The news has never been my happy place, but it's been especially upsetting in 2018. From mass shootings in places of worship and schools to mail bombings, our world is a scary place. And obviously, we are all very upset about this.
But why are we not addressing mental illness in this country?!
Sometimes I feel like screaming. There is never enough time in the day to get everything I need to get done. I'm literally running at my highest capacity every minute of every day. I've never felt so stressed in my life.
We are all running on high all day; intensifying and exhausting our emotional and mental capacities.
Our students are feeling the same.
And now, we are both forced into the integrated experience of the classroom, where naturally, our actions and words affect the actions and words of others within the same microcosm of the classroom.
Previously, students could be targeted and remediated on a case by case basis, but with today's prevalence, SUPPORTS MUST BE MAINSTREAMED.
And those supports MUST address our students mental health needs.
Okay, so this isn't going to be simple. And we can start with baby steps.
In moments of heightened anxiety, we can stop, breathe, and re-center ourselves. Similarly, if we insert these moments, forcibly, into our day, including our time with students, where we stop and breathe (i.e. a mindfulness activity, yoga, go noodle, etc.), we can stop running at such a high level, and perhaps, we begin to regulate our emotions as well.
We need to teach this to our students because it does not come naturally anymore. This is the world now. This is us. These are our students.
1. Build a Classroom Community
A classroom community means that students trust and support each other. They feel safe to accept and give feedback and take risks.
Spend the first month and some time each week throughout the year playing a classroom-based community-building game to build trust and problem-solving and cooperative learning skills.
2. Address SE (social emotional) needs
Start your Mondays off right - by addressing your students' social emotional needs!
Welcome them into the week with a friendly morning greeting! Ease them back with some conversation to set the tone... What's one thing you are looking forward to this week? What's one thing that will make you happy this week? What is your goal for this week?
3. Infuse SEL (social emotional learning) into our current content
We barely have time in the day to use the restroom, right?! How could we possibly fit another block of time into our day to teach SEL? Well, you don't have to. Much of our current curriculum lends itself to SE learning skills. Stories in history and ELA, games in Math, giving and receiving feedback, and working collaboratively in the science lab all lend themselves to SE skills. What we do need, then, is professional development on SE skills! Are you listening higher ups?
4. Explicitly Teach Pro-Social Skills
Teach expected behaviors and do it explicitly. State the rule, role play what the rule looks like and doesn't look like, discuss the rule, praise students you see displaying the rule, etc.
AND hold students accountable. Consequences are a natural part of life. Develop reasonable consequences that match infractions AND make sure they are enforceable. Consequences must abide by the school rules, but they also have to be consequences that you are willing to implement. If you say a student is going to stay in for recess, does the school allow this AND are you willing to give up your time to be inside with this student?
5. Make Teacher Self Care a Priority
You are good to your students. Be good to yourself! The saying is true - you cannot pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first!
~By Miss Rae
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