There Is No Lesson Plan For Tragedy – Teachers YOU Know What To Do

How did I address this tragedy in class? I hugged every last child in my classroom as he/she left for the weekend and told them that they matter, that I love them, and that they make this world better by being in it. They left smiling, believing, and feeling validated. #partofthesolution

Jolie Barker- Passionate Educator


As the world watches in horror and tries to process the day’s events, every parent in the country waits for their child to come home just so they can hug them a little bit tighter or tell them a little bit louder how much they matter, and love them.

Families and communities will come together in hopes of finding a way through this tragedy, and we will see the best of humanity emerge as we work to support and comfort all those who experienced this senselessness first hand.

And come Monday morning, these students will arrive in your classroom with the following questions going through their minds:

  • Am I safe?
  • Could this happen here?
  • Could this happen to me?
  • What if someone came to our school?
  • What if you cannot protect me?
  • Why do things like this happen?
  • Am I going to be okay?
  • Are we going to be okay?

There is no lesson plan for that. There is no magic strategy or super app that can look children in the face and assure them that the world will be well again.

Thank God for teachers. Thank God you know what to do. Thank God you do what you do.

You have just been reminded of why we are indispensable  and why no one can simply walk in off the street and do our work. You are in this position of privilege to do one thing like no other person on earth can do: TEACH

You touch hearts every day.

You will look into their eyes, and they will see in yours that you love them.

You will be the voice of reason and hope. The words you share and the silence your endure will be the catalyst for the healing ahead.

You will assure them with your poise and presence that the world is a beautiful place.

You will remind them as you speak about this horrific and unspeakable event that there is a giving and loving community ready to ban together in force to ensure this never happens again.

You will calm their fears by showing them a great school filled with wonderful teachers, leaders, parents and students who are willing to protect and preserve its every member.

You will be human with them. Allowing yourself to mourn along side of them demonstrating how strong and secure one can be in the midst of our hearts breaking.

You will TEACH. You will not need a lesson plan, a reminder of that standard it covers, or any special technology.

You will do what you are born to do. You will do what you are called to do. You will do what students need you to do.


You touch hearts every day.

You change lives every day.

Monday is no different.

The people who will have the biggest influence on how our country will heal and whole will bear the biggest responsibility for making it whole again are sitting right in front of you.

They need you.

You are their teacher.

You know exactly what to do.


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  • Tim Johnson

    Thank you for this Angela. The world in education feels for all affected by this terrible tragedy.

  • Insomniac’s Dream

    I am so thankful for wonderful teachers.

  • Lynne

    Absolutely perfect post. No one said it better.

  • Amy Bright

    Thank you so much for this post. You answered the question that was reverberating in my head. I was very concerned about Monday morning. Now i’m feeling better.

  • C Largent

    Thank you. My kids aren’t in school yet but it makes me feel better knowing there are dedicated teachers like yourself out there.

  • Karen McMillan

    Thank you, Angela! I have a feeling I’ll be hugging my students a little closer on Monday.

    When I woke up this morning, after a night filled with school-related nightmares, I laid in bed just wondering why this continues to happen. After a tragedy of this nature, we should all stand up and say “Enough is enough!” and fight for change, and continue to fight until real change is achieved.

    But where do we start? It seems so overwhelming. So, I guess I will start by making sure my students know they are loved, and then we’ll get to work.

  • KEtheredge


  • Suzanne Sullivan Merritt

    Thank you for recognizing our hero qualities and how much we love what we do and how special you have to be to be a teacher. <3 What a wonderful thing this is!

  • Barbara Gruener

    This is positively beautiful and incredibly well said. I especially like the “be real” part because I truly think we have to connect with kids by validating their emotions, but how can it be real if we don’t grieve right alongside of them. This was scary! YES. It’s okay to be scared. This was senseless! YES. It’s okay to be confused. This was horrible! YES. It’s okay to be incensed. But we must reassure them at the same time that they are safe with us. Your words really resonante with me; thank you, Angela.

  • disqus_wIQ0GR6sxY

    Thank you for this article

  • datruss

    Angela, I love the message of this post! So, please take this note with the positive intentions I share it with:

    I’ve seen a number of blog posts where educators are suggesting the topic of “Am I safe?” and “Could this happen here?” after the school shooting. That bothers me. I’m willing to bet that hundreds of thousands of students that might have felt safe in their school, and would not have questioned their own safety, will now think of that question and perhaps be more frightened than if that question did not get discussed.

    Our world is full of graphic, horrific things that our media chains make sure that we are bombarded with. I wonder if ‘Idiot with a gun in Newton’ would have chosen a school if other gunmen didn’t have their photos and names plastered across tv screens every time one of them decides to get on countless lists of people who have done similar deeds. I also wonder if we should be sharing ‘highlights’ about these same things in school… without specific resources and support networks in place to deal with how these things can affect students. Well intentioned teachers are not enough.

    If a student where to share their fear of safety as a result of this event, I think we need to be reassuring and supportive, but let’s also be aware that students may not share our same fears, and let’s not project our own thoughts and fears into the innocent minds of our students that we care so much about.

    My thoughts go out to the families and teachers that lost their lives and their friends to this tragic event.

  • Barb Besch

    Thank you for your heart-felt message giving teachers a sense of direction for dealing with their students on Monday morning, and acknowledging their professional purpose that involves the heart and spirit.

  • Grade 1 Teacher

    I’m an elementary school educator and beg to differ. I think Angela offers realistic and reassuring advice that students need to hear. Many students do not express their feelings or fears, often because they are too shy, too overwhelmed or simply don’t know how to express what they are feeling. Most will have heard the news this weekend (and not necessarily all the facts) and will be wondering if this could happen to them, even if they do not vocally express this concern. I don’t think we our students any favors by ignoring what we know many are thinking.

    I’m curious to know what makes you so sure thousands of students still feel safe in school after a mass shooting in an elementary school not far from home? Are you an elementary school educator or child psychologist? If not, how do you know typical student reactions to mass tragedy?

  • Sarah

    Words can’t say thank you enough for this. This is an invaluable piece for educators!

  • Wynn Godbold

    Thank you for reassuring our nation’s teachers that they do have what it takes to compassionately discuss this tragedy. You, teachers, may want some guidance and reassurance that you’re doing the “right” thing, but deep inside- you will know what the “right” thing is for the kids in your room. Mind your gut it will not lead you astray.

  • datruss

    Please note that I do not in any way disagree with Angela. I started with ‘I love the message of this post’. I meant that.

    I’m working on a response on my blog now, but won’t get to finish it until after supper and bed time for my own kids.

    I’m not a child psychologist. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, I’m sorry if what I said in any way offended you. I’m aware of a number of parents that have shielded their children from the brutally detailed media coverage. Do we not also have an obligation to those families not to bring fear into their schools?

    I’m not a school psychologist but neither are the thousands of teachers who will be trying to make sense of this with children in their classrooms. Ignore the issue? No. Make it into a major discussion with every student whether they or their parents want you to? No.

    As I said, “If a student where to share their fear of safety as a result of this
    event, I think we need to be reassuring and supportive, but let’s also
    be aware that students may not share our same fears, and let’s not
    project our own thoughts and fears into the innocent minds of our
    students that we care so much about.”

    This doesn’t take away from the wonderful message in this post. It doesn’t take away from the great work thousands of teachers will do discussing this with their students tomorrow. But hopefully it does caution us to be careful about what fears we project on students who may not connect this tragedy to their own personal feeling of safety in their schools.

  • Mark @ MyTownTutors

    Thanks so much for sharing. Great advice!

  • Jack Stansbury

    Thank you Angela. In my first two classes today, I talked to my 9th and 10th graders about what happened. I also told them that if they were feeling overwhelmed or sad or angry about what happened, just let you teacher know that you need to go to the counseling office. Anytime today, anytime this week, anytime the rest of this year.

    I also emailed all of my students and their parents (using Edline) yesterday. I told them all that my first priority as their teacher was their safety. I also told them that I would always do my best to make sure no harm came to them. But they are not just my students. For a brief time each day, they are my children too, and I love them all.

    In my first year of teaching, our middle school school had a crisis. The head of a department, who was also my mentor, was arrested. He was not, and never will be able to teach again. Our school sent out letters on a Thursday afternoon with every student explaining what happened. The next day I knew that teaching my subject was not the most important thing for that day. When class started, I set a chair down in front of the room, sat down, and said we were going to talk about what happened. They did, I did, they asked some very poignant questions, I did my best to answer them, I cried, and we talked during the whole class period. I talked to them about how I was struggling with trying to reconcile this nice teacher that was loved by many, and yet he did this very bad thing. Some students left to go talk to the counselors and the school system’s crisis team that was there. One of my students left a note with the principal that suggested I talk to the crisis team also, so I did. And we all got through it.

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