The number of students in our classrooms who have experienced trauma is steadily increasing: 67.5 percent of children have experienced or witnessed at least one form of violence, crime, or abuse within the prior year, with 50 percent experiencing more than one exposure (National Dropout Prevention Center, 2018). These traumatic incidents take a toll. Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that teen suicide rates are the highest they have been since World War II. Marc Brackett, director at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, reports that approximately one in five U.S. children suffers from depression and/or anxiety. In his book Permission to Feel, Brackett adds, "For many children, school might be the only place any of these issues are recognized or addressed."
This is a heavy lift for many teachers who may already feel overwhelmed by the multitude of responsibilities inherent in a profession dedicated to growing learners. But supporting the mental health of our students isn't about adding to educators' already heaping plates. Rather, it requires that we take a closer look at what we're already doing in our classrooms and schools through the lens of empathy.
Read more of this article which was originally published in ASCD's August 2020 edition of Education Update.
Photo by Donald Ely