PUBLISHER'S NOTEBOOK: Human heartache provides powerful lesson for students
Thursday, May 09, 2013 5:32 PM
A sniffle broke the silence of the Rushford-Peterson student body during a recent mock crash. Soon, another one came and eventually, it was a chorus of sniffling as dozens of students fought back tears during the presentation.
The emotional outbursts didn't come at the sight of their classmates strewn on the road with blood on their faces and clothes at the mock accident scene. Nor, did they come at the mock arrest or mock funeral.
Instead, they came during a personal presentation by someone they knew very well, secretary Kris Murley, about someone they didn't know, her late brother, in an incident she had never openly talked about until that day.
About this time of year three decades ago, her older brother had told her parents he was going to the movies with his friends. Instead they went to a party. He never came home that night. Leaving the party, the driver of the car he was riding in couldn't negotiate a 90-degree curve at a high rate of speed and crashed, putting her brother on life support before he finally died.
She told the students how it felt to her at 11 years old, filtered through the eyes of the adult she is now. The adults at that time didn't tell her much, but she described how her emotions changed from joy of the anticipation of telling her friends her brother had been in what she imagined was just a fender-bender to despair when the reality of never seeing her brother again finally hit her.
The entire school presentation, which was quite a production with extensive details right down to the actual caskets and flowers at the mock funeral, was a message for students before prom. To an observer, it also showed how students process information.
The mock accident scene, in which students saw classmates supposedly injured and in trouble, made an impression on the students. It made them think about the consequences of their actions.
The problem with only thinking is that our brains are very good at rationalizing. We are good at justifying actions we are going to take even with important information right in front of us.
Murley's talk, though, made the students feel. They felt her pain, her sorrow and even her guilt that is still with her from an incident that happened more than 30 years ago.
Kingsland also had a recent speaker that wet the eyes of students when Mary Goodsell talked about the death of her daughter, who was going to meet her at the family boat in Lake City after running an errand. She never returned as a combination of a drunk driver and distracted driving took her life in another car crash.
The mother recounted the pain of losing her daughter, a 1995 Kingsland graduate who was with her fiancé at the time of the accident. She told the students they buried her daughter in her wedding dress she never got to wear.
These are important messages for the students. They, combined with the popular after-prom parties that keep students occupied the rest of the night, have led to fewer sob stories involving our youth today.
However, they can also be instructive in the observation of how the students reacted to the messages presented. A simulated crash and crime scene, along with lectures on drinking and driving have their place, but the human experience of real loss are what hit home for these young adults.
These examples raise questions about the rush to electronic devices for teaching. They are great for providing instruction, doing research and finding facts, but you won't see students crying at their iPads.
With the onslaught of electronic devices, schools have found quite a useful tool for learning and making students think. There is no denying that these are useful additions for instruction.
However, students that are relying on these devices for instruction, and even communication, still need to feel that real, live human connection. Teachers can show authentic emotion, instill passion and provide inspiration to students.
More than the brain is engaged in learning. As shown at these school programs, tugs at the heart can make quite an impact on young adults.
Just as these students will likely never forget these stories or heartache, adults shouldn't forget the power of the human connection in a world that is increasingly becoming more wired.