Coping with Tragedy in the Classroom

In light of recent events, Americans are grieving. Here are three tips to create a culture that supports coping in the classroom.


It’s no surprise educators do more than simply teach. While it would be easy to leave therapy and coping strategies to the psychology professionals, students in the midst of mourning and uncertainty might require extra comfort during the school day. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one or the impact of a national catastrophe, educators should serve up a little extra grace and compassion when tragedy strikes. Fair warning: You might be the only adult willing to lend an ear (or more than five minutes), so keep in mind your words and actions can make all the difference.  

  1. Let students know you care. There’s no need to single out someone who is hurting. During what might be a communally rough time, offer a moment of silence each day as a way to honor those grieving. Perhaps you ask students to extend a special thought of strength to anyone who might be struggling or mourning.
  2. Welcome the school counselor in to the class. For some, the idea of walking into a stranger’s office to pour out their heart seems more than daunting. To lessen what might feel like an uncomfortable situation, welcome the psychologist or counselor into the class to share who they are and why they are passionate about helping others. Students (and people, in general) are more likely to open up to those they feel are relatable and approachable.
  3. Focus on your students. As the teacher, you understand your kiddos better than you might realize. You know what makes your students tick and what crushes them. You see what they bring for snack, who their friends are, and you have come to memorize their idiosyncrasies. If you notice something odd about their behavior, don’t hesitate to pull them aside, in private, to see if they’re OK. Be aware of your tone and body language, but most of all, remind them they can count on you as they overcome challenges and loss.     

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