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  • Artisis
  • Veteran

    • 233

    • August 21, 2013, 04:52:28 pm
    • South Korea
Death of a student
« on: December 02, 2014, 01:53:54 pm »
One of my 5th grade students passed away today. To make this even more screwed up, the last lesson I did with that class was "What do you want to do before you die."
I now have her completed worksheet that I want to give to her family .

Aside from just getting this off my chest, I want some advice on how to handle this situation in an appropriate manner. I come from a small town in the US and a death in the community resulted in a school wide memorial service or at the very least a teacher and counselor talking with the students in the class or grade about it.

I would like to give the Bucket List worksheet to her family and I thought instead of doing my normal lesson, taking the time for the students to write sympathy cards to the family and learn how to express their feelings in English. Would this be an appropriate way to address this situation? I personally think that it would be difficult and insensitive to "teach as normal" with this hanging over my students heads.

I would ask my coteacher what she thinks but she is nowhere to be usual.

Re: Death of a student
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2014, 01:58:38 pm »
My condolences. I'm not sure if it would beneficial or not to give the family her last worksheet, given the topic. I do think that it is appropriate to make cards in your class, but they are all going to be in shock/hurting, as well, so it could be difficult for them. Certainly talk to you coteacher if you can find her. The students will probably need to talk to someone, but I don't know how productive/successful that counselling can be in English.
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  • kzcl
  • Veteran

    • 91

    • March 20, 2014, 07:29:25 am
Re: Death of a student
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2014, 02:13:34 pm »
When I was a student in the US we had a fellow student die and all everyone wanted to do was talk about it. I only bring this up because it made me miserable. I barely knew her but by the end of the day I was really upset. It was focused on too much.
From my experiences I would be careful addressing it too much because everyone deals with it in their own way. Some students may want to talk about it while others would be more than happy to be distracted by a fun project or anything else.

I would talk to a Korean co-teacher on what he or she thinks is best culturally. Then see what you can do to balance addressing it but not focusing too much on it. Maybe half normal lesson and half sympathy cards. Maybe try to end on a good note honoring memories rather than focusing on death, too.

  • ashe1590
  • Super Waygook

    • 428

    • August 27, 2013, 01:07:13 pm
Re: Death of a student
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2014, 02:19:43 pm »
Firstly, I am very sorry to hear that. I hope you are doing okay.

With all due respect, I don't think it is appropriate to give the worksheet to the students family. From my experience, when a younger person/ child dies, their life is often viewed as being incomplete. Giving the family the worksheet may emphasis the fact that the student was unable to complete a lot of things that she wanted to do. It may be quite painful for them to read.

Sympathy cards to the family may seem like good idea, but I'm not sure about having the students write them in English. It is hard enough to articulate feelings of grief in your mother tongue. Turning it into an English lesson may seem a bit gimmicky, especially if you are going to send the cards to their family at the end of it. Some situations are too heavy to be used as a language learning opportunity.

If you really want to talk about it, perhaps in your lesson you could just have a sharing time were students are free to discuss memories they had with the student in both English and/ or Korean? No target vocabulary, no learning vocab about feelings and grief, etc. Just them remembering their friend. That way there is a little less pressure for them to participate in English and it won't feel as 'lesson' like, and if their language ability is low they will still be able to participate if they want to.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2014, 03:26:36 pm by ashe1590 »

  • laschutz
  • Adventurer

    • 37

    • February 24, 2013, 12:30:23 pm
    • South Korea
Re: Death of a student
« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2014, 02:25:37 pm »
Wow... My condolences.

When a student died at our school a few months ago, I also wanted to talk about it in some way, but I was told by my co-teacher that the students would not react well to that. That they were sad enough as it was, and they wanted things to be relatively normal. I just kept classes low-key for a couple weeks. It was weird to me not to do more, but I think it was for the best.

Maybe your 5th graders would be more willing to talk or write about it than my jaded high schoolers, though. I'd just take into consideration that kids can resent being told that they should have feelings--something as intense as losing a classmate can take a while to sink in, and they may not want to spill their feelings right away, especially in English.

Like everyone else said--check with your co-teacher! I really appreciated the advice of mine.

  • sleepy
  • Veteran

    • 217

    • April 02, 2013, 03:05:44 pm
Re: Death of a student
« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2014, 02:27:12 pm »
Just follow your schools lead on this - do not talk to the students about it.

I assume it was a sudden death - not a terminal illness or anything like that?

Either way - DO NOT give her family that 'What do you want to do before you die.' worksheet.


Did your CT/school know about that worksheet by the way?

Keep it and approach the subject with your CT or head teacher in a few weeks (assuming they knew about the lesson/worksheet)

They'll be busy enough with school stuff/funeral stuff/kids stuff at the moment.

English and you will have to take a back seat for a little while. Ask to go with the teachers to the funeral mourning thing if you wish - do give at least w50,000 in cash.

As for your next lesson - have some coloring worksheets/puzzles/make snowflakes - let them choose what they want to do....

Delete this thread ASAP. 
« Last Edit: December 02, 2014, 02:33:38 pm by sleepy »

  • Artisis
  • Veteran

    • 233

    • August 21, 2013, 04:52:28 pm
    • South Korea
Re: Death of a student
« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2014, 02:56:45 pm »
I was told not to talk about it and not to address it. Seems pretty ****** disrespectful to me but considering the bad timing of my brillant lesson plan, it's best to do whatever they think is best.

No game tomorrow. Another class. Same old, same old.

  • country09
  • Expert Waygook

    • 653

    • January 05, 2011, 10:04:21 am
Re: Death of a student
« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2014, 03:16:49 pm »
All cultures deal with death differently and you should respect that. Just because the students won't be discussing it in English class where language ability is already hindered it doesn't mean they wont discuss it with their homeroom teacher. I get where you are coming from but don't be so quick to pass judgement on how things are handled.

  • sleepy
  • Veteran

    • 217

    • April 02, 2013, 03:05:44 pm
Re: Death of a student
« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2014, 03:20:28 pm »
I was told not to talk about it and not to address it. Seems pretty ****** disrespectful to me but considering the bad timing of my brillant lesson plan, it's best to do whatever they think is best.

No game tomorrow. Another class. Same old, same old.

Some Koreans believe if you talk about something it'll happen, hence my question about if your CT/school knew about your lesson.

This of course only holds true for *bad things,* not winning the lotto for example.  :-[

If they didn't know of your LP - REALLY REALLY hope they don't find out (if they have that mindset)

As for not addressing it, they will have a school councilor that the children can talk to. Death is dealt with differently here -  you might not even know how they died, with 'face saving' and all..... You could be told X when it is Y.

You really should delete this thread...

Re: Death of a student
« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2014, 03:23:00 pm »
I'm sorry about your student. I can't even imagine how this must feel...

I think it's admirable that you want to reach out to the family and the students in her class, but in this case, I'd let the matter drop. If the kids want to talk to you about it, they will- I was not allowed to mention Sewol, but someone of my students approached me about it- and it is sort of more typical in east Asian schools to avoid these topics.

I don't think, however, that it would be inappropriate to send a culturally correct message or gift of condolences to the family, but VET IT WITH A COTEACHER YOU TRUST FIRST.

  • Piggydee
  • The Legend

    • 2718

    • October 15, 2013, 07:32:43 am
    • South Korea
Re: Death of a student
« Reply #10 on: December 02, 2014, 03:26:08 pm »
Yeah making this into a "lesson" does seem gimmicky.  And handing a cards that are written in English would just complicate the matter for the family (think how the Chinese family felt of the missing Malaysian flight members when they were given a text message in English by Malayaian Airlines...they were very insulted)  So making the family have to work to figure out what they students are saying is not a top priority.  And to see your coworker as being disrepectful for not wanting to talk about the student's death is something that you need to get used to about Korean culture.  I also wanted to talk about the Sewol sinking but I was told not to discuss that too.  Death is not really talked about in this country and trying to over step the bourderies will just get you into trouble.  Take it from me I've tried.   

Re: Death of a student
« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2014, 03:30:20 pm »
This has to be one of the worst things that can happen.  There is no easy way to handle your own emotions, let alone those of a bunch of kids.

I would strongly and passionately advise AGAINST taking any initiative on this one.  It is NOT your role, skill set, responsibility or expectation to provide counselling to anyone.  Even if you are trained and certified as a counsellor, you are not working at that school in that capacity.  Unless the school specifically asks you to be involved in that capacity, you shouldn't even consider it.  Even if they do, you should decline.  There are libraries full of research, laws, regulations, and protocol for counselling kids and unless you are legally and professionally equipped to provide those services at a level that meets modern standards within a public school system, you mustn't try.  It is not your job and you stand to do immeasurably more harm than good.  Even trained and experienced professional struggle to help children through such complex and emotionally confusing situations.  This is, of course, to say nothing at all of the language challenge.  Think about how difficult it is for you to adequately verbalise your feelings about this in your native language.  Now imagine how much help you could possibly be to kids who struggle with basic sentences.

I know how strongly you feel like helping.  I've been there.  I've had kids die, get arrested, and get into all sorts of tragic circumstances.  I know that instinct well.  We love these kids and we want to help them and fix them and make it all better.  We must take the more difficult path of stoicism.  We must provide some reprieve from the constant reminders.  Reverting to your normal routine is not insensitive at all.  It's healing.  It gives them a chance to take their minds off it.  Even if some (or all) choose not to jump on that opportunity, you should still provide it.

Please don't give that worksheet to the parents.  They don't know you, they probably don't speak English, and they probably don't want a foreign (literal and figurative) person injecting themselves into the darkest hour of their lives.  Just hang on to it.  Stay out of the way, let them help each other.  If you are asked to do anything, carefully weigh whether it falls within your honest capabilities before modestly offering to help.  I don't personally see the sympathy cards as being a great activity.  These kids struggle enough putting totally innocuous sentences together.  Asking them to stretch their English abilities while focussing on such a terrible subject is almost torture.  If they will write cards, they will either do it themselves or they will do it in homeroom.  Don't ask them to do it again in English.

I know how difficult this is and I sympathise with you.  I respect your commitment to the kids.  Your heart is in the right place, but I would just suggest that you back away from this and let them do what they do.  The risk of breaking some cultural rule or exacerbating the emotional stress is too great. 

Best of luck. 

  • z80
  • Expert Waygook

    • 661

    • August 24, 2014, 07:34:50 pm
Re: Death of a student
« Reply #12 on: December 02, 2014, 03:46:21 pm »
What veganbiker said is spot on.

I've had a death of a student back home and even then it was best to take a back seat. React when directly approached, but don't put your self out there on this one. 

Don't give that worksheet to the parents. I have done a similar lesson on this but changed the topic to just 'what do you want to do' rather than what do you want to do before you die. Keep that work sheet your self, that's your little reminder of the person you have lost.

Re: Death of a student
« Reply #13 on: December 02, 2014, 04:42:11 pm »
How did the student die? Did they tell you anything or did they just say "so and so has died"

  • pkjh
  • Hero of Waygookistan

    • 1766

    • May 02, 2012, 02:59:44 pm
Re: Death of a student
« Reply #14 on: December 02, 2014, 04:59:21 pm »
Once had a girl die in a middle school. Hit by a car in front of the school. Aside from it being mentioned the next morning, everything carried on as usual. But some of the important teachers went to the that funeral wakey-thingie, Koreans do for like 3 days.

Another time, a girl's father was killed by a drunk off-duty cop on a weekend. She was back at school on the Thursday. One of my ct's was her homeroom teacher. And occasionally I'd go to his morning pre-class class. He didn't expect her back so early, and just asked her if she was okay, she nodded, and he never brought up the issue with again (or at least when I was around). Worse, was one of the cop's daughters was a student in the same school. She was a pretty popular student, but after her cop father killed the guy, the other students started treating her bad. So she stopped showing up to school after that week. And it got so bad for the whole family, the whole family (aunts, uncles...) had to move towns within a few month.

My advice, just carry on as normal. That's just how Asians do it if they aren't really close to the person. Unless a student directly brings up the issue with you, don't even mention it.