By John Henry Ledwith | September 14, 2015
Senior Sales Manager, ETR
When I think about the teachers who’ve been part of my family’s life, I’m endlessly impressed with the dedication and heart they’ve brought to their classrooms. My kids grew up in K–12 public schools. More than once, I’ve stood in awe as I watched a gifted teacher grab kids’ attention, inspire them, guide their learning and still manage to maintain some semblance of order within those classroom walls.
What prepares teachers to deal with the intensity of child and adolescent growth and development? How do they cope with the energy, the ups-and-downs, the constant changes, the range in maturity and ability? Then add in the extra challenges and risks that come with puberty—sexuality, substances, dares, driving. There is probably no other profession where we expect people to cover so much ground with a population of such varied ability and drive.
I had a conversation with an old friend the other day that really brought this home. We’ve known each other since our college days. His children are a little younger than my own. And his youngest son, just starting high school, is struggling.
A year ago, this boy seemed happy and engaged in life. He laughed and told silly jokes. He threw his arms around his sisters, hugged his parents, did pretty well in school and played baseball in a community league.
He had moments of moodiness, sure—what adolescent doesn’t, we’d all say when those moments came up. But then the moments started to become hours, and the hours became days. And then, without really understanding how or why, something quite dark happened. This beautiful young man, with his wonderful family and his natural gifts and his safe community, spiraled into a serious depression.
As I spoke with my friend about his concerns for his son, and the resources and support the family is looking to, I found myself thinking again about teachers. My friend knows how to get support in motion. His family has the financial means to seek excellent care. That’s not true of a lot of families in our communities.
In fact, teachers are often the front line when children have these kinds of problems. They spend a lot of time with their students. They may be the first professionals to recognize that a situation is getting serious and an intervention is called for. They are often the conduit to the parents—making contact, expressing concern, then connecting families with resources to make an effective plan.
Tomorrow, the ETR blog will post a column by Alicia Rozum from the California School-Based Health Alliance. She describes the extraordinary difference school-based mental health services can make in a community. These are approaches that support students and their families and also make a positive difference for teachers and schools. They can increase attendance, build student engagement and improve school climate.
I hope you’ll check back with us and read Alicia’s column. If you do have such programs in your school, let us know how they’re doing. And if you don’t, Alicia includes some resources where you could find out how to get one started.