Tag Archives: student mental health
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.
School Is Back In Session
This was a slide from a “Student Mental Health” presentation yesterday.
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.
How To Make A Positive Difference
A fall semester postscript.
When evaluating their progress at the end of the semester, my first year writing students say the same thing over and over. “In high school, all we ever did was literary analysis. Intro. Three body paragraphs with supporting details. A conclusion. I learned the formula, but it was mind numbing.”
Why are secondary teachers stuck in literary analysis mode? Is it as simple as teaching to Advanced Placement tests? If so, maybe we should risk the ire of parents determined to pass their privilege on and ditch Advanced Placement altogether.
Why not ask students to occasionally write about themselves in the context of big questions? To be introspective. To dare to be personal. To be philosophical. It takes some of my students longer than others to pivot to first person “I”, but eventually everyone sees value in it. Some experience an immediate awakening. For example, in one final paper a student wrote, “I don’t think I truly understood myself until this class because I never contemplated my biggest motivators. Why doesn’t my mom love me? Why do I feel so insignificant? Am I enough?”
K-12 teachers might reply that they’re not therapists so why venture into personal rabbit holes. I’m advocating for public, group-based community; not private, individual therapy.
Another student explained the difference especially well:
“Even on the days with the best attendance, our classroom does not exceed twenty people. This has allowed us to know each other on a deeper level than that of just classmates. I feel as though each person in class is now someone I can call my friend. Through group discussions, the sharing of intimate parts of our lives, and just laughing together in general, we have discovered all the similarities each of us share. As a group, we have formed our own sort of community, filled with people of all different majors and parts of the country. I can confidently say that I have learned just as much from talking to my classmates as I have from the assigned class readings.
Despite the different reasons for each student being placed into Writing 101, we are each leaving the class with one commonality. We formed a special little community built on finding our footing in a new place, trust, and compassion. . . . We made connections that could last a lifetime and learned lessons from one another that changed our perspectives.”
Since classmates don’t assign grades, students are socialized to pay attention exclusively to their teachers. Watch for yourself, in the vast majority of classrooms, students completely tune out one another.
Dig this paradox. My teaching is most consequential when I fade into the background and get my students to listen to, and learn from, one another.