Let teachers talk about mental health

In the midst of a stressful school year, teachers should be encouraged to address student struggles



The student-teacher bond is an important factor of a positive classroom experience, as it allows for greater social growth and a developed support system. If done properly, it can dismantle some of the rigidity of school. 

However, it’s difficult for teachers to create meaningful relationships with students when they’re represented only by a few dots on a computer screen.  Learning through technology has produced an insincere setting for sensitive conversation, making it difficult for students to outlet their thoughts and feelings. Plus, there isn’t an established foundation that teachers can build upon to create an effective classroom setting. This problem is only magnified by the issue of time. Compared to our schedule last year, each class has lost around 75 minutes of educational time per week. Specialized teaching and one-on-one discussions aren’t feasible options any more. That’s a significant obstacle standing in the way of a positive relationship between teacher and student.

This lack of individualized learning has contributed to students feeling isolated and in need of mental assistance, according to a study published by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. But it’s not the only hardship that children are forced to endure right now; students currently don’t have the bandwidth to manage school and maintain their sanity in the midst of wild current events.

Some teachers have found success by tackling the issue head-on. They prioritize time to talk about the problems that students are now facing, developing an environment that allows for more vulnerable moments among the normal class time. My English teacher has been practicing this all year long, and I believe it’s made an impact on the overall culture of our class. We have regular check-ins about our mental health and are given resources to alleviate personal stressors. We talk about issues that the world faces daily, like discrimination and prejudice. By knocking down some of the initial awkwardness around these types of exchanges, it’s made the class feel like a sanctuary. There’s a stronger connection that’s been built between student and teacher, as well as a bond between peers. 

Other teachers have chosen to keep their classrooms strictly academic, each class period  squeezed to extract all of the learning possible. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A teacher is, by name, someone who teaches others. However, studies outlined by the American Psychological Association found that more intimate learning environments have positive and long-lasting implications for students’ development. Those who reported a strong relationship with their teachers saw an increase in academic and social excellence by an average of 16.4%. Teachers have to decide whether academic perfection is worth depriving students of their well being. 

In the crazy times we live in, the significance of a teacher is only heightened. Choosing to sincerely connect with students allows them to be a source of support for so many of those who are struggling.