School can be a really tricky time for anyone and everyone. It's sometimes so much more complicated than picking out a new lunch box or deciding which shoes you want for the next term. What if you struggle to make friends or can't keep up with the other kids academically?
It's not uncommon for students to find themselves suffering with their mental health for the first time. But one high school teacher has created a board to enable children to share their feelings in a discreet way and it's really encouraging.
Erin Castillo, a special needs teacher at John F. Kennedy High School in Freemont, California, made the mental health check-in chart for her students.
The idea is that pupils will pick up a Post-it and write their name on the back before placing it next to one of the six 'feelings'.
These categories include: I'm great, I'm okay, I'm meh, I'm struggling, I'm having a hard time & wouldn't mind a check in and I'm in a really dark place.
Writing their names on the back means that the notes are anonymous to classmates but Erin can turn them over and have a one-to-one with the students in the bottom two sections.
The chart encouraged other teachers to do the same. Credit: Instagram/milestonesandmishaps
Posting on her Instagram account, Erin wrote: "I was able to start some check ins today, and holy cow these kids. I love them. My heart hurts for them. High school is rough sometimes, but I was happy that a few were given a safe space to vent and work through some feelings.
"I also like that students could visually see that they aren't alone in their struggles. It was a beautiful minimum day focusing on self care and mental health."
Erin has now made a printable version of her chart with instructions which you can get free of charge here.
Another one of the charts. Credit: Instagram/jsscytn
Speaking to Good Morning America, Erin said: "I never expected it to get beyond my following. To see this being used in multiple countries around the world, having [teachers] reach out from New Zealand and Africa...to hear actual stories of people helping their students, I'm really overwhelmed with joy.
"I've had a lot of students in the last five years of my career that have struggled with self-confidence, self-doubt, image, had suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide and, after seeing all that, I've been making it a theme in my classroom and trying to check in with them."
In an interview with INSIDER magazine, Erin said: "So many people think they're the only ones struggling. Kids need to hear that they're not alone and what that support looks like."
What an incredible woman.
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