Student Wellness Issues for Schools to Watch This Year – Education Week

Student mental health and well-being attracted a huge amount of attention during the 2021-22 school year. This school year is likely bring a similar level of attention to those issues.

But there are some big differences going into this college year that have many educators hopeful that the 2022-23 academic year won’t be as grim and difficult as the particular last one . For one thing, most students have been back to full-time, in-person school for an entire year, and are beginning in order to get used to the routines again.

Plus, educators now have a better idea this school year of what to expect and how to handle students’ social and emotional needs.

“The blinders are usually off, ” said Lydia McNeiley, the college and career coordinator for the Hammond, Ind., school district. “We know the trauma students are experiencing. We know we have to address it. And I think we are starting off the school year knowing that it’s not going to be pretty, but it’s going to be better, ” than the previous school year.

Here are some big issues facing schools when it comes to student wellness this fall:

Educator mental health and student mental health are inherently linked

Headlines are full of stories about low educator morale , teachers leaving the profession, major staffing shortages . Teachers’ emotional fatigue naturally has an impact on students, experts and teachers say.

“We spend so many hours a day with these children, they pick up upon our emotions, ” said Tara Kierstead, a school counselor at Hall-Dale Middle & High School in Farmingdale, Maine. “So, the particular burnout, and the feeling like the world is against us, all of that really does take the toll on the kids. ”

District leaders who stepped up their focus on students’ interpersonal and psychological needs in recent years often say they regret not including teachers’ social and emotional needs inside the mix earlier, stated Justina Schlund, the senior director associated with content and field learning for the Collaborative with regard to Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, or CASEL, a nonprofit organization.

While no district has hit upon the perfect solution, some schools plus district leaders have found it helpful to more deliberately solicit feedback from teachers about what is causing their frustration and fatigue, plus to act on their own suggestions, Schlund said.

Pushback to social-emotional learning is complicating educators’ work

K-12 schools have long been battlefields in the culture wars, but the environment has become even more heated lately as legislatures in addition to school boards debate teaching American history, policies for LGBTQ students , and even other politically divisive topics that educators deal with every day.

Now, something as mundane while a presentation for the American School Counselor Association can turn into a social media flashpoint, as Kierstead found when she shared her school’s guidance for helping students navigate gender identity. Her presentation was well-received, yet somehow, right-wing social media accounts got hold of it and attacked her.

While most of the pushback isn’t coming from local sources, it’s still challenging to deal along with, Kierstead said. And it’s made some teachers wary of social-emotional learning, which is aimed at helping kids’ develop skills like cooperation, resilience, together with empathy.

“We want all kids to feel supported and additionally to feel safe. And social-emotional learning is a huge part of that, ” she said. The fact that the term has been misconstrued in to “something that is just flat out not [what it is] has really put the lot of stress on school counselors, in particular, ” she added.

She’s especially saddened by social networking campaigns urging parents to prohibit school advisors from working with their kids. “It’s very sad that this new narrative from a lot of people will be we are bad people and shouldn’t be around your children, ” she stated.

Family and community engagement matters more than ever

One bright spot of pandemic-driven virtual learning: Parents became more connected to their schools than ever. Living rooms grew to become classrooms, not to mention teachers a consistent, virtual presence at home. What’s more, many schools began offering online parent outreach events, which made it easier for parents with less-flexible schedules or unreliable transportation to participate.

But whenever classes resumed in person, some of the particular goodwill between schools and also families slipped, as mother and father coped together with changing COVID protocols. They often blamed teachers for that confusion they felt, or even for guidelines they disagreed with, including those that banned them from entering their child’s classroom in order to avoid spreading the virus.

“There’s a new level associated with distrust that will formed, ” McNeily mentioned. “I think bridging of which gap, again, [is going to be about] having conversations using families. Plus letting all of them know, it is not me against a person. It’s us working together for your benefit of your student. ”

What’s more, Schlund worries that a few parent perspectives have already been drowned out, amid typically the headline-grabbing debates over issues like critical race theory . “I believe some voices are being heard within the big megaphone” regarding the national media, she said. “I think there’s a huge swath involving voices aren’t being heard. ”

Kids have mental health needs the fact that stem through the pandemic, and several that don’t

Most students attended school in person for most of last school year. But many were still trying to figure out how to be around other kids their age, follow school rules, as well as cope having less autonomy over their schedule than these people may have had at home.

This academic year, they are more likely to show up ready to settle into a routine, said Ashley Wright, some sort of school counselor at Gordon-Reed Elementary School near Houston. “I think there’s a good thirst with regard to structure. These people want that and they just haven’t had it firmly, consistently. ”

Over this past few turbulent years, children in her local community have recently been dealing with your lot connected with change, Wright said.

“There’s been recently lots of divorces, plenty of separation, lots of loss of jobs, ” Wright said. That’s contributed to a prevailing sense of reduction. Children as young as kindergarten have experienced suicidal thoughts, she stated.

What’s a lot more, the kinds of concerns that usually dominated schools’ mental wellness outreach before March with 2020 are still large problems even though schools happen to be focused upon helping children recover from often the pandemic.

“They’ve gotten even more used to being in school and doing school, ” Kierstead explained. “But that doesn’t mean… things like cyberbullying and depression plus anxiety, suddenly took some vacation, because they didn’t. ”

One positive, according to be able to Schlund: Schools continue to place expanding social-emotional learning in addition to improving college climate about the top of their to-do lists. In fact, district leaders named developing “the whole child” and improving school culture as your most pressing priorities in a survey conducted this summer by Tyton Partners .

Students are seeking connectedness and even have asked their teachers and institution leaders for more time during the school day to develop friendships together with deepen their particular relationships, Schlund said.

For educators, that will means “we need for you to get back to the basics, really, ” Kierstead additional. “To building relationships and additionally keeping an eye out for the youngsters that we think are having a fabulous rough go of things and making sure all teachers have connections by using kids. ”

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