Make schools safe and improve mental health for students

Sam Di Sano

Teacher and School Enablement Leader at Atomi


min read

When thinking about mental health and wellbeing initiatives in schools, it’s important that we think about it as doing things differently and better, not necessarily doing more. We should ensure that we incorporate actions into our everyday world, rather than just thinking of short term initiatives. It is this continual  creates a sustainable wellbeing experience for students.

What sort of mental health and wellbeing initiatives can be incorporated into our everyday existence?

Try these for a start:

  1. If you are a school leader, grab your cup of coffee or tea and take up your position at the school gates. Start every morning and every afternoon greeting kids, staff and parents as they come and go.
  2. Visit areas of your school that are off the normal path. Before school, cup in hand, take a stroll down to the gym, the pool, band rehearsal, drama club or the library. Do the same at lunch.
  3. Don’t let a lesson start without greeting your students. That first few minutes in class are a wonderful time to settle into the routine. I don’t subscribe to forming two lines outside the room, entering in silence and standing behind your desk. Some may, but that’s not for me. As students entered my room, I would greet individuals and it was acknowledged that in that time they would find their desk, sort out what they need for the lesson, and tidy themselves up, all while logging into the LMS. By the time the wifi had kicked in and they had logged on, I was done greeting them and off we went.
  4. Greet every student as you pass them in the corridor. Before long, you will find it infectious and students will acknowledge and greet you without question.
  5. When is a relief lesson not inconvenient? I get it, but it can also be a terrific opportunity to get to know more students. So, set them to work on whatever their usual teacher has left them to do and spend some time moving around the room and getting to know them.
  6. Lunch duty can be a mind-numbing necessity, but it is also a wonderful time to invest in conversation with students. You can still keep an eye on litter, preventable and foreseeable risks and move around and talk to students at the same time.
  7. Report writing and feedback have moved considerably to ensure we focus on strengths rather than weaknesses. When giving feedback on a task, providing a sense of value and worth in this exchange is so vital. Even when the response goes somewhat awry, the words you choose are so important.
  8. It is fair to say that pastoral care used to belong down the corridor somewhere in the Dean of Pastoral Care or Counsellor’s Office, but we have moved a long way from reactive welfare to proactive messages of wellbeing and mental and physical health that belong to everyone. It is therefore important that we support students when they ask for or need help before we despatch them to someone else. Another person may be more qualified to help, but it is important we engage with the student and show our support in referring them on, rather than instantly handing them over.
  9. Life is too short (and too precious) to subscribe to the old theory not to smile before Easter anymore. Let kids see you as a genuine human being with a range of emotions and interests.
  10. If you have your own office and it is big enough, ensure you have a space where you can sit with someone without the desk between you. Give everyone who comes to your office your utmost attention. Close the lid on your laptop or turn away from your screen, take off your reading glasses, stand up, move away from your desk and invite them to sit with you. Be present in every conversation.
  11. When it comes to the classroom, the more content we offload and assign to students in pre-lesson activities, the more time we have during class, not only for skill application but also for developing relationships.

Our mental wellbeing is important for success in school and the cognitive and affective benefits from flipping your classroom are now undeniable. No doubt you have your own strategies and suggestions for managing wellbeing in your school. I would love for you to share them with me too.


Published on

April 3, 2019

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