Washington State Students Can Now Take Excused Mental Health Days

Washington joins 11 other states that specifically allow students to take excused mental health days off. From Crosscut:

“Schools can now accept mental health symptoms in the definition of an excused absence, just as they do physical health symptoms. It formalizes allowing students to take days off to care for their mental health, including for counseling and behavioral health appointments.

The law does not allow students to excuse themselves, and each district will come up with its own requirements — for example, if a parent or doctor note will be needed to determine whether an absence is excused.”

One principal acknowledged,

“. . . it’s a change that’s been needed. ‘If a kid breaks their leg, we wouldn’t expect them to take part in PE. But I don’t think there’s an equivalent for a student with debilitating depression.'”

The new rule also enables schools to collect information on its overall mental health, which can inform how they might respond in other ways.

I’m not sure much more information is needed to conclude families, teachers, and administrators are woefully unprepared to adequately help students’ with their mental health challenges.

Week One’s Highlight

Fall semester is off to an excellent, largely mask-free start. Of course it takes more than one or two class sessions to get a true feel for your students’ personalities, but all signs point towards a great semester. The most notable demographic shift of the last few years seems to be accelerating—a significant increase in Latina students. I have half of the football team in one writing seminar (slight exaggeration) and half of my students in my other one want to become writers which is exciting.

Some context. For those newish around here, earning a chili pepper, signifying hotness, on the website “Rate My Professor” is my primary career objective at this point. The one unchecked box. And with each passing year, the Las Vegas oddsmakers say my receiving one is less and less likely.

The highlight of the week happened Tuesday morning when I descended the stairs of our house. Since I’ve been slumming it for months unshaved in t-shirts that could double as bike rags, the Good Wife was impressed with how much I had cleaned up. As she moved in for a steamy back-to-school smooch, she said the nicest thing ever. “I would give you ten chili peppers.”

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Monday Required Reading

School starts tomorrow, so time to buckle down. Plus, Scottie loves assigned reading.

  1. I want one.
  2. Turns out, it’s really hard to scare a seal. Bonus trivia, the Byrnes clan is celebrating the fact that eldest daught lives 5 miles from the Ballard Locks as of today.
  3. Effective altruism has gone mainstream.
  4. The six forces that fuel friendship.
  5. How does it feel to be a teacher right now?
  6. Guilty as charged.

School Is Back In Session

This was a slide from a “Student Mental Health” presentation yesterday. 

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In light of these findings I’m thinking of reinstituting one of my fave parts of kindergarten—nap time. Sleep pads will not be provided, bring your own. Class is one hour and forty-five minutes long. How much time should I designate for napping? 

Also, I am going to begin class by announcing that everyone is going to get an “A”. 

Here’s hoping these adaptations and being my normal chill self promote improved student mental health.

 

Tuesday Required Reading

  1. Girls flag rugby. Beautiful lead picture. Of course the red-head is kicking ass.
  2. UCLA reverses course and will pay the adjunct professor after all. HR clown show.
  3. How much do the best pro cyclists make? “. . . pocket-money compared to some of the world’s wealthiest sports.”
  4. Right on. My Covid guy gets the top job. Everyone has a Covid person or team that affirms their preconceived notions about all things ‘rona. Ashish Jha is mine.

Schools Remain Sites Of Joy

Hey school principals, pay even closer attention to positive emotions and experiences.

Applies to leaders of all sorts. Scratch that, people of all sorts.

From Education Week, “Rx for Principals: Take in the Joy”.

“. . . almost 45 percent of principals said they had considered leaving their jobs or sped up their plans to exit the principalship because of COVID-related working conditions.

Yes, working conditions for principals have been tough. But that’s only part of the story. Even in the current circumstances, schools remain sites of joy. Principals regularly experience this joy, and it could make a big difference in how they perceive their working conditions.”

Let’s start asking principals. . . and others. . . about their most positive experiences.

“If you ask principals about their positive experiences, you will hear a steady stream of stories and see their faces light up with smiles. For example, an elementary school principal in an urban district described being moved to tears seeing an English-learner student, after a difficult year of transition, reading in two languages. Another principal talked about how meaningful she found coaching a novice teacher who was struggling but also improving by the day. Such experiences too often go unnoticed and unshared.”

What have been your most positive recent experiences?

The United States Free Fall Starts Here

With a decline in public support for public education and a concomitant decline in quality.

George Packer in The Atlantic argues that we’ve turned schools into battlefields, and our kids are the casualties.

“It isn’t clear how the American public-school system will survive the COVID years. Teachers, whose relative pay and status have been in decline for decades, are fleeing the field. In 2021, buckling under the stresses of the pandemic, nearly 1 million people quit jobs in public education, a 40 percent increase over the previous year. The shortage is so dire that New Mexico has resorted to encouraging members of the National Guard to volunteer as substitute teachers.

Students are leaving as well. Since 2020, nearly 1.5 million children have been removed from public schools to attend private or charter schools or be homeschooled. Families are deserting the public system out of frustration with unending closures and quarantines, stubborn teachers’ unions, inadequate resources, and the low standards exposed by remote learning. It’s not just rich families, either, David Steiner, the executive director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy, told me. ‘COVID has encouraged poor parents to question the quality of public education. We are seeing diminished numbers of children in our public schools, particularly our urban public schools.'”

Packer states what’s increasingly obvious:

“The high-profile failings of public schools during the pandemic have become a political problem for Democrats, because of their association with unions, prolonged closures, and the pedagogy of social justice, which can become a form of indoctrination. The party that stands for strong government services in the name of egalitarian principles supported the closing of schools far longer than either the science or the welfare of children justified, and it has been woefully slow to acknowledge how much this damaged the life chances of some of America’s most disadvantaged students. The San Francisco school board became the caricature of this folly last year when it spent months debating name changes to Roosevelt Middle School, Abraham Lincoln High School, and other schools with supposedly offensive names, while their classrooms remained closed to the city’s children. Republicans have only just begun to exploit the fallout.”

And then concedes he’s “not interested in joining or refereeing this partisan scrum.” Poignantly adding:

“Public education is too important to be left to politicians and ideologues. Public schools still serve about 90 percent of children across red and blue America. Since the common-school movement in the early 19th century, the public school has had an exalted purpose in this country. It’s our core civic institution—not just because, ideally, it brings children of all backgrounds together in a classroom, but because it prepares them for the demands and privileges of democratic citizenship. Or at least, it needs to.

What is school for? This is the kind of foundational question that arises when a crisis shakes the public’s faith in an essential institution. “The original thinkers about public education were concerned almost to a point of paranoia about creating self-governing citizens,” Robert Pondiscio, a former fifth-grade teacher in the South Bronx and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told me. ‘Horace Mann went to his grave having never once uttered the phrase college- and career-ready. We’ve become more accustomed to thinking about the private ends of education. We’ve completely lost the habit of thinking about education as citizen-making.'”

Packer and Pondiscio nail it.

Can Sound Judgement Under Pressure Be Taught?

In college, in “The Sociology of Education” more specifically, I found “The Gospel According to the Harvard Business School” a fascinating read.  As a result, this article caught my eye, “What is Harvard Business School’s Secret Sauce“?

The author asks whether or not sound judgement under pressure can be taught. The Harvard Business School definitely thinks so. How?

“Students study about 500 cases during their two years at the school. . .”

Case studies are one of my all-time fave teaching methods, but I have to believe students reach a point of diminishing returns well before Case #500. I suspect fewer, more in-depth cases would yield better results.

Has the HBS or anyone else studied their graduates’ judgement relative to other non-HBS grads? How would one create a baseline of HBS grads pre-HBS judgement under pressure from which to compare? More generally, how would one conduct such studies?

Messy at best.

In other Harvard news.