Andrew Jackson can wait…

I just returned from a wake for a student that graduated a few years ago. So many kids there were hurting. So many kids had no idea what was going on and what tomorrow would bring. Wednesday they will all go back to school. They will all sit back in their chairs and stuff their thoughts so they can take notes, tests, and have discussions on the merits of Andrew Jackson’s Presidency. Those that don’t do that will see their grades drop. I hope for all of them, that at least one adult in their life up at the high school will throw away the damn books for at least a day and help guide them through this. I hope that at least one adult will put a hand on someone’s shoulder and support them. Someone standing in line mentioned that his sister was staying strong through this. She was not being emotional or letting it affect her. I hope my students’ teachers are not as strong. I hope that at least for the next few days they are “weak” and talk to the students as they go through their own healing process, or if they were not affected, help talk the students through theirs. Just as students need role models for writing and behavior, they also need role models to learn how to deal with tragedies. So many kids are hurting. I just hope their tears are not ignored. Andrew Jackson is not gong anywhere. He can wait until next week.


  1. Well said. I remember on 9/11, hearing what was happening and then having to walk back into the classroom and teach as if nothing had happened. I couldn’t do it. Hopefully enough high school teachers will also realize that sometimes curriculum doesn’t matter so much.

  2. So sorry that you and your students are having to go through this. I agree with you, that all should have time to grieve. I found with dealing with the death of a student with other students that sometimes even if they didn’t know the student who died, this gives them permission to grieve for other events in their own life where at the time, they felt like they had to stay strong.

  3. I will definitely be praying for you, your students and your community. This is a difficult time and one that reflects the magnitude of our responsibilities as teachers. We must care for the whole child.

  4. Sorry to hear the sad news. Throughout my career unfortunately this is something that I have had to deal with. Ever time it happens, I wonder if it ever gets easier to cope with. So far it has not.

  5. Paul,

    First, my heart goes out to your entire school community. The loss of a young person is one of the worst thing that can happen to the school environment.

    Sadly, in my twenty-two years in the classroom, it has happened too many times. I remember each one and the feelings of helplessness that adults always have in this situation. I completely agree that Andrew Jackson can wait…but he can’t wait forever.

    Having endured the loss of six students and five parents who were tied to the school, I have struggled with the finite line between compassion and the need to move on. Every person (student and adults alike) deal with grief in a different way and have different needs. It is crucial to meet the needs of the students in the best way we can, which is what your blog post reminds us…But, it is also important to return school and life to normal at an appropriate time.

    Everyone must grieve…and, everyone must move on. The trick (or the skill) is to know when the moving on must start. In my experience, it really is depends on the situation and the kids. Don’t be afraid to move on if you feel it is time….But, also, don’t be afraid to put Mr. Jackson back on the shelf and deal with those beautiful and caring people in your room who are hurting.

    One last note….take care of each other as adults also. If you are a caring person, it is going to hurt like heck to deal with your own feelings and to also see those kids you care so much about hurting. Everyone does what they can and we all hold on tight.

    Thanks for this heartfelt blog post and for being such a caring person!

  6. @TJShay So true Terry. I actually started to add to my original post when and how to move on, but decided to leave it as is. Your commet makes a nice ending to what I said. I think when and how to “move on” is also part of the modeling/healing process. While this student was not in my current class, a few years ago we did have a death of a student on our team. After a couple of days of deep reflection, the kids walked in one morning I simply told them that “today you have permission to laugh.” We told some stories, watched a couple of three stooges videos, and slowly moved on.

  7. So sorry to hear of the death of a young person at any time, but especially at this time of year.
    We lost a new first-year teacher at our school over Christmas break to a car accident. It never is easy. The kids take it hard, but seem to get over it fast. Some at least. And as you say, Paul, sometimes Andrew Jackson just has to wait.

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