Written by Mary Tevebaugh
Mary retired from the Salish Kootenai College in 2002 after working there for 13 years. Her positions at the college included: Early Childhood Development instructor and lead teacher (also publishing an infant curriculum, “Circle of the Infant“); Darcy McNickle Library, and assistant librarian. Mary also worked for the Kootenai National Forest for six years. Between regular jobs, she took a couple of years to travel, paint, and work in such places as Jackson Hole, Yellowstone Park, Oregon, Hawaii, and Tennessee. Mary has five children and is a grandmother and great grandmother. Mary served two years as Secretary to the LATAG and is Vice President of the Libby Area Fine Arts group. She is also on the Community Asbestos Memorial Committee.
I remember that day
The storm took my home away
Winds were howling
Cats were yowling
Police Sirens blew
Loud voices told us what to do.
I remember that day
The storm took my auntie away
People were crying
People were dying
No one could answer why
People sat quiet and let me cry
I remember that day
Sometimes it’s hard to play
My lips are now smiling
My hands are now trying
My feet still run to kick the ball
I’m still me, different now, that’s all.
The Early Childhood Disciplines have pretty well established the fact that children develop in stages. Basically, all children go through the same stages; however, they go through them at different rates. They are influenced by their cultural and life experiences. The webbing concept for curriculum development takes the approach that the more experiences the child has that help make connections with different experiences, the better their understanding and advancement will be. For example, if your lesson plan is about houses and the child happens to be interested in trees that day, you could easily adjust the lesson plan to include types of houses which are in trees, giving the child a broader concept of houses, rather than just the houses that people live in.
Children deal with death partially by what stage of development they are in, partially by their cultural attitude about death and partially by their own experience. I remember one child who was very troubled and had a fear of dying. His family was very active in church, and the death in his family was dealt with by telling the child that God took the person to heaven. After much work with the child, it eventually came down to the child having heard about God and the devil, so that when he was told that God came and took the person who died, he made the connection that if God takes people, the devil could take people, too, and was terrified that the devil was going to come and take him. In some stages, children can focus just on one factor; for example, they can deal with shape and color, but not at the same time until they reach a certain level.
Today, children see death on TV just about every day and in many forms – cartoons where the character dies and comes back to life, violent movies, and the news, which is full of death. We do not have a lot of studies on the impact on children in situations like Katrina with the loss of home, family, and experiencing death in real life. It is bound to affect different children in different ways. One of the things that we can do is to provide the children with the opportunity to express their feelings in their own way.
I have written the poem below in an attempt to deal with what the children have been experiencing, as well as to offer the opportunity for some language development and to open the door for them to discuss their feelings.
Some questions that could open discussion with the child would be:
What does it mean to remember?
What does it sound like when the wind howls?
Why was the cat yowling?
Why were the people silent?
Can you still smile?
How do you think he was different?
The children might respond in different ways. The important thing would be to allow them to respond and to listen to them or allow them the time and the freedom to choose not to respond.
Follow-up activities could include providing the opportunity for the children to work through their feelings with activities involving free play, painting, play dough, or clay. Observe the children, and be there to help, listen, or join in with them. Sitting quietly by a child often opens communication more than urging him to talk.