At Gateway, we place a high priority on all aspects of student safety, and this includes mental health. During the pandemic, we have been confronted with a number of unique obstacles, but the mental effects of isolation are among the most serious issues we must address. Gateway High School is learning from developments within the educational community to provide resources and assistance to our entire student body. We are committed to giving mental health concerns the attention they deserve.
Identifying Youth in Need
Over the past few months, it has become clear that everyone has their own unique way of dealing with the stress of the pandemic. Some students are handling these pressures better than others, which means that part of the challenge is identifying those who are most in need. Gateway High School can accomplish this by screening all students with questionnaires, or by organizing one-on-one sessions with teachers. Once we identify which students are struggling the most with anxiety and depression, we can use our available resources in a more efficient manner.
The Evolving Role of Teachers
In legal terms, teachers adhere to a principle called “in Loco Parentis,” which means “in place of a parent” in Latin. According to this principle, teachers take on the same legal responsibilities as a parent when caring for their students. As the demands of the pandemic become clearer, Gateway High School is asking teachers to fully commit themselves to this concept. Although a teacher’s first priority is to deliver education, they are also responsible for the safety of their students.
The pandemic has taught us that teachers must be willing to take on an evolving role as a caretaker. In many cases, teachers are the first line of defense against mental health concerns, and they are often the first ones to notice potential issues with students. These issues may include changes in mood or attitude. Perhaps a student has suddenly become quiet or less enthusiastic about virtual lessons. Teachers must be willing to step up and assume the role of not only an educator, but also a mental health professional.
Promoting Continued Social Networks
For many students, their daily school environment represents an important support system for their mental health. With the implementation of remote learning, this support system has been ripped away from many students. Gateway must continue to promote social networks between students. Even though students may not have the chance to see their friends in a face-to-face manner, they can still maintain these social connections through the virtual world.
Teachers are obviously not in a position to educate students about how to stay connected virtually, as most children these days are more proficient with social media than any other generation in history. However, teachers can play a role in cultivating and maintaining these connections through remote learning processes. Group projects, socially-focused lectures, and many other methods can replicate the vibrant, exciting atmosphere that once permeated Gateway’s halls.
Educators across the United States are in totally uncharted territory. Remote learning has been implemented on an incredible scale across the nation, and schools are left with no choice but to follow a process of trial and error. Gateway is constantly learning, and we are considering experimental, creative, and innovative methods to improve the mental health of our students.
Encouraging healthy, purposeful activities such as hobbies has been especially beneficial. Schools across the nation are discovering the benefits of holding fun virtual classes that are not as academically-focused as others. Examples include virtual cooking classes and soccer skills clinics. Gateway High School will continue to think outside of the box as we prioritize the mental health of our students.