4 things most educators do instinctively that are good for student mental health
Everyday practices that positively impact student mental health in schools
Greeting students daily
While greeting students may seem simple, the practice is making a difference in schools across Ontario. Greeting the class as a group is essential. You can enhance the practice by welcoming students individually and making a personal connection with each student. Personal greetings help to foster your relationships with students. They support students’ sense of mattering and help them to feel like they belong. It’s a small thing that goes a long way.
How to bolster this practice: The daily greetings practice in our everyday mental health resources offers some variations of greetings that you might want to try. Check out the resource:
Differentiation and choice
Differentiation is something we’re used to talking about when it comes to teaching and learning. An approach that helps one student learn a concept may not help their peer. And offering students choice in approaches to assignments and how they work can support engagement and autonomy. Differentiation and choice are woven into how you teach and can also apply to mental health promotion. For example, a stress management strategy that might work for one student won’t appeal to another. Helping students build their mental health toolkit is important and introducing students to a range of strategies to choose from is an effective way to help everyone in your class.
How to bolster this practice: You can plan to intentionally introduce students to a variety of different mental health support strategies. Our virtual field trips can help when it comes to stress management and coping, which is a crucial area for students (and all of us)! We also have some tips specific to supporting students with special education needs.
Routines in the learning environment
Your daily routines and practices may help you feel organized, and they’re also beneficial to your students. Routines can help students feel safe – they provide structure and predictability. Plus, when you introduce routines into your daily learning, you’re modelling executive function skills like planning, organization and time management, which can positively impact student learning habits.
How to bolster this practice: Look at the organization section of the everyday mental health resources for some new ideas to try with your class.
Framing mistakes and challenges as learning
The lessons students learn while at school go beyond explicit efforts to teach concepts. Modelling is important. Growth mindset and perseverance are common themes in education. Students will notice when you frame your mistakes and failures as learning opportunities. They will see you challenge yourself to try new things. And sometimes, you may change course or ask for help—modelling persevering in a more appropriate way and help-seeking behaviour. Your students see this too.
How to bolster this practice: While your students will pick up on the subtle indications of your growth mindset, it can be helpful to name things out loud – make it explicit for them.
Say: “I’ve been trying out some new mental health strategies, and I’m not getting them quite right yet, but I’m going to keep going.” Or, “This new computer program the school board gave us feels tricky right now. I have felt like I want to give up. But I know I’ll get it if I keep trying, and I can ask [a colleague] for help.”
The continuum of mental health support at school
These practices are part of tier 1 of the Aligned and Integrated Model. Tier 1 is the foundational everyday work you do to welcome and include students, understand them and build knowledge of mental health, promote mentally healthy habits and partner with parents, students and other staff to create a supportive environment. Most of the mental health work in schools is at this level.
How to enhance mental health promotion in your school or learning environment
While we want to acknowledge and celebrate the everyday ways school staff support student mental health, we know that growth is always possible. Our suggestions for bolstering practices might be helpful. Here are some other ways you can enhance your practice:
Learn more about student mental health!
If you’re in Ontario, you can access our free online course about school mental health for Ontario educators. Not only will the course help you build your mental health literacy, but you’ll also pick up tips for dealing with different challenges in the classroom and beyond.
Consider your learning environment
Review our mentally healthy learning environments page for tips you can apply to your classroom immediately.
Use our Reflection tool for educators to reflect on your practice.
Continue your work to share space and power
Continue your anti-racism and anti-oppression learning and unlearning and reflect on ways to share space and power. There’s always more to learn about—your humility and commitment to this work are critical to supporting student mental health. Check out our resources related to equity and mental health.