Hey Teachers, I Need Some Advice (urgent)

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Hey guys.



As many of you know, I teach English at the university level. And I know there are several teachers on these boards, so I thought I'd ask here. My own department is split on the issue.



Here goes.



On Sunday, one of my best and favorite students this semester committed suicide, and her viewing and funeral service are tomorrow. I need advice on the following:



I'm getting a card for her classmates to sign, and I'm going to write up a nice note about her for her parents. Should I hoof it down to the viewing tomorrow and present it in person? Or should I just mail it, as I'd planned? I realize it's common for secondary-school teachers to go to such services, but I don't know about university-level, where relations with teachers can be more intense and yet less personal.



Thanks in advance.



Cheers

Scott
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 31
    brussellbrussell Posts: 9,812member
    You should definitely go if you want to. I'm sure the parents would appreciate it. I can't understand why someone would say you shouldn't go?
  • Reply 2 of 31
    Sorry to hear it. I had someone I knew commit suicide last year, and you are always thinking "What if I?, Did they show any signs?". At the end of the day she made a decision, and you should try and remember the positives, not the negatives.



    Forget about whether you are a teacher or not.



    Do you feel like you should go?



    If yes, go. Parents and family typically appreciate knowing that she was important to many people.
  • Reply 3 of 31
    scottscott Posts: 7,431member
    Always in person. You'll get the, "gosh I never knew my daughter touched so many people .. blah blah blah"
  • Reply 4 of 31
    Tough call.



    If you'd only known the student for the one semester, or for one class, perhaps not.

    If this student had more than a semester under your tutelage, or multiple classes, maybe.

    That's not to suggest some arbitrary exposure rate should drive action,

    but people would expect different reaction for frosh/undergrad/grad/etc.



    Additionally, I can think of other factors that might impact your choice.

    If, for example, you were her expressed favourite prof and mentor,

    or a substantial portion of her classmates were attending the service,

    then it might be appropriate for you to go 'with the class' in solidarity.



    Single male professors appearing too close to single female students...

    might be best to send the card but not show up and risk complicating perceived relationship.

    (not implying anything, but not giving paranoids any ammo either)



    Most of her other profs might be willing to sign a condolence card,

    and for propriety's sake in a politically correct campus, that would be safe and sympathetic,

    without appearing to suggest anything outside the realm of professional conduct.
  • Reply 5 of 31
    alcimedesalcimedes Posts: 5,486member
    i think if you're showing up with a card signed from the entire class that's just fine. you're not just expressing your condolances but those of the other students in the class as well.
  • Reply 6 of 31
    midwintermidwinter Posts: 10,060member
    Curious and Alcimedes:



    Yes. Agree with all points.



    One hitch is that the card will most likely NOT be signed by everyone in the class, since half the class will be gone for T-giving. But I can't wait until Monday to have the card signed because the student's boyfriend is ALSO in the class, and I don't want to upset him.



    Cheers

    Scott
  • Reply 7 of 31
    baumanbauman Posts: 1,248member
    Let me guess... the controversy is trying to avoid faulty perceptions of a less-than-professional relationship? It's such a shame that things like that need to even be considered in a decision like this. (I'm not accosting you, or the department. It just sucks)



    In that case, perhaps you could rally some other profs to go with you? That would reduce that kind of implication, and you would have somebody to be with that you know.



    Of course, if you were her advisor, or she had many of your classes, I really wouldn't worry about it. Then it would have a more obvious professional connotation connected to your visit.



    Damn it's hard to even talk about avoiding the issue without having hidden connotations in my writing. Believe me, I'm not trying to imply anything... If you see otherwise in my writing, I apologize. Of course, I am implying that there could be such an implication, but I'm trying not to imply that I am implicating you. \
  • Reply 8 of 31
    midwintermidwinter Posts: 10,060member
    The other thing, of course, is that the nature of my job means that I was a source of stress in her life--whether she liked my class or not.



    Cheers

    Scott
  • Reply 9 of 31
    midwintermidwinter Posts: 10,060member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by bauman

    Let me guess... the controversy is trying to avoid faulty perceptions of a less-than-professional relationship? It's such a shame that things like that need to even be considered in a decision like this. (I'm not accosting you, or the department. It just sucks)



    In that case, perhaps you could rally some other profs to go with you? That would reduce that kind of implication, and you would have somebody to be with that you know.



    Of course, if you were her advisor, or she had many of your classes, I really wouldn't worry about it. Then it would have a more obvious professional connotation connected to your visit.



    Damn it's hard to even talk about avoiding the issue without having hidden connotations in my writing. Believe me, I'm not trying to imply anything... If you see otherwise in my writing, I apologize. Of course, I am implying that there could be such an implication, but I'm trying not to imply that I am implicating you. \




    No, I'm not worried in the least, really, about perceptions of impropriety. The only times I've ever been alone with her were after class when she'd stick around to get my advice on books or magazines she ought to read (she devoured Good Omens after I mentioned it in class one day). She never came to my office (which is far too isolated for my comfort, and I don't encourage students to visit me there for precisely that reason; instead, they email me).



    Let me be clear: I'm concerned that my appearance at a viewing might just be, well, weird for her family. I'm a one-time professor of hers, and am one of many this semester. But I may also be the only professor she had this semester who knew her name, and my classes usually wind up bonding in interesting ways, although I'm usually not part of that experience. It's difficult to explain. 25 students/class. Lots of discussion and debate. Lots of hair-pulling. Lots of close work with other students (this student had actually organized a Friday night peer-editing session at a local pizza place where they could all meet and work on their essays).



    Cheers

    Scott
  • Reply 10 of 31
    you obviously feel something of an emotional attachment to this student. i don't understand the reason(s) for not going. so i say "go". if you go alone, just be generally quiet, say "i'm sorry" and whatnot to the parents/family, and say a prayer (or fake prayer if your not religiously inclined) over the body. then quietly slip away. they'll appreciate your being there, and there isn't much else to it.
  • Reply 11 of 31
    alcimedesalcimedes Posts: 5,486member
    if it's only 25 students in the class i'd go, that's a pretty small class.



    bring the card, have as many people as you can sign it. the parents will appreciate it.
  • Reply 12 of 31
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,035member
    I say go. No question. Especially if it is a public service. You'll regret not going. I wouldn't stay away unless I was reasonably SURE there might be a bad impression or uncomfortable setting.
  • Reply 13 of 31
    go. it will show the parents that their daughter touched you
  • Reply 14 of 31
    Go.



    Obviously you had some sort of attachment to this person, and the reason behind the memorial service is to celebrate the LIFE of a person.



    Forget about all the politically correct things to do, if you want to go, then go.



    To take the stance where you may have been the cause of her stress, and feel like you might be blamed is most likely untrue. It takes a lot of someone to take their own life, and no doubt she had a lot of avenues to seek help.
  • Reply 15 of 31
    aquafireaquafire Posts: 2,758member
    Go...better to go than to later regret not having gone.



    You are showing compassion and also it is entirely appropriate, because in a way, you are an ambassador for the school.
  • Reply 16 of 31
    I am just beginning my teaching career. Your situation is tough, but a person of your stature, one held to a higher standard because you are an educator, should personally make the visit. "Weddings are discretionary, funerals are mandatory." - Rudy Giuliani.
  • Reply 17 of 31
    trumptmantrumptman Posts: 16,454member
    I say go. There is nothing wrong with sharing and easing a loss.



    Nick
  • Reply 18 of 31
    Just from a student's point of view:



    I would be really touched to know that a professor really cared about me enough to show up at my funeral. I mean, I've been in college for 3.5 years now and I can only think of one or two professors who would actually notice if I died. It would be incredibly touching to my parents to know that a professor of mine actually cared about me.



    In the case of your student, you could very well be the only person to tell them that she was enjoying her class. Unless you know the reason she did what she did, the least you could do is tell her parents about the fun she had in your class.



    Go.
  • Reply 19 of 31
    finboyfinboy Posts: 383member
    I think you should go and deliver the card. I think I'd want to do that for one of my students, esp. if I knew them well.



    I understand your uncertainty -- suicide is dicey. You never know how to play it.
  • Reply 20 of 31
    pfflampfflam Posts: 5,053member
    You should definitely go, but I am not sure about bringing up the card while at a viewing.



    I am very ambivalent about that. it isn't a wedding after all, and it is something where the emotional reaction to a might be best left to a private time.



    Betting on caution, I would play it safe and NOT present the card at the viewing but mail it with a note explaining that you did not feel that it was the appropriate moment to give the class-collective-condolence . . . playing it safe is better than bringing up potentially awkward emotional scenes in public.
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