Teaching is easy.
The act of presenting information to people in hopes that they learn a new skill or understand something that they didn’t before is easy.
It’s the policies that make it difficult.
It’s the procedures that make it difficult.
It’s the system that makes it difficult.
It’s the people that make it difficult.
It’s the lack of resources that make it difficult.
It’s the daily interactions that make it difficult.
It’s the situations outside of our control that make it difficult.
It’s the fact that we are human that makes it difficult.
Today I discovered that one of my students has died.
Tomorrow I was planning on marking her latest assignment. What do I do with it now?
There’s probably a policy in place somewhere to tell me what the right course of action is...but where that is, I’ll probably never know. Are grades for the dead even relevant? Or is it too dismissive to ignore reading and marking work she committed some of her last living days to complete?
Her death was sudden. That means her locker must still be full of her possessions. I can’t help but wonder what procedures are in place for those. Is there a period of grieving, where the contents of her locker will remain preserved and untouched? Or will the lock be cut off, her possessions discarded, her notebooks, her stationary, pictures of friends, artworks, love notes and more, all be tossed away as if she had never existed?
And what about the systems? How long will it take for her to be removed from the attendance roll? Will her file remain on school servers? Tomorrow when I call out attendance will her name be there? If it is, will I forget and say it aloud anyway?
I know that the students will be distraught, many teachers will be too. Focus is going to be non existent and for some, emotions will be out of control. Should I be worried about her close friends? The ones she supported day in and day out. I’ll have to keep an eye on their welfare too. It’s hard for me loosing a student, it must be even harder loosing a friend.
The school doesn’t have enough supports in place to deal with this. There are going to be so many staff and students impacted by this, more than our overloaded nurse, social worker and psychologist can handle. How can I help people through this? What coping strategies can I teach the kids?
I don’t know how the class will function without her. She was a support to many. An academic support for some, emotional support for more. How will people handle her passing? Will people scream and shout about how unfair life is? Will they collapse into tears? Will they become distant, disengaged and despondent? How can I help them?
Her life was taken far too soon, and whether or not I intended it to happen, I had formed a connection with her. I was her teacher. She came to me for advice, she asked me to be a reference when she started looking for jobs, she was always one of the more diligent students and I was always happy to see her in the classroom. But now she has been snatched away, by some cruel event that was none of her own fault. A tragic accident. A situation out of anyone’s control.
As I reflect on her and the impact her death is having, I’m beginning to realise two things:
Teaching is easy,
but the human parts are hard.