Rather than have a school-wide assembly on the first day back to school, we opened our classrooms earlier so students could come in and meet in a smaller and safe environment. The school was ready with grief counselors and extra administrators on hand. We had a separate meeting area for parents to meet our interim principal (who is AMAZING!!!) and have any questions answered. In my class, the children's main concern was how this death would affect them personally. Very self-centered view, yet very age-appropriate and real. We reassured students that their school life would not be changing and our interim principal stopped by to introduce herself and visit each classroom. Once they felt reassured, we shared memories of our principal. It was really a time of healing and lots of smiles and laughter, as we remembered some of the funny things he would say. I had to chuckle when one of my more "active" boys said, "Oh I knew Mr. Hirsch very well because I was in there (his office) a lot over the years! And he was always nice to me and talked to me, then gave me cookies." After sharing, each student either traced their hand to cut out or cut out a heart, then wrote a note or memory about our principal.
All classrooms participated in the mural making, then displayed all the murals at a school-wide assembly the second week back. Children and parents alike, were walking around to read all the memories written on the hearts and hands. There were smiles and tears, laughter, and more sharing of memories.
It was a wonderful tribute to a kind and dedicated principal. We are at the end of our second week back and things are calm and kids are working and learning. More permanent memorial events are in the planning stages, but we are blessed it was a smooth transition with our students. I'll keep you posted!
Has your school ever experienced a loss? How did you handle it?