The #BellLetsTalk hashtag has been a great initiative to not only raise money for mental health initiatives in Canada, but to promote conversations about the topic amongst individuals. Our understanding of mental health has come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.
Today, I am working with a group on how we can help improve mental health of our world through our schools. My caution to the group is that we have to be really weary of creating another initiative that eventually causes more work and anxiety for teachers, but to think about how to do things differently. It is not about doing more, but doing things different and better.
Simply though. school culture is huge in mental wellness and there are a lot of things school can do that are not “programs” but just become a part of our every day world in schools.
Here are some ideas that I think are crucial to not only improving mental health, but to also promoting creativity and innovation in schools. The more comfortable I feel in my environment, the better I will do.
- If you are a principal, start every morning welcoming kids at the front of the school. If you are a teacher, welcome kids when they come to their class.
- Never pass a student or an adult in a hallway without acknowledging them in some way. Every person in that school is important and should be treated accordingly.
- See supervision as not “more work”, but an opportunity to get to know students that aren’t in your classroom. We need “school teachers” not “classroom teachers”.
- Invest time in conversations with kids that have nothing to do with school. 10 minutes showing you care about another human being will often lead to them moving mountains.
- Focus on strengths, not weaknesses. People will always get better when they know they are valued first.
- If a student is having an issue, sending them to another adult tells them that a) you don’t value them enough to spend the time with them or b) you are not able to deal with it. Severing this relationship has a long term impact.
- Laugh and have fun. It is contagious.
Think about this practice…if your boss walks into your classroom, do you get out of your desk to greet them? If you do, is it because you consider them important? We should treat kids with the same response. Every person that walks into a school should feel that they are highly valued.
If we are wanting to improve mental health in schools, we can make a huge impact by treating school as a place of, as Dean Shareski would say, a place of joy. If people want to be there and are happy, comfortable, and feel safe, schools will move a lot further than if these things were absent.
As Rita Pierson stated, “every kid needs a champion.” So does every adult.