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Responding to a School Tragedy

tengrrl Posted by tengrrl in Reading & Language Arts on Dec 15, 2013 3:43:57 PM

arapahoe-candle.jpgSadly, we find ourselves once again dealing with a tragedy  in an educational setting. As stories on the one-year anniversary of the Newtown shootings flooded the media, we heard the news of a new shooting at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado. How can we explain these unexplainable events to the students we teach and their families? How can you make them feel safe in the classroom?


You can find  resources, from lesson plans to ideas for classroom activities on these sites:


In his Voices from the Middle article “Difficult Days and Difficult Texts,” Bob Probst talks about the value of stories. “Stories,” he tells us, “will save us, if anything will” (50). Writing of the events of September 11, 2001, but just as applicable to the events in Centennial last week, Probst explains, “Part of the problem with understanding . . . was that we had an event, but didn’t yet have a story. All we had at that point was an image, a happening” (53). No matter how old the students we may interact with this week are, our job as teachers is to help them find the stories:


  • stories of their connections to people in Centennial,
  • stories of their own reflections on the events,
  • stories of police and rescue workers who responded,
  • stories of political reactions and implications,
  • stories of the social networks supporting them,
  • stories of the news media’s coverage,
  • stories of their own outrage, sadness, and horror,
  • stories of their fears and where they have found security,
  • stories of how such a thing could happen, and
  • stories of how we all can and must continue on.


As we meet with students and difficult events come up, the most important thing we can do is invite stories and respond to them as empathetic and encouraging readers. As Probst says, “Stories will save us, if anything will.”


Please visit the Thinkfinity Community Hub and share your stories of how you cope, of how you help students and families, and of how you continue on—in the discussion thread Addressing School Tragedies.




[Portions of this post were previously published in My Virginia Tech Story on the NCTE Inbox blog.]


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