do address this issue briefly in my Children’s Literature class. I show children’s books that may help in the classroom with this life challenge. I share the above story with my teacher candidates, and then share a copy of the letter that was sent home to my third graders’ parents back in 1990. Then I tell my teacher candidates that I pray they will never ever have to go through this.

Sadly, I’ve had two past college students who have. Julie is one of my past college students who was still in college doing her placement hours in a third grade classroom nearby. A tragic bus accident happened and several children perished. One of them being an 8 year old girl who had been in the classroom that Julie was student teaching in.

When I saw Julie on campus afterwards, I gave her a long, tight hug and during the hug she whispered in my ear, “You didn’t teach me this.” The teeny tiny little bit we had talked about this in my Children’s Literature course wasn’t enough. That was eight years ago.

Two years ago, another former college student of mine lost one of his first grade girls to cancer. He teaches in the elementary school that is right across the street from my house. I saw him in the parking lot so I walked over to tell him I was thinking of him and just to ask if he was doing okay. Scott gave me a long tight hug and while giving the hug he whispered in my ear, “you didn’t teach me this in college.”

Most recently, a young man in high school has committed suicide. The school district has brought in several people to be on the crisis team to help these young people get through this tragedy. My daughter is a teacher at the school where this young man was enrolled. My daughter just sent me a text message and said, “Mom, I feel like a counselor. They didn’t teach me this at college.” All I could text back to her was to keep doing what she was doing…listening with a loving heart.

I share these stories because I need your thoughts…what can I do at the university level to help our teacher candidates prepare for this? I honestly don’t know if there is anything? 😦 I still pray they never have to go through it, but if they do, what can I do, as their professor, to help them prepare?

My heartfelt prayers for the family who just lost their son to suicide. I believe that while satan might have convinced him, Jesus walked him home. Please join me in prayer for this family and everyone suffering loss.


Stay Calm & Pray On!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

2 thoughts on “You Didn’t Teach Me This in College

  1. This lesson is more than just an experience. This lesson is an extremely large life long journey that I never thought I would have first hand experience in. Only thing different is my brother died while a senior in high school. I was 6 at the time and I had no idea what death was.

    What I remember about my brothers passing is the amount of teachers, classmates, and friends surrounding my family for more than that week. Now, my brother passed away due to a car accident; the police never said which driver was at fault, but that did not matter to me. The fact is I lost my Big brother, and being 6 at the time and not knowing what death was opened my eyes up faster than I would have wanted it to.

    Fast forward to my middle school experience. My brothers death still felt like a scar that was just healing. Until I experienced the big D…… Depression/Suicide. I know a HUSH topic. I remember the way that I felt and how I just wanted to crawl into a hole and disappear. Thankfully I had an amazing teacher that not only supported me through my depression struggle, but even though she had no idea of how to ‘SOLVE’ my mental health issue. That teacher never left my side. she worked tirelessly to make sure I was getting help and being open and honest with my family. One advice I can give for any future/current teacher is just to be open and honest with your students who are struggling. DO NOT tell them that you know what is is like to feel alone, sad, or just want to hide if you have never gone down that path. Tell them that you cannot imagine what they are going through, but you will help them find the correct resources or individuals who can help students in that position. The second reason why my middle school teacher made a difference in my life is because she never left my side. Even when she needed to prep for class, correct papers, etc. She never pushed me aside, she pushed her teaching job aside instead.

    Recently, my depression came back and I was transported back to my middle school feeling. Thankfully my family was there for me and supported me in seeking professional help. It pushed getting my degree back further; which can be a pro and a con. However, I it was something that I needed to do to better myself as well as my future students.
    I am linking two sources for anyone. One source is called The compassionate friends.

    This website is for parents who have loss children due to any reason. This is an organization that my family is apart of. They also have a siblings chapter that can assist children during the loss of their brother or sister. You can search in the website to find a local chapter within your area.

    The second website is called the semicolon project. This website is a suicide/mental illness prevention. This website was created by a woman who experienced suicide and mental illness in her family. This website is not meant to ‘glorify’ suicide. It is a website for support and realization of how to seek help for any type of mental illness.

    I do not think this experience is written in any book. No magical textbook, lesson plain, teachers seminar, continuing education credits, blog, or all in one solution can train anyone; teacher, students, parent, coach, principle etc. in knowing what to do or how to help anyone through a death of a student. I do not even think that I have the correct answers, nor my experience that I have gone through will ever prepare me for this in my future classroom.
    All I can do is educate myself as a future teacher and know how can I help my students or co-teachers in the event that a loss of a student, teacher, parent, etc. happens.

    As teachers we are not supposed to be trained as a counselor, parent, mentor, referee, law enforcement (Classroom management), etc. We are trained to be teachers, and teachers are human.

    A human being!

    So be human to your students.


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