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Where Do We Go From Here? Next Steps for Educators in the Wake of Sandy Hook

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by Neil Finney

As we find ourselves reeling from the tragic loss of innocent life in Newtown, Connecticut, we must now begin to pick up the pieces and prepare ourselves for the journey ahead.  Bombarded by the media and its “breaking news” – style of reporting, both educators and students will continue to hear about the Sandy Hook tragedy on a daily basis.

On Monday, December 17th, an 11-year-old Utah student brought a gun to school after his parents suggested that it would be a good idea to have “for protection.” This is the kind of knee-jerk reaction that we should be worried about – when it comes to our student’s (and child’s) safety. How we respond to tragedies and our fears of a repeat event must be shaped by conversation, careful planning, and most of all, understanding.

I have recently heard in the media that there is a debate on whether teachers should have the right – and need – to carry concealed weapons into schools for protection in case that a violent act was about to be committed such as Sandy Hook. But, let’s not focus solely on dealing with the past event, let’s instead focus on preparing students in a way that diminishes the likelihood of this tragedy happening again.

As an educator, here’s what I think we can do:

1      Speak openly and honestly to your students – Validate their concerns and answer their questions.

2      Put things in perspective  – Events such as the Newtown shooting are horrific, but isolated and rare. Ease their minds by focusing on all of the positive school experiences that happen each day.

3      Be a listening ear – As students come to grips with pain and fear, you will need to be approachable and supportive.

4      Make connections to bullying, self-esteem and character – Use this tragic event as a springboard for discussions about making good choices, forming positive relationships and resolving conflict in your life in a constructive way.

There is now a campaign that focuses on performing 26 acts of kindness – as a tribute to the victims of this tragedy and a way of showing the empathy, love and humanity of which we are capable. During this time of year with holiday celebrations in the air and family visits, we need to truly appreciate what we have and the greatness that is our lives. Soak up the love of your family and reassure your students that they, indeed, have both a voice and a choice when it comes to dealing with the stress of their lives.

How do you support your students when it comes to coping with stress in their lives? What activities have you used to support students in making positive choices and voicing their opinions?

 

During Neilʼs 9 years of teaching experience, he has taught in London, England; Ontario; public and private schools; elementary and secondary; junior; intermediate; core french; developmental skills; and now junior gifted (grades 4,5,6). He is a Reading Specialist that has been incorporating technology in his practice consistently throughout his career. Neil has recently published his first book entitled “Ignite. Incite. Inspire.” – Examining 21st Century Issues in Education, which is a collection of teaching articles and posts written from January to December 2011.

 

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