Educators, students and parents all experience stress in their day-to-day lives. Mental health in schools is gaining a lot of attention, particularly with the introduction of the updated health curriculum. Today, in addition to teaching learning skills, Ontario educators are expected to teach, report on and create mentally healthy classrooms.
Stop the Stress in Schools, a book written by Joey Mandel, provides “mental health strategies that teachers can use to build a kinder and gentler classroom.”
Mandel, a special education teacher, sets up the premise of her book early on – it is important that educators adopt their own regular routine of stress management. Mandel asserts that this is critical prior to modelling strategies to students. She encourages teachers to see and develop their role of guiding their students, coaching them to find their own solutions independently without placing judgement.
This resource is practical and easy to navigate. It has a wide selection of ready-to-use graphic organizers, suggested anchor charts and activities. Teachers can choose to use these aids or modify them to suit the needs of their students. The author provides realistic scenarios and three styles of teacher response to each scenario: ignore, react or respond, respond always being the author’s recommendation. All the scenarios are realistic and likely to happen in the elementary school classroom. The author does a great job of speaking to teachers across all levels of experience from the first-year teacher to the veteran; there is something here for all.
Mandel suggests many stress management strategies, such as promoting positive self-talk, using self-calming strategies, practising mindfulness and guided visualizations, engaging in community circles, doing breathing exercises, writing and drawing out feelings, creating dialogue with and among students, using healthy channels like mediation and encouraging both resiliency and self-regulation.
I will use many of the suggested strategies and aids provided in this book as I begin my own journey into the special education classroom. As a former homeroom teacher, I can appreciate the relevance of this resource in any classroom. This book is great for elementary school settings, across all divisions.
Amy Smith is a member of the York Region Teacher Local.