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Nearly 500 East Greenbush teachers and staff spent part of their day on Friday learning about mental health issues and how they can affect students. It was the first in a series of trainings scheduled for this school year, and presented topics such as trauma, poverty and mental illness.

This professional development has been offered to teachers as the district meets a new requirement from the New York State Education Department.

On July 1, New York became the first state in the U.S. to require all schools to incorporate mental health education into the curriculum. The law is meant to address an epidemic in which nearly one in five children display symptoms of a mental health disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those mental health illnesses can become barriers for students in the classroom and ultimately affect their learning.

“Today’s professional development offerings were all focused on addressing the whole child,” said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction James McHugh. “Ensuring that our students are socially and emotionally healthy is a responsibility of all school employees.”

Teachers and staff were offered seven different sessions on Friday that addressed a variety of mental health topics:

  • Poverty Simulator
    An opportunity for staff to participate in an experience that sensitizes them to the day-to-day realities of life for people with low incomes trying to survive. Participants assume the roles of low-income family members living on a limited budget and interact with volunteers playing the roles of service providers and other community agency employees to obtain help. After participating in the Poverty Simulator, many staff members share that they could “feel the chaos and fear caused by living in poverty.”
  • Using the DiSC Model to Analyze and Improve Your Work Relationships
    Have you ever wondered why it’s so easy to work with some people and so challenging to work with others? In this interactive workshop, staff explore their workplace personality, behaviors and those of others as well as the contributions they both make. They identify what motivates them, what stresses them and how they react to others. Finally, they practice strategies for improving communication, teamwork and work productivity.
  • Best Practices for Establishing a Trauma-Informed Classroom
    Students with trauma, including those living in poverty, often exhibit extremely challenging behavior and it can be difficult to make a connection with them. A low frustration tolerance, angry outbursts and difficult social relationships with peers all get in the way of the teaching and learning in the classroom. Learn how using a trauma-informed approach not only reduces challenging behavior, but also improves engagement, motivation and learning outcomes for all students.
  • Making the Case for Improving Your Relationships with Students
    When students believe that the adults in school care about them as individuals, they want to come to school and they are more successful with learning. This workshop makes a case for all school staff improving relationships with students. Participants examine their relationships with students, learn why relationships are so important and practice strategies for improving those relationships.
  • Disrupting Poverty: Strategies for Overcoming Learning and Behavioral Challenges
    Any educator working for more than a few years has witnessed the growing number of students who live in poverty and know their job has become more challenging as a result. This workshop describes what educators need to know dispelling harmful myths, explaining the facts and providing practical strategies and specific examples of how they can reduce the debilitating effects of poverty and help students succeed.
  • Supporting Accountable Talk: Developing Students’ Talking and Listening Skills
    Accountable Talk refers to talk that is meaningful, respectful, and mutually beneficial to both speaker and listener. Accountable talk stimulates higher-order thinking, promotes student learning, reflection, problem solving and communication. All academic domains and social settings require respectful discourse through evidence based argument and persuasion. This workshop provides teachers with the tools to help students gain these skills.
  • Practicing Self-Care to Manage Stress and Prevent Burnout
    Poor Self-Care reduces one’s ability to be as effective at work and leads to dissatisfaction with your job and burnout. This workshop engages participants in analyzing stressors at work, learning Self-Care strategies, identifying improvement goals and preparing an Action Plan.