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*