Skip to main content

Managing Tragedy

There are so many students in our schools who are in crisis. There have been countless days where I have felt that no amount of compassion could comfort and my lack of common experience made me I qualified to help these most vulnerable students. In the last 4 years, I have helped students through the deaths of parents including a suicide, I stopped a young girl from ending her own life and have worked with countless kids enduring truly difficult medical circumstances including cancer. There is no training on how to deal. There  is lots to read on what to say and what not to say but it always seems so abstract and impractical. It's a struggle to manage my own reactions and emotions and maintain composure. I have tried in vain to remain stoic but have yielded to my humanity so many times and have cried along side students and their parents. I have stood frozen and speechless in front of caskets of students who have died, feeling inadequate in offering consolation to a devastated family. Did I mention there is no preparation for this? And yet I cease to be amazed how much of my time is devoted to dealing with and helping families to manage tragedy. 

I might sound a bit whiny but it is in these instances that an Administrator has the opportunity to really help kids without any obstacles or interference. These are the encounters where students see that God works his mercy and compassion through others. As a Catholic educator it is our vocation to actively demonstrate that Jesus is our guide and model. In times of need, we make decisions that allows coming to school to be a bit more tolerable and if that means putting accommodations in place that may cause the odd brow to furrow it's too bad. 

I will admit that each situation I have dealt with in the last four years, and there are sadly too many to count, have impacted me to the point of feeling traumatized in some instances. Difficult though the experiences have been, they are the only confirmations I have that, despite having loved teaching so much, I am having a much more direct impact on students in my role as VP. It's sad that this affirmation has come through witnessing tragedy but it's so frequent. It's exhausting, emotionally draining. 

My VP partner has been a saving grace because she is my sounding board to help process events. It's important in these instances to have a partner you can trust implicitly. It can become overwhelming to become intimately acquainted with the personal issues in students' lives, and it's so crucial to have access to a voice of reason who helped keep you grounded when you feel you might completely lose it. 

I keep coming back to training. I did crisis training in regards to such matters as bomb threats and intruders, less frequent occurrences these days than young people being diagnosed with terminal illnesses. We need support. Access to certain board personnel can be helpful but more often than not students and their families prefer to deal with a familiar face. The truth is students and their families would rather not deal beyond the four walls of their own home because they feel like their privacy is being invaded. Being sensitive and open, talking less and listening more have worked for me. Regardless, I hurt for these families and it makes me sad when yet another appointment gets made to discuss "an urgent matter".


Popular posts from this blog

Leading During a Pandemic

 Never thought I'd EVER type a title like that.  Pandemics were only events I had taught about during my History classes. The experience thus far can only be described as surreal. It's been a part of our reality for nearly 10 months now and the fear and uncertainty is still not lost on me with the reporting of daily infection and death rates. It has been my single greatest challenge as a leader to date to show up to work everyday imbuing optimism that we're going to be ok, that school is a safe place to be. I have to say that on 98% of those days, I have believed just that. We have be so very fortunate not to have experienced any positive diagnoses of COVID-19 so far. Implementing the new health and safety protocols, while tedious and laborious, has not been all that  difficult. Sure, the work up front was a lot - signage, taping arrows and cues on the walls and floors, rearranging classroom furniture to establish social distancing in the classrooms ... as the Principal, th

I Am a Catholic Principal!

Yesterday was National School Principal Day and this lovely nod from CPCO showed up on my Twitter feed! Prior to its release, I had to complete a questionnaire and what is featured on this image is the answer to a question that asked about what I thought was greatest accomplishment over the past year. I thought I would share all of the responses to the other questions that were asked. Is there a personal experience/incident that led you to choose this vocation? Please describe. I never planned for a career in Administration because I loved teaching too much. In ongoing discussion with a Superintendent-mentor, I began to realize how much more I could help students who really needed it. I also began to realize the potential that existed to influence change at both the local and systemic level in terms of supporting a variety of student needs through various initiatives. What do you love the most about being a Catholic school leader? What I have come to truly appreciate and love

Catholic Education Week 2020

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Catholic Education Week. It is truly a gift to be able to work in a publicly-funded Catholic school, where we can be free to express our faith so freely and unapologetically. It's a bit sad that we are presently in quarantine and cannot gather in community to celebrate this wonderful gift but my staff and I decided to capitalize on the marvel that is social media to stay connected to our students. We wanted to inspire hope and encourage them from our homes, to theirs. I challenged my staff to select a favourite Scripture passage that they felt evokes a great sense of hope and each day on our school's Twitter feed, I feature a staff member with their quote. I also posted these photos into all of the Google Classrooms that the staff were running for  distance learning. In our special community, where relationships are so key to student success, we thought it was important for the kids to see our faces. We called our little project #motivatedbyfaith