Positive mental health plays an extremely important role in many aspects of life, including academia. To educators, it is becoming ever more apparent that students require mental health support and assistance developing skills related to emotional intelligence. However, as a teacher and school administrator, it can be difficult to know how to effectively promote positive mental health in the classroom. Luckily, several proven strategies can be used to help students develop and maintain positive mental health. Using these strategies in the classroom will not only result in happier and more engaged students, but it will also promote academic success.
Currently working in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Dr. Marcus Jackson is an educator and school administrator who has dedicated his career to improving the academic and personal success of students. He spent many years as a school administrator in Atlanta, Georgia, where he was able to successfully inspire academic and social improvement among students at all levels. He believes that student success relies on a supportive and safe learning environment. He shares methods that can be used by educators to maintain positive mental health in the classroom.
Normalize Discussions Around Mental Health
One of the best ways to approach mental health in an academic setting is to start by talking about it. Educators should encourage students to discuss their feelings, both in times of success and in times of failure. Holding open discussions around the topic will help students become more comfortable sharing their feelings and emotions. In addition, if students can communicate how they are feeling, educators and school administrators will have a much easier time understanding students’ needs and offering mental health support. Dr. Marcus Jackson, having worked extensively in a capacity focused on student development and growth in Atlanta, GA, suggests using visual cues to help students identify and portray feelings. This can be a great tool for developing the language necessary for further discussions surrounding mental health. As well, it will help students improve their emotional intelligence. When approaching mental health topics in the classroom, tools, and techniques must be developmentally appropriate to avoid overwhelming students. By encouraging students to talk about their emotions and then acknowledging these feelings and offering support, educators can help promote a safe and nurturing environment.
Incorporate Exercise and the Outdoors
Numerous studies have shown that mental and physical health are closely linked. Therefore, to help promote positive mental health, educators should focus on aspects of physical health. For instance, teachers might consider implementing exercise periods into the day or even as part of a lesson on another topic. Dr. Marcus Jackson also recommends getting outside, if and whenever possible. It is known that being in nature can help to ease stress and anxiety. Therefore, incorporating physical activity into a lesson and conducting it outside will provide a major benefit to students and their mental health.
Promote a Good Work-Life Balance
As adults, we are often told how important it is to focus on maintaining a strong work-life balance. This practice is encouraged to promote positive mental health in adults and should be taught to students as well. Dr. Marcus Jackson proposes that the development of this skill can start with a simple conversation. For example, educators may inquire with their students about upcoming commitments and deadlines. By discussing what must be done to meet deadlines and how to make tasks, assignments, and other commitments more manageable, students will learn the art of time-management. As a result of being able to manage their time effectively, students will be able to better develop a good work-life balance. Further, educators should encourage their students to make time for themselves, as well as their family and friends. Building this skill in the classroom will provide mental health benefits throughout life, as those who can balance work and life appropriately lead happier, healthier lives.