According to a New York Life Foundation survey, nearly 70% of teachers have at least one grieving student in their classroom. The survey, which was conducted in conjunction with the American Federation of Teachers, also shows that on average teachers interact with eight grieving students each school year.
In keeping with a whole child educational philosophy, members of the Episcopal faculty seek to support and assist students in all aspects of life, including loss. Recently, the school earned the Grief-Sensitive School designation through New York Life’s Grief-Sensitive Schools Initiative. Initiative organizers seek to prepare teachers to support grieving students by providing access to teacher resources and training opportunities. To earn the designation, Episcopal Middle School teachers participated in a training in which they were introduced to the information available to them as a participating school. Middle School counselor Alicia Kelly says the training was a helpful refresher on empathy and compassion. “The training we received was a valuable reminder of the ongoing struggles our students may deal with, related to loss,” says Kelly. “Every child we teach is dealing with things that we cannot see. Being aware and sensitive to our children’s family lives helps us connect with them, and support the whole child, leading to better educational outcomes.”
Kelly says teachers now have access to resources to help them better communicate and understand students who have experienced a significant loss. She says offering the training during a Middle School staff meeting so that the entire division could attend highlights the school’s commitment to supporting students and families. In addition she says because of Episcopal’s small size, teachers and staff have the ability to reach out to families one-on-one to rally around them and offer meaningful support.
The Episcopal community is known for providing a strong support system. School counselors Alicia Kelly, Sara LeBlanc, Jodi Manton, and Robin Talamo work with students in each division in age-appropriate ways. Faculty and staff also offer a range of services for students and families, including the following:
As part of the Grief-Sensitive School designation, Episcopal received a $500 grant to support additional resources. The grant allowed the Episcopal school counselors to host a viewing of the documentary Screenagers, which explores the pressures and realities that today’s students face in a digital world. The documentary was shown this week to students and families. For more tips on dealing with children and technology, read this post by Upper School Counselor Jodi Manton.