As teachers, how do we deal with death in the classroom?


Okay, I get the fact that it's the end of the year and we are supposed to be happy and talking about things like vacation, sunshine, and time off.  However, life has dealt a little girl in my room a hand of cards that I feel the need to discuss with my fellow educators. 

After being in remission from cancer, the mother of a little girl in my classroom found out that her cancer had returned.  She had stage 4 brain cancer and there was no hope.  After being sent home, the mom had passed away a few weeks later.  I need to point out the fact that the grieving process for this child didn't begin when mom died, it began, I believe, when they found out that she wouldn't make it.  So during the time that she was sick, I found myself comforting and gently discussing how this child was when I saw her.  My heart broke for her every time I looked into her eyes.  I knew what she was going home to...she would tell me.  So this is why this post is being written.  I want all of us to pitch in on this one and offer suggestions and support for one another for these types of situations.

I actually took a class some time ago on how to deal with grieving children.  One of the first things that we learned was the fact that we need to explore our own personal encounters with grief.  Mine was when I was nine years old.  My grandmother who I loved dearly had passed away.  I was wearing my favorite purple dress trimmed in white lace.  I remember holding my mom's hand walking into the funeral home.  I was skipping and my sister looked at me and said, "You shouldn't be happy right now."  At that point, I stopped skipping and proceeded into the funeral home where I saw my grandmother in her casket.  You can imagine how I felt.  So, from that point on, death was not a celebration for me.  It's funny how vivid those memories are to me.  I can almost feel the warm July breeze on my face that blew that day.

With that being said, we need to consider that our children are coming from various walks of life, different religious beliefs, and ways of dealing with death.  The little girl in my room is a Mesonite Jew, so they didn't have a viewing or funeral, so I couldn't share my condolences with the family in the way that I'm used to.  So what did I do?  I found myself hugging her and talking with her privately, after asking if she was comfortable doing so.  She finally got to the point that she was initiating the conversations and would squeeze tighter and longer when I hugged her.  The kids in my classroom were aware that she had been going through something and were then told that her mom had passed away.  I didn't get into details.  They were SO supportive and as a group, we decided to make her cards.  Please know that after speaking to her father, I knew the basis of their religion, so the angels and crosses were placed appropriately by our students.  I never instructed my students in any way to put these things, I simply told them that they could make her a card.  So this is what they came up with.  Take a break from reading and have a look...


My eyes instantly filled with tears as I watched them turn these cards into me.  You could hear a pin drop in the room, other than the soothing, soft music that I had playing in the background.  They REALLY put their hearts and souls into these cards and that little girl was so grateful.  As a teacher, I put my own letter and these were then sent in the mail as a package addressed to her. 
Back to my grieving class.  Here is a list of Do's and Dont's that are suggested when helping bereaved people.  Please know that this is just a suggested list, and I do not intend on offending anyone by posting it.  You are completely allowed to agree or disagree with its content, but I found this helpful...

1. Do realize that grieving begins before death.
2. Do let your genuine caring and concern show.
3. Do be available to do small tasks which seem to be helpful.
4. Do allow/encourage them to express feelings.
5. Do encourage them to be patients with themselves, not to impose too many "shoulds."
6. Do encourage them to talk about the person who has died.
7. Do remember that the grief experience is different for each of us.  There is no "right" way to grieve.
8. Do remember that listening is helping.
1. Don't let your own sense of helplessness keep you from reaching out.
2. Don't say you know how they feel.
3. Don't tell them what they should do or feel.
4. Don't change the subject when they mention the deceased.
5. Don't avoid mentioning the deceased person yourself.
6. Don't try to find something positive about the person's death.
7. Don't impose your theories about how or why the person was sick or died.
8. Don't say they can always have another person in their lives to fill the void of their loss.
9. Don't suggest they should be grateful for what they have.
There are a great deal of activities that can be done with children who are grieving.  Here is a list of some that we discussed in my class.  Please feel free to message me and I can provide detailed instructions on how to do each of them! :)
*Create a Memory Box
*Scavenger Hunt (This encourages children to verbalize their grief.)
*Feelings Bingo
*Color Me Happy, Color Me Sad (This offers ways to express feelings and provide an opportunity for children to gain support for these feelings.)
*Feeling Mask (This allows them to express their feelings non-verbally.)
*Feeling Charades
As teachers, we are expected to do so much for our students.  I think that we can all say that our list of what we do as teachers is not one bound to curriculum and standards.  We, too, are dealt a hand of cards when we take on the job as an educator and sometimes that requires us to deal with situations that are difficult for us.  This particular experience shook the world of this little girl and that then trickled its way into the hearts of my other students, and of course myself.  I was then helping my entire class deal with this loss and the losses that they too have endured.  I found myself just listening and talking to them for quite some time.  We shared our experiences with one another and you could see them lighten a bit at the end.  It was as though they understood one another a little more.  Was I right or was I wrong for doing this?  I don't know.  I think some of you will see it one way, and others will understand.  Death is a hard topic to face, but it's a whole different dynamic in the classroom.  There are SO many resources for us as educators if something like this should arrive. I hope with all that I have in me that it doesn't, but we all know that we have no control over certain things.  Death is one.
I'm having issues with my links, so I had to paste the entire address for the following resources on this topic...sorry:
Here is where we all pitch in.  I would love for us to join together to make suggestions or share what we have done.  I would ultimately LOVE for this to be a post that we could come to for support in these horrible situations.  I know it's a sad topic to discuss, but is something that so many of us face with our students.  Thank you for having open minds and open hearts while reading this post.  I promise that my next post will be a lighter topic! :)
Hugs to all...

Let's get organized, teachers!

I, like many of you, I'm sure...LOVE to be organized, especially in my classroom!  There's nothing I dislike more than looking for papers, or thumbing through 5 separate binders to find something that should be right in front of me.  After teaching for 6+ years, I finally decided that enough was enough.  I have had the idea for quite some time to come up with an all-inclusive binder for teachers.  Let me tell you, I JAM-PACKED this baby with nearly everything you could want at your fingertips as a teacher.  I was kind enough to get feedback from some of my other teacher buddies who let me in on "what they need"...and so I delivered just that. :) 

I, as of right now, have three different color schemes/themes for this binder.  I wanted to do a variety of them, seeing as all of our classrooms are different and this is something that is inteded to be out and about your classroom a lot!  I wanted it to be not only functional, but eye catching, as well.  :)  Here are the previews of the three that I have completed so far.  If you like one, just click on it and it will take you directly to my store where you can read more about it and get an even closer look!

Theme #1: The Sweet Sophistication Theme

Theme #2: The Colors of Teaching

Theme #3: Funky Chalkboard

Summer's almost here and if you're anything like me, you are already thinking about next year.  What will you do differently?  What can you make better?  Well, I'm hoping that this answers a couple of your questions for you!  I'd love to hear your feedback and I wish you all a great summer vacation!

Simply ScIeNcE!!

Room 309 stepped into the world of Science this past week.  It was such a relief, not having to worry about the hustle and bustle of standardized exams!  You could literally see the relief in my students' eyes...and I'm sure mine, as well! 

So what did we do?  Well, we put to test four different experiments and had some very interesting results!  Let me take you through our scientific journey and share what we found worked and also what didn't work.  Be sure to read on to learn about a couple of great resources, if you want to have a day of science with your kiddos!

Experiment #1 - CO2 Balloon Inflation

I was SUPER excited to do this one with my kiddos!  We followed the directions to a "T", take a look!

So did it work??  NOPE!!  What's supposed to happen and how does it happen?  Well, you combine water, baking soda, and lemon juice, which then causes a chemical reaction that releases CO2 gasses.  Before all of the gasses are released from the mixture, you place the balloon over the tip of the bottle so that it will inflate.  Well folks, it filled with a little bit of the gas, but this one was a flop.  I tried it again when I got home, but this time with vinegar, which was suggested as a substitute for the lemon and well, it didn't work either. 

Okay, moving on...

Experiment #2 - Tornado In A Bottle

This was super easy.  In the pictures, you see me holding the bottle, but what you don't see is the tornado inside of it! 


This was SUPER easy, and to be quite honest...this may be better for primary kiddos.  All that you need is water, liquid detergent, and some glitter, which helps you to see the tornado better.  We actually ended up putting some food coloring into the bottle afterwards, which made it more interesting.  To create the tornado, you simply move the bottle in a circular motion and then stop.  The water continues to move. I passed it around and each of my students had a chance to do it, as well. :)

Experiment #3 - Homemade Lava Lamp

Boy-oh-boy did we have fun with this one!  Let's check out the pictures and I'll tell you more about the experiment so you can do it, too!  (You're going to want to!!)

The ingredients are super basic...water, oil, food coloring, and Alka Seltzer!  Now watch what happens when you combine them!
In the first picture, you see that the food coloring has dripped down into the water.  That was really neat to watch, actually.  It looked like tiny beads falling into the water and once it hit the water, it dispersed and filled it with color!
In the second picture, you see me dropping in a small piece of an Alka Seltzer tablet. 
In the third picture, you can see the reaction!  Again, you are seeing a CO2 reaction, but this time, it's as though it's fighting the oil, because as the bubbles come to the top, they resist the oil and literally fall back down!  My kiddos' jaws were dropped and they couldn't believe what they were seeing!  Also, the bigger the piece, the bigger the reaction. This was really great! 
Let's step outside...
Experiment #4 - Mentos and Diet Coke
This experiment has become very popular, but for's a classic and one that my kids would do ALL day if they had a chance!  I purchased a kit for this that makes this experiment a success 100% of the time!  Let's take a peek at the fun we had...

The only problem that I had with this experiment was the fact that I didn't have 24 bottles -- one for each student!  Believe me...they still had a great time!
There are four different tips that come with the kit for this experiment.  One has a simple slit in the top, another is made up of three small holes, another is in the shape of a circle, and the last one is in a cross shape.  It was decided by Room 309 that the triple-holed tip produced the highest fountain, with the circle shape coming in as a close second. :)
We had a great day with our experiments and I hope that we have inspired you to have a day filled with science, as well!  If you would like to try some of these experiments, here are a couple of resources that I would recommend:
Just click on the book to follow a link to!  If you scroll down, you can even purchase the kit for the Mentos and Diet Coke experiment. :)
Here's also a great online resource that's FREE:
Best wishes and happy teaching!