I remember when I was teaching that there were distinct times of the year when kids exhibited high stress and anxiety as it relates to completing assignments. It was common to see students, usually in gifted programs, bogged down with the pressures of academia. We took it as the norm – school, studying, and exams can be stressful. Today, however, many more students are feeling the pressures of school and the result can be daunting and, for many, debilitating.
A 2018 study from Pew Research Center revealed that 61% of 9 to 17-year-old students identified anxiety and depression as a problem within their peer community. A similar finding has been reported among college students and points to the need for an increased focus on teaching resilience and self-regulation.
We now have the vocabulary and a deeper knowledge to identify the struggles our students go through. Armed with a firmer understanding of the psychological struggles some students are up against, educators have a moral duty to help the young people under their care learn to cope and thrive beyond merely achieving competency on the prescribed curriculum. This is especially true when one of the main causal links to anxiety and depression is student academic performance. So what can educators do to motivate, reinforce, and change the tide of mental health concerns among their students?
- Acknowledge the pressure – Students will have to deal with stress and anxiety when they enter the workforce. But it isn’t always the case that one must simply “deal with it.” Jobs and roles can shift, work teams can be formed, and anxiety can be handled by communicating and knowing how to ask for help.
- Coordinate assignments – How often do you communicate your due dates across departments and among grade levels? Great schools pay attention to these details that make assignments manageable.
- Teach time management – Helping students budget and manage their time is likely one of the more useful skills teachers can give them. Be honest about your own time management – none of us are perfect.
- Model – Great teachers take time to practice what they preach. The use of lesson plans, calendars, and schedules helps maintain sanity and serves as a great way for students to learn. Make sure your kids see how you organize your day and talk about it with them.
- Relationships matter – When teachers go beyond the curriculum and build a healthy relationship with their students, it counts. Students can and will learn if they believe there is a true ally in their corner. Be someone who cares for them and about them.
It’s true, we have high expectations for educators, well beyond the delivery of content. But this has always been the case. From the single-room schools of the past to today’s 21st-century classroom, the most important factor in a child’s educational journey is their teacher. Be real, be accessible, and know the difference you make goes well beyond the grade book.
Redefining what it means to be a champion. #TGRFoundation
For breakfast, I had herbal tea and a Powerbar.