Watertown – teaching after trauma

I teach at the high school in Watertown, MA. So, this past Friday, my students were all instructed by police to stay in their homes while SWAT team members searched their homes for bombs. I believe most of them heard the hundreds of gunshots that sounded during the gunfight between the marathon terrorists and local police. I have no idea what will happen at school tomorrow.

It’s going to be a long, difficult day. I was fortunate to be out of town during the whole experience in Boston, as it occurred during my school’s spring break. But everything that happened was very physically close to my home (I live in Cambridge), work, previous school, etc. And everything was even closer to my students, inside of their actual homes at times. So I will have to be the reliable, strong adult to a hundred teenagers.

I’ve read a little about how to handle teenagers who have recently experienced trauma. Here are a few things that I have found useful:





Overall, my focus will be on stressing the safety and power of our community, making sure to mention our safety at school, and steps we can take to heal now and to feel safe in the future.

The school will be sending each student to their advisory/homeroom with a particular lesson plan. This lesson plan has not been sent out yet, so I don’t know what we’ll be doing. In addition to that, I plan to begin my classes by discussing the tragic events of the weekend and then, given time, play some relaxed math games, rather than getting into the curriculum.


1. discuss why we’re safe in watertown and at school

2. what are ways we can keep safe?

    -what should school do?

    -what can students do?

3. raising money for the one fund

4. write thank you letters to cops, support letters to victims’ families

Math games:

Dan Meyer recently wrote a post asking people for ‘tiny math games,’ which is lucky, because my brain isn’t working too creatively. I scanned the comments for some and grabbed these, some of which I’d seen before and some of which are new to me:

    1. Pick a number. Say 25. Now break it up into as many pieces as you want. 10, 10, and 5, maybe. Or 2 and 23. Twenty-five ones would work. Now multiply all those pieces together. What’s the biggest product you can make?   –Malcolm Swan (from main body of article)
    2. take the car number (usually 4 or 5 digits) and add operations between the digits and an equals sign (somewhere) to make a true equation. Try to come up with as many different solutions as possible.  -Jonah
    3. First player picks the starting whole number (greater than 10). Second player decides who starts. Players take turns either subtracting 1 or dividing by 2, rounding down. Whoever reaches a result of one wins. -Yaacov Iland

Who knows? I plan to post at the end of the day about how it goes.


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