It may seem sometimes that there is nothing we can do to help address the epidemic of mental health issues which exist in our schools. We ourselves are under so much pressure from above to deliver progress and grades that it is difficult to raise our eyes over the educational parapet and see the bigger picture.
But the truth is we teachers can do something to help. We can do something to help in our everyday pedagogical practice. We should not aim to be ersatz psychiatrists or social workers – as teachers we are not qualified to replace such professionals, and trying hamfistedly to do so could do more harm than good; even school pastoral leaders cannot realistically do much more than acknowledge concerns about a student, talk to parents and signpost or access appropriate sources of help. But in our classrooms and in our schools, we can help.
As a stark contrast to all the insoluble awfulness of the world, we can resolve to be kind, strict and positive. Kind, because we are recognising the stresses and strains which young people and teachers are subject to; strict, because there is nothing more confusing and unsettling for a young person than inconsistency and shifting boundaries; and positive because it is important for a young person to know that their teachers are interested in the good that they do, their genuine achievements and the real effort that they make, not just their mistakes and omissions.
In every aspect of our work as teachers we can resolve to provide clear boundaries to the students in our care while being unfailingly positive. We can work with the natural psychology of being a child, rather than forcing young people to behave in ways which run counter to their instincts, and expecting them to fall in with our adult rhythms. In otherwise, in every sphere of operation we can resolve to be a Strictly Positive Teacher.
There are so many ways to do this. Stand by for a few of them!