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When children need comfort

I was deeply moved by Marj Adams's sensitive account of Forres Academy's caring approach to grieving pupils (TESS, March 2). Marj had told me of the tragic road accident which claimed the lives of Danny and Kane, expressing her own deep sense of loss and compassion for the families and friends of both boys.

I've had the privilege of visiting Marj's classroom, where a star hangs over Danny's desk, a tacit acknowledgment of his continuing presence in the hearts of his friends and classmates.

It took me back to 1973-74 when, as a young RE teacher in Dumfriesshire, I encountered the appalling grief one Monday morning of a fourth year section. One of the group, a delightful and popular 15-year-old called Jane, had been killed in a car accident over the weekend.

My pupils were devastated. Teaching them that day was out of the question.

I asked what they would find most helpful. They wanted me to say a prayer for Jane, and for her brother John, who had been driving, for the family and all their friends. It was the least I could do to respond to their grief and pleas for help.

How many of our pupils are experiencing personal trauma and tragedy of which we may be unaware? How do we reach out and care for them, genuinely being there for them when they need us, knowing when and how to offer them advice, support and comfort without being intrusive and insensitive?

Senior management and guidance teams play their part. But kids have their own ways of knowing and choosing a teacher in whom to confide their troubles.

Shirley Mitchinson

Glenlivet, Ballindalloch, Moray

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