The challenges that face the primary school teacher in coping with grief and loss in a multicultural setting
MetadataShow full item record
Death is a fact of life. The primary school teacher is often at the forefront of the child’s life and therefore has to be able to help a child who has suffered a bereavement to cope with this loss. During my teaching years, my years of supervising/mentoring students on school placement and my years of facilitating bereavement support groups, I became aware of the fact that, often, people are not comfortable talking about death, dying, grief and loss. Thanatology, or death education, focuses on the human and emotional aspects of death. Whereas there is a general agreement amongst parents and educators that there is a place for death education in our schools, there are conflicting attitudes regarding the type of approaches which should be applied and their relevance and appropriateness to the age and developmental stage of the child. Research has shown that teachers do not feel adequately prepared to cope with grief and loss in the classroom. This study investigates the question of grief and loss from the perspective of the primary school teacher and attempts to assess what key initiatives are required to improve the preparation of the teacher to face the challenges posed by these issues when they arise in a school setting. This research aims to address this situation, initiate meaningful discussion and identify possible solutions. Few studies have examined the cultural differences that impact on the teacher’s or child’s understanding of grief and loss. Death education in Ireland cannot be considered without taking into account the possible cultural and religious differences within the now culturally diverse classroom. The study considers the impact of the growing multicultural school environment and how that also impacts on the challenges to, and responses of, the teacher. The findings are expected to provide some new insights into how Initial Teacher Education and Continuous Professional Development could encompass new approaches to improve the preparation of teachers and develop their capability of dealing with grief and loss in the multicultural classroom.
KeywordsGrief or loss in primary school