Publication Date: January 1, 2015
The death of a student, especially to gun violence, is a life-changing experience that occurs with more and more frequency in America’s schools. For each of these tragedies, there is a classroom and there is a teacher. Yet student death is often a forbidden subject, removed from teacher education and professional development classes where the curriculum is focused instead on learning about standards, lesson plans, and pedagogy. What can and should teachers do when the unbearable happens? An Empty Seat in Class illuminates the tragedy of student death and suggests ways of dealing and healing within the classroom community. This book weaves the story of the author’s very personal experience of a student’s fatal shooting with short pieces by other educators who have worked through equally terrible events and also includes contributions from counselors, therapists, and school principals. Through accumulated wisdom, educators are given the means and the resources to find their own path to healing their students, their communities, and themselves.
Rick Ayers founded the Communication Arts and Sciences small school at Berkeley High School and is an assistant professor of teacher education at the University of San Francisco. He is the coauthor of the bestselling book for teachers Teaching the Taboo: Courage and Imagination in the Classroom with William Ayers.
"This book provides a compelling example of
how to respond, which is to journal one’s experience and talk to others
unabashedly about one’s feelings and about responses to one’s own personal
experiences." —Journal of Loss and Trauma
“I am deeply sympathetic to Ayer’s project, and the book makes a convincing argument for this type of intervention and its format….Overall, Ayers’s multi-layered analysis that includes reflection, memorial, research, and deep attention to literature on death and grief will be an invaluable resource for teachers and will hopefully spur additional research on the practical and pedagogical issues that arise as a result of a student’s death.”
—The Wabash Center Journal on Teaching
“Moving and poignant.”
—Angela Valenzuela, The University of Texas at Austin
“A must-read for every teacher, administrator, and counselor.”
—Heidi Horsley, Open to Hope Foundation
“For those who teach, this book will likely evoke painful memories of loss and unrealized potential that accompanies the tragedy of any student's death. Classrooms and communities are worlds of their own, where saving one life or inspiring someone in even the most minute or momentary way can mean saving a whole world. Ayers's book honors the lives of both teachers and students. It is a book for all of us.”
—Jack Weinstein, director, San Francisco Bay Area, Facing History and Ourselves