it’s time for change
Did you know that a staggering percentage of teenagers are currently taking anti-depressant and/or anti-anxiety medication?
Did you know that teenage suicide rates are at an all-time high? See last week’s blog.
Did you know that more and more teens are resorting to drugs and alcohol as a primary coping mechanism, desperately trying to escape reality?
While the above challenges are not necessarily educational issues, at least under our current education paradigm, it certainly begs the question – What is the real purpose of education?
If the purpose is to educate the minds of students, then the current system need not change.
If the purpose is to educate the hearts and minds of students, then we’re failing miserably.
I’m tired of hearing about all of the high achieving schools in our country that are exceeding academic standards. Meanwhile, a portion of students in said schools are quietly masking emotional issues that lurk behind the scenes. While test scores are loudly proclaimed, the mental and emotional well-being of students is quietly tucked under the rug.
I’m tired of our country’s incessant desire to race to the top, in an effort to surpass other nations in reading, writing, and math standards. Meanwhile, in the midst of this ridiculous race, kids are feeling more pressure than ever before (direct and indirect) to achieve perfection. An achievement that doesn’t even exist.
I’m tired of our state and national legislatures continuing to advocate for tougher standards, yet the mental toughness of our student population is collectively weaker than ever before. This is as a direct result of higher expectations, social complexities, and an ever-increasing workload.
I’m tired of schools vowing to teach character education and life skills, only to place fancy posters in the hallway and/or ask students to recite character words ad nauseam each and every day. While these outside-in approaches may serve as window dressing for the community, the students behind the window are left wondering what all of these words really mean.
Finally, I’m tired of students lugging a 10-pound backpack to school each day, not even realizing that that their emotional backpacks are steadily increasing in weight – emotional weight. While students are encouraged to unload their physical backpacks each day, the emotional backpack often remains unopened. The end result is a student body who’s proficient in stuffing emotions for the sake of academic gain.
What needs to happen before we start addressing the mental health of our students in the same way we’re addressing their academic health?
I will start the conversation by making two proposals.
All school districts should have standards for social and emotional learning. While core content continues to dominate the landscape of school standards, it’s about time that we make the core of the child a priority. If we’re teaching a child how to manage numbers in an algebraic equation, why aren’t we teaching them how to manage the frustration (or anger) that may arise while attempting to solve a math problem.
Social and emotional learning programs should be taught by subject matter experts, not classroom teachers. Sadly, many schools are resorting to cookie cutter curriculums, designed to address the social and emotional needs of students. I’ve always maintained that programs themselves don’t create change. Passionate people create change. This is not to say that teachers aren’t capable of teaching this content. They already have so much on their plate that I think they could benefit from watching a lesson, then building on it in the days that follow.
What do you propose? I’d love to hear your feedback.