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Archive for the ‘Dealing With Tragedy’ Category

Not Another School Shooting! (Video)

January 11, 2013

C’mon already! In the wake of the recent school shooting in Connecticut all schools were on high alert. The fact that even in this increasingly aware state yet another school shooting could take place is reason enough to go beyond talks of armed guards, gun trained teachers and metal detectors. America needs strict gun laws!

US vice-president Joe Biden and the National Rifle Association (NRA) butted heads on gun control in Washington as one person was injured in another US school shooting.

Police say a 16-year-old student was shot and wounded by a fellow classmate who opened fire with a shotgun at a high school in rural California.

The shooting took place at Taft Union High School in the town of Taft north of Los Angeles, just weeks after the massacre of 26 people – including 20 children – at a school in Newtown, Connecticut.

The violence has revived America’s debate about gun control, and just before news of the shooting broke Mr Biden sat down for a private meeting with NRA representatives.

Mr Biden is heading a task force exploring ways to reduce gun violence and plans to submit recommendations to president Barack Obama by next Tuesday.

Hopes the meeting would lead to a breakthrough were dashed when the NRA released a statement saying it was disappointed that the meeting had little to do with keeping children safe and more to do with attacking gun rights.

“It is unfortunate that this administration continues to insist on pushing failed solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems. We will not allow law-abiding gun owners to be blamed for the acts of criminals and madmen,” the statement said.

The NRA says it will now reach out to members of Congress for what it calls an honest conversation about what will and will not reduce gun violence.

Click on the link to read Do You Really Want to Arm Me?

Click on the link to read Living With Adam Lanza

Click on the link to read School Shooting Showcases the Heroic Nature of Brilliant Teachers

Click on the link to read Let’s Make Sure that this School Shooting is the Last

Click on the link to read Get Rid of Your Guns!

Click on the link to read Explaining the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting to Children

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Welcome Back, Sandy Hook Students!

January 3, 2013

bus

It’s great to hear that the students of Sandy Hook are back at school after the tragedy that transpired a few weeks ago:

Since escaping a gunman’s rampage at their elementary school, the 8-year-old Connors triplets have suffered nightmares, jumped at noises and clung to their parents a little more than usual.

Now parents like David Connors are bracing to send their children back to school, nearly three weeks after the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. It won’t be easy – for the parents or the children, who heard the gunshots that killed 20 of their classmates and six educators.

“I’m nervous about it,” Connors said. “It’s unchartered waters for us. I know it’s going to be difficult.”

Classes are starting Thursday at a repurposed school in the neighboring town of Monroe, where the students’ desks have been taken along with backpacks and other belongings that were left behind in the chaos following the shooting on Dec. 14. Families have been coming in to see the new school, and an open house is scheduled for Wednesday.

An army of workers has been getting the school ready, painting, moving furniture and even raising the floors in the bathrooms of the former middle school so the smaller elementary school students can reach the toilets.

Connors, a 40-year-old engineer, felt reassured after recently visiting the new setup at the former Chalk Hill school in Monroe. He said his children were excited to see their backpacks and coats, and that the family was greeted by a police officer at the door and grief counselors in the hallways.

Teachers will try to make it as normal a school day as possible for the children, schools Superintendent Janet Robinson said.

“We want to get back to teaching and learning,” she said. “We will obviously take time out from the academics for any conversations that need to take place, and there will be a lot of support there. All in all, we want the kids to reconnect with their friends and classroom teachers, and I think that’s going to be the healthiest thing.”

Teachers are returning as well, and some have already been working on their classrooms. At some point, all those will be honored, but officials are still working out how and when to do so, Robinson said.

“Everyone was part and parcel of getting as many kids out of there safely as they could,” she said. “Almost everybody did something to save kids. One art teacher locked her kids in the kiln room, and I got a message from her on my cellphone saying she wouldn’t come out until she saw a police badge.”

welcome

Click on the link to read Adam Lanza’s Brother: I am a Victim Too!

Click on the link to read Revealed: Adam Lanza’s Motive

Click on the link to read Do You Really Want to Arm Me?

Click on the link to read Living With Adam Lanza

Click on the link to read School Shooting Showcases the Heroic Nature of Brilliant Teachers

Click on the link to read Let’s Make Sure that this School Shooting is the Last

Click on the link to read Get Rid of Your Guns!

Click on the link to read Explaining the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting to Children

A Teacher’s Guide to Talking to Students About the Newtown School Shooting

December 28, 2012

newtown

A brilliant resource compiled by The New York Times. I strongly recommend this for parents too.

 

Click on the link to read The Children Must Be Safe Because Their Teacher is Carrying a Gun

Click on the link to read Adam Lanza’s Brother: I am a Victim Too!

Click on the link to read Revealed: Adam Lanza’s Motive

Click on the link to read Do You Really Want to Arm Me?

Click on the link to read Living With Adam Lanza

Click on the link to read School Shooting Showcases the Heroic Nature of Brilliant Teachers

Click on the link to read Let’s Make Sure that this School Shooting is the Last

Click on the link to read Get Rid of Your Guns!

Click on the link to read Explaining the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting to Children

 

Adam Lanza’s Brother: I am a Victim Too!

December 24, 2012

 

ryan

 

Adam Lanza’s brother makes two bold statements – one I agree with and one I don’t. I agree with Ryan Lanza that he is also a victim of this awful story (albeit a lesser one), but I vehemently disagree with his assertion that his brother was no monster.

Any person that takes the lives of innocent children in a premeditated fashion deserves every label coming to them:

The brother of Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza has spoken out, saying that in spite of the horror caused at the hands of his younger sibling, he is still grieving his death.

Ryan Lanza posted two photos on Facebook over the weekend, one of his brother Adam and one of his mother Nancy- who was the first victim in the shooting spree- with emotional messages in the captions.

‘I will miss you bro. I will always love you as long as I live,’ he wrote under a picture of a then-teenaged Adam.

A similar sentiment went out to his mother, for whom he said ‘I miss you mom. I love you so much. You will always be in my heart.’

Ryan, 24, also had a Facebook chat with a reporter from The New York Post where he said ‘I am a victim’.

‘I loss [sic] my mom and brother,’ he said according to the paper.

Though this is his first time formally speaking with a reporter, it was not the first time that he took to Facebook to speak out about the case.

Ryan was initially identified as the shooter in the crazed hours immediately following the shooting on Friday December 14 when Adam killed his mother in their Connecticut home and then proceeded to kill 20 young children, six teachers and himself.

Because Adam had his brother’s identification on him at the time of the shooting, police initially announced that it was Ryan Lanza who was the murderer.

That absence does not seem to have made him any less loyal, however, as he now takes to Facebook to criticize those who criticize his dead brother.For instance, when someone wrote on Ryan’s pace that his brother deserved to ‘rot in hell’ and was the ‘scum of the earth’, Ryan responded by writing ‘I am so tired of people blaming me or something my brother did. I love Adam, hes [sic] my brother.’

Ryan continued, saying that the person who commented was a stranger: ‘He is calling my brother a monster when he don’t [sic] even know him’.

Ryan Lanza has every right to feel the distress over the loss of his brother, and especially his mother. People should understand this and give him the space he deserves. It is quite inappropriate to write hurtful and upsetting messages abou0t his brother on his Facebook page.

Monster or no monster, Ryan Lanza’s life will never be the same again .

nancy

Click on the link to read Revealed: Adam Lanza’s Motive

Click on the link to read Do You Really Want to Arm Me?

Click on the link to read Living With Adam Lanza

Click on the link to read School Shooting Showcases the Heroic Nature of Brilliant Teachers

Click on the link to read Let’s Make Sure that this School Shooting is the Last

Click on the link to read Get Rid of Your Guns!

Click on the link to read Explaining the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting to Children

Explaining the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting to Children

December 16, 2012

Connecticut School Shooting

An awful tragedy that is going to unsettle children.

Below are some tips by experts in the field I used for the Colorado shooting, but they are just as apt in this instance:

Watch for Trauma: “Young children may have difficulties identifying and expressing feelings. Parents should pay attention to the children’s play (for instance, preoccupation with certain aggressive electronic games, drawings, repetitive play that imitates the traumatic event or events). Another sign of trauma is avoidance of reminders.” — Dr. Aurelia Bizamcer, Medical Director, Outpatient Psychiatry at Temple University Hospital

Keep Answers Truthful but Simple: “We’re not holding back, but we’re not giving more because the giving more could have the risk of alarming the child. … As a parent you have an obligation to protect a young child from being overwhelmed.” –Alan Kazdin, Professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry at Yale University; Director of the Yale Parenting Center.

Reassure Them: “We need to appreciate that kids have different fears. Many will worry about the movies, but others will worry about such events spilling over to other areas, such as the mall, school, the neighborhood. For kids of all ages, it is really important to let them know that these kinds of events are incredibly rare. ” –Dr. Gene Beresin, Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Residency Training, Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Hospital

Keep Answers Age-Appropriate: “Parents should be sure to pitch the discussion to their kids’ developmental level. For a 6-year-old, it’s completely appropriate to reassure them of their safety, with some emphasis on the fact that this person is no longer at large. For kids over the age of 8, more concrete details are appropriate, along with, perhaps, a general discussion of how to be safe in public — locating exit doors for instance, and getting to safety in the event of any dangerous occurrence.” –Jay Reeve,President and Chief Executive Officer, Apalachee Center

Don’t Make Assumptions: “Don’t project your own feelings, fears and anxiety on kids because you know you don’t really know exactly what your kids are feeling until you talk to them.” –Dr. Jane Taylor, psychiatrist

lanza

Click on the link to read Get Rid of Your Guns!

Click on the link to read Helping Kids Cope in the Aftermath of Sandy

Click here to read ‘Helping Our Children Make Sense of Natural Disasters’.

Get Rid of Your Guns!

December 15, 2012

dawn

One of the best policies that Australia has ever implemented was a gun buy-back scheme. Although illegal from owning a firearm, the Government recognised after a tragic massacre at Port Arthur that guns were available and something had to be done about it. So they bought people’s guns and incinerated them. You would think that the people who owned these guns would have happily kept quiet about it, and I’m sure many did, but the hand-in rate was overwhelming.

Whilst I realise that the United States has a very different outlook on guns than we do, I must say that if there is an amendment in their constitution that I’m unhappy with it’s the “right to bear arms” one. Whilst I wish this amendment could be tossed away for good, I realise that the US population would never accept such a drastic change.

But that doesn’t mean you have to own a gun. That doesn’t mean that you have to expose your children to guns. I know that guns don’t kill people but no angry, potential gunmen is going to take siege of a school with a baseball bat.

Whilst guns are readily accessible, I’m afraid security measures are unlikely to be sufficient in warding off gunmen:

Dawn Hochsprung, the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary who died in the shootings at the Newtown, Conn., school Dec. 14, had recently implemented new security measures, CNN reports.

In a letter to parents this fall, Hochsprung outlined new security procedures, which included checking identification for visitors if they were not recognized by staff.

“Please understand that with nearly 700 students and over 1,000 parents representing 500… families, most parents will be asked to show identification,” Hochsprung wrote in the letter, which was addressed to “Members of our Sandy Hook Family.”

The letter also stated that all visitors arriving at the school after 9:30 a.m., when the front gates were locked, would have to ring a bell for entry and would immediately have to report to the main office to sign in.

The Associated Press reported that the shooter’s mother was a teacher at the school.

Twenty-six victims died in the shooting, including 20 children and six staff members. The gunman appears to have taken his own life.

Hochsprung, a veteran administrator with 12 years of experience, kept an active Twitter account and was a respected member of the education community.

“Dawn Hochsprung… touched many of our hearts with her professionalism and love for her students,” Bethlehem, Conn., first selectman Jeff Hamel said in a statement Friday afternoon, according to the Litchfield County Times. “Our hearts and prayers go out to all the victims from this selfish, senseless act.”

WNYT reported that Hochsprung was a doctoral student at the Sage Colleges, having started a education leadership program over the summer.

Lori Quigley, dean of the college, told the station that Hochsprung was “vibrant, full of life and loved her school community” and called her a “truly… caring administrator.”

A candlelight vigil for the victims of the shooting was scheduled in Woodbury, Conn., Friday night.

Click on the link to read Helping Kids Cope in the Aftermath of Sandy

Click here to read ‘Helping Our Children Make Sense of Natural Disasters’.

Helping Kids Cope in the Aftermath of Sandy

November 6, 2012

Courtesy of cnn.com:

1. Children need to be with their family and to feel safe.

Physical reassurance is a great comfort for children. You can give your child a sense of security by physically holding and reassuring them. Use simple sentences, such as, “We are all safe now” or “I will take care of you.”

If your family is in a shelter or somewhere other than home, it’s important to remain together so children feel safe and secure. Displaced children will require more physical comforting and reassurance.

2. Children regain a sense of control by talking about the disaster.

Refrain from telling your child the disaster is “nothing to be afraid of.” Instead, listen to their worries and acknowledge their feelings.

You may gently express your own concerns: “I was worried too when the lights went out” — but follow up with comforting words, such as: “But I was glad we had a flashlight.” Children need to know that their parents understand and share their worries, but it’s best to wrap up the conversation in a positive way.

Katrina, Joplin survivors offer advice to Sandy victims

3. It’s important to talk to children honestly.

At the same time, too much information can be scary and confusing to young children.

Since parents and caregivers often have their own feelings to deal with, this can be a delicate issue. Parents must distinguish between their own and their children’s feelings. It is essential that children are not burdened with the full extent of their parents’ or caregivers’ worries. Share worries in an age-appropriate way.

4. Remain as calm as possible; maintain routines as much as you can.

Adult conversations about the disaster should be reserved for after children have gone to bed or out of their earshot.

Observe usual meal and bedtime rituals, even if there is no light or water. Routines can help provide a sense of security.

If children’s schools and daycare centers are open, keep their routine. Do not keep children at home, but expect them to be more clingy and suffer from more separation anxiety.

5. Expect regressive behavior.

Children may begin sucking their thumbs, wetting the bed, and they may become afraid of being left alone. In general, regressive behaviors will go away in the days, weeks and months following the disaster.

If children’s fears or anxious behaviors persist or if children suffer from delayed reactions, parents should seek professional counseling.

 

Click on the link to read Explaining Hurricane Sandy To Kids

Click here to read ‘Helping Our Children Make Sense of Natural Disasters’.

Explaining Hurricane Sandy To Kids

October 29, 2012

Some resources to help prepare children for Hurricane Sandy:

FEMA For Kids is one of the best.

With games to play, colorful characters to follow and easy to understand explanations, your kids will come away with a better understanding of Mother Nature’s biggest storms: hurricanes.

Weather Wiz Kids is geared toward slightly older kids and goes a bit deeper into its explanations of hurricanes, how they form, and what kind of problems they can cause.

Owlie Prepares Kids For Hurricanes via an online coloring book which makes hurricane preparation interactive for the kiddos.

The University Corporation For Atmospheric Research has a “Web Weather For Kids” site. This is a great place to learn the basics about a hurricane.

Finally, the National Weather Service (.pdf) page for kids is a great page worth taking a look at.  Check out “Owlie Skywarn” in action – helping kids get ready for a hurricane.

 

Click on the link to read Helping Kids Cope in the Aftermath of Sandy

Click here to read ‘Helping Our Children Make Sense of Natural Disasters’.

Explaining the Colorado Movie Theater Shooting to Children

July 22, 2012

An awful tragedy that is going to unsettle children:

Today, parents across the country are struggling with how to talk to their kids in the aftermath of a tragedy that killed and injured both adults and children. Experts generally agree that after such a tragedy, parents should keep their answers simple, leaving out dramatic details, while reassuring their children of their safety.

Below are some tips by experts in the field:

Watch for Trauma: “Young children may have difficulties identifying and expressing feelings. Parents should pay attention to the children’s play (for instance, preoccupation with certain aggressive electronic games, drawings, repetitive play that imitates the traumatic event or events). Another sign of trauma is avoidance of reminders (in this case, going to the movies or to a show or watching certain movies or avoiding other activities that they didn’t avoid before).” — Dr. Aurelia Bizamcer, Medical Director, Outpatient Psychiatry at Temple University Hospital

Keep Answers Truthful but Simple: “We’re not holding back, but we’re not giving more because the giving more could have the risk ofalarming the child. … As a parent you have an obligation to protect a young child from being overwhelmed.” –Alan Kazdin, Professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry at Yale University; Director of the Yale Parenting Center.

Reassure Them: “We need to appreciate that kids have different fears. Many will worry about the movies, but others will worry about such events spilling over to other areas, such as the mall, school, the neighborhood. For kids of all ages, it is really important to let them know that these kinds of events are incredibly rare. Movie theaters are very safe places. Just think of all the movies you, mom and dad and everyone has gone to. Things like this really do not happen much at all.” –Dr. Gene Beresin, Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Residency Training, Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Hospital

Keep Answers Age-Appropriate: “Parents should be sure to pitch the discussion to their kids’ developmental level ? for a 6-year-old, it’s completely appropriate to reassure them of their safety, with some emphasis on the fact that police have caught the person they think did this, and he is no longer at large. For kids over the age of 8, more concrete details are appropriate, along with, perhaps, a general discussion of how to be safe in public — locating exit doors for instance, and getting to safety in the event of any dangerous occurrence.” –Jay Reeve,President and Chief Executive Officer, Apalachee Center

Don’t Make Assumptions: “Don’t project your own feelings, fears and anxietyon kids because you know you don’t really know exactly what your kids are feeling until you talk to them.” –Dr. Jane Taylor, psychiatrist

Click here to read ‘Helping Our Children Make Sense of Natural Disasters’.

The Tragic Loss of a Student

October 12, 2011

I recently read a very sad blog post written by notswallowedinthesea.

I never imagined this could happen to me… Especially so early on in my teaching career!

But yesterday, first day of Term 4, and in all my excitement, I went back to the school where I teach music part time, excited to see my students and teaching them all the great things I have planned for them – only to be whisked into the staffroom and briefed by social workers on “how to deal with a death in school.” I looked around confused before the assistant principal came up to me and whispered in my ear that one of our prep kids was hit by a truck during the holidays in front of his mum and older sister (who is in Grade 2).

The AP told me the name of the student but it went past my head. I asked for the name again but it didn’t ring a bell. AP tried to describe him: “little blonde one”. There are so many “little blonde ones”. Which one? When I realized I did not recognize the name I sighed in relief, but only for a second. Because then I shuddered at the thought of not knowing the student. How on earth could I NOT know? I kicked myself for not learning the names of all my students soon enough. I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt and couldn’t wait to break away from the staff room to locate the class list and photo so I can put a face to the name of the student. I have 14 music classes and about 20-28 in each class, so yes, I still don’t know the names of all the students! As the social worker was briefing us, I went through the faces of all my prep kids, trying in vain to remember Rex. Rex, the name is very familiar but I couldn’t put a face to it!

When the briefing was over, I spoke to the school counselor who gave me a bit more details about the accident, and pointed to me a picture of Rex. There he was, the little blonde one. Immediately I knew who he was! He was in my Top 5 students in the final class before the holidays! Sweet smiling Rex. Suddenly the memories overwhelmed me and I felt everything from grief to guilt. Grief because I had lost a student through the worst circumstance, and grief because I wished we could have spent more time together – or that I would have remembered him! It pains me that I couldn’t remember him in the first instant! Why didn’t God give us more time together? Why was he taken away so suddenly? Why hadn’t I paid more attention to him? Why couldn’t I remember him?!

It was awful. I wanted to cry but I couldn’t because my first class came in. I tried my best to hide my tears and answered questions about Rex as honest as I could without breaking down. I had never been in such a situation before, and I found it extremely difficult replying to students who have questions such as : “Why did it happen?” and “Where is he now?”

I know for a fact, because of my faith, that God is taking care of him, that things happen for a reason and that God is in control. But I cannot say this to my kids as I am not teaching in a Catholic school and I don’t want to cross any lines or upset any parents. How can I answer questions like these? I ended up avoiding them as much as I could!

The last class yesterday was Rex’s class, and I knew the moment the students came in that they were itching to tell me about Rex, about why he wasn’t in class and why he was never going to come back. But I went straight into my lesson, avoiding any questions, claiming I do not have time and that we had a lot to get through.

I had a lot to get through… a lot of emotions to get through. At lunch time I stumbled across Rex’s music book, I noticed his work for the first time. 2 weeks ago it was just a book belonging to one of the preps, just a book among the statistics, with scribbly drawings and terrible colouring techniques. Now, it is the precious work of a child no longer here on earth, and the horrifying truth that the child has had only 5 years in this world… not enough to learn how to colour in the lines, not enough to learn to write his name properly… not enough! Not enough!

I don’t know if I am angry. I am definitely not bitter. I know these things happen, and tragedies occur throughout the world. Who am I to complain and pound heaven for an answer? But the fact that it happened, TO ME, at this time has made me realize immensely how precious life is, how precious teaching is, and how fragile we human beings are.

While singing with the Preps yesterday I found myself staring into each student’s eyes, trying to take in as much of them as possible, drinking in their personalities and hoping that they will all come back again next week. I do not want anyone else to leave! I do not want any of them to get hurt!

But I cannot save them all… and I did not save Rex. Rex is gone. My class of 21 preps is now down to 20. He was hit by a truck, and died at the scene. Rex, who only 2 weeks ago I had given a piece of chocolate cake for making it into the Top 5 because he sat patiently for his book while others were shouting for it. Little blonde Rex.

I find myself looking towards the right everytime I pass his classroom to go to the staffroom or toilets. I keep looking because I still see his photo in the class wall, on the class door, on his table, his book shelf, his bag shelf, his music book…

I am only in my first year of teaching, and already I have had to deal with a student’s death. I wonder how much more will come? How much more can I take?

I was wondering if you have experienced something similar?  If so, what advice do you have for this teacher to help her get through this emotionally traumatic experience.


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