When a young person dies, the next day in school is anything but normal.

Andrew Sawyer died in a car crash last night.  I’ve never met him.

Andrew (not his real name) would have been a junior at Northwood High School this year.  Had he not been on a more difficult educational road, he might have been in one of my American History classes.  Instead, Andrew had a difficult freshmen year.  A host of poor grades convinced him to leave school last year and start attending classes at the local community school.

From the stories my kids are telling me today, he still was struggling to get his life back on track.

Even though I’ve never met him, I’m sad for Andrew today.  It hurts me to see his friends, many of whom are in my classes, hurting right now.  His passing also brings to mind the names of former students who also died too young.  I can’t help thinking about Ryan and Jason, Eric and Skeet, and far too many others.  This is still the worst part of my job.

My heart goes out to my kids today.  It’s tough enough just being a teenager.  They have schoolwork to do.  They have projects, papers, and exams soon.  They are worried about getting into a good college and about how to pay for it when they do.  They worried about who is talking about them and what they might be saying.  They are worried about their relationships: girl/boyfriends, parents, teachers, friends.

Even a normal day is difficult.  For some of my kids, even a normal day is too much and they lose their cool and composure, acting out because of the stress.

Today is definitely not normal.

As the teacher, I slip into the all-too-comfortable role of grief counselor.  We get the chairs into a circle and break out the talking piece.  Even though we’ve made a safe place for sharing, there is very little talking.  Most of my kids just want to get to work.  They want to take a break from their grief and pretend that today is just another normal day.

I understand.  When my first wife died, I felt the same way.  I wanted to throw myself into work.  It was a refuge and a distraction from the grief.

So after a few laps and only a few shares, the talking piece went back into the closet and the room put back to normal, but

Today is definitely not normal.


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