“Where our attention goes, our energy flows.” This statement comes from my favorite yoga teacher. I love it for this blog post because we want our teaching energy to go into the good stuff, but our attention often goes to the not-so-good stuff. If we change our attention, our energy will change, too.
So, be honest…when you teach about mental health, is your focus on mental illness? Many of us will answer yes, especially now as mental health challenges and mental illness diagnoses are skyrocketing among youth. I used to answer yes to that question. Of course, we need to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness, we need our kids to know the early signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety, we need them to know and practice how to reach out for help. This is all super important. But that isn’t comprehensive mental health education; mental illness is just one part of mental health education. Can you imagine a social studies teaching about World War II by only addressing conflict with Japan? Can you imagine teaching about physical activity and nutrition by only addressing heart disease and obesity? These are ridiculous notions; so is teaching mental illness without teaching mental wellness.
I’d like to use this post to challenge you to rethink your approach and empower you to spend MORE TIME on, and therefore provide more energy to, mental WELLNESS education.
So what might that look like in your classroom?
- Students set and plan a personal health goal (KidsHealth’s Making a Change in Your Life is a great tool!)
- Meditation & Mindfulness (Smiling Mind has great classroom integration tools and it’s free! “Exploring Tastes” and “Exploring the Body” are must-dos in my classroom!)
- Try a “Ketchup & Pickles” day! Just like us, their grown-ups, our students sometimes just need a day to get caught up on work or organizing their folders (digital or paper!). That’s the “Ketchup” part of the period in my classroom — and then when a student completes “ketchup”, they get to “Pickle” (read: pick) an activity to do. “Pickle” activities are things that kids enjoy doing (and are do-able & appropriate in a classroom) — coloring, reading, playing with PlayDoh or Legos, and/or playing cards or a board game. Some kids even PICK to help others get organized and/or caught up – how great is that?!
- Watch this gratitude video by SoulPancake with your students and then have them write their own letter. Encourage them to deliver their letters, in writing or by speaking.
- Guide your students to develop a growth mindset (The Daring English Teacher and The SuperHERO Teacher on TeachersPayTeachers have great resources!)
- How about academic concepts in rap song format? Flocabulary has a whole section on social-emotional learning. After watching some created by the “experts”, let your students become the experts and write their own mental wellness raps.
- Disney Pixar’s Inside Out is a great avenue for exploring emotional intelligence. ProjectSchoolWellness has great teaching resources to coordinate with the film.
- Tim and Moby, the beloved main characters of BrainPop, explore all sorts of health & SEL topics, including mental wellness, like stress management and sleep
- Health class is a great place for chair yoga, which benefits the mind and the body. YogaEd is an amazing subscription service that brings yoga teachers (from Hawaii 🌴) into your classroom via streaming. In my classes, we start literally every.single.class with 3, 5, or 10 minutes of chair yoga and my 8th grade students are lucky enough to spend every other Friday on yoga mats with a 30ish minute mat yoga session. (Added bonus: YogaEd aligns all their work to National Health Education as well as National PE Standards.)
In my classroom, we spend four weeks focused on mental health (primarily NHES 6 & 7, with other standards integrated as support standards) — 75% of that time is devoted to mental WELLNESS, 25% is on mental illness.
*Remember: If you don’t make time for your wellness, you’ll be forced to make time for your illness.*
So, how can you adjust your curriculum map to include more attention and energy on mental WELLNESS?
Lindsay Armbruster (firstname.lastname@example.org)
NYS Certified and practicing Health Teacher since 2004
Health Teacher at O’Rourke Middle School in Burnt Hills, New York
Adjunct Instructor in Health Education at Sage Colleges in Troy, New York
Pedagogy Developer for Goodheart-Willcox Publishing Company
Avid reader of fiction and nerdy teacher books
Mama of two kids, 10 & 6 years old
This microblog post was a featured post in #slowchathealth’s #microblogweek. You can search for all of the featured posts here. Please do follow each of the outstanding contributors on social media (including Lindsay Armbruster, the author of this post) and consider writing a microblog post of your own to be shared with the global audience of slowchathealth.com
Lindsay wrote a second microblog for #microblogweek and I highly recommend that you check out ‘Health Class + Fiction = A Perfect Match‘
Additionally, Georgia Dougherty wrote this great blog post which you will like – ‘Mental Health ≠ Mental Illness’
At the time of writing, Calm was offering a free 30 day pass to the premium features of their outstanding app. You can access the code here.