|Above: Ranae Tenbrinke (left), CYW, and Natalie Woron, LRT, standing in front of Delhi District Secondary School’s mental health and wellness bulletin board.|
MONDAY, MAR. 28, 2022
ollaborative efforts between support staff, school staff and students at three Grand Erie secondary schools are increasing awareness of mental health topics and resources, and building a commitment to well-being throughout the school community.
For the past two school years, Delhi District Secondary School has focused on promoting mental health as a means of supporting learning and well-being through a series of drop-in workshops. There are sessions for students in grades 9 and 10, and others geared to students in grades 11 and 12. The workshops are run by the school’s Child and Youth Worker (CYW), in collaboration with Student Success, the Learning Resource teacher (LRT), Guidance staff, and classroom teachers.
“The goal is to focus on prevention rather than intervention,” said Natalie Woron, Delhi District’s LRT. “Teachers and support staff work collaboratively to identify students who would particularly benefit from the knowledge and topics provided at the drop-in workshops.”
"Teachers and support staff work collaboratively to identify students who would particularly benefit from the knowledge and topics provided at the drop-in workshops."
LEARNING RESOURCE TEACHER
Providing students with an easy way to access mental health and well-being resources has proven to be an effective means of working towards this goal. Workshop topics include Understanding Stress, Self-Regulation and the Brain, Well-Being Strategies, Self-Esteem, and Maintaining Relationships.
“The collaboration between the CYW and staff is essential to the awareness, accessibility and effectiveness of the drop-in sessions,” explained Piyali Bagchee, Grand Erie’s Mental Health and Well-Being Manager, noting that a school staff member is present at each workshop to provide a cohesive approach, and that commitment to mental health is demonstrated in the weekly email reminders about the sessions sent to teachers and students. “Through email, all teachers are made aware of the drop-in session opportunities, and can then connect with students, explain the workshops, and ensure a continuity of learning before and after.”
Over in Hagersville, the Bridge Program at Hagersville Secondary School, led by its Child and Youth Worker, is providing weekly lessons on topics including Self-Care, Boundaries, Self-Regulation, Healthy Relationships, and Mental Health Literacy.
“During each session, students have an opportunity to practice what they’ve learned,” said Ms. Bagchee. “For example, in the Healthy Relationships lessons, students use active listening and questions to guide conversations. Students also use ‘Talk Moves’ to keep conversations going.”
LRT Andrea Murick feels that these engaging and authentic lessons have improved students’ self-confidence and ability to relate to and engage with their peers. To take their knowledge a step further, these students are overseeing the school’s Mental Health and Well-Being bulletin board, providing information on self-care and well-being as they decide what will be of value to share with the rest of the school.
At Tollgate Technological Skills Centre in Brantford, mental health promotion and prevention is a continuous collaboration and commitment among staff and the school’s CYW. The Student Success team, consisting of the principal, vice-principal, head of guidance, LRT, Student Success teacher and CYW, meets weekly to discuss needs, strategies for support and implementation plans. The team then collaborates with classroom teachers and/or EAs to reach students, promote skill development and self-advocacy. Approaches might take the form of individual strategies, classroom strategies, a small-group format or even a whole-school initiative.
“Recently, within the Student Success team, concerns were being discussed around the emotional well-being of a number of Grade 9 students – these students were struggling with making friends and building peer connections within the school, and this was impacting their academic and personal success at school,” said Karla Kitchen, CYW for Tollgate. “Together, the team decided to run a small-group meeting with the students with a focus on building connections, increasing self-esteem, learning social skills around how to make friends, and what healthy relationships look like.”
Ms. Kitchen, who led the small-group session, was then in a position to provide feedback to the Student Success team and the educators involved to enhance the outcome of success and support for the students.
Grand Erie is in the first year of a new multi-year strategic plan, one that includes a collaborative approach to building a culture of learning, well-being and belonging for each learner.
“Initiatives like the ones taking place at these secondary schools go a long way in supporting the learning and social-emotional development of each student,” said Piyali Bagchee. “The collaboration between support staff, school staff and students helps build a culture of belonging within the school.”