Thank God it's Friday

22nd June 2001 at 01:00
MONDAY I arrive at school to find that Catherine, a girl in my class, has been knocked down at the weekend and is in intensive care. By the time the bell goes for the start of school, most of the children have heard about the accident. We gather on the carpet, as usual, and say a prayer for Catherine and her family. The children are anxious for news and spend the rest of the day questioning the staff and discussing the accident in small groups. After school, we hear that Catherine has died.

TUESDAY The head decides that children should be told about Catherine's death in their classrooms and then, later in the morning, we will gather for a special assembly. The tear-stained faces of Catherine's classmates that greet me as I open the doors for school tell me that the children have already heard the news. Our morning prayers are extended by the number of children who want to say their own prayer for her. We abandon the day's lessons and try to keep the hildren busy while giving them the opportunity to talk to each other and to us about what has happened.

WEDNESDAY We have another special assembly, this time led by the priest. We try to turn our minds to the good times we shared with Catherine.

THURSDAY The funeral is tomorrow. The class spends the day making cards for Catherine's family. We send out letters asking parents for permission to take the children to church for the funeral.

FRIDAY All the children bring in their permission slips. Most parents are themselves going to attend. The Mass is beautiful, the children seem calm, there are tears, but no hysterics. As the children leave for the weekend I take a closer look at them. This time last week, 30 children were lining up with their reading bags, now there are 29. Who knows what the future will hold?

The writer, who wishes to remain anonymous, teaches in a Catholic primary school in the West Midlands

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