Fifth graders reach out in difficult situation

Guest blog by  Joseph Warren, Fifth Grade Teacher

A few years ago, a student of mine (I’ll call him Brad) lost his father to suicide. This difficult situation was made worse by local coverage in the newspaper and television. For lack of a better way to describe Brad, I would say he was “different.”  He sometimes had difficulty relating to other students.

I was not sure how to deal with this situation in the classroom, but I knew I had to talk with the class about helping Brad, when he returned.  He was absent for about two weeks.  During that time, the class and I discussed what we could do to support Brad.

I was amazed by my students’ generosity.  Their ideas displayed maturity I had not expected from fifth graders. First, they made cards, which I delivered to Brad’s home. Then they decided they should give Brad space when he returned. They wanted him to have time to begin to feel “normal.” They wouldn’t shower Brad with attention or pity, but they would tell him they were sorry for his loss and they were glad he was back in class.

A small group of students approached me about giving Brad a gift, and we talked about what would be appropriate.  They said Brad was interested in martial arts, and he liked to read.  They decided to give him a book on that topic. I searched and found a book, and purchased it so it would be waiting for Brad, when he came back to school.

When Brad returned, students showed great generosity. They made more of an effort to include him in conversations and activities, but they were not pushy or intrusive.  For fifth graders, they showed great sensitivity. Their generosity made a difficult time easier for Brad.


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