Use Summer Reading to Recharge After a Stressful Year

by Laura Milligan

Teaching children to prioritize their well-being is an essential part of an education, and is now more important than ever as children continue to process the traumas and stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare to return to in-person schooling. Wellness can take many shapes, and as a teacher I believe that reading is an essential act of self-care. When we read, we cultivate connection, a deeper sense of empathy, and peace within ourselves, which in turn emanates to those around us. Reading offers students and teachers alike space to reflect and reset after a year blanketed with bewilderment. Here are seven reasons to promote reading among your students.

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Strategies to Prevent Compassion Fatigue

by Carolyn Curtis

The past year has been exceptionally challenging for educators, who have been dealing with multiple COVID-19-related stressors, including navigating remote, hybrid, or in-person learning, and worrying about their students’ well-being. In education resources, much of the focus during Mental Health Awareness Month has been on the need for educators and school leaders to support students, which is critically important. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, one in five students struggled with their mental health and up to 80% of these students did not receive the necessary support. The rates of mental health struggles in students are expected to increase in the coming years.

We must not forget, however, that educators are often front-line workers when it comes to student mental health, and that they also can be impacted by their students’ struggles.

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A Fight Worth Fighting: Use Your Skills to Address Systemic Racism

by Vernita Mayfield

“There’s a fight in the girl’s bathroom!” As a middle school administrator, I knew all too well the urgency of this frantic call.  I dropped the basketball mid-game and raced toward the restroom. The assistant principal, already on the scene when I arrived, had the situation well under control with both girls spraddled, tearful, and breathless on opposite ends of the bathroom. I breathed a sigh of relief. A squabble over “talking stuff” had somehow escalated to a physical altercation that could have resulted in serious harm to one or both fighters as one of the participants wielded faux fingernails sharpened like blades. But the assistant principal had used her professional skills, personal relationships with the students, and “teacher voice” to dismantle and deescalate an otherwise volatile situation. More to the point, absolutely no one was shot or killed in the process. This conflict was deescalated without a single weapon discharged—an outcome that happens in schools across the nation.

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Reimagining Mental Health Support for Students

By Diane Staehr Fenner, PhD

In my last blog post for K-12Talk, I described how it felt to be an educator and a parent during what we have come to realize were the early stages of the pandemic. Now, more than a year and seemingly a lifetime later, I’ve had plenty of time to ruminate about what’s been most crucial to me during this time. As an educator and author who primarily supports multilingual learners and their teachers, I’ve witnessed teachers’ Herculean efforts to foster relationships with their students and ensure students stay engaged in their education, often at a distance. At the same time, as a mom of three kids in middle and high school, I’m often up in the middle of the night, worried about how the pandemic has affected not only my own kids’ schooling but also their well-being.

Through both of my roles, I’ve personally witnessed how students’ mental health has become a more frequent topic of conversation since the pandemic began. The reality of living through a pandemic has exacerbated many students’ previously existing anxiety and depression and has created new mental health issues for others who did not suffer prior to COVID-19. This post is prompted by a sense of urgency about the need for schools to respond to students’ mental health concerns as educators envision what school might look and feel like in the next academic year.

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Recognizing Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

This post is an excerpt from William Dikel’s book, Student Mental Health: A Guide For Teachers, School and District Leaders, School Psychologists and Nurses, Social Workers, Counselors, and Parents (W. W. Norton).

ASD, or autism spectrum disorder, is a uniquely challenging disorder for children both inside and outside the classroom that is often misdiagnosed and misunderstood—often to the extreme detriment of the child. Here, in recognition of National Autism Awareness Month, we share an excerpt from William Dikel’s book Student Mental Health (Norton 2019) that guides teachers in recognizing ASD in their students.

The types and severity of symptoms of ASD (autism spectrum disorder) in children vary widely, from mild and not obvious to severe. Some of the most challenging students are those who have ASD in the more moderate range of severity, but who also have multiple other psychiatric disorders such as depression, bipolar mood disorder, ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and so on. Given the dramatic symptoms of these other problems, their ASD may not be obvious. However, it is important to recognize that this disorder has unique characteristics that can interfere with a student’s educational progress and social-emotional functioning in ways that other mental health disorders do not.

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