Michigan schools are expanding behavioral health services to students statewide – and a University of Michigan (UM) program provides teachers with much-needed support to implement these services.
Many neighborhoods have introduced trauma-informed education. Telehealth and telepsychiatry brought therapists into school buildings to virtually counsel students. Schools and communities collaborated to connect families with resources like housing, transportation and healthy eating. mindfulness Activities teach students how to deal with their emotions in a healthy way. And more recently, the state of Michigan has begun to emphasize the importance of social and emotional learning (SEL) in the classroom, which develops the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors that students need to achieve success. successful choices.
As with other classroom behavioral health programs, teachers will ultimately bear the burden of establishing ASE in Michigan classrooms.
“These teachers are people who have barely caught their breath since March 2020. They have been running at full speed, first trying to switch to e-learning, then trying to plan for the whole of last year,” explains Elizabeth Koschmann, director of UM. ‘s TRAILS (Turning Research into Action to Improve Student Lives) and researcher in the Department of Psychiatry at UM. “I think it’s really important to recognize that these are people who are nearing burnout.”
TRAILS will play an important, state-funded role in alleviating some of this burden on teachers, by offering free SEL training and programs they can implement in the classroom.
TRAILS opens an easy path for SEL
According to Michigan Department of Education (MDE), SEL helps students “understand and regulate their emotions, achieve their goals successfully, adopt the point of view or point of view of others, develop positive relationships and make responsible decisions”.
“It’s like physical health. If you have a broken arm, it’s much harder to write, ”says Dr. Jennifer Krzewina, Mental Health Coordinator for Regional Agency for Educational Services Marquette Algiers (MARESA). “If you have a mental health issue, like anxiety or depression, it’s much more difficult to think clearly and focus on the content your classmates are focusing on. “
In collaboration with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Michigan Association of School Social Workers, the Michigan School Counselors Association, and the Michigan Association of School Psychologists, the MDE has established a SEL and Children’s Mental Health Network representing everything 10 Michigan Association of School Administrators (MASA) regions. The network supports middle school districts and individual schools in implementing SEL and maintaining student mental health across the state.
As SEL is rolling out to Michigan schools, TRAILS is also providing schools with free SEL training and programs. The MDE budget for fiscal year 2022 will fund the TRAILS SEL program for all of Michigan’s 56 middle school districts over the next three years. The aim is to facilitate the integration of SALT into the classroom for teachers.
The TRAILS SEL program includes 20 lessons aimed at three age groups of students: third to fifth grade, middle school and high school. Lessons provide teachers with a flexible and comprehensive 30-minute weekly lesson plan that can be broken down into shorter learning moments. A discussion guide and suggested activities help teachers introduce children to basic strategies for dealing with their concerns.
Elizabeth Koschmann is leading a TRAILS training session for school mental health professionals in 2019.
“Teachers have always played this [mental health] role, but they are now being asked to balance real academic needs with SEL needs, ”says Koschmann. “These academic needs are very complex. Many children have missed a lot of school. Here they try to find out where they stand [and] make up for lost learning, but they are not emotionally ready to go back to school.
In the first week of school, five of Koschmann’s friends called her with concerns about their own high school children who were unable to sleep, had panic attacks, were afraid of contracting COVID-19 in class and worried about poor grades from online learning will prevent them from going to the colleges of their dreams. Koschmann believes that these difficulties are a common denominator among students not only in high school, but also in middle and elementary school.
“The [TRAILS] The curriculum is designed in such a way that a teacher can take advantage of natural classroom situations to strengthen the skills we are talking about. Teachers don’t feel like, “Here’s one more thing than everything I do,” says Koschmann. “After a week or two, the kids had a chance to think about a topic, learn a skill, do an activity, watch a video clip, and take information home for families to learn. who wish can reinforce the same skills. and practice together.
Koschmann recognizes that standard mental health recommendations such as “take time for yourself”, “make sure you eat well” and “exercise” are, in fact, not always achievable. TRAILS draws on cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness practices to help students recognize what’s troubling them and deal with those worries quickly instead of getting bogged down in a spiral of thinking about what might go wrong. .
“We also recognize that part of what we’re going through with COVID is similar to grieving,” Koschmann says. “You can learn to tolerate distress. You don’t have to let go of it. Realistically, if you are in the midst of a global pandemic as an essential worker or professional educator, how perfect you have to be. “We should treat each other with a little more compassion and kindness.”
While the MDE is officially presenting TRAILS in all of Michigan’s middle school districts, Koschmann is also inviting individual teachers to enroll in the program through the TRAILS website.
“I’ve heard from many teachers, ‘My district demands that we include SEL but they didn’t give us a program. It is absurd that teachers make one, ”says Koschmann. “SEL shouldn’t be a teacher alone preparing a lesson late at night and then, with teary eyes, giving it the next morning. TRAILS will help them make their class more fluid with better student engagement and students will feel safer and more supported in their environment.
“Make mental health a priority in education”
While the SEL implementation may still seem like one more item to add to teachers ‘already long to-do lists, even with the support of TRAILS, Krzewina believes it will make teachers’ jobs easier in the long run.
“Ultimately, it should help teachers in the classroom,” she says. “Mental health issues can play an important role in a student’s ability to learn. They can come across as disruptive behaviors that interfere with learning for themselves and for others. The more support we can put in place for student mental health, the better off they will be. [and] the best frame of mind they will have to learn in the classroom environment.
In the MARESA service area, Ishpeming High School and Munising High School both participate in TRAILS programming. Additionally, MARESA contracts with 31 mental and behavioral health providers across its district to support students with mild to moderate mental health issues with individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy. With parental permission, teachers can be briefed. Middle and high school staff and teachers also take an eight-hour certification course in Mental health first aid for youth.
“Mental health must be a priority. It really has an impact on the students’ ability to learn, ”says Krzewina. “The mental health of our staff must also be taken into account, especially with the COVID pandemic. Studies are underway on the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of young people. It will only be a need that continues to increase. It is in the best interests of our students and all members of society that we make mental health a priority in education.
A freelance writer and writer Estelle Slootmaker is happiest writing about social justice, wellness and the arts. She is the editor-in-chief of development news for Fast growing medium and L’Arbre Amigos chairs, Wyoming City Tree Commission. His greatest achievement is his five incredible adult children. You can contact Estelle at Estelle.Slootmaker@gmail.com or www.constellations.biz.
Portrait of Elizabeth Koschmann by Eric Bronson / Michigan Photography. Training photo courtesy of TRAILS.