Recently, it seems responsibility has disproportionally fallen on teachers to keep our youth healthy, comforted and safe. Even for those with an unbreakable spirit and a robust sense of duty, this presents an insurmountable task. Here at Teaching Tolerance, we know the skills teachers have are invaluable. But we also know they're not unlimited.
Here's the reality: Teachers can't do everything. And we shouldn't ask them to. No matter how hard they try, educators cannot fill the roles of scholar, counselor, ally, advisor, protector, therapist, role model, nurturer and teacher. Even those of us at TT who have been out of the classroom for years remember the urge to serve each student in every way possible, as well as the understanding of how impossible that would be.
But hope is out there. Gifted professionals devote themselves wholeheartedly to doing what teachers cannot. Teachers don't have to do all of this alone: Counselors, mediators, school climate experts, education scholars, mentors and artists are waiting in the wings to help.
If you are passionate about keeping your students informed, unified and safe, but know you can't fill every imaginable role, look for ways to lighten your load. Partner with a local institution of higher education to help students with research. Teach students about the Crisis Text Line. Invite local mental health organizations and professionals to destigmatize and explain diagnoses and services available to students (more information on this here).
Get creative. If you have an idea for an activity or experience to benefit your students' mental health that is outside the realm of your school's mental health services, we encourage you to apply for a Teaching Tolerance Educator Grant. Describe your vision as best as you can. Keep it personal. Be brave. Envision serving your students in every way you'd like-and ask for help. There are so many people out there waiting to do their part.
Teaching Tolerance Grants Coordinator
Ehrenhalt is the school-based programming and grants manager with Teaching Tolerance.