Alert the Media. Or Else.

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week!

*party balloons fall digitally down your screen if I was fancy and knew how to insert an obnoxious pop-up situation*

Shoot. Only problem besides my lack of digital balloon skills is I’m also totally late. It was actually last week. Ironically, I knew it was Mental Health Awareness Week and I totally didn’t have time to post anything about it because, well, I was dealing with mental health issues all week. It’s like how I am always too busy to remember School Psychology Awareness Week every single year. On any given week, I deal with the following:

-Kid I needed to test hauled off to jail
-A mom admitted she had a drinking problem
-Kid witnessed mom get shot
-Parents getting divorced and kid hitting others in class
-Young’un yoot using extreme profanity in class waaaaaaay beyond his years.*
-Two suicidal kids
-Kid caught with marijuana in class
-Kid caught HUMPING in class.

And then, it’s usually Wednesday. I’m serious.

The issues aren’t just at my low income schools either. Mental health issues are everywhere. It’s not a problem for only poor people. I can’t believe I even have to type that, but it is such a misconception that mental health problems are exclusive to “poor schools.” The problems are just different in different in different communities. And no matter the kid’s socioeconomic status, mental health issues prevent learning.

ALERT THE MEDIA. No seriously, do it.

In all of the dog and pony show of Education Nation week at NBC and the perfunctory back to school episode of “This Week”, I never once heard them utter the phrase “mental health.”** I never saw a teacher on the discussion panels and I certainly never saw any mental health professional. Oh no, all I learned from Education Week was that underachievement is all teachers’ fault. Forgive me while flames burst out of the side of my face in rage.***

Where do I even begin?

Teachers are expected to be so much more than teachers. They are supposed to be teachers, data collectors, pseudo-parents, social workers, classroom managers, technology experts, nurses, psychological triage experts, specialists on disabilities and differentiation, disciplinarians, experts in their content areas and pedagogy, and basically learning magicians. Oh, and also paralegals, diffusing litigious parents and advocates.

And how are they supposed to deal with the students who are struggling with mental health issues? I mean, on the 4 out of 5 days I’m not on their school site? Um, Frederick, can you only lose your sh** on Tuesdays and every other Wednesday when Dr. B is on site? Thanks.

Oh now I’m getting all riled up. I am typing with purpose and husband is asking if I’m okay. Perhaps the flames of fury are burning him. Sorry honey. Namaste. Deep breath.

Okay, so back to my point. Kids in crisis and kids with mental health challenges need support in order to learn. Teachers need support in order to work with students in crisis. You could be the best teacher in the world, but if you have children in your class in crisis, they are often not even there emotionally to teach. And I guarantee that giving those kids the STAR standardized test isn’t going to make them feel better. “Sweetie, you’ll feel better if you bubble this in.”

Why is mental health so absent from the conversation on educational reform? I guess for the same reason the media didn’t even ask TEACHERS to comment on TEACHING. It would make too much sense. I mean, why ask the people actually doing the hard work what is working and what is needed?

It reminds me of a quote I recently read (not from my tea, surprisingly). It read: “The scientist and the practitioner both know that the tomato is a fruit, but the practitioner won’t put it in a fruit salad.”

Please, media, listen to us practitioners. We know what’s up. We live it every day. We sit and wait, not for Superman, but for that damn printer ink we ordered in 2009 and for someone to listen to us. Do it, before I get really mad and throw my fruity tomato at you on my TV screen.

*I wish I could share, it was a doozy. I felt a little like I was in CSI: Kindergarten Profanity Inspection Unit, trying to get to the bottom of the profanity investigation. It could have been an innocent comment, it could have been hugely profane, ala Snoop Dogg. I was on the case.

**Perhaps it is addressed in Waiting for Superman. I doubt it though.

***See also: My Internet BFF ready to snap off the teacher pointing fingers in the post *Sigh*

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Comments on Alert the Media. Or Else.

  1. Sioux says:

    Wow! Your "aim" is quite accurate. I included a link on my blog to yours, because you said it much better than I ever could!

  2. Pat says:

    I'm a retired teacher and I am SO glad to be retired. I, too, hate the citing of teachers as the problem with education, when it is the raw material (the students and their messed up home lives) and the cr*p the state puts on teachers that are the problems. The state keeps putting more and more responsibilities on teachers/schools, responsibilities which, in the past, were parents' responsibilities.

    I saw one part of "Education Nation" on NBC…I think it was Finland or Denmark that was praised for having the best educational system in the world. Let's see, how many different cultures exist in that country? How big is that country compared to the US? The more homgeneous a culture is, the better the kids do in school.

    Excellent post.

  3. Rachel says:

    I was particularly struck by your comments about the availability of mental health services — "BTW, can you only lose it on Tuesdays when Dr. B is here?" It made me laugh…but seriously, it is a huge issue.

    I worked at a school that was just starting up in Philadelphia while I was in college (a few years ago), and the school nurse only came in on Tuesdays – if anyone was sick or hurt any other day of the week…well, they were either going home, to the hospital, or back to class. Reminded me of that – "Sorry, it's Wednesday. You can't be sick today."

    It really is astonishing what people are willing to sacrifice because they're "luxuries". We need to shift the thinking about mental health in order to have any shot of getting better services into schools! Mental health is not a privilege, but a necessity!

  4. BECKY says:

    Hello. I'm here via Sioux's blog. I must admit, I've been very out of touch with what's going on in the public school system in our country. I am both appalled and heartbroken when I read what Sioux deals with every day in her classroom. I don't know how she and all the other countless teachers can keep from having their own mental illness! I, too, saw the segment that Pat (above comment) saw on NBC and had the same thoughts! Where do we go from here? Who do we turn to?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hello,
    I really like your quote "The scientist and the practitioner both know that the tomato is a fruit, but the practitioner won't put it in a fruit salad."
    Where is it from?
    I'm a first year school psych student and I would love to mention that in class
    Thanks!
    Melanie

  6. Sioux says:

    And Pat's comment reminded me…I know that many other countries—when they tout their scores—are not including the students who are mentally retarded, the students who are learning disabled, the students who are emotionally disturbed. We do. We have to "count" all those students,and they are expected to achieve at the same "advanced" and "proficient" level as the other students.

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