Teaching is a profession and a passion. Most teachers choose their careers because they love sharing knowledge and helping children and young people develop. Despite commitment and passion, teaching can be a tough job. During the coronavirus pandemic, teachers and their students faced new challenges.
Teaching Through and Post-Pandemic
Teachers have had to deal with an unprecedented two-year period. Adapting to teaching remotely and a lack of social contacts led to disruption and increased mental health concerns.
At the same time, the pandemic helped break down some of the stigma surrounding mental health concerns. As schools are working on establishing a new, post-pandemic normal, the role of teachers is once again pivotal. But there is also a need for school-based behavioral health care.
Five Ways Teachers Can Support Students’ Behavioral Health
Consider Your Own Mental Health
Teachers are trained to look after others, but it is also essential to consider your own behavioral and mental health. You will find it hard, if not impossible, to project calmness and control if you are stressed and anxious yourself.
Looking after your mental health does not make you a selfish teacher but an efficient one. Compare your situation to the life of a professional rescuer, like a paramedic. Paramedics are taught to manage their safety first because they cannot protect or help anyone else without it.
Teachers who are overwhelmed will be unable to support their students. Seeking out support for yourself could be critical to providing support to students.
Address Uncertainties Openly
Although the pandemic appears to be receding, people are still becoming infected by COVID, with some requiring hospital treatment.
At the time of writing, scientists are still discovering new variants, and it is unclear how long COVID tests will be required in specific scenarios. While uncertainty can be challenging to deal with, teachers have an opportunity to talk to students openly about the scientific process.
Understanding that guidelines will change as evidence changes help everyone adjust their behaviors. Addressing this process makes uncertainty less scary and can even become a source of curiosity.
ADHD, anxiety problems, behavior problems, and depression are the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth
Ask for Student Input on Safety Measures
Some students may be more concerned about getting sick than others. Ask students for their opinions before making decisions on safety measures like social distancing or mask-wearing for an entire class.
Of course, teachers need to be prepared to enforce government guidelines. But as there are fewer mandatory measures, teachers and students have more flexibility, allowing them to make their own decisions.
Asking students for input opens the floor for a frank discussion and creates a feeling of control. It in itself can contribute to improved behavioral and mental health in the classroom.
Promote Safe Behaviors
For two years, students, teachers, and their families have lived with changing levels of restrictions that have impacted their lives. Some may have found it easy to comply, while others may have questioned the science behind the guidelines. As regulations are being removed, this is still an excellent time to promote safe behaviors in a school environment.
Frequent hand-washing, for example, can also help prevent the spread of other viruses and infections. Continuing to promote some preventative behaviors during the pandemic years makes sense.
Refer Students to Behavioral Health Programs
Teaching means taking on significant responsibility, but teachers are not expected to be counselors. Behavioral health counselors generally hold a master’s degree in psychology, counseling, or related areas. They are experts in their field and best placed to support students (and teachers) dealing with mental and behavioral health challenges.
School-based behavioral health care is becoming more widely available and benefits students, teachers, and families. By referring students to a counselor early, teachers can protect their charges from developing potentially life-long mental health conditions.
It is difficult to separate a passing concern from a severe underlying issue. However, professional counselors know which questions to ask and how to encourage their clients toward healthier behaviors and coping strategies.
Bringing Behavioral Health Care Into Post-COVID Classrooms
Naturally, teachers are expected to support their students. However, school-based behavioral health care is a better option when it comes to providing professional mental and behavioral health support.
Still, teachers have several ways to support their students returning to classroom-based teaching and learning. Being honest about ongoing changes is critical to building or re-building trust.
Discussing preventative health care and COVID-related safety measures gives students a chance to share their thoughts and control what happens in their classroom. As a result, they will feel safer and are more likely to comply.
Most importantly, though, teachers need to consider their own mental and behavioral health to be in the best possible position to support students. Platforms like TrueCare™ offer easy access to school-based behavioral health care services that benefit students and faculty.