3 ways chatbots can support mental health in schools

The U.S. Surgeon General has issued an advisory warning about a mental health crisis for children. Several national health organizations have also declared a national state of emergency for child and adolescent mental health resulting from prolonged stress, instability, and isolation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is old news for most of our educators, who once again find themselves as the baseline support system we rely on to fulfill the basic needs of our nation’s youth.

“When students returned to classrooms in August this year, we saw higher levels of stress and anxiety,” said Patrick Brady, Superintendent at the Massena Central School District in New York. “Addressing mental health concerns has become a number one priority in our district.”…Read More

How educators can make time for self-care

This time of year sees email in boxes filled with information about how to prepare for the next year, reminders that grades are due, and papers await grading. We are deluged with predictions about the future, what to worry about, and sometimes even what to be excited about. Those with calendar year goals are often rushing to complete projects or solidify a final sale. Family and other holiday obligations can often add an extra level of stress as well. One thing often missing is how to make sure you are balanced and ensure you are taking time for self-care.

According to a recent NBC article about the increasing educator shortage, between retirements among an already-aging population and the stress and burnout of the pandemic, the number of potential educators in the pipeline is not nearly enough to match needs.

An October 2021 NPR report showed that 80,000 aspiring nurses were turned away from nursing schools due to a lack of adequate nursing instructors. It is clear that educator burnout can directly lead to shortages in other critical areas such as health care.…Read More

Aperture Education’s 2021 Winter SEL Guide Supports Social and Emotional Learning during the Winter Months

Charlotte N.C. (Nov. 22, 2021) — The winter months are a time when many families celebrate holidays and when students and teachers have a chance to relax and recharge over winter break. Yet many people may also experience increases in stress, anxiety, and loneliness during this time. To support students and educators this winter, Aperture Education, the leading provider of research-based social and emotional learning (SEL) assessments for K-12 schools, has created a free 2021 Winter SEL Guide. The Guide provides activities and strategies for practicing and strengthening the social and emotional skills that can help students and adults have a positive winter break and a strong start to 2022. To download the guide, visit https://bit.ly/3God8rj.

“Building social and emotional competence is helpful in navigating difficult emotions and stress, including those that can sometimes arise during the holiday months,” said Jessica Adamson, CEO of Aperture Education. “One of the best ways to strengthen social and emotional skills is to practice them. Our 2021 Winter SEL Guide is a great resource, full of activities and strategies for both students and teachers to support SEL during the winter break and when school resumes in January.”

The activities in the Winter SEL Guide focus on social and emotional skills such as relationship-building, goal setting, responsible decision-making, self-awareness, social-awareness and self-management. The Guide includes SEL resources for teachers to share with families, resources teachers can use themselves to catch up on SEL professional development, and ideas to help educators plan for the new year.…Read More

10 SEL activities teachers can use to manage stress levels

Educators, last year was tough. You are truly rock stars for getting your students (and yourselves) through a difficult year. This year will likely bring about new challenges and obstacles, and we know at times you will feel stressed.

When not addressed, stress can lead to harmful health concerns like anxiety and depression, reduced attention, impaired self-regulation, and decreased learning readiness. It can also lead to negative well-being factors, such as sleep and eating disorders. Extended exposure to toxic stress also can have lasting mental and physical health effects.

Be proactive about keeping your stress levels in check with these 10 de-stressing activities.…Read More

3 strategies for virtual student-centered learning

When secondary educators plunged into emergency online teaching in March 2020, we faced a slew of challenges. Among those challenges was the lack of student engagement after the novelty of logging in from home in pajamas wore off.

What started as a two week attempt at keeping things as normal as possible “just until after Spring Break,” became more than a year of uncertainty combined with lack of knowledge and resources to maintain high levels of engagement and content delivery. This is not for lack of trying, most definitely on the part of educators everywhere, and we’ve now reached a point where teaching blog posts like “Is Anyone In Teaching Actually Happy?” fill my teacher-gram.

The exhaustion, unhappiness, and stress-related languish and depression are widely reported and seen, but teachers are not giving up. Those who remain in the uncertain state of “What will this year hold?” as the pandemic continues might benefit from some of the ideas offered here, even if it is just to know that they are not alone in still attempting to engage with students despite the challenges of the educational landscape.…Read More

10 SEL activities to help students with stress management

As an educator, you are in a unique position to provide stability and care to your students and their families. One of the best ways you can support students during these uncertain times is by teaching them effective stress management strategies.

Just like adults, unmanaged stress in students can lead to anxiety, depression, irritability, poor concentration, aggression, physical illness, fatigue, and sleep disturbance. It can also increase tobacco, drug, and/or alcohol use.

Here are 10 activities to help your students learn effective stress management.…Read More

How administrators can address mental health and physical safety this fall

With the academic year underway, K-12 schools have resumed in-person learning. However, there is growing concern amongst parents, students, teachers, and faculty that reopenings come with a variety of safety and health risks. Threats of public violence, mental health concerns, uncertainty around the Delta variant, and more all stand in the way of educators having a successful school year.

A recent survey found that 57 percent of respondents are “extremely or very concerned” that a post-pandemic crisis could affect their safety or the safety of a loved one in a school environment. When combined with the knowledge that students are under significant mental health stress and that many younger learners are still unvaccinated, administrators should think carefully about how best to ensure a safe return to classrooms. 

The key lies in putting tools, strategies, and policies in place today that ease concerns and minimize risk. By taking the proper steps, schools can focus on creating healthy learning environments for students rather than worrying about the safety challenges at hand.…Read More

Focusing on safety can help schools mitigate teacher stress

A defining feature of the COVID-19 pandemic is the haze of uncertainty in which we now live. Are cases rising or falling? Which activities are deemed “safe” for the vaccinated? And now that most U.S. schools have re-opened in person, will they stay open, and can they keep COVID-19 at bay?

This uncertainty has landed heavily on teachers and contributed to teacher stress. For several reasons, the jobs to which they returned in fall 2021 are more challenging than what they faced in the pre-COVID world.

First, at a time in which vaccines remain unapproved for children under 12, and in which many older children remain unvaccinated, teachers worry about students’ health and their own. They recognize that social distancing is at odds with many student-centered teaching techniques, and they don’t want to spend their days as mask enforcers, but they also want to stay safe. In a nationally representative survey of teachers conducted by RAND earlier this year, 16 percent of teachers ranked concern for their own health as their top source of job-related stress, and 17 percent said their top concern was for the health of loved ones at home with high COVID risk.…Read More

Cracking the code on student mental health

The past year has taken a toll on students’ mental health. Rates of anxiety, depression, and stress are up and the CDC reports emergency room visits for adolescent suicide attempts have soared.

Teachers and school staff can play a critical role in addressing student mental health and supporting student wellbeing. But they can only help if they know what to watch for–and the warning signs aren’t always readily apparent.

Students often spend several hours a day online and often the first clues as to their feelings–good or bad–are found in their online communications with peers, their posts on social media and in chat rooms, and in their internet searches.…Read More

Are schools really safe?

When we think about school safety our first instinct is physical safety. Sadly, it’s a real concern with the all-too-regular gun shootings and bullying that occurs. However, there’s a far more common and pervasive issue occurring: emotional safety.

Since the industrial revolution, school has been primarily taught in an authoritarian style where kids are judged constantly and relentlessly from academics to behaviors. In addition, teachers and peers use shame and degradation to show their “higher” value or status, which causes additional emotional trauma.

We might think it’ll “toughen kids up,” but given the levels of [emotional] stress kids experience every day, it’s doing far more harm than good. Not to mention, emotional stress changes brain chemistry–especially when you experience this type of regular cortisol release. Kids aren’t spontaneously “going crazy” and “mentally ill” with depression and anxiety; they’re simply trying to survive in their environment.…Read More