National Council of Instructional Administrators


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Published by the National Council of Instructional Administrators (NCIA)


Last month’s Instructional Leadership Abstract featured my colleague, Dr. Shawnda Navarro Floyd’s discussion about responding to trauma in our educational practice. A poignant part of that conversation concerns unexpected tragedies that take the lives of colleagues at our institutions. This is a difficult topic to write about but also vital as we navigate the COVID pandemic. I teach a business communication class, and towards the end of the term, I share 10 Things Extraordinary People Say Every Day (Haden, 2013). I talk with each class about words they say at work. When I share the saying, “I love you,” the students have a visceral, negative reaction. “You don’t say that at work,” they proclaim with unease. When we dive deeper, we realize there may be a certain social taboo with expressing love at work, however, all of us care deeply for many of our colleagues. This care is never more evident as it is when tragedy strikes our college community, and we lose a coworker; the pain and remorse is real and can be intense. As an academic administrator, I have had two occasions when a colleague passed unexpectedly, and I felt a moral obligation to be a force of strength and comfort during these difficult times. Streufert (2004) explains, “How we handle death reflects how we value people in our community.” As an institution, it is important to have a caring and person-centered response to loss. The inevitability of loss compels us to plan for the hard times when we may lose a colleague. Here are three actions you can take right now to make grief easier for your organization and you.