4 tips to build a strong classroom culture this year

The past two years have been immensely difficult for our nation’s students and teachers. In the wake of the isolation and trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health and behavioral challenges are on the rise as students continue to process unprecedented amounts of stress, anxiety, and grief. The decline in child and adolescent mental health has been so great that the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association have declared it a national emergency.

These mental health issues have translated into increased disengagement, conflict, and bullying — and as a result, disciplinary action — in school classrooms and hallways across the country. 

As a Dean of Culture at a public school in Queens, New York, until recently, I saw these challenges first-hand. I also know that traditional discipline methods fail to address the root cause of behavioral issues. Many forms of disciplinary action are doing more harm than good. This is especially true when research shows that Black students are disciplined far more than White students for the same offenses, perpetuating and sustaining cycles of inequity in our schools. …Read More

6 classroom tech tools that help educators’ mental health

Many teachers are embracing the return to a standard classroom setting. Naturally, some are worried about how much stress will come with trying to get students settled into in-person classes again.

Educators must receive ample support for mental and emotional well-being, as the strain of returning to normal will likely impact their mental strength and emotional wellness. Classroom tech can help relieve some of the stress educators carry and help them successfully navigate mental health challenges.

Video Conferencing…Read More

How a higher-ed partnership transformed student mental health services at our school

It’s a given that students will experience stress as they move through school. Learning new concepts, completing assignments and taking tests, and navigating social experiences all contribute to normal stress. But today, our students are struggling with much, much more. And too much stress has dangerous implications for student mental health and well-being.

Anxieties related to lockdowns, school violence, COVID, and family issues have been shown to increase students’ stress levels and can leave them in such a state that they are unable to learn.

In my role as the principal of Salt Lake Center for Science Education-Bryant Middle School in Salt Lake City, I have witnessed first-hand the impact that elevated stress levels have had on our students’ well-being.…Read More

5 ways relationship mapping supports your students

When students have “positive and diverse” relationships, they are less likely to be at risk, more likely to boost their academic performance and persistence, and are also more likely to have access to a wider range professional opportunities, according to new research from the Clayton Christensen Institute.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, students without positive connections and relationships suffer when it comes to their well-being, academic success, and career potential. Schools often rely on existing faculty and staff to help grow students’ networks. And while mentoring and advising, volunteering, and new initiatives can positively impact students, these efforts are often institution-centric instead of student-centric–and they can burden staff who are already exhausted, along with placing added stress on tight budgets.

But according to Students’ Hidden Networks: Relationship Mapping as a Strategy to Build Asset-Based Pathways, taking an asset-based approach–leveraging the connections arising from people students already know–can help. A number of future-thinking groups are focused on equitably building students’ social capital and connections, and as they continue their work, helpful strategies and best practices have emerged for teachers and school leaders. The report is authored by Julia Freeland Fisher, director of education research at the Clayton Christensen Institute.…Read More

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