Fact or Fiction?

1)      Child mental health issues are not the educator's primary concern and therefore, have no place in teacher education programs.

FALSE. Child mental health issues that are unattended in the classroom frequently result in disruptive behavior and lack of attention that inhibit learning.

2)      Most young children with unresolved emotional and social issues are educated in special education classrooms with teachers who specialize in meeting the emotional needs of children.

FALSE. Most early grade children with emotional, social or mental health issues attend regular early childhood and early grade classrooms and have little access to outside services.

3)      Teachers can address some social and emotional issues in the classroom by reading stories to the group that relate to these issues and facilitating group discussion.

TRUE. Bibliotherapy, the use of books as tools to address common ground issues that concern a group of children is often a useful classroom intervention that can diminish isolation and enhance emotional wellbeing in children.

4)      Teachers can usually tell if children come to school with traumatic histories because they always appear sad and withdrawn.

FALSE. While traumatized children may be sad or withdrawn, they may also be loud, demanding, oppositional, aggressive, or unpredictable. Traumatized children may act as though they are experiencing something in the past as happening in the present. They sometimes have panic attacks. They might be preoccupied and inattentive.

5)      A child's psychosocial history is none of the teacher's business! A teacher is better off not knowing the histories of the children in her group so that she can assume that everyone has equal readiness and potential for learning.

FALSE. Teachers who have access to the child's developmental history and social story can often make connections to behaviors that were hard to read, communicate with the child more effectively during difficult moments, feel more empathy for the child's position and design curriculums and routines that support well-being and enhance learning potential.

6)      A teacher can often help highly stressed children to thrive by adjusting classroom routines to support emotional well-being. Caregiving routines in early childhood and early grade classrooms are powerful experiences for children in the early years.

TRUE. Caregiving routines are very meaningful for the young children who experience them and should never be treated as incidental, "non-instructional" time. Caregiving routines teach children about self- worth, nurture, connection to attachment figures, and separation from attachment figures. Modifications in lunchtime, toileting, rest time, arrival and dismissal might constitute preventive mental health practice for many emotionally fragile children.

7)      At school, children's emotional well-being is the responsibility of the school psychologist and school social worker.

FALSE. Enhancing school children's emotional well being is the responsibility of every adult who works in the school building and is part of the school community.

8)      Administrators have a crucial role in creating schools that support social and emotional well-being in children.

TRUE. Administrators who are knowledgeable about the connections between emotional well-being and learning can support teachers to engage in emotionally responsive routines, interactions and curriculums, train other staff members to communicate with children respectfully and develop school wide practices that can enhance the mental health of the entire school community.

9)      The emotional well-being of a teacher is a private matter and of no concern to a school director or principal.

FALSE. Teaching is a demanding, often stressful profession. Teachers are often with large groups of children for the majority of the day without the opportunity to interact with other adults, resulting in feelings of isolation and burn out. Administrators can enhance teacher well-being by providing opportunities for interaction among staff members, regular professional development opportunities, teacher support groups and an open door policy for teachers who need to talk about difficult classroom matters.

10)   Children who are emotionally needy do better in highly structured classrooms.

TRUE and FALSE. Children who are emotionally needy often do better in classrooms that adhere to predictable routines with adults who are consistent in their response to children's issues. However, classroom structure can only support emotionally needy or fragile children if; the caregiving routines are emotionally responsive, there are invitations for self expression through play, art, writing, reading, and classroom discussion, adult-child relationships are valued, and the teacher's consistent responses are respectful and empathic to children.