When Will We Seriously Talk About Student and Teacher Mental Health
As the 2021-22 school year winds down, I’m struck by how much we’ve continued to talk about learning loss. This test-industry-generated term is driving our conversations about areas of focus for upcoming school years, including massive tutoring initiatives, remediation efforts, and much more. But can the real loss that our students (and teachers!) have experienced be really narrowed to simply “learning”? Approaching this summer, I’m increasingly aware of my own anxieties and concerns about my experience as a teacher and the experience of my colleagues. As I write this article, COVID-19 is simply not going quietly into the night, and we are having very public arguments about requiring masks again. And… I’m anxious about what all this means for school. I’m anxious about having to go back to the year that was 2020-21. The year that felt so isolating and emotionally draining.
And, I know I’m not alone. I speak with teacher after teacher and so many share similar concerns. Speaking with students, many also share concerns. Surely all of this anxiety has already taken its toll, and will continue to take its toll. The question then becomes: When will we put into place some serious supports for teacher and student mental health? For example, I have to pay a sizable co-pay for counseling sessions using my employer-provided health insurance. When will those sessions be co-pay free? There are amazing virtual counseling options like BetterHelp that could partner with schools to provide lower cost access to mental health professionals at a large scale. Most importantly, without addressing the mental health status of both our teachers and students, we simply will not be providing them true opportunities to learn. Learning science tells us that when the brain is hijacked by stress and anxiety, it simply is not as available to learn and certainly not as available to have a positive school experience (which we also know can be anxiety-inducing for students). By not addressing mental health issues right now, and right away, we are setting our classrooms up for true learning loss.
My reading list for this post:
Thanks for reading.