A Sustaining Routine

Megan’s Great Uncle John was dying of cancer, and she needed to share this distressing experience with her fourth grade classmates. During a Morning Meeting Sharing in October, Megan explained that her great uncle hoped to live until Christmas but was not doing well. She spoke concisely, and the children responded with soberly appropriate questions and comments.

Early in December, Megan reported that Uncle John was dying at home. Although troubled by this news, the children responded helpfully. “Are you sad?” one classmate asked. “Yes,” answered Megan.

After that difficult sharing, the class decided to make Christmas cards for Great Uncle John. Two weeks later, on December 22, Megan shared again. Her great uncle had died in his sleep, shortly after Megan and her grandmother had read the children’s cards to him.

Stunned, the class was silent for several moments. But then the expected questions and comments began to come. “Oh boy, that’s sad,” said one classmate. “I’m really sad. I’m sorry.”

“I bet you’re glad you got to read the cards to him,” I said. Megan agreed.

During our end-of-day reflection, Megan said, “One thing I’m glad I did today was share about my Great Uncle John. It made me feel much better.”

Our daily Morning Meetings, I realized, meant Megan always had a time, a place, and the tools to get the support she needed. And her classmates had a structured way to care for her while safely expressing their own feelings and concerns. These children journeyed together through difficult and unfamiliar territory, and our Morning Meeting routine helped them find their way.

Bruce Perlman currently teaches second grade at Eleanor Roosevelt Elementary School in Morrisville, Pennsylvania.

Tags: Building Classroom Community, Empathy, Sharing

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