Generation Mental Health

5 Feb

In this week’s EC&I 832 class, part of our discussion centered around generational changes/differences we have witnessed between Generation X, Y (Millenials), and Z, and we also predicted some trends or characteristics we may see in the emerging Generation Alpha.

After exploring some our readings for the week, which consisted of: 2020 Future Work Skills9 Things that Will Shape the Future of Education, What is the Future of Education, and reading the different skills and abilities for students we should focus on building, and how the landscape of education itself and it’s delivery will change and considering our blog prompts, I couldn’t help but get stuck on

Do schools really need to change? If so, in what ways?

I do feel schools need to change. And I am not just talking about how we need to expand from teaching in the same ways, between the same four walls, within the same traditional framework that had been followed for years. I am talking about the way we address, educate, promote and support a very critical issue affecting an alarming number our students – mental health.

mental health

Photo Credit: simmons.kevin4208 Flickr via Compfight cc

I think there is a substantially large gap in where we are at currently, and where the future education trends and future work skills are placing our students. Undoubtedly, we will face many barriers on the road to best educating the alpha generation, but I strongly feel the biggest barrier we will face – and what we so desperately need to address in our education systems right now is mental health.

The reality of student mental health in Saskatchewan schools will shock you

The article above was in the Regina Leader Post this week, and I can’t say I am surprised by the data is presents, as this is the reality I live and teach in. This past week most of us probably noticed a lot of buzz around Bell Let’s Talk day which was on January 31st. Just as it’s name suggests, I love the amount of conversation that was generated on social media around supporting mental health. (Side note: this conversation needs to continue though, one day is simply not enough). This speaks to the positive power and influence social media can generate, and I love to see this aspect of social media positively affecting mental health, when so much of what we are hearing is how technology or smartphones are the cuplrit in this growing mental health ‘epidemic‘ affecting our kids and ultimately affecting our schools.

One of the things that is exciting yes, but scares me a lot when we look at future trends for education is the possibility for diverse time and place, which could greatly affect the physical role of teachers and brick and mortar schools themselves. Relationships matter. Thanks to my classmate Brittany Frick for reminding me of this awesome TEDTalk by Rita Pierson about the importance of relationships, and that every kid needs a champion. (If you haven’t watched it, I suggest you do!!)

Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like. – Rita Pierson

I think as teachers we have a very real and important opportunity to improve our student’s mental health (even in just a small capacity) with the relationships we build with them, the way we interact with them, and most importantly the way we make them feel each and every day they step foot in our classrooms. It worries me – or more so makes me sad, to think that in the future I may not have the same ability to brighten a child’s day – or have them brighten mine – when we are in a room together.

Not only do schools need to look at how they are supporting students (or even teachers) who are already suffering from mental health issues, but I also think it is important that we are teaching kids more about their mental health, and the continuum they will move along, regardless of if they are diagnosed with a specific mental health illness or not. Like our physical health, we all have our mental health to take care of. Some classes lend themselves nicely to explicitly talk about mental health such as Wellness 10, but I think these conversations need to be happening in school curriculum much earlier. Curriculum or policy changes take a lot of time, but there are things we can do in our schools now to shift focus towards improving mental health. (<–Read this for 5 ways)

Mental Health Literacy just like Digital Literacy, is often a murky area that is left untouched by curriculum or schools. I think the growing connection between mental health and how connected our students are is not something we can ignore. A piece of the puzzle in the mental health picture will be for student to understand their digital health and wellness and how this is turn can affect their mental health.

Education has to focus on improving mental health and providing digital citizenship education  for our students if we want to prepare Generation Alpha to have any of these future skills.

 

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4 Responses to “Generation Mental Health”

  1. Joe McGurran February 6, 2018 at 12:59 am #

    I very much appreciate your turning the focus in a direction I had not considered, as far as this week’s topic goes. But like you, I live it. As an LRT at a community school, a lot of what I support and do is tied and connected to the escalating mental health challenges you speak of.

    The article you cite is eye brow raising, and at the same time not surprising. Like you, I can feel it.

  2. jjwlock February 6, 2018 at 4:37 am #

    I love that you were able to connect this week’s blog topic to your digital wellness project. I think the mental health conversation is often forgotten about when we are trying to engage students in the learning process. We differentiate, try various adaptations, make fun and unique lesson plans, but the truth is, none of this matters if our kids are not mentally prepared to learn. I also think we can no longer deny the fact that technology use and social media are significant contributing factors to the increase in mental health issues among youth today. I think the teaching of digital citizenship and media literacy is critical for these reasons. Digital wellness NEEDS to be a part of the conversation moving forward, and a focus area of school curricula in a larger capacity than Wellness 10 alone. Great read, my friend!

  3. Lady BlahBlah February 6, 2018 at 3:24 pm #

    I found it interesting that you compared the complexities of teaching Digital Literacy and Mental Health. Both topics are incredibly broad, can be difficult to teach and difficult to learn. Students are overstimulated with all the information at their fingertips, let alone the judgments, the likes, the role models and the pressures of fitting in online AND in person. Social media brings a whole other element to the already frightening statistics of mental health. Great post!

  4. Dr. Alec Couros (@courosa) February 12, 2018 at 4:20 am #

    I’m glad that you and others took up mental health in terms of our need to change (and not just followed the tech angle). I do believe this is going to be one of the biggest challenges in school going forward!

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