Keeping with the theme of spreading mental health awareness during the month of May, today's blog focuses on a group of individuals that have one of THE most important jobs, teachers. Teachers spend eight’ish hours per day, 9’ish months per year with classrooms of 20 (often 30) plus kiddo’s, helping them stretch their minds, develop life skills and, at times, identify areas of learning difficulty or disability that can result in emotional and behavioral manifestations.
Of course, the purpose of school is to allow student’s a safe, structured environment to put together a metaphorical tool box, filled with knowledge and skills that will help them build their version of success. When it comes to student’s mental health evaluation, teachers are put in an odd position. Educators are often the first to help students learn much needed life skills that previous to beginning school may be non-existent or underdeveloped due to a student’s home /community environment or due to an undiagnosed mental health disorder. They are usually the first to raise awareness about an area of struggle they notice with a particular student, create goals to help student’s succeed and provide suggestions to administrators and parents as to additional campus or community support services. It’s evident, teachers play a major role in nurturing student development in academic and emotional development. But…how many teachers receive training in identifying how mental health disorders can manifest in the classroom?
In my opinion, it is essential for educators to be trained to recognize certain mental health disorders that affect children, and the impediments to learning that are commonly linked to these disorders in order to support their student’s holistic development. As a school counselor, I know that teachers have a wealth of information when it comes to their students, from homework completion habits to peer relationships they’re on the front lines for it all! Teachers are also directly connected to campus administrators, various professionals, like the school nurse or school psychologist, who often don’t have consistent direct contact with individual students but are integral in developing student intervention plans. This leads me to wonder, would it improve the student experience if educators were offered trainings to strengthen their knowledge of student’s mental health? What information, strategies, wondering’s, concerns do educators have in regards to supporting their student’s emotional development?
In the coming weeks, I will discuss several mental health disorders that originate during childhood and how the symptoms of these disorders can appear in the classroom. We will start with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) next week. According to CHADD.org, ADHD affects approximately 11% of children 6-12 years of age. Please feel free to share your questions or experiences with student mental health.