Teacher’s roles are far greater than teaching academics, but then you knew that already! If you feel it’s appropriate, it would be really kind to engage with your student’s whānau. Just keep it low-key, say that you’re thinking of them and are happy to support your student. See if there is anything the school or you can do – sometimes schools will ask the PTA for involvement too in providing meals, babysitting and other support as you see appropriate and/or necessary.
You (and other tamariki) will probably feel you want to cheer them up. Know that you don’t have to, and sometimes this will be impossible, depending on the depth of their sadness. Feelings are made to be felt, but they will become easier over time.
The best thing you can do for your tamariki, is offer support, warmth, patience, empathy and consistency of routine. As a teacher and trusted adult, you can help tamariki learn skills that help them notice, understand, express, cope with, and learn from big emotions like sadness.
If you haven’t already, let them know it’s okay to be sad and it’s normal under the circumstances. There’s no timeline for sad feelings to come and go Reiterate that they will feel better in time. Mostly, it’s about listening and continuing to let them know you’re there for them, but that there’s no pressure to share anything they don’t want to.
You may also like to discuss with the student how they’d like you to respond if questions come up in the classroom environment. Use your best judgment here too!
Big emotions like sadness, worry and anger can in turn worry us, especially when we feel like we don’t know what to do. When we’re tempted to call in the professionals and experts it sometimes helps to ask: ‘What if this was my niece or nephew in this situation?’ Often, whānau provide all of the care and support needed with help from their community (school, church, friendship group and connections). Professionals, experts and ‘interventions’ don’t always need to play a role.
Sometimes when our tamariki experience personal hardship and upsetting emotions, we take them on too – it’s called empathy and means you’re being super cool for your student. But make sure you are looking after you too (in case you’d forgotten)! Here’s some of our tips that can help, and keep connecting with your school principal, other teachers and personal supports. Also remember, you can’t fix everything in your students’ lives, but you can give them skills and aroha to help them along the way — and that counts for a lot!
Sparklers activities that can help
Encouraging emotional literacy
Teaching and practising calm down strategies
Building on tamariki strengths