-by Jon Bergmann-
One in four adolescents has an anxiety disorder, yet only 20 percent receive any treatment. Adolescent anxiety is increasing. The National Survey of Children’s Health reported a 20 percent increase in anxiety diagnoses in children ages 6 to 17 between 2007 and 2012. Many researchers attribute these shocking statistics to the rise of social media and its emphasis on likes, self-image, and the appearance of perfection that social media proliferates.
Recently, I had the privilege of working with an elite boarding school and saw these statistics come to life. I was one of several presenters for their professional development week. The other presenters were almost exclusively there to help teachers deal with the social and emotional needs of students. I thought this was curious. Nearly every conference I attend focuses on pedagogy, technology, standards, and the like. What was this school seeing in their student population? During one of the evening meals, the headmistress took time to visit with all the presenters, and I got some context. She shared how students at her school are anxious and feeling overwhelmed. They see an uptick in student anxiety and mental health issues. She shared how they were intentionally working to be proactive about this huge need. She further stated that their school is looking for a pedagogy that allows for time to meet the social and emotional needs of her students.
My first reaction was that Flipped Learning is the perfect pedagogy to meet the social and emotional needs of students, because of the added face-to-face time that flipping affords. We in the Flipped Learning world have been talking about relationships for years. So my presence was a natural fit.
However, after listening to these amazing presenters, I stood back and realized that I know little about helping kids in crisis. I say that we can reach every student every day, but are we really? I know pedagogy well. I know how to “teach” well. I also know that when I flipped my class, the relationships I had with my students were better than ever, but I didn’t have many practical strategies to reach students with their emotional needs. Many teachers have been saying we need to put Maslow’s before Bloom’s, and I agree. We talk about reaching every student every day, and we do reach students in the Flipped Learning community; but if all we meet are their cognitive needs, we are shortchanging our students.
I know for some of you, your gift is connecting with kids. I applaud you. For me, I would say that I was just OK at reaching the social and emotional needs of my students. I was so focused on getting them to learn the curriculum that I often neglected some of the deeper needs of my students.
As of right now, I don’t have a lot of answers about how to reach students emotionally. I needed to be in those other presenters’ sessions. Our team at FLGI will be bringing in some of these experts to help us all learn from their insights. We truly want to reach every student in every class every day as deeply and meaningfully as possible.
I would love to hear from those of you for whom relationships with students are your strength. What practical strategies do you use to reach your students?
One last thought. At this school, the focus is on the SES of students. Yet I wonder if we should also consider the SES of teachers? Our team is seeing the need to address the SES of teachers as a huge trend in education. It’s hard for us to reach every student if you aren’t reaching teachers. Teaching is an overwhelming, complex, and demanding profession. It is more than a job for most teachers, and right now I see them tired and often at the end of their rope. In fact, two close colleagues, Jon Harper and Mandy Froehlich, have started a podcast called “Teachers’ Aid” where they address the needs of teachers on a visceral level. I recommend that you subscribe. I am learning so much from this incredible podcast.