Mental health impacts every aspect of our lives. When it comes to our students, now is the time to support their mental health—and teachers know it too. More than 4 in 5 public school educators surveyed in our latest report, Listen to Your Teacher: An Analysis of Teacher Sentiment on the State of Public Education, believe students’ mental health is at an all-time low in the nation.
Luckily, some schools are addressing mental health for students and incorporating best practices into their classrooms. Here are five charter schools boosting their students’ mental health in unique ways:
Animal Therapy to Improve Students’ Mood
If you attended our National Charter Schools Conference this year, you may have an idea of how furry friends can enhance your mood. Eighty-six percent of pet owners say their pets have a positive impact on their mental health, according to the American Psychiatric Association. In North Carolina, Charlotte Lab School brought in therapy dogs to help improve students’ mental health. As a result, teachers said they witnessed immediate improvements, such as increased class participation.
An Intentional and Strong Start to the School Day
It’s one thing to tell students they matter but imagine the impact on students when you back up your words with actions. On the first day of school, teachers and staff at Dwight D. Eisenhower Charter School in Louisiana greeted students as soon as they got off the bus with happy faces and energetic high fives. They rolled out a red carpet for students to walk on as they began a new school year. The principal shared this helpful perspective: If students know we care, then they will be open to the instruction we want to give them.
Raising Awareness about the Importance of Mental Health
Real world connections are crucial for students to comprehend a lesson and apply their knowledge beyond the classroom. Entrepreneur and rapper, Master P, visited Einstein Charter School in Louisiana to discuss the importance of addressing mental health concerns. During the chat, Master P opened up about losing his daughter to an accidental overdose: “We are trying to save lives [and] change lives. So, we have to get it out and communicate. Talk to a counselor, talk to a friend. We have to come together and stop being ashamed.”
Connecting Students to Nature
Teachers at Cactus Park Elementary Public Charter School in Nevada integrate mental health into their instruction. Some ways include grounding, mediating, and encouraging healthy behavior, such as taking a break if students feel overwhelmed. As a way to connect with nature, students helped to raise chickens. When they need a brain break, they can opt to spend time with the chicken coop. Teachers said students returned to class feeling calmer after interacting with the pet chickens.
Providing Training on Mental Health for Students
People’s Prep Charter School in New Jersey led mental health and first aid training certifications for students. The charter school partnered with iEvolve Experience, a nonprofit community-based group. Resultantly, many more students learned how to pay attention to mental health and are more equipped to treat themselves and others with kindness and intention—all skills they’ll be able to carry with them into adulthood.
Kudos to the above public charter schools and all schools in public education who put students’ needs first!
Brittnee Baker is the manager of communications and marketing at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.