How to address mental health needs in youth sports

Numerous studies have shown the lifelong importance of exercise and playing sports for young children.  Physically active children are often happier children. Children involved in team sports develop lifelong friendships and develop a work ethic that stays with them through adulthood. But sometimes, the pressures of performing can have negative impacts on children.

Challenges arise when sports become a source of anxiety for children. Ideally, sports provide a fun activity for children to move their bodies and release some stress. They also offer a safe space for children where they are supported by coaches who are trusted adults they can lean on for advice and guidance if they are experiencing mental health issues.

In the past few years, we’ve seen a few examples of youth who have reached out to coaches when they struggled with mental health issues. And, unfortunately, we’ve seen tragic examples of youth who were unable to access the support they needed.…Read More

5 ways technology can help you combat teacher burnout

Teachers are balancing a lot every day, and that pressure has increased since the start of the pandemic. According to the National Education Association, 55 percent of the teachers in a recent poll said they “will leave teaching sooner than they had originally planned” and 90 percent of members who responded said “feeling burned out is a serious problem.”  

Finding ways to ease the stress experienced by teachers and prevent teacher burnout is critical to teacher morale and ultimately, student outcomes. While no one area alone can prevent teacher burnout, tools that are designed with teachers’ needs in mind can play a big role in supporting teachers and making their jobs less stressful.

This is where technology – and specifically the right technology – can make a huge difference in lessening workload, promoting more productive communication, and boosting morale. Choosing the right technology tools can help give teachers more time and support for doing what they love – teaching and impacting students.…Read More

Don’t forget social, emotional health for district IT staff

During all the tumult of the last two years of schooling, from remote to hybrid to masked in-person, educators prioritized the social and emotional needs of students. A full 70 percent of schools now offer mental health programming, according to a recent survey from the American School District Panel and 20 percent of these schools say they added these services as a response to the pandemic disruptions. Shifting toward helping our students’ emotional well-being is vital and, in many cases, has shown extraordinary results. But we need to make sure we don’t forget the social and emotional health of district IT staff. 

Think about how much stress we all felt especially at the beginning of the pandemic. Not only was there personal stress but schools went remote instantly. District and school IT staff had to not only set up 1:1 programs on the fly, but also find new remote learning software and create helpdesks for thousands of students.

It’s clear now that part of a well-thought digital strategy for the future includes wellbeing support for IT technicians and school support staff, too. For example, such support can come from tools that ease cumulative stressors by saving time, lightening workloads, improving communication, and simplifying or automating procedures. Embracing a digital strategy that runs right across all areas of the school ensures that every staff member can benefit from the advantages offered by technology. …Read More

Will gamification replace paper tests?

Nearly everyone remembers the stress of taking a test in school. In-class exams have the power to make even the most dedicated of students quake with fear, not to mention the damage they can do to the egos of struggling learners. For some students, the stress causes their minds to go blank, while others experience physical symptoms like headaches and nausea.

In fact, around 40 percent of students regularly report experiencing moderate to severe anxiety over tests. Unfortunately, that stress isn’t limited to students in higher grades. Even elementary school students can struggle with fear and performance anxiety on standardized tests. No surprise, then, that teachers and schools are increasingly rethinking their assessment methods, seeking ways to evaluate student performance without causing undue stress.

Fortunately, there are other methods of assessing students–methods that greatly reduce anxiety levels while simultaneously improving performance. One method getting a lot of attention is gamification, which involves incorporating elements of game playing, such as establishing ground rules, scorekeeping, and engaging in friendly competition with other students. Recent studies have shown that gamification in education can increase assessment scores by nearly 15 percent.…Read More

3 ways to alleviate teachers’ workloads

It’s no secret that this school year, like the two before it, has been even more jam-packed for teachers than normal. (And teaching was already a demanding job before the pandemic!) In a seemingly never-ending barrage of changes, considerations, and disruptions, teachers are continuing to support students. 

But as more teachers leave the profession, it’s critical that schools and districts pay closer attention to the workload, stress levels, and overall well-being of their staff.

Alleviating teachers’ workloads is one way that districts can support teachers. Here are 3 ways district and school leaders can help lighten the load. …Read More

Use SEL Day to establish year-round SEL strategies

Social and emotional skills are vital in both school, and the workplace. They can help children and adults build and maintain healthy relationships, develop a strong sense of self, manage stress, control their emotions, and more.

CASEL™ has defined five competence areas that lead to social and emotional success for children and adults. Those competence areas are Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision-Making. But many believe there are three additional areas: Optimistic Thinking, Goal-Directed Behavior and Personal Responsibility.

March 11 marks International SEL Day, a day focused on raising awareness of the importance of social and emotional learning (SEL). There are many ways for teachers to incorporate practical strategies into their everyday lessons — on SEL Day and beyond — to help students practice and strengthen their SEL skills. Here are a few that teachers can use with their students on SEL Day, and all year round.…Read More

Playing to win: The vital role of research in the future of esports

You stand, triumphant in front of a crowd cheering your name. After years of dedicated training and countless hours of practice, you’ve made it to the pinnacle of your game, the moment of enjoying the spoils of being a world-class athlete. Just a few months later, the pressure, stress, and injuries due to maintaining that top position have had a severe impact on your mental, emotional, and physical health and you’re forced to retire at 23.

While this may sound like a tragic story of a basketball or football athlete struck down as they were beginning their career, it happens for esports athletes too.

Esports–commonly accepted as “a multiplayer video game played competitively in front of spectators, by both professional and amateur gamers”–is quickly becoming a household term along with esports game titles such as Rogue Company, Call of Duty, and Rocket League. Over the last several years, schools and universities have realized that esports allows students who felt excluded from other extracurricular activities to finally find their “place” doing something they are passionate about within their scholastic environment. Research shows that students involved in an extracurricular activity are more engaged in the classroom and in their studies.…Read More

3 ways classroom ecosystems are changing

One of the definitions from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ecosystem as “something (such as a network of businesses) considered to resemble an ecological ecosystem especially because of its complex interdependent parts.”

When you take a look at a classroom, there are several interdependent parts working together to create a successfully functioning classroom. The students, teachers, technology, curriculum, physical space, and furniture all play a role in creating a successful learning environment–and as we saw with the pandemic, a disruption to this ecosystem can have dire effects.

According to a report by Rand Corporation, teachers’ stress levels are at an all-time high and threaten the teacher pipeline. At the same time, according to a McKinsey Report, the pandemic has caused students to fall months behind in learning math and reading and has caused older students to disengage from their education.…Read More

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