Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. It affects how we think, feel and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life since childhood and adolescence through adulthood. People sometimes use the term “mental health” to mean the absence of a mental disorder.
Looking after mental health can preserve a person’s ability to enjoy life. Doing this involves reaching a balance between life activities, responsibilities and effort to achieve psychological resilience.
In the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic schools have confronted unprecedented challenges as they moved to quickly shift class to an online format, provide equitable access for all students, support teachers and students’ educational needs and make plans amidst great uncertainty. Kids can experience anxiety, distress, social isolation and an abusive environment that can have short or long term effects on their mental health. Therefore it has created a critical situation for school teacher and personnel in supporting children’s transition back to in-person classroom learning, particularly after extended periods of school closure. The teachers now have to tackle their students more comprehensively to ensure better learning and emotional wellbeing as well.
The role of teachers at school is very important in maintaining good mental health of students. Following are some suggestions that might be helpful for teachers-
- Listen to the children’s concerns: As teacher it is essential to listen to student’s concern and demonstrate understanding as well as empathy. Offer students the opportunity to have one to one conversation with teachers to reconnect and discuss concerns that might have arisen when their school was closed.
- Check how children are doing: Before teaching new academic content to students, teachers should take to check how children are doing. Teachers should provide opportunities for children’s to take breaks move around and re-connect with their friends and peers.
- Create a welcoming, safe and comfortable classroom: Teacher can engage children in making the classroom a welcoming, safe and comfortable space. When doing so, make sure to respect school safety procedures and use available material resources. Children can be engaged to work in small groups so they can support each other to catch up on learning. Remember to praise children for their contribution.
- Encourage play and sports to promote interaction between students: Teachers can make sure that when children are in school that they have lots of opportunities to socialise, play and interact with the peers they have missed for so long, in line with school safety protocols.
- Be attentive to children’s behaviours: If teachers notice any significant changes in a student’s behaviour and this persists over time which is preventing them from functioning or playing, then teachers can seek additional support and guidance from primary care physicians or mental health professionals if needed.
- Demonstrate positive attitude towards children: Teachers can be positive role models for their students. Children will look at teachers and learn from them the skills that they use daily to deal with stressful situations. Teachers should be calm, honest and caring and demonstrate a positive attitude to children.