This year has been hard, and I’m end-of-the-year-teacher-tired. I’m absolutely on my last nerve – not with my students, though. Actually, they’re the brightest part of my day. I soak in their smiles, their hugs, their laughter and desire to please. It’s about teaching teens about mental health.
I teach middle school. 7th – 8th – 9th grade. And they’re struggling.
Now, they’re not without their moments – especially the 8th graders. They’re the big questioners, the ones who wonder ‘why’ and ‘how come we have to do this’ and ‘ does this really matter’.
My 9th graders are just ready to move on. The run in the classroom completely oblivious to much besides themselves, their friends, and the latest ‘T”.
But my 7th graders….aah, they’re just special. This is my first year back in 7th grade since 2001, and I’m loving it. Every moment they try something new, agree to take a risk, jump into a discussion about a book or a topic or debate about global warming or plastics in the ocean or gun control or why animals should be rescued just makes me smile.
But they’re a whole lot of energy. Like herding puppies, in a way.
The hard parts of teaching mental health
This year there have been too many ‘not-so-happy’ times, too. I’ve seen more kids breaking down over struggles – not just with academics, but with relationships. Parents. Expectations. Friends.
My AVID 9 students learned about Mental Health issues and how to overcome the stigma associated with asking for support with this Mental Health hyperdoc lesson. I wish I knew the original creator, so I could thank them for helping me help kids with mental health. Please make a copy and use it in your classroom, or with your own kids at home. It’s powerful.
I’ve had too many 12, 13, and 14 year-olds run through my door in tears about what happens ‘outside’. I’m finding myself giving lots of hugs, wiping gallons of tears and going through bottles of lavender oil (it reduces stress, you know!). Mostly, I’ve been reminding them that despite what’s happening, they are strong. Stronger than they know…stronger than whatever force is trying to tell them that they’re not.
It’s hard for kids to trust in that, you know? The world seems like a pretty frightening place right now. I’ve got kids who are worried about deportation. Divorce. Sex. Gender confusion. Homosexuality. Learning Disorders. Substance Abuse.
Oh yeah – and remember, they are 12-14 years old. And we have 1.5 counselors on our campus. And I’m tired. And I’m searching for messages to give them that will mean something, especially over the summer when they don’t have the stability of a safe place at school.
I found this.
Have you seen Amy Morin’s TEDx Talk?
So what’s next?
“Mental strength is a lot like physical strength. If you wanted to be physically strong, you’d need to go to the gym and lift weights. But if you really wanted to see results, you’d also have to give up eating junk food. Mental strength is the same. If you want to be mentally strong, you need good habits like practicing gratitude. But you also have to give up bad habits, like resenting somebody else’s success.No matter how often that happens, it will hold you back.” – AmyMorinLCSW.com
And I’m going to add her book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, to my classroom bookshelf.