Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Teaching through Tragedy: London

I've written about this several times in the past, yet it's quite difficult to avoid writing about it yet again today. I'm in London teaching as a visiting professor in my college's Study Abroad program for the month of June. During day 3 of our trip the unthinkable happened - a terrorist attack in the area of London Bridge that left 7 dead and more than 20 critically injured. Within minutes family and friends in the United States reached out to me to ensure that I was okay and safe. I was, and am. But my attention was not on myself, but on my students for whom I am responsible these thousands of miles away from home.

Thank goodness for technology as we use an app to keep in touch. My phone came alive with messages from my students asking if I was okay? They were checking on me. This turn of events made me consider my role as their teacher here so far from home. They are adults as college students, so this event was not the same as when I hurried my flock of sixth graders back into the school once we realized the space shuttle had exploded over head when I was teaching in Florida. This was not like when I was getting our son ready for school when 9/11 threatened us through the horrific images on the television in Colorado and while we heard the fighter jets patrolling the skies above us in this military laden area.

This was different - yet the same.

Not because we weren't in the United States. Not because we weren't the ones attacked. But because our students felt secure enough to worry about someone else beside themselves. They didn't need me to assure them. They didn't need me to make it all better. They needed to know that I was safe and that they were capable of taking care of themselves.

They were. They are.

We will talk about this in class tomorrow. We will make sure that we all have an opportunity to process what has happened and how they're feeling. Just as I've done more times than I want to count in the past as a teacher. Teachers are on the front lines to the events of the world. Often we are the ones to protect, inform, and counsel our students through tragedy. It's not an explicit part of the job description; nor do we receive training to play this role. Yet we are there when it counts and wouldn't have it any other way.

For the former teachers and parents of the beautiful young adults I teach now, thank you for preparing them to be incredibly responsible, kind, and compassionate people. They will make great teachers someday themselves.

They already know how to teach through tragedy.
God Bless.