PMP267: Answering Questions on Grief and Behavior with Jen Schwanke

This week, Jen Schwanke, joins me as we respond to more listener questions. Jen Schwanke is an author and education leader from Dublin City Schools in Dublin, Ohio.

Question: How do you manage leading a school through the grief of losing a teacher to COVID?

Here are some of the points we cover in response:

  • Grief is loss — COVID involves fear — it is important to keep both those dynamics in mind when dealing with loss. 
  • Loss takes time and community. Leaders need to involve others in the process of healing.
  • Fear takes action and, in the case of COVID, isolation has added to the difficulty of working through grief.
  • Remember that reconciling these losses is different for different types of people.

Understanding “The Five Stages of Grief” by Kubler-Ross can be helpful. These include:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance 

Here is a resource for more reading:

8 Ways to Help Your School Manage Grief

In 2013, Will shared a post about managing the grief of student loss with the following tips. These steps include:

1. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

2. Be present and visible.

3. Maintain as much stability and routine as possible.

4. Allow creative and spontaneous responses.

5. Ask for help from outside the school.

6. Enjoy and appreciate your students.

7. Be prepared for media contact.

8. Allow yourself time to grieve.

You can read the original post here.

Also, we refer to a children’s book, The Rough Patch by Brian Lies, that can be helpful when working with staff or students who need context for discussing grief:

Question: We are seeing an escalation of behaviors as we transition back to school.  How can we better equip teachers to adjust to this unexpected scenario? 

  • Just as we teach math and science, we need to teach behaviors, too. 
  • Yes, there is an instructional loss here, but addressing it may take different tools.
  • As leaders, it is our responsibility to provide professional learning, books/resources and specialists in learning behaviors.
  • When possible, collaborate with parents for solutions.

A helpful resource is a previous podcast with Dr. Don Parker on Building Bridges to Reach Students. You can access that post here.

Now It’s Your Turn

We would be honored to hear your feedback or suggestions on these questions or to answer questions you would like us to address. Please reach out at

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker