Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

It’s half past three.

Thirty minutes ago the tram I was on hit a woman as she was crossing the road. She lay on the road, bleeding profusely. I am a first aider and I had no idea what to do or say. Thankfully I was not the first person to reach her – a pharmacist (lekař) got there first. She knew what to do to help the woman, kept her calm and knew what words to use. The ambulance arrived within five minutes, and the replacement bus to continue our journey arrived soon afterwards. I do not know what state this woman was in when the ambulance arrived as I thought that three people helping her was enough, and an unqualified foreigner who didn’t speak enough of her language wouldn’t help.

I did my first aid course in early July last year, and it was sufficient for summer school aches and pains, and even a minor head injury when one boy fell while running down the stairs. It did not prepare me for this and all I could think was “I should know what to do”. As soon as I get back home I plan to book a refresher course to get up-to-date again, as it’s amazing how quickly you forget (use it or lose it).

The helplessness I felt, even knowing some of the language, is enough to make me go home and find out simple phrases like “Don’t worry.” “The ambulance will be here soon.” Anything to make her feel better.

I hope she survives.

In twenty minutes I have to start a two-hour lesson. I am writing this to help me deal with witnessing this. I don’t know what else to do.

One of the things it made me realise is that we worry about our students and their attitudes coming into class, but what about the teacher? Krashen’s Affective Filter covers the students’ learning, but what about the teachers’ teaching? I don’t ever remember being told how to approach a class when something like this has happened. I’m shaken up, but not enough to warrant cancelling the class. I have taught this group for two years and am coming to the end of my time with them – it’s not fair to them. But I think I will spend a couple of minutes at the beginning of the class telling them what has happened so that they know why I am upset. I don’t know if this is the right thing to do, but I’m a talker, and I want to get it out of my system (I know how callous that sounds). This writing is one way of doing that, but until I speak about it I won’t feel any release.

What would you tell a teacher in a similar situation?

Should you share these things with your students?

If you have never done a first-aid course or don’t know how to say some simple comforting phrases in the language spoken where you live, I would recommend you find out. And I hope you never find yourself in my situation, and even more fervently, that you are never the victim of what happened to that poor women.

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Comments on: "It’s half past three" (7)

  1. Without any reference to the thoughts of others, and only to my own gut feeling, yes, yes and yes again.

    We are people, not machines, and sharing the reason why you’re shaken up is both an explanation (a courtesy to them as clients) and a relevant, true story (a link to them as humans).

    The same as this post itself. Thanks, Sandy. And you’re right – I ought to do a first-aid course.

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    • Thank you for your comments. Good luck with your first aid course. If you’re in the UK I can recommend the St. John Ambulance course – I’ve done it twice and it’s excellent.
      Sandy

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  2. Katweeble said:

    I hope you are feeling better now, and that sharing the situation on here and with your class helped – what a horrible situation.

    Kate

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  3. Hi Sandy,
    I hope your class went OK. I think it’s perfectly normal to want or need to talk about upsetting or exciting events that happen to us and that includes in the classroom. I am myself in the classroom, I don’t “perform” (well, just a little over-acting at times!) and therefore the students can often tell if there’s something wrong I would much rather talk to them about whatever is worrying me than let them speculate and worry themselves! Luckily, these situations are more often postive things than negative, but I believe that a teacher should be sincere, even with young learners, because I think it is important that the students see you as a human being. This includes recognising your faults, mistakes, ignorance and everything else.

    I agree with you that we are not prepared for certain situations. What do you do when your students are suffering from bereavment or are coming to terms with a serious illness? Sometimes students are going through their parent’s separation or their own divorce. We have to be sensitive to all kinds of situations that may be affecting our students’ lives outside the classroom but are reflected inside it too. Teachers often have to take on the role of parent/friend/psychologist/mentor without any training or experience. I guess we just have to do what we can…

    Hope you are feeling better, anyway 🙂

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    • Dear Sharon and Michelle,
      Thank you for the support and your comments. Talking to the students really helped, and we ended up having a twenty minute discussion about first aid and the requirements in the Czech Republic and the UK. I asked them what they would do if there was an accident in the office and they weren’t sure. Only one of them knew where the first aid kit was – something which really surprised me, but when I thought about it afterwards I realised I don’t know where our one at school is. I’m going to find out when I get there today. These little things aren’t important until something happens and it could be too late (possibly over dramatic, but better safe than sorry).
      Sandy

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  4. I can only second every word that Alan said.
    What a horrible experience.
    By now you must have met your students but I’m confident you did the right thing by sharing with them. Empathy is a two way street. You are respecting them as people by sharing how upset you are and they will respect you and your feeling.
    So sorry for the poor woman and so sorry you had to witnes it.

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  5. Poor you, Sandy, I echo what evryone else has said and I hope you’re feeling better. My gut feeling is also that you were right, and from a human point of view a lesson is an interaction between people, first and foremost, so the more genuine the communication between those people the better. They would want to offer you support as well. In teaching I think the sense of community in the classroom is crucial for everyone, and, as you so rightly say, that includes the tracher. 🙂

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