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Author Topic: My student died  (Read 3232 times)
neutralname
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« on: November 19, 2012, 1:44:44 PM »

I just found out that a student died.  He was in one of my gen ed students, in a class of about 20, and his attendance had been patchy previously.  Then he stopped coming.  I have no info as the the cause of death.

I have written to a Dean to get more info.  I'm wondering whether to address the issue in class after Thanksgiving, and just park his passing.

Is it a good idea to mention it to the class, and if so, what's the best way to do it? 

(I'm at a commuter school and so this student would probably not be known to the other students.)

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zuzu_
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« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2012, 1:50:52 PM »

Absolutely, yes. Just announce it, since it sounds like they probably wouldn't otherwise know. If you think they don't already know, then wait until the last ten minutes or so of class. If they do know, I think it's best to acknowledge it up front.

In such cases, I also like to point students directly to online obituaries. Even if they didn't know him well, this is an easy way to offer to condolences to the family and participate in acknowledging his death. Many students do not know about these.

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lizzy
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« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2012, 1:53:50 PM »

What Zuzu said.

And so sorry to hear this.

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flyingbison
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« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2012, 2:03:54 PM »

I can't think of a good reason to announce it to the class, unless his absence is somehow disruptive to a group project or something similar.
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anisogamy
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« Reply #4 on: November 19, 2012, 2:22:59 PM »

I am so sorry.

I would announce it to the class, as a sign of respect and consideration.  That's a small enough class that the other students are likely to notice, even if there might not have been anyone there with an outside-of-class relationship.
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punchnpie
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« Reply #5 on: November 19, 2012, 2:27:33 PM »

I agree with anisogamy. Say something. The students know who's in the class, even if they don't have deep relationships with them.  I think it is a mark of respect to say at least a little something about the student.

I'm sorry to hear this, neutralname. We don't think of these things happening to our students and they can be hard to deal with when they do.
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marigolds
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« Reply #6 on: November 19, 2012, 2:29:59 PM »

I'm sorry, nn.
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theritas
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« Reply #7 on: November 19, 2012, 2:35:19 PM »

Oh dear, so sorry to hear this. Not sure how I would address it - it would really depend on the entire vibe of the class for me.
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dr_alcott
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« Reply #8 on: November 19, 2012, 2:37:14 PM »

I agree with anisogamy. Say something. The students know who's in the class, even if they don't have deep relationships with them.  I think it is a mark of respect to say at least a little something about the student.

This. You should say something. I wouldn't assume that students don't know him.

If I had more time, I'd find the other threads on this topic. Lots of good suggestions have been made, including bringing a sympathy cards for students to sign.

My sympathies, Neutral Name.
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zuzu_
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« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2012, 2:48:18 PM »

I can't think of a good reason to announce it to the class, unless his absence is somehow disruptive to a group project or something similar.

flyingbison, are you from the planet Vulcan?



(Please accept this question with the gentle, humorous spirit in which I ask it.)
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flyingbison
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« Reply #10 on: November 19, 2012, 2:56:50 PM »

I can't think of a good reason to announce it to the class, unless his absence is somehow disruptive to a group project or something similar.

flyingbison, are you from the planet Vulcan?

(Please accept this question with the gentle, humorous spirit in which I ask it.)

I'm beginning to think so.  I am curious about the other responses, though. 

Why is this something good/necessary to do?  My line of thinking was, if the other students knew him, then they likely already know of his demise; if they don't know him, then announcing the death of a stranger seems unnecessary. 
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theritas
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« Reply #11 on: November 19, 2012, 3:02:37 PM »

My line of thinking was, if the other students knew him, then they likely already know of his demise; if they don't know him, then announcing the death of a stranger seems unnecessary. 

I guess that was partly what I was thinking - when you have students from completely different circles, and one who wasn't particularly present, they might not even be able to picture the person, and feel really strange about that.
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geonerd
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« Reply #12 on: November 19, 2012, 3:16:48 PM »

My initial reaction is no, don't announce it. Depending on the circumstances of the death, I'd worry about violating the student's privacy and that of his family. For example, would the student's family want to announce that Rare Disease runs in their family? What if drugs were involved? I'd only tell the class if I had the OK from the student's family.
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mystictechgal
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« Reply #13 on: November 19, 2012, 4:08:11 PM »

Eh. I know and am friends with many of the students in my classes, but I don't know them well enough that I am in constant contact with them outside of class or privy to everything that happens to them. So far this semester I've had one classmate whose father died, very unexpectedly, another whose cousin was tortured and murdered, and one--whom I've known for over a decade--who almost died this past summer and who was hospitalized last week with a life-threatening heart condition. We would have known about none of these had our professor's not told us, and we all appreciated having the opportunity to sign get well &/or condolence cards. In one case, only, did a classmate speak up and say, "Wait. Which one is she?" When it was pointed out that she usually sat "here" the student immediately knew who she was.

You do it because, while these may be students, they are also human beings. It is not up to you to presume who knows what or who knows whom "well enough" to be worthy of being told. You do it for the same reason that we express our condolences to each other for our losses, here, even though we may not have met and likely neither know, nor have ever heard about, the one lost. It is the human, and humane, thing to do.

I'm so sorry, Neutralname.
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barnaclegoose
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« Reply #14 on: November 19, 2012, 4:12:00 PM »

flyingbison: Even if it's true that other students weren't close to the individual in question, I can't count the number of times I've heard faculty at commuter schools griping about the lack of communal identity in the student body. There was a person who shared experiences with you. They weren't just someone in your class year, they sat next to you for a semester (even if sporadically). It's human to acknowledge loss.

geonerd: While I agree that providing the details of the death may be inappropriate, I don't think that simply stating that the student has passed away is wrong. When I was at BigU, the president always sent around an email to the student body when a member of the community died. I think it would have been weird if the president acknowledged it when the professors who had the student in class acted as if nothing happened. It's possible the family wouldn't want to be inundated with sympathy cards from strangers--that's where pointing out the public obituary or having a single sympathy card for the entire class would come in handy.
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