Hey, as a parent, I'm all for schoolwork that encourages kids to "share and express their feelings." But I'm not so sure writing "suicide notes" is the best way to go about that, necessarily. Just ask Vicki Walker of the UK, whose14-year-old son Wesley was told to pen a goodbye letter to his family as if he had a terminal illness and only a few hours left to live as part of a "creative writing" exercise. And, of course, to take said letters home and give them to their parents. Being a good and cooperative student, Wesley did just that, handing the letter to Vicki before going off to bed. No explanation. Just a note beginning with these words:
"I'm writing this letter to say good-bye and thank you for giving me life and don't cry ... "
Can you imagine? Poor Vicki! I would absolutely lose my mind if my kid handed me a note like that and walked away without a word. Just wait until you read the rest ...
Welsey's note continued:
I don't want you to be sad. I want you to remember the fun times and the happy times. At my funeral make everyone wear bright colors to remember my personality. I know I have been a pain at the best of times but I am with Nan and Grandad now. So I love you and goodbye and tell Piper she can have my room and tell Tasha sorry for everything. Sorry Tash. And tell Dad he is the best and can have my Xbox and games and Mum you can have everything else. Please be strong for me!
Naturally, Vicki panicked.
"I felt I was going to find him hanging from his bed, I found it sick ... he handed it to me one evening and then just went upstairs to bed. I really felt like I was going to find him hanging from his bed and maybe he felt he couldn't take any more."
Of course she felt that way! Good lord, it's a miracle she didn't have a heart attack on the spot. I don't understand why headteacher Rob Ridout didn't anticipate this sort of complication when he approved the assignment, but it sounds like the possibility never even occurred to him:
"The exercise was to enable young people to express emotions and share things with loved ones that they never normally say ... many pupils and their families found it an encouraging and positive experience."
"It's unfortunate that the context of this exercise wasn't explained to Wesley's parents, and we'll look at the way exercises like this are communicated to our students in the future."
Well, I should hope so. Yikes! If I were Vicki Walker, I'd be sending Ridout daily reminders to "look at the way exercises like this are communicated" to students. In fact, why not just eliminate "exercises like this" entirely? This is too touchy a subject for "as-if" type creative assignments. What if some of the kids had siblings or friends who actually committed suicide or died suddenly?
What would you do if your kid got this assignment?
How would you react to receiving such a note?