Return to School Teaching Guidelines that Support Positive Mental Health

Created by author and early childhood educator, Lana Button author of My Teacher’s NOT Here! (Kids Can Press) illustrated by Christine Battuz

When considering student mental health, we need to acknowledge that, in addition to, and more important than the academic slide we may see from our students as we continue to bounce between in-person and online learning for what is now the third school year, there may very well be regression in behaviour, regression in attention span, and a much higher degree of anxiety.

We need to meet our students where they are, and address, acknowledge and validate their feelings. We need to be the supportive calm in the storm. I hope teachers might find the following activities and guidelines helpful in their classrooms, to address feelings and ease anxiety for their students.

Kitty proves to herself she can get through an unexpected day at school.

My picture book My Teacher’s NOT Here! (Kids Can Press, 2018) illustrated by Christine Battuz is a recommended read-aloud to enhance these activities. The story supports students in the challenges they may face when there is a change in their school routine. But these stand alone activities can be completed without the picture book. It is my hope that teachers, heading into the storm, might find some of these suggestions helpful so that we might provide our students with the comfort and assurance they need to continue their learning.

Class Survey

I like school best at school                 I like school best at home

*What are the results of our survey? What did most of our classmates like best? How did we find out?

Whole Group Discussion Lists:

What should a supply teacher know about our class?

Encourage students to think about class routines, the class leader’s role, classroom rules, etc.

What can you say to someone who is not feeling well?

What I like about school-at school         

What I don’t like about school-at school

What I like about school-at home         

What I don’t like about school-at home

*Students can draw a picture about the answer they feel strongest about, in terms of likes and dislikes. Encourage students to label their drawing with letter sounds, words and sentences.

-This activity can validate a student’s unhappy feelings while highlighting positive points in either situation.

Fill in the Blank

Sometimes I feel ____________about school.

*Encourage students to share emotions (ie: nervous, happy, frustrated, excited) that they might feel about school and create a class list.

In My Teacher’s NOT Here! Kitty was nervous about school when her teacher was away.

When I am nervous about school I can_______________________.

*Encourage students to share their positive mental health strategies. Some suggestions you might make are, finding a friend to share feelings with, drawing a picture, taking some deep breaths, looking at a favourite story, taking a movement break, holding a soft toy.

I like when my teacher__________________

Create a class list or have students create an individual picture and share with the class. Students can be encouraged to add words and sentences to their picture.

Let’s Get Creative

If your teacher was away, what kind of card would you make them?

*Provide students with folded cardstock to create a card. Students can be encouraged to create get-well greetings, to address the card to their teacher and to sign the card.

Students may choose to make a card for someone else who might need a ‘pick me up’.