Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

Supporting Students in Tough Economic Times: Information for Educators

Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

Supporting Students in Tough Economic Times: Information for Educators

Article excerpt

The current economic crisis is taking its toll on school communities across the country. Students see parents coping with the stress of potential loss of incomes, homes, or medical insurance. Teachers and school-based support staff are seeing an increase in individual student and classroom issues that interfere with learning. Schools as a whole are being forced to make tough decisions about programs and staffing with impending budget cuts.

Research has shown that students' social, emotional, and behavioral health affects their academic achievement. This has enormous implications for teachers, school mental health providers, and the students themselves. A student body that is hungry, disengaged, preoccupied, or behaviorally disruptive will not respond as well to instruction, even by the best teachers. Teachers cannot meet all of the needs of their students alone. Resources include action planning and utilizing school-based mental health support, like school psychologists and other professionals, who can assist during these difficult times.

While schools may not be able to provide an economic safety net to the families they serve, school-based support staff members are in an ideal position to help students and families deal with the increased stress and continue to support positive academic outcomes. The following recommendations come without significant, or in most cases any, additional costs.

Create and maintain a positive school climate. It is important to acknowledge but not dwell on the current economic realities. Focus on maintaining school routines and a sense of normalcy. School may be the only place where students can count on the predictability of a consistent routine.

Be available to students. How students respond to the economic crisis will depend on how directly they are affected and on how adults in their lives are responding. Many students will rely upon the caring and encouragement of their teachers and other school staff to help get them through stressful times. Let students know that you are thinking about them as individuals: greet them by name, attend extracurricular activities, reinforce small successes.

Make effective mental health support available to all students. Many students are aware of the economic crisis and, if affected, will bring their anxiety into school. Some will show signs of increased stress, behavior problems, fatigue, an inability to concentrate, depression, academic problems, and absenteeism. School-based mental health personnel, such as school psychologists, should be available to support students through assessment, counseling, and referrals. Providing all students with coping strategies can also help promote school-wide behavioral health, and reduce student and staff stress.

Help address basic needs. Work with colleagues to support students with increased basic needs such as clothing, food, or hygiene. Students who are homeless or transient may need additional support before and after school. Connecting with parents is crucial.

Determine most effective use of support staff. Many children who receive mental health services only receive them at school. Determine immediate student needs, anticipate future needs, and explore ways to maintain, increase, or reallocate resources and reassign duties as necessary. School psychologists have diverse skills enabling them to work directly with students in need, consult with teachers and staff to address problems in the classroom that interfere with learning, and improve staff skills in building student resilience. …

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