University of Oregon Logo
  Search
 
Dealing With the Aftermath of Tragedy in the Classroom

 

Following the recent tragedies at Virginia Tech University and Northern Illinois University, the UO Counseling and Testing Center wants to offer some tips to help when working with students.

Take time to talk as a group or class. Consider providing an opportunity at the beginning of a class period. Often, a short time period is more effective than a whole class period. This serves the purpose of acknowledging that students may be reacting to a recent event, without pressuring students to speak. Introduce the opportunity by briefly acknowledging the tragic event and suggesting that it might be helpful to share personal reactions students may have. Have students discuss “facts” first, then shift to emotions

Often the discussion starts with students asking questions about what actually happened and “debating” some details. People are more comfortable discussing “facts” than feelings, so it’s best to allow this exchange for a brief period of time. After facts have been exchanged, you can try to shift the discussion toward sharing personal and emotional reactions.

You might lead off by saying something like: “Often it is helpful to share your own emotional responses and hear how others are responding. It doesn’t change the reality, but it takes away the sense of loneliness that sometimes accompanies stressful events. I would be grateful for whatever you are willing to share.”

  • Respect each person’s dealing with the loss
    Some will be more vocal or expressive than others with their feelings and thoughts. Everyone is affected differently and reacts differently.
  • Be prepared for blaming
  • Give yourself time to reflect.
    Remember that you have feelings, too, and thoughts about what occurred, and these thoughts and feelings should be taken seriously, not only for yourself, but also for the sake of the students with whom you may be trying to work. Some find it helpful to write down or talk out their feelings and thoughts.
  • Come back to the feelings as a group at a later time.
    It is important to acknowledge the adjustments people have made. Just because everything seems to be back to normal does not mean that everyone has finished having feelings about the loss.

Special Thanks to Virginia Tech’s Cook Counseling Center and Northern Illinois University’s Counseling and Student Development Center for this material.

Following the recent tragedies at Virginia Tech University and Northern Illinois University, the UO Counseling and Testing Center wants to offer some tips to help when working with students.

Take time to talk as a group or class. Consider providing an opportunity at the beginning of a class period. Often, a short time period is more effective than a whole class period. This serves the purpose of acknowledging that students may be reacting to a recent event, without pressuring students to speak. Introduce the opportunity by briefly acknowledging the tragic event and suggesting that it might be helpful to share personal reactions students may have. Have students discuss “facts” first, then shift to emotions

Often the discussion starts with students asking questions about what actually happened and “debating” some details. People are more comfortable discussing “facts” than feelings, so it’s best to allow this exchange for a brief period of time. After facts have been exchanged, you can try to shift the discussion toward sharing personal and emotional reactions.

You might lead off by saying something like: “Often it is helpful to share your own emotional responses and hear how others are responding. It doesn’t change the reality, but it takes away the sense of loneliness that sometimes accompanies stressful events. I would be grateful for whatever you are willing to share.”

  • Respect each person’s dealing with the loss
    Some will be more vocal or expressive than others with their feelings and thoughts. Everyone is affected differently and reacts differently.
  • Be prepared for blaming
  • Give yourself time to reflect.
    Remember that you have feelings, too, and thoughts about what occurred, and these thoughts and feelings should be taken seriously, not only for yourself, but also for the sake of the students with whom you may be trying to work. Some find it helpful to write down or talk out their feelings and thoughts.
  • Come back to the feelings as a group at a later time.
    It is important to acknowledge the adjustments people have made. Just because everything seems to be back to normal does not mean that everyone has finished having feelings about the loss.

Special Thanks to Virginia Tech’s Cook Counseling Center and Northern Illinois University’s Counseling and Student Development Center for this material.