August 22, 2016

Normalising Grief

One of our six graders was lost today; he couldn’t find his Science classroom and it was well past the start of class. He was sort of spinning in circles with his crumpled time-table in his paws and tears welling up in his eyes, when I walked over and offered to help. I walked him to the right place, while chatting him up about being new to the school and how scary and big it can feel, but also pointing out how there is a logic to the place. I explained the blocks and the floors and pointed out the signage that can help him in the future.

I dropped him off at class with hi-fives and big smiles all around- sent off a quick note to his mentor so he knows that this boy is a bit fragile at the moment. On my way back downstairs another sixth grader couldn’t get his locker open. After some quick research, I found out that he had the numbers switched around, to his delight we got it open with the correct combination.

Later in class I talked to a few kids about slowing down as they read, while a few need to speed up. We talked about deep thinking and stamina. We shared some ideas how we find Comfort, Just Right and Stretch books.

Cindy has mentioned that we should try and normalise human emotions, so I told my students that I am in the process of grieving Karen’s death. I explained how I might be distracted and sad, but I will try my best to be there for them.

Today was a day of vague distraction and dedicated focus to work. I tried my best to smile and be there for the kids who needed directions or help opening a locker. Occasionally I would forget. Other times I would remember.

The next few weeks are a mess of commotion. I need to start preparing for a conference in which I am presenting in Vietnam. I need to book tickets and prepare a talk and a workshop. There is a good chance I will be flying home to celebrate Karen’s life with her friends and family. I want to be with them in that house. Crying and laughing and eating. Forgetting and remembering.

So for now, I will take it one day at time. Spent way too much time working tonight. Blasting through my to-do list. It is a welcome distraction, but one I know I cannot maintain.

Tomorrow, there will be other kids feeling lonely or scared or nervous. Some might be grieving or dealing with divorce or shame or joy and happiness. It is my job to be there. To watch. To listen. To help. To guide. To teach.

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