Why, Miss?

Why, Miss?

Mary-Jane Konings

Why, Miss?

by Mary-Jane Konings

Death of a studentLast year one of our seventh formers took his own life.

The principal announced the news to staff at interval, after consulting professionals on the best course of action.

We told our students after lunch that day, once we had time to set up counselling and a place to go. I was in tears as I told my group – I taught David two years ago. Without a word, all of the seventh formers in my tutor group and a number of the sixth formers got up and headed to the drama room.

The rest of my tutor group sat in stunned silence.

“Why” they asked eventually. .

“I don’t know” I answered.

Throughout the week, students were able to able to share their grief, their confusion and their bewilderment in the drama room. The room became a shrine as some brought symbols of their relationship and others brought flowers. David was well known to staff and students as he was very involved in the library and music department.

While counsellors were on hand, students mostly looked after one another.

“This seventh form had always had a special unity” commented one staff member. “They supported one another, consoling, listening and sharing. It was amazing.”

Students were given the freedom to seek help when they needed it. The only restriction was they had to take a friend to A8, they couldn’t go on their own. The numbers of students dashing off with grim faces dwindled as the week went by. Few of the seventh form teachers saw full classes that week.

Who was he? Why did he go?

Staff and students shared informally their memories of David and gradually a picture emerged of a young man desperately searching for significance.

“He didn’t want to leave school – he talked about coming back next year” commented the music teacher.

“It seems like in the two weeks before, he was looking for friends ” reflected Jodi, a seventh former.

“We all liked him but no one was his special buddy. He left notes for people, asking them if they’d be his friend ” said John, also a seventh former.

“It seems obvious now, the signs were there but we didn’t take any notice at the time. I guess we were all too busy, too stressed with school and bursary coming up” added Tane.

“He was so helpful in tutor group” said Eileen, a new teacher. “Sometimes, he was too helpful. I think he thought he was part of the staff at time.

“He wasn’t an angel, not by any means” Alan reminded us. “But he meant well. “

We found out at the funeral that he had converted to Catholicism two years ago. The priest talked about how David was often to be found praying alone in the church. For those of us who have found comfort in God, this information made his death even more incomprehensible.

How to mark a tragic end?

It was the last week of school for our senior school. They wanted to acknowledge David in some way at Prizegiving – he was supposed to perform, but our principal decided it was better not to.

“I don’t want to glamorise David’s death in any way” he explained. “The counsellors I’ve talked to all agree that a tribute or a minute’s silence is inappropriate”.

So we never mentioned David despite the fact his absence had dominated school life for the last week.

 

And now…This year, we have moved on. Towards the end of the year, a small plaque

will quietly appear in the Memorial Garden. There is one another tribute to

David. A poem, written in black vivid on a torn piece of brown paper is

taped to an internal door of the resource room. There is no name. It reads,

 

IN TRAGIC CIRCUMSTANCES

Like the broken glass From Mr Vanderpreet’s window,
Knowledge has cut us.
The wind tugs at clothing
And hearts hang heavy.
We are one less.
The rubbish blows jauntily
Careless of questions
“How, Miss?”
“Why, Miss?”
We are one less.

anon