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How are teachers supposed to teach? How are we supposed to impress upon our students the importance of our subject? How do we continue to get through to them and have them learn about the idea of the individual and society, or the application of theories in physics? How do we do this when there are other things – bigger things – that weigh on the minds of these young adults?

How can I teach them?

For the third time this school year (the THIRD!) my students had to be informed that we had once again lost a member of our school community. For the third time this school year I had to look at my students as they processed the information that a person they might have seen in class, or in the hallways, or in the cafeteria, or at work was no longer going to be a part of their every day environment. For the third time this year my high school students had to face the realities of the death of a fellow student. For the third time this year I had to stay composed when it felt like my stomach was doing cartwheels.

How can I teach them?

I had to stand at the front of my classroom after our school’s administrator relayed the news and the offer of support services. I had to stand there and tell them that if they need anything, just to let me know. I had to stand there and tell them that once again we will continue with our day. I had to stand in front of them and provide a sense of stability while I was also so full of questions and sadness and hurt. I had to stand there and provide an environment that they know and understand at a time when there are so many things they don’t know and they don’t understand. I had to look at them and wonder what they truly needed from me, what questions did they have but were too unsure to ask, what thoughts did they have, how much did they understand and how much were they needing to still process?

How can I teach them?

Not only are teachers facing groups of students who so often have to become adults before they’re ready, but we also have to try to teach them and realize how much they still have to learn. Teachers are trying to teach the lessons from the books, when so often our students are learning lessons of the world. Our students are forced to face “adult” issues at a much younger age. Our students are growing up before they’re supposed to.

So how am I supposed to teach like this? I teach them by letting them know that I am always here for them. I teach them that through tragedy we can come together and support one another. I teach them that our thoughts and feelings can take us to go on and do great things. I teach them to continue to love and cherish those important to them. I teach them because I care about them.