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.