The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just released a new survey, Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey — United States, January–June 2021, which quantified what all of us who work in schools already knew about deteriorating student mental health. However, the survey also gave us a key route out of this epidemic of stress and anxiety:
…however, poor mental health, persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors were less prevalent among those who felt close to persons at school…
Schools, and the connections they foster, can be the cornerstone of a program to measurably improve student mental health. That is the purpose of The Reconnection Project (RP), a flexible program to reduce stress and anxiety in school communities by working with three constituent groups: teachers/coaches, parents, and students.
The causes of the student mental health crisis are cultural and, as a result, many children today miss psychological “lessons” crucial to normal child development and so lack emotional skills that previous generations used to learn by osmosis. Schools—and, particularly, teachers—can be an effective channel to deliver these messages, but teachers need support in implementing the necessary change in perspective required.
Fortunately, children today are hard-wired for connection and growth the same way they have always been. In fact, they crave these things. So we can remedially teach these psychological lessons and thus dramatically improve the mental health of many of today’s kids.
The Reconnection Project gives educators achievable concepts and concrete techniques so they can immediately begin to measurably reduce the students’—and their own—stress and anxiety.
What we cover:
Teachers are taught skills and strategies for having “elephant” and “gremlin”conversations with their students in a safe way, incorporating lessons about these issues into existing curricula, and, importantly, how to identify student problems that are above a teacher’s pay grade so the kids who need it can get more help. Elephants are societal ills that include the Overwhelming Tragedy List. Gremlins are the negative self-talk in kids’ heads based on Rick Carson’s book, Taming Your Gremlin. The basis for this work is:
- Talk, vent, and understand how the the Digital Age is affecting all of us—kids, families, ourselves, and schools.
- The importance of working with the truth: develop a full understanding of the Digital Age and what we call “Outcome Fever,” with its many distractions and confidence drains. A discussion of the iceberg of student anxiety.
- Why self-care is so crucial and provide techniques for educators to relieve their own stress.
- Many parents use what we call the “New Parenting Playbook,” which can have negative effects on kids; how educators can engender parent collaboration and avoid “commoditized” relationships with parents.
- How Outcome Fever and “Digititis” exacerbate the effects of poverty, social injustice, and trauma.
- Psychological underpinnings of the New Parenting Playbook (Erikson, Winnicott, etc.).
- Critical need for collaboration with colleagues and parents to form a consistent “holding environment.”
- Why a classroom culture that focuses on the journey, not results, is critical!
The Six I’s
Teachers now need to teach the rudiments of the Six I’s: imagination, independence, intimacy, integrity, and intestinal fortitude, which are critical building blocks to identity:
- An introduction into the critical importance of imagination, being true to ourselves, and finding a sense of purpose, inspiration, and mission.
- Learning the positives of failure and using adversity to fuel success.
- The overarching benefits of authenticity, independence, intestinal fortitude, integrity, and connection.
- Specific lesson plans to begin to get students to understand these crucial qualities and how to begin to attain them.
- Introduction to the value of being vulnerable: the chemistry in the classroom can’t be maximized until the kids really understand one another’s journeys.
- Listening without judgment.
- How to not allow your buttons to be pushed (which requires a look at your buttons). Individual/small group meetings are held with teachers.
- Understanding that altruism is a healer: how to get kids, who are still hard-wired to want to be of service to others, to help each other.
In addition to academic goals, students need to create MENTAL goals: Every student should develop a Personal Mental Performance Plan that maximizes their self-knowledge so they can make better choices when they are upset, anxious, or depressed in order to manage their feelings and behavior.
They need to learn to devise a plan, implement that plan, achieve benchmarks, and reach goals. Concrete skills learned by students:
- Developing an emotional thermometer to manage behavior.
- Understanding locus of control: that they are in charge of—and responsible for—their own destinies.
- Asking for help for themselves or when they think a classmate is in trouble.
- Accountability: develop a mission statement and how to stick to it.
Psychological safety is paramount in every discussion with students. Techniques are provided so students who are uncomfortable can come forward without judgment to have their concerns addressed in a respectful way.
Full-day workshop: $1650 ($1100 if Jeff is scheduled to work in your school in the upcoming school year—and Jeff’s schedule is filling up for in-school work next fall, so book ASAP!).
Half-day workshop: $1000
Contact Jeff for more information and to book a workshop.
More information on the Reconnection Project can be found here.